With the trade deadline upon us, and nothing besides the Handzus (new face-off coach) deal changing the playoff outlook for the Hawks, we can talk about making this group of players better.
And with that subject at the forefront of our topic for today, we have to begin with the way the Hawks finish games. We touched upon it in the last post, as it was with great frustration that we watched a dominating performance complete a 180 with 20 minutes left. A move the Hawks have pulled off just a few too many times to let it slide. There are those who believe this is just a blip on the radar, but I would really urge a more serious look at this blip, because it might just be a bomb threatening an otherwise great season.
The possible reasons for a lack of 60 minute play comes down to these main culprits:
Fatigue: The Hawks had back-to-back games, and have more than any other team in the league. Bolland was out of the picture which caused some double shifting.
Injury: With Hossa and Sharp out of the mix for sometime now, chemistry, and new faces could cause a bad flow to the game.
Conditioning/Health: Schedule, training, practices, diet, and exercise do not get enough attention. Any one of these being off can have significant impacts on a team's performance, especially in a shortened season.
The Physical Handicap: The Hawks have been out hit in just about every single game. This can have an impact in a variety of areas.
Mindset/Game Plan: Something changes inside your head when you are trying to catch up versus having a lead. Game plans change as well, such as having less focus on offense and more on defensive measures.
Or, it could be something different all together, and I could be overreacting?
Let's cross fatigue out, even if it could be the reason. The NHL is hard, get over it like everyone else does, and the repetition of these performances makes fatigue an unlikely cause.
Injury, sure, why not? But, many other teams perform well with injuries, and the Hawks are deeper than most. Plus, this would sort of make the 40 minutes when the Hawks dominate seem like luck. Again, repetition debunks this one.
Many are arguing, and with just cause, that the Hawks inability to match the physical play is catching up with them. Frankly, there is no way to totally rule this one out, as it could very well be the source. I want to make it clear that I do believe physical play is important to the overall performance, and I have known what it feels like to be hit to the point of exhaustion. This could account for some of the games, but I also don't see it as simply as that.
Mainly, I rarely see brute force win over finesse, both in the NHL and in my personal experience. The Hawks are fast, and chasing usually slows a team down before getting hit does. I admit, it is a different kind of fatigue, but the Hawks domination in the first 2 periods seems to suggest the other team should be more tired by the 3rd. I also want to look at who is being hit, and how. Most hits have been along the boards, and the Hawks seem to take most of them well. Not that there haven't been a couple bad ones. Again, this could be the #1 culprit.
I personally believe that the condition of the team, both mental and physical could be leaning towards an unhealthy situation. I have to question the training situation of this team. We have already seen practicing choices lead to unwanted results, both from too much, and not having enough. Diet can be huge. I think that the diets of most Americans are pretty disgusting, and that most are missing imperative nutrients to fuel their systems. Going any further with anything regarding this would just be speculation, so I will digress.
I am of the opinion that the condition of the team, both mental and physical has more to do with what we have seen too many times this season, and the last for that matter. The team needs to stay focused and committed to playing the game that got them where they are. The Hawks have one gear that wins them games, and all else lead to failure. Not that this doesn't happen to other teams, but I think most others play a tighter team defense than the Hawks so it works out for them more often.
I hate to use this phrase, but the Hawks have to stay in killing mode through the entire 60 minutes. When they let off the gas, too many of their systemic issues (the ones built over the past few years) take over, and the team falls apart. On top of this, our goaltending is short of amazing, and they just don't have it to bail the Hawks out of these 15 minutes of standing around while the opposition peppers them.
It is mental, and it is preparedness. The Hawks need to know that rest is not an option, and they need to play like they are behind 3 goals for more than 40 minutes. They're just not defensively strong enough to do it any other way.
Now we know what this team will look like until at least next season.
I saw a very well positioned Morin with strong offensive instincts on the ice in the past 2 games. He might be a good person for the 4th line even after Hossa and Sharp return.
Stan Bowman is most likely betting on Danault, Pirri, or McNeil to save their 2nd line center issues next year. Until then, I still argue that Pirri could have been the solution for today, and that Bolland needs to go back to the 3rd line where Hossa should join him (not as a punishment, but because it is how he plays hockey, and because he needs fewer minutes).
If anything, there is no reason to keep Hossa on that 1st line when he returns. Putting him with Kane would be a better option, if not the 3rd line. Kane needs someone to play the defensive role up front with him, and then get him the puck more often. Hell, Sharp centering those 2 would lead to a much more balanced team.
I believe that Frolik has done more than enough to earn a top line spot. Why not keep him where he has been for the past few? If not there, than with Kane or on the 3rd line. He is smarter and better than Bickell, even with Bickell playing fairly strong hockey.
Really, when you start looking at these options, the room for trading looks pretty thin. The Hawks are well equipped to win and go deep into the playoffs. As long as Leddy keeps shining so bright, the swedish connection stay on track, and they roll their lines more evenly, the Hawks are the team to beat in my opinion.
We have Saad's emergence as a star, and Kaner's return as one of the NHL's most feared goal scorers to thank for that.
Filed under: View from the Bench