A few things about this game: Patrick Kane was awesome sauce, the defense was mostly in position and playing controlled hockey, the goaltending was strong on both ends, Oduya looked like a nice fit, the offense created a lot of opportunities (Kane), there was a nice flow of contribution from all 4 lines, the special teams had the difference maker, and the Hawks missed on about 4 breakaways.
I start scratching my head when I see a performance like this out of the Hawks, especially when it is sans Toews, who needs to be the topic of our conversation in the near future. What gives? Why do the Hawks find such great performances, minus the inability to burry prime scoring chances, in a sea of terrible performances? You could argue that playing the Senators was like looking into a mirror for the Hawks, who seem to be in just about the exact same spot in their respected conferences. So, did the Hawks beat Ottawa or themselves last night?
It is at this time that the play of Patrick Kane comes into high visibility. He was most obviously feeling his stride last night, and his play was a large part of the win even though he recorded no points. In fact, he should have had 3 assists in the 1st period alone, but Hossa and Brunette could not slide the puck in the open nets created by the absolute mind blowing ability of Kane to open things up and make ridiculous passes right on players' tape. There was no excuse for the Hawks not being up 4-1 after 20 minutes of play, and that was after only winning 3 face-offs. Yes, the Hawks and Kane controlled the play in some dynamic ways, but where is the consistency? Why do we only see sparks of this and then a life-less bunch of players take the ice in the following game?
The only blatant negative about this game was that the Hawks only won by 1 goal. Lehner was really good, but the Hawks made him look better by not cashing in on a few gimmes. On the other end, Emery was darn strong as well. His rebound control seemed a bit off to his standards, but that only gave him more opportunities to make saves. The only goal against him came on a freakishly weird play anyway, so I give him a pass on losing sight of the puck long enough to be victimized by a long shot. Goaltending was one of the topics of thought following the game, as Emery highlighted how a goalie making saves has a direct impact on whether or not the game was won or not.
Make no mistake, the team played great, but they only won by a goal, and Ottawa missed a few blatantly awesome opportunities. This should never have been, and I hate saying that the Hawks got lucky in a game like that. So, what about next year? Who will stand between the pipes when September rolls around again? I would like to say this, I am done with Crawford for this year, but I do not throw out the possibility of a comeback for him next year, especially if the Hawks deal with their defensive woes by then. Goalies have a habit of inconsistency from year to year.
Without Toews in the mix, the only way for the Hawks to win games is to give inspired performances, to play smart, and to roll 4 lines more consistently. We saw all of this last night, and even bigger, the power-play converted. In fact, the only Hawks goals came on man-advantage play. The first was during a delayed penalty, and the 2nd was on an actual PP. Both were scored from a very close proximity to the net, and were much needed. This could stand to highlight the inability of the Hawks to score during even strength play, but when the special teams has looked like junk for so long, I will take it. Even the PK looked tight, as Oduya seemed to live up to his killing skills.
There are direct effects happening from slightly changed coaching decisions IMO (in respects to system of play). Little tweaks obviously made by those in charge are helping the Hawks find a groove to play in.
I like this defensive squad right now. Leddy seems comfortable with Oduya already, and Seabrook (who has been looking sluggish lately) woke up a bit more playing with Keith. I am not sure if this is the long term priority, but it works for now. Lepisto and Olsen are pretty darn good 5th and 6th D-men. I wouldn't mind seeing their minutes go above 10 as to save the other 4 some grief, but what was seen last night was a huge improvement.
Bollig is a much more effective Scott from my point of view. Shaw has been a great burst of energy once again, and Hayes is worthy of top 3 play. I would also like to see Mayers used a bit more up top. The Hawks were terrible at the dot, and this might have helped things a tad, plus, all of our size is on one line (the 4th). It might help to spread that out a tad. Regardless, the line combos seemed fairly comfortable with each other, so I can't really complain there.
Again, I just come back to the question of consistency. It has me feeling that the Hawks themselves do not decide the outcome of any game, rather, they are at the mercy of how well their opponents play. I could look at last night's game from 2 differing perspectives. One, is that the Hawks payed great, and two, is that the Senators played badly. Which one of these 2 was the reality of the situation? I want to say that it was the first perspective, but I also saw the Senators giving the Hawks space and time, and looking pretty slow to pucks. Like I said, it was kind of like the Hawks were starring into a mirror.
In the end, it was a 2-1 game with posts hit on both ends, and empty nets missed by both teams. A little too close for such a dominating performance by the guys in white. A breath of fresh air, but no reason to start thinking everything is all better. The Hawks still have a fight in front of them to make the playoffs, and with Toews out for what seems like a while, I have my doubts.