The situation was looking to be a bit bleak once Patrick Sharp suffered an injury that would sideline him for up to 4 weeks. We are all kean on what his scroing capabilities mean to the Hawks, and as maybe one of the best at finishing on the power-play, the Hawks were looking at diving even further into that pit of dispair, which they still might have. Last night however, the Hawks won 6-2 and even had a goal taken away by an officiating error. They also had 2 power-play tallies by the night's end. Just what can be causing such production with a top scorer out of the equation you ask?
Well, it sure isn't coming from Kane's hands (burn). It has come from an unlikely source. The youthful prospects sent in to fill the missing holes in the roster dug by Sharp and Carcillo's injuries have been that much needed boost to an otherwise soft and "over-confident" offense who had little desire in helping out their defense. Since their arrival only a couple weeks ago, Shaw and Hayes have racked up 9 goals between the 2 of them and maybe even taught a lesson to the vets while at it.
Hayes is a beast at his size, and will mostly add a great deal of weight to his frame by next season. He has great hands for a guy his size, showing a soft and pinpoint accuracy in front of the net or anywhere else on the ice. Shaw is less assuming. He is not big at all, not the fastest in the world, but his speed has served him well enough, he isn't the best stick-handler on the ice either, so what gives? Simply put, it seems as though his determination (something missing from the day-to-day perfromances of the Hawks) and desire to make the best of his time in the NHL as a prospect has willed himself to secure a place on the roster.
The contributions of these two young prospects and some of the others who have peaked their heads into the NHL throughout the season are among some of the best reason to be excited as a Hawks fan.
But, they are not alone on the recent bus to productionville. Bolland has also sparked since Sharp's injury. Having been moved around and into a more prominent scoring role, Bolland has answered the call as he often does when duty comes knocking. Bolland's ability to do exactly what is asked of him when it is asked is of unquestionable importance to the Hawks past and future successes.
Last night was not a perfect game by any means. The Hawks still gave up goals doing what we have complained about all season. They also gave up the first goal, continuing that pattern of a slumpy start. That first goal being the result of a careless Hossa giveaway and the defense getting caught a bit too deep in the offensive zone. One would have hoped that the incident would cause a correction by the D for the rest of the game, but then the next Sabres' goal was the result of similiar issues. Even with a 6-2 win, the reasons for concern are alive.
With regards to the power-play, which finally produced, and twice even, we saw something worth a nod. The second was late in the game after Buffalo was pretty much out of it and on a 5-on-3, but it was still a PP goal. What's important is that both were the result of keeping things simple and both were at the hands of Captain Toews, who continues to propell this team to greatness. The first PP tally was a tip by Toews as he created a net presence while a shot was coming from the point. I would suggest the Hawks continue this practice of simple plays when with the man advantage. However, I still see a sluggish pace. The Hawks need to make use of quicker reactions and nothing else really. Move the puck fast, while keeping it simple, establish a net presence and make use of the one-timer. Done deal.
Worth mentioning is the power-play goal scored by the Sabres. I see a much more aggressive pk unit out there, but they could also use a little work at staying in position. This goal scored against them was the result of a one-timer, no shocker there.
This brings me to the biggest reason to get excited about this and other recent wins. That would be Q's final resolve to roll 4 lines as opposed to the crazyness we had all become too used to. The ability to have freash legs on the ice throughout the full 60 has maybe the largest impact on what has transpired recently. We are seeing secondary scoring as a result, a more rested defense, along with a better all around game from the Hawks. Now, the Hawks can start really working on the small holes within their game. Not until this point has any little changes to the Hawks game had any meaning, and not until now have we seen some cohesion in the line productivity. With a fuller, fresher team, things can finally start meshing and players can start showing their true colors.
Leddy was held to 18 minutes last night, and it prompted him to be a +3 on the night. This is not rocket science, this is a duh moment for the coaching staff. It took half the season, but they finally get it. I still fear their ability to learn from their mistakes on matters like these, as their reaction time seems a bit too far behind that of simple folk like ourselves. I mean, wasn't it obvious Leddy was buckling under the pressure and subsequent ice-time?
Conclusion, the youth have brought a simple, positioned and gritty game to the Hawks that has resulted in a more balanced effort from the entire team. Their willingness to pay the price for a goal, stir the pot and find the holes have provided a nice burst to the offense when without its top scorer. This is something that can really spark the necessary changes to the Hawks game and make them ready for a deep run into the playoffs. Even against more formittable opponents than the Sabres.