It's beginning to smell a lot like Playoffs. Hawks 1, Preds 0

It's beginning to smell a lot like Playoffs. Hawks 1, Preds 0

Ray Emery said something after today's game that has some importance. He said, "we just told ourselves it was playoff hockey going into the 3rd." Or something to that effect anyway. It stands out for a couple of reasons. One, the Hawks came out of the 3rd period gate as intense as I have seen, and it was the best start to any Hawks 3rd period this year in terms of energy. Two, the Predators needed this game very much so, much more than the Hawks, and that 3rd had an aroma of playoff hockey to it.

Not to mention that it comes on a game that the Hawks essentially clinched a playoff spot. That is, if Phoenix losses their game tonight. As it stands, the 9th place Oilers cannot surpass the Hawks, and the best that the 11th place Yotes can do is tie the Hawks 60 points as of now. They play the Avs while I write this.

Seeing the Hawks play some of their tightest and most successful team defense in the 3rd period and in a game that had a feeling of playoff hockey is more than enough reason to get excited. Which I might add, came in a game where we saw very even ice time distribution across the board. The solid and determined play of Ray Emery is an added bonus, and the obvious highlight of the game. If there wasn't any questions about who the Hawks should be backing as the #1 goaltender heading into playoff country, there is now, and appropriately so. Why has Crawford been the automatic choice?

Personally, I do not understand why the Hawks just can't continue their tandem into the playoffs, and why everyone thinks a #1 has to be decided upon by the end of the month. However, if you made me choose today, the poise and puck control of Emery would make him my choice. He might be slow getting from one post to the other, but he sees the puck better, and controls it far better than Crawford. These traits were very important in today's win, and in why Crow has suffered a little in the very recent past.

Essentially, one really bad read by Rinne, and a perfectly played game by Emery was the difference on the scoreboard. The overall play of both teams would suggest a much different score than 1-0, as the Hawks had a much firmer grip on this game. That isn't to say the Preds were without some big chances that Emery had to make some big saves on. He made the saves that were necessary after a few mistakes by the Hawks, which is all we ask. The big question heading into tomorrow night's rematch is whether or not Emery will get a chance to follow up his goalie win against the best goaltender in the league.

I would also like to take this moment to reflect on how great Niemi has been playing this year (practically carrying his team on his back), and how little we would have to be talking about goaltending if he had not been let go. Nope, still not over than one.

The Good:

  • The first line's play.
  • The Hawks power-play had some moxie, and Kaner should have added a goal during it.
  • Keith and Hjalmer's strong and poised defensive play during the crisis mode for both teams in the 3rd.
  • Handzus looks much more helpful than I had anticipated he would.
  • I love seeing Saad on the PK, which had a huge impact in the 3rd. The Preds knew it was do or die there, and the Hawks killed them.

The Ugly:

  • The Hawks were out hit by the Preds 28-8.
  • Kane was on a line with Kruger and Carcillo all game?

I have got to harp on Q for putting Kane on a line with Kruger and Carcillo. Now, let me preface by saying that both played well, especially Kruger who probably had his best game of the year, but I have got to question big time how both of those players end up in that role over Shaw and Frolik. Are we just trying to see how good Kane is this year by giving him more challenges? Shaw and Frolik's offensive sense is far better suited for that role, and they are both currently use to playing more minutes.

With that said, if there is a missing hole on the 2nd line, for god's sake put Hossa there. Yes, the first line was dominant all game, but Hossa was not necessary for that to be the case. Toews and Saad have proven that they don't need Hossa to do this. Spread the wealth already. I have to question if this game would have been so close if those minor changes had been made before the game started.

About the 8 hits the Hawks could muster. They still controlled most of the game, and had a much improved 3rd period over previous results. However, if 8 hits are all we can muster, and it doesn't matter, why is Bollig being played over a guy like Hayes or Morin? Now, I like Bollig enough, and I think he has done the best he can do, including his obvious improvement over the course of the season, but he is not more worthy of the spot than Hayes or Morin who have much better offensive sense, and Hayes also has the physical aspect to his game.

A good decision by Q, was splitting up the defensive pairs, and evening out their ice-time as well. This was one of the better defensive efforts of the year.

Onto tomorrow night's rematch.

 

Filed under: Game Recap

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  • The thought occurred to me last night that I wonder if the few teams that beat the Hawks were unhappy because they won by playing only one good period of hockey. The fact that we are able to dissect so much is an indicator to me that this team STILL has enormous depth and ability even with Sharp and Bolland out. On paper, there is no earthly reason to reward Carcillo with a top line spot when Frolik played so well. Yet, whether Q saw it as reward or not, that particular rebalancing didn't look too bad at all and instead of having a fourth line of truculence, a third line of mediocrity and two strong lines anchored by Toews/Saad and Kane/Hossa, Q had four lines that each had their moments of doing something important.

    My outlook at this time of year is that a win is a win. Anything can happen in the playoffs and no matter what the lines are right now, I think it's inevitable that Q will have to juggle them from time to time in the playoffs, right now I'm glad to see that certain players can move around and perform different roles. That will be huge down the road. I like your point about the tandem, I'm not sure I see either of these goalies carrying the team the way other goalies have in previous playoffs. What the team in front of them does will be crucial.

  • The reason Bollig is around and not Morin and/or Hayes is because of his willingness to drop the gloves, and nothing else. Even though we don't hit many people, we still need somebody around to take care of business if somebody takes any shots at us. No so much in the playoffs, but in the regular season. We have nobody else to do the dirty work when needed.

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