Make no question about it, the Blackhawks are losing this series because of their own doing. All of the terrible officiating aside, and even though it could have helped the Hawks get a win last night, because we all no how bad the calls were; the Hawks are getting beat to pucks, out muscled along the boards, and just plain outplayed in most areas of the ice. Hence, they fall into a 2-1 hole against a team that just seems to have the Hawks number right now, and the aid of the NHL.
There are moments when the Hawks look prime to take things back into their own hands, but those moments are few and far between. I am very happy with the performances of a few individual players, but see more players falling short and a lack of cohesion from the group as a whole. The Hawks had the lead twice last night, and they just couldn't keep it together long enough for the win. They couldn't even hold the second lead for a minute.
There are many things to discuss, but lets just start with the good:
- Frolik was a shining gem in the ocean of chaos that was the suspension of Shaw and chaos that ensued in the opening period. Once again, the 3rd line was the strongest and most consistent line, both defensively and offensively, and Frolik deserves much of the credit for helping that be true. Entering the neutral zone as a unit helped too. Frolik was doing everything right, and as I stated in the last post about the Shananaban, it was his time to seize the day. It reminds us all that Frolik is just too good of a player to be watching from the stands no matter how much he scores, and his go-ahead goal could have been the game winner if his team was able to settle things down on the following shift.
- Crawford, poor Crawford. He provides the stellarest of stellar performances in net, one surely worthy of a shutout, only to have that taken away from him with a breakdown in defense, and then his win is taken from his grasp after he lost focus for a moment which spelled out the Hawks demise as he gave up a softy. I feel for the guy right now. No way the Hawks even make it to OT without his unbelievable performance for the first 60.
- The defense. On a whole, I liked what I saw from the D-men themselves, with the glaring exception of Nick Leddy. Keith was much, much better, Oduya even seemed a little more composed, and I believe we witnessed the return of the Hammer. He reminded us why he deserved his lofty contract by providing his unbreakable and composed wall of defense we all grew to love him for. At most times, the defense provided a likely situation for Crow to carry home a shutout, but their were a few gaping holes in that D as well.
The not so good: Well, everything except the power-play. I just can't take it anymore. Roll your lines as if it doesn't even exist Q, just roll your lines without a PP unit!
- Nick Leddy had no right being on the ice last night. When asked on the bench, who he was happy with, Mike Kithchen responded by saying "Leddy." This response is damn near insanity, and provides me with yet another vision of how badly this coaching staff understands their players and how wrong they tend to use them. Dylan Olsen had to sit on the bench for nearly the entire game and watch Leddy provide turnover upon turnover. How many times does he need to cough up the puck, get out muscled along the boards, and put his team in jeopardy before Olsen could get a minute on the ice? This coaching staff can be downright negligent at times.
- While the 3rd line was a staple, the Kane line looked like a staple remover at times. Yes, they scored the first goal of the game, but as a unit, they worried the hell out of me with every shift on the ice. I understand that Q had less options after Hossa went down, but wouldn't it make more sense to put Kruger back with the line he had been playing with before the playoffs began. Every single time this line of Kane, Kruger, and Brunette stepped on the ice I became nervous. And while we are on the topic of Kane, he needs to step it up big time. Physical teams scare him and I get it. I throw a finger in Q's direction for some of his inconsistency (and he deserves it for creating that line), but Kane holds most that blame. It is often just bad decision making on his part. Crow will most likely get the brunt of it from the critics, but it was Kaner's bad decision moments before the game losing goal that set it in motion.
- The neutral zone. How many times do I have to say it before Q and company gets it? The Hawks win and lose games in the middle of the ice, and boy are they losing them right now. I mentioned how much better the defense was. Well, apparently that meant that the forwards could fly the zone earlier. How has this team not realized that when they enter the neutral zone as a unit, they find options. When they find options, they find forward momentum, and when they enter the offensive zone with momentum, they win games. Yes, yes, yes, the Yotes are doing a darn good job of making life miserable here for the Hawks with a great forecheck, but this is the Hawks game, and if they deserve to win, they have to establish control in the middle. Their current antics are making that more difficult.
OT has been the best period of hockey from the Hawks in all 3 games. Why? Maybe it is because they realize the game is finally on the line and they step their games up. I felt like the Hawks gave a more inspired performance last night, but they were still losing most of the battles. If you look at the scoresheet, you will see that the Hawks had the majority of shots, and that is even with a ridiculous 1st period that saw the officials trying to hand the game to the Yotes and involved a lot of shots from the visitors. But, and this is a huge but, the Hawks scoring chances were fewer than the Yotes, as the Hawks had many weak shots from the perimeter. They will break that perimeter when they get control of the neutral zone. They seem to do this better in OT (fatigue could play a role). And yet, even when being the better team in OT through all 3 games, they have only won 1 of the 3. Call it bad luck, call it karma for not controlling the first 60, I don't know.
You might have noticed my avoidance of talking about the Hossa hit, and Torres. I honestly feel like Torres is a scum that is not worthy of conversation anymore (if I ignore him, he might go away), and the whole matter has my head spinning. My cries for justice will be unheard, and so I focus on the things I feel the Hawks can control. Here's to a slightly better all around effort from the Hawks, a great performance by Crawford, and the day Frolik got his wings back.
I hope the Hawks want this one really bad, because they are going to have to earn it. They hate these kinds of teams, and they need to find a way to get the better of them. Nothing short of a mind blowingly inspired effort will do in game 4 on Thursday night. Nothing short.