We are going to Penalty Kill our way to the Top. Hawks 3 - Wild 0.

We are going to Penalty Kill our way to the Top. Hawks 3 - Wild 0.

Snoozefest. In part because I was tired as all heck, it was late, and I had a long day, I found myself dozing off in the 2nd half of this game. In reality, an exciting playoff game this was not. Take that fact in perspective as I try and break this one down.

A pivotal moment occurred last night in the first when Toews drove hard to the net, which ended with him on Harding's back, which ended with a young AHL goaltender in net. Goalie situations have been somewhat of a situation this playoffs.

However, this was not the start the Hawks were looking for until they found the back of the net. A very early 3 on 1 against saw Hjalmer hustling to save the day, but the Wild would end up on their first of many power-plays in the evening after missing a great opportunity to go up first and early. Not much later in the 1st, Kaner would be seen hustling back to save another odd-man rush against. Like I said, not the start you wanted to see.

This whole game can be boiled down to the Hawks penalty kill, and Minnesota's inability to convert on any of their 6 power-plays. There were some huge kills handed out to the Wild which pretty much saved the day, and the Hawks from being in a 2-2 series. Mad props need to go out to the killing unit, and dare I say, Kruger had one of the best games in his career. He played some very important minutes, and was 56% at the dot.

Speaking of the dot, the Hawks bounced back from a terrible performance the other night in the face-off department. In fact, the Wild didn't seem able to do any of the things that worked so well for them in their prior win. Lots of credit needs to go to the Hawks for this. And maybe the Wild wore themselves out physically.

In my opinion, the officiating has been fairly suspect the past 2 games, and this is also a fact around the league currently. Montreal seems to have been the victim of bad calls last night, much worse than the Hawks, so I guess I shouldn't complain too much. But, I did find the calls to be a tad too lopsided for my taste, even if it was an improvement over the game before.

Thankfully, the Hawks were killing penalties with poise and precision. Hard on the puck, well placed in shooting lanes, and yeah, they get credit for the win IMO.

It only took 1 for this game to be over. When the Hawks went up 1-0, the Wild were getting too much space and time, the Hawks were not hard on the puck, nor were they providing good support. One such play involved Hossa dumping it back into the corner to no one. He did however react by getting hard on the puck, executing a perfect takeaway, added a nicely placed pass to Handzus who put the puck on net with an awaiting Sharp in front for the tip. The Hawks started getting some of their act together after this.

I wouldn't say the Hawks fixed all of their issues after this moment, but they amped it up a bit, and made some impressive drives when the situation allowed.

Bullets:

  • All in all, the Hawks were¬†pretty flat footed again.¬†There were moments when the Hawks looked like themselves, but it seemed like they traded off a strong play with a weak play all night.
  • A defensive win this was. From the penalty kill, to the shutout, it seemed like the Hawks were a little more worried about their defensive readiness than scoring goals. This might be in part due to the early odd-man rushes by the Wild. Either way, they played decent enough defense to win the game convincingly.
  • Crawford was strong, and kudos to him for earning the shutout after pretty much saving his team from a blow out the game before. Crawford is most definitely not the source of any of our problems.
  • I noticed Toews a little more last night. Maybe it has something to do with the playoff situation, or maybe it was the line jumbling.
  • We saw a few different line combos last night, which mainly involved Kane switching from the 2nd to the 1st most of the night with Hossa. I thought it worked well enough. The 2nd line with Hossa was a part of 2 goals, so yeah, good move.
  • Ice time was looking very good for the Hawks. But, is there a point to have Carcillo in the lineup if he is only going to play 3 minutes?
  • Sharp took advantage of a young and nervous goaltender as Kuemper allowed his first shot on net to go by him. This was probably a game changing moment.
  • The Hawks started playing with a little more confidence and speed, moving the puck better and starting to look like the Hawks in the 2nd.
  • Bickell scored after winning an important battle in the corner.

All in all, I do not think we are seeing great hockey from the Hawks. I have not been happy with their compete level, their reading of plays, or their battles in the corners. The Bickell goal was an example of how the Hawks have been successful this year, and it was his 3rd of the playoffs BTW.

Their penalty kill is outstanding (thanks Kruger and Frolik), but the power-play continues to struggle big time. No excuse for a team with this offensive power. I thought they were looking more like a team who actually cared about this fact on their last PP of the night. They started it off moving around, moving the puck, and trying to set up one-timers. Unfortunately, they struggled setting it back up after the Wild cleared the puck. Q should give all attention to this area. Just keep skating. If you are seen stagnant, you should get removed from it. Hesitation is not an option. Quick passes, movement, and use the one-timer.

The Sharks sent the Nucks packing last night! The Hawks are up 3-1!

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  • That was a boring game and because it was boring, I started thinking about other stuff. If the Hawks do lose at some point and get bounced, the commentary will follow a predictable pattern, Crawford really isn't that good, Q really isn't that good and the biggie, this team is too weak or is a team built for the regular season. The converse view will likely be that whatever team beats the Hawks is a real team that is built for the playoffs. The Wild, the Yotes, the Preds are not teams in my opinion that are "built" for anything. They are teams that lack significant scoring talent and because this, play a style of hockey designed to choke skilled teams to death. When it actually works, as it has about ten times this year against the Hawks, the Hawks are seen as not wanting it bad enough, too small to deal with a physical team, and so on.

    I have enjoyed watching the Hawks play teams like the Red Wings this year and for people who really enjoy old school, knock guys out with hits, kinda hockey, it's people like me who are ruining the game because we enjoy watching fast paced, skill hockey. If there is any central theme in playoff hockey, it is, play to negate the other teams strength and don't play to win on strength because all other teams are looking to negate your strength above everything else. Hence, we have a series where the top players on the Hawks are not carrying the day while the typically unsung guys are getting sung about. Here and there within the playoffs, you get some great games where the refs swallow the whistles, the asshat truculence teams are golfing and the stronger and deeper teams play some good hockey. It's still early.

  • The Hawks seemed out-of-synch all night. Passing and chemistry just weren't really there compared to what we know they can do. It seems like they're objective is to expend the least amount of energy possible while barely managing to win. I don't know how much can be attributed to the Wild's good play against them, but you watch the intensity in some of the other series' and you know the Hawks are gonna have to raise their game WAY up if they make it past the Wild.

    2010 Hawks similarly struggled to get their game going when they faced the Preds in the first round.... This one reminds me a lot of the frustration we all had watching them flounder in that series.

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    If the Hawks hope to go anywhere in the playoffs, they need to cut out the stupid penalties. The have been outstanding on the PK so far, but let's face it, the Wild aren't exactly an offensive powerhouse. If they go up against Anaheim or the Pens, they will be digging huge holes. That being said, it was pretty sad how the calls have gone against the Hawks, I mean over the last 2 games, 4 or 5 draws were redone because of an "unfair drop" and in every one of them, it was only whistled AFTER the Hawks won possession.

  • In reply to Wayne Driscoll:

    Tell me about it.

  • Great PK but blocking that many shots takes its toll. Getting in the shooting lanes sounds innocuous but a puck in the leg or foot is far from that.

    Less penalties shouldn't be an issue as the Hawks were one of the least penalized teams in the regular season but we have been picking up our share lately. Hmm......

    Carcillo got one and that doomed his ice time but in that three minutes he was noticeable and effective. I confess I do prefer him to Bollig, if only for the experience.

    Bickell 3, Toews 0. who would have predicted that. Love the play-offs.

    Crawford does cough up big rebounds but so far the team has been excellent at negating second chances. He has been solid so far, for sure.

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