I thought I was going to write a celebration article about how the Blackhawks defeated the Ducks and took their rightful place on top of the NHL. Unfortunately, in de-ja-vu fashion, the Hawks gave this one up with 5 minutes to spare, just as they did the last time these 2 teams met. Hopefully, the lesson was learned.
There are 3 very important elements in summing up this game. The first 2 would be the forecheck and backcheck, because whoever controlled these elements, controlled the game last night. The 3rd, with reference to the Hawks, would be the 25+ minutes that Patrick Kane skated.
Right at the get go, Q started double shifting Kane, and in honest to god double shifting fashion. He was literally out there for 2 shifts in a row! Apparently we are watching pee-wee hockey, because that is the last time I have ever seen that happen. It begs 2 questions. Why start Carcillo if he is only going to skate for 2 minutes, and is coach Q seriously getting back into old habits that were proven horrible ones?
The success of this year had been built on the foundation of rolling 4 lines, and a more equally dispersed ice time among the players. If you are not going to play Carcillo after dressing him, at least go to other players more often. Stalberg had 1 shift with the Toews line, and he should have had a few more because his speed is priceless in a game being fought in the manner of this one. But, we shouldn't even be talking about this. There are plenty of players in Rockford who can skate, if that is what you want.
Sure, being out Hossa on top of Sharp definitely hurt, and I think the Hawks pull this one out with just Hossa on the ice (because of the ice time), but don't make matters worse with a stupid move like that. Kane just had a game where he had too much ice, bad move to follow it up with more.
As I said, forechecking and backchecking were the weapons of choice last night. To start the game, the Ducks displayed a dominant forecheck, and controlled the vast majority of that period. Thankfully, Captain Marvel had a trick up his sleeve to keep the game even. The Hawks have always had issues with the Ducks, but you are not going to get anything going if you don't keep your feet moving. The Hawks were losing the early battles, and coughing up pucks to the heavy pressure forecheck. That was period 1.
The Hawks needed to keep moving, find a way to chip pucks deep, and get behind the Anaheim defense (why I say double shifting Stalberg couldn't have hurt). They needed to get the Ducks starring at the boards, rather than at open ice, and they eventually accomplished this goal from a 2-man forecheck and support.
Following the most god awful power-play ever, Toews generated another one later with a strong drive to the net. This time, the Hawks moved the puck, and Leddy fired an extremely accurate shot behind a screening Stalberg, and a blinded Hiller. This gave life to the Hawks game, which the 4th line helped pump into a surge following the PP goal.
Every shift the 4th line had was a successful one, and they almost found the win later in the game. Noteworthy, is that Frolik had a couple of extra shifts, and he was generating some good offensive pressure all game.
From here on out, the Hawks began to take control and swarm the Ducks into submission. On one of a few huge chances generated by Saad, Kane would miss an empty net, unable to get his stick on the puck at a good angle. The fatigue was beginning to rear its head, as this was the first of 2 big misses by Kane that could have made the game 3-1.
Going into the 3rd, you felt really good about the Hawks winning this game, even though we hate that dreaded 2-1 lead in the 3rd, because the Hawks love to blow it. I expected the Hawks to go all out given that they were looking at more than a few days rest, and should have had a fire to approach it on a positive note.
For the most part, they continued their dominant play from the 2nd, and a few big chances were created out of the heavy pressure. Bollig would eventually find a wide open rebound in front of Hiller and get the puck to the back of the net. Unfortunately, it was off of his skate. Given that the call on the ice was a good goal, I thought this one might have had a chance to sneak by Toronto, but they ruled it a blatant kick. You really want Bollig to be able to get a stick on that puck, but have to admire his offensive presence lately. Still, the Hawks controlled the play, so no need to worry.
One of the things that helped generate the offensive pressure was the 2 man forecheck the Hawks started employing on the Ducks. It does not escape me that the Ducks game tying goal was scored after the first instance of the Hawks using a 1-2-2 approach in which the lead forechecker had no support. This gave the Ducks time and space to generate puck movement, and the goal was eventually scored by you guessed it, Patrick Kane's guy. Kane was there, and should have had position on getting that rebound out of harms way, but fatigue had set in well before this play, and he just didn't have it in him. If you are going to have 4 guys deep in your own zone, you have to win that battle.
This goal was followed by the Ducks best shift of the night, a Hawks team that had seemingly given up, and who couldn't get the puck deep anymore. Lousy neutral zone play allowed a 2-on-1 rush and the puck fell onto Selanne's stick who put the game away, because that is what he does. An empty net goal made it 4-2.
Bam, in under 2 minutes of the final 5 minutes, the Hawks gave this game on a silver platter to the Ducks, who are now only separated by an OT loss and 1 game in hand. In the end, this game matters not, and the Hawks have a week to prepare for their revenge. They should use it as a learning opportunity and never give up late leads again because of a lack of determination.
At the end of the day, I saw more reasons to be excited if you are a Hawks fan. Simply, if the Hawks want to, it looks like they have the answer for the Ducks success as a team. If the Hawks just roll the things that have gotten them to the top of the NHL, they will beat the Ducks on most nights. Their speed, and offensive zone puck management is jut too much to handle. They cannot however, ever think sitting back and letting low on the aggressive approach will win them games. They need to keep scoring, because that is what they do. A couple of injuries, and a few bad moves by the coaching staff helped Anaheim win this one, which is what they are good at doing. Waiting for their moment to strike.
Filed under: Game Recap