Well, I think we finally saw the Kings team that a few of us here feared going into the playoffs. While I wouldn't call it a dominant game by LA, they nonetheless played the exact game they wanted to and were able to execute their game plan. They got to the Hawks D quicker and hit them, they forced turnovers or forced the D into making bad passes and they found ways to get the Hawks to blow coverage and leave Justin Williams open for what seems like his 20th goal of the playoffs from the same spot. On the Hawks side of things, they went flat very quick in the first and were never consistent on breakouts. Sometimes they pulled forwards down low and broke out with the short pass, other times they flew the zone and I have to admit, there were times when the LA forecheck was leaving that pass wide open. It's a cliche, but this game could have easily been 3-2 Hawks. I wont' say the Hawks gave this one away because LA executed their system nearly flawlessly. Still, this was not a strong performance from the Hawks until the third period.
After the game, the NBC brain trust said the Hawks didn't skate yesterday or today. After the game the other night, I don't remember where I read this, but one article said the Hawks had set up a suite with food, TV's and video games. Overconfidence? To start the game, I actually though the first couple of shifts went pretty well. But, the Kings seemed to turn it around shortly after that and though it was tight, I really thought the Kings had the edge in most everything. Though the Hawks lost the face off stat, I don't know that the extra ten the Kings won made that much of a difference. Hit wise, the differential wasn't horrible which was also ten. Where I really think the Hawks lost this game was on the breakouts and the lack of speed. LA is never going to get into a track meet with the Hawks, but if the Hawks are hustling, they can stop the dump and punish and force LA to chase the puck more. The shots on Quick included some very decent shots where he gave up rebounds, but when it came to scooping up rebounds, I thought the Hawks frequently seemed disorganized and not really sure of what they wanted to do. And of course, there were multiple extra passes that had me screaming, "Shoot the puck" at the TV.
As I said, first period started decent, but quickly turned the Kings way when the Hawks started losing foot races. Predictably, the Hawks started looking like they were in fire drill mode and Williams got free and wide open and ripped a shot that Crow probably didn't see as Rozsival's big frame was right in his way. Somehow, the Hawks managed to stroll through the rest of the period without giving up a goal and SOG was 8-7 in Kings favor. The second period started where the first ended and the Kings seems to be nearly in autopliot mode. Just about little over half way in, a scrum built up in front of Crawford and the puck started to squirt up towards the point and Voynov skated into it for a one time that broke his stick and the puck seemed to bounce of the tip of Crawford's glove. I didn't see it from multiple angles, but with all the bodies in front of Crow and the distraction of a piece of stick flying in a different direction, I'm hard pressed to say that's a goal he's gotta have. Late second period, the Kings got caught in their own fire drill and Bickell grabbed the puck and skated behind the net from Quick's right to left and buried a wrap around that Quick knew was coming. After that, the Hawks did seem to get some momentum, but not sustained. Late in the third, the Hawks had some really good chances and Quick made a very lucky desperation save on Bickell. All that was left to do was for the Kings to get an empty netter, which, BTW, seemed to come from a Hawk forward basically giving up on chasing the puck.
Observations- Sutter moved Stoll and Kopitar around but I'm hard pressed to believe that was a dominant coaching move that changed the whole game. The Hawks, to me, just did not seem into this game. On the plus side, I saw nothing tonight that makes me think this Kings team is not as beatable as it was in Chicago. Their playoff record at home is pretty stunning, but if the Hawks get back to the style they won with in Chicago, I do believe they will take a game in LA. BTW, I think we have a big enough sample size to know that Williams needs to be covered better in the offensive zone.
Reading the chatter on other sites about Bickell, it's kind of funny watching how the projected dollar amount climbs with every goal he scores. If he pots a couple more, pretty soon he will be projected to be a 5 mildo a year guy. At the other end of the spectrum, we have Stalberg and I just don't know what to make of that. I went from not being a very big fan of Stalberg to becoming very impressed with him to now feeling like he is seldom noticeable. Short as his ice time, it was still more then Bolland. Defensively, several forwards, IMO, did not do their job tonight. Sharp, Saad, Shaw and Zus were all -2 while Kane and Stals were -1. If these guys are scoring, that's one thing. Fro and Kruger, in contrast do not score, but they stop scoring. All in all, I expected a bounce back game from the Kings on their home ice, and they delivered. If the Hawks come back ready to play like they did in the first two games, I think they take the game on Thursday.