It only took 10 seconds for the Hawks to set themselves for the win, and only 90 seconds more to put it away. Choosing once again not to be consistent, the Hawks came out of the gate firing on all cylinders. Still without Toews, a much better puck control game, decent defensive effort, not taking any penalties, and possibly an off night for Lehtonen and company helped the Hawks coast to a 4-1 win. Looking back at the Blues, and Ranger's games, I begin to wonder just what this team might be capable of come playoffs. They have just beaten a few defensive powerhouses afterall, and of whom happen to be division leaders.
So I ask, what is this team capable off, and now that they seem a little better suited to make the playoffs, can this team go deep?
As I stated just above, this game was over about 100 seconds in. Bolland got the Hawks off to a very early lead after Shaw knocked a puck down, eventually hit Bolland with a nice little pass with which Bollie shelved over Lehtonen in a shot from outside (in fact, every goal came from the outside). 90 seconds later, the brothers of speed (Stalberg and Sharp) connected for the first of their tallies on the night. This one involved a play out of the corner where Stalberg fought to win the puck over to Sharp, who circled the dot and fired a shot from outside while Stalberg did his best to get right in front of Lehtonen for what would end up being the game winning goal.
The second goal highlights a few things for me. First, the Hawks took control of this game by winning the little battles for the puck as Stalberg did on this one. Second, Sharp and Stalberg seem to be brewing a bit of chemistry, and their combined speed is a quality not easily dealt with. Third, this was simple, and smart puck control, and exactly what allows the Hawks to be so darn deadly sometimes.
Towards the end of the 1st period, and through the 2nd, the Hawks weathered whatever storm the Stars could conjure up. The lack of intensity in any of these storms is one of the reasons I question Dallas' performance in this match. I mean, I am not too happy with it if I am a Dallas fan. Either way, the Hawks did their thing, played their game, and for the second night in a row seemed to frustrate the heck out of a defensive and physically minded team. Getting through 2 with their 2-goal lead in tack, the Hawks placed themselves in a good place for a W.
The 3rd period was pretty much an exact replay of the 1st, with the Hawks scoring 2 goals within 2 minutes and the Sharp-Stalberg duo connecting for the 2nd. Again, Dallas mounted a little bit of a charge, but the Hawks and Crawford were up for the challenge of all but one of them. Needless to say, Crawford didn't have it in him to notch the shutout, but it wasn't really his to have as the Hawks did most of the dirty work trying to keep the shots within reason. If you want to blame anyone for this goal, blame Keith who caused the turnover in a nonsense throw of the puck towards the slot where it was picked off. Pee-Wee hockey.
Doesn't matter, Hawks 4, Dallas 1, and I have a few more points:
- Still no Toews. There seems to be no return in sight for the beloved captain, and yet his team continues to accomplish feats that would be assumed doubtful. If Toews can make it back for game 1 of round 1, my assumptions of what this team is capable of starts to rise in very positive ways. Yes, there are still more than a few holes in the system here, but this team shows a great ability to rise to the occasion and have shown elite style hockey from time to time.
- Once again, my props to SB for bringing Oduya here. He has been a very welcomed force in more ways than one, and his minutes on the ice are proof of such. His presence has Leddy jumping for joy and playing a much more sound style of puck.
- Seabrook also seemed awake last night. The physical game having something to do with it. Dallas outhit the Hawks 41-14 (ouch), and give Steve Ott credit for half of those, one of which was on Seabrook where it seemed Ott took the brunt of it.
- This might be redundant, but I am really pleased with their play. The Sharp, Stalberg, Kruger line has been adding to the scoring in a time of need. Not only did they score 2 goals, but they also provided more of a physical presence than any other forward line. If we could just get Stalberg into some breakaway clinics, as no one manufactures them better than he, this line might blow up even more.
- The 3rd line also was involved in the scoring and is mucho importante.
- The Hawks did not take a single penalty. With special teams being the achilles heel of the season, this is a good thing. We want as much 5-on-5 hockey as possible.
- Puck control! Better, smarter, crisper, warmer and especially through the neutral zone. This spells win as far as I am concerned with how the Hawks play hockey this year. If they have it, they win. The breakout is better, the transition game moves in their favor, and they start entering the offensive zone with some momentum. If you are an offensive team, you absolutely need this.
Now I go a little too far for a game recap with the question: What is different about this team from last year's team? The difference for me is that they have shown a tendency to play their game and make others follow suit from time to time. The secondary scoring has been improved, and the recent add of Oduya seems to have mended some of their defensive wounds. Unfortunately, goaltending has not been what it was last year. The offense is their key, and they need to establish this more consistently with smart puck control. I would like one very big thing to be different though. I want the Hawks to cruise into the playoffs, and not sneak in through the back door based on luck. These types of games are making me believe that it just might be possible. Then, if one of our goalies can muster up strong support ( I think it should be Emery), and we get the usual rise in tempo from certain players during post-season, I like the chances for the Hawks. Nothing will be easy, and I hope it isn't, because this team needs to work. This scare of not making the playoffs might just have been the ingredient needed to succeed.