Nail Biter, Blackhawks 3 - Flames 2.

Nail Biter, Blackhawks 3 - Flames 2.

This one was a nail biter throughout, starting with a Hawks barrage in the start in which they couldn't find the net thanks to the Flames goaltender Reto Berra. Then, into a lack-luster 2nd period in which the Hawks ended the barrage, but still found some high quality chances and still couldn't get the puck behind Berra. This brought us finally to a Calgary lead when the Flames found a hole on Raanta who was playing a sharp game. I think we all expected the Hawks to score next, but when they didn't and Calgary did again on an odd-man rush, the nail biting resumed as it started to feel like the Hawks would lose what should have been an easier win than most.

No need to fear, 2 goals within 1 minute later in the 3rd would set things right, and some extremely late luck and heroics by Kane put the Hawks up 3-2 in the final seconds.

There has been something on my mind about this year's Hawks team compared to last years. In some ways, and this is because of the stellar play being performed by the stars of the team, this year's team feels better than last years. One big thing that I see as standing out is how many shots the Hawks have been throwing on net. I don't have the numbers, because I'm not a numbers person, but the Hawks seem much more likely to shoot this year, and I think that alone is a significant factor in the Hawks success. After they shoot, they are winning the battles and getting possession back. In last night's game, the Hawks slowed their shooting significantly in the 2nd period and that's exactly when the Flames picked up their game. The Hawks regained power in the 3rd, in large part do to the push from an offensive powerhouse when trailing by 2 goals, but either way, they started shooting and Kane's 1st goal was a lucky bounce that comes from getting pucks on the net.

Sometimes, when facing a hot goaltender, this is the only way to get it going.

And another thing when comparing last year to this one: The Hawks are even better at even strength, which again, is in part due to the shots. Unfortunately, they are not as strong on special teams. If the Hawks can correct it, they will be nearly unstoppable.

The second thing that stands out to me is how ridiculously well Hossa, Toews, Kane, and Sharp are playing. They all seem extremely inspired by something. Hossa is playing his best hockey in a Hawks uniform, period. The strength at which he is moving the puck and making big plays cannot be overstated. He was the best player last night, making more than a few unbelievable plays. Maybe due to a couple of days off. Kane himself has been dominating in ways I just haven't seen before. Yes, he has been good, but not this good. On top of it, he is shooting and hitting his target more frequently. With last night's 2 tallies, he places himself 3rd in scoring within the NHL this year, which is a place he should be and I look forward to him possibly hitting 100 points this year.

The performances of the so called "core" is reason enough to expect success this year. The depth is nothing to laugh at either, and when this team is rolling as a unit, they are unstoppable.

The negative to the above points is that the Hawks do not play defense as well as they should all of the time. I find that when the Hawks stop shooting, they lose the puck more often and have to play more D, which is something they just don't have to do as often and are therefore not as efficient at it as they should be. They too often look out of position defensively and I think it is partly due to not getting as much practice there in games. Their talent on the backend, makes up for some of this.

On to other thoughts from lat night:

  • Raanta received his first win in his first NHL start. I was hoping for a little better, but he looked really good. He made some tough saves, was there for the first goal, and the 2nd goal was not his fault. Some of the saves he made looked easier than they actually were, which is the sign of a great goaltender. I anticipate good things.
  • At the other end, Berra was nothing short of amazing. The Hawks should have been up by at least 2 by the end of the 1st, and he was the reason it was 0-0.
  • Morin was sent down, as Handzus and Bollig stayed in. This will be a constant point of conversation mainly because of the stellar play shown by Morin in his brief appearances. Like I said, I could handle a little back and forth with Bollig. Handzus on the other hand, was not very noticeable last night, and with Kruger winning more face-offs now, his presence is less important.
  • And, Handzus being around allows Q to sit Pirri more often. After making a mistake, which he did do, Pirri was sat for almost the rest of the game. And here we are again, questioning why only some players get sat for a bad shift or momentary lapse of reason, and why is it usually the youngsters? I get it Q, you are trying to teach them a lesson, but it is an old and out of date practice my friend, because they learn nothing from that. What is proven to work is showing your newbies that you trust them and know they will not be perfect all of the time. Give them the confidence to play well and the freedom to screw up sometimes. This cultivates growth. And, within your thinking, how does Morin not get played more? BTW, why doesn't Bollig or Handzus get sat for bad plays? Consistency builds trust and builds strength.
  • Versteeg is getting better with the new Hawks. He is making valuable contributions, so let's give him some looks on the PK please.
  • The Hawks outplayed the Flames for at least %75 of it. Sure, they had a slow 2nd, but how well this team plays in 3rd periods can be scary at times, especially when trailing. No team will ever feel safe, and that will help bread a lack of confidence.

Not much else I feel like saying about this one. Good win, congrats to Raanta on his first of what I hope is more to come. I wonder if he gets the next start as well? Since it is the 1st of back-to-back.

Filed under: Game Recap

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  • Happy Turkey-less day HH. Meal of the day out here will include some field roast and a kickin batch of sweet potato and black bean curry. On with the show.

    I am in complete agreement with you about Zus, Morin, Pirri and Bollig. Zus was not noticeable to me and I can't help but wonder what the game looks like if Zus isn't playing. I like everything I was seeing in Morin and I really hope that the only reason he was sent back down was cap considerations. While I wouldn't mind seeing Bollig and Morin exchange some game time just to see Morin stay here, the reality is that Versteeg took Morin's spot. When Bickell returns, Morin's NHL season will be over for this year unless there are other injuries and that's really a shame.

    Something that seems to be a given with Q is that he is quite stubborn when it comes to his preferences and especially if he is winning. Right now, it makes total sense to me to groom Pirri by letting him make mistakes and watching the video later. Q seems to remain convinced though that keeping a tight leash in close games is the best way to do things. Much as I don't like the Zus, Pirri and Morin situation right now, the team is playing well.

  • Thanks for the wrap HH. You were hoping for a little better from Raanta ? You are a serious optimist. As a meat eater, I guess pessimism comes naturally. Just because I go hunting doesn't mean I'll be eating meat. lol

    First goal looked like the Hawks forwards had bailed on a line change in the defensive zone. Stajan was smack between the dots and so alone. Second goal not his fault.

    Loved the header and the focus. I couldn't be happier about his first game. As to the rest, it is part of having an overstocked farm team. Coaches get to pick and chose without that much concern about player development as they are paid to win today.

    Hayes, Olsen and Stanton are gone but I don't think Bowman is done. Morin may well hit the road for more draft choices or a rental player as the season progresses. I watched Scotty B. do it in Montreal and win a few Cups over the years.

    Is Handzus too slow ? Probably. Did anyone care during last year's Cup run ? Nope.

  • In reply to Pilotefan:

    The Handzus of down the stretch may not be that much different from the Zus we are seeing now, but the complexion of the team has changed which makes him more noticeable for not being noticeable. Right now, there is a lot of run and gun our here in the West and come playoff time, that is going to start getting taken away. Handzus, in a tighter environment like that, can possibly pay dividends because he is still pretty smart with the puck. Right now though, I really don't see how playing Zus in 2C gives the team an edge over Pirri in that spot. As you say though, coaches are paid to win first and develop talent second and Q loves his veteran guys.

    I agree on SB not being done either. I'd like to see Morin stay but they reacquired Steeg, that really put a block on moving kids up. It's got a nice sentimental feeling having Steeg back, but we are going to have him for the next two years and no matter what he does, he will hold a roster spot and block at least one kid from coming up. Assuming Pirri stays, your top two lines are set. Then factor in that Shaw, Kruger, Bickell and Steeg and maybe Bollig aren't going anywhere. That doesn't leave a lot of room for kids to come up. Zus is gone after this year, but Steeg isn't and I'm not yet convinced that Steeg absolutely brings something that a kid can't. Playoffs will answer that though, I guess.

    Prospects are always a gamble, but I do start to worry a bit that Bowman is going to start letting kids with decent up side go just to free up roster spots.

  • In reply to VegasHawksFan:

    Good point about Handzus. I think Pirri is a better choice for the second line, too.

    Hawks are stuffed to the point that Stanton goes on waivers for zip and is putting in 14 minutes a night for the Canucks. Had a three point game. Oops. I hope Kostka is as good.

    This is what a well managed team does in Bowmanland. You have a surplus of talent at the top so the talent you have grown on the farm can be sold for current or future parts. Breaking into the line-up is a nightmare. Morin, Hayes et al thought they had a shot. Versteeg's acquisition filled that opening, as you say.

    I'd be happy if Pirri stuck this year. Team turnover is not a part of Bowmanland's culture. If they keep winning this is as edgy as it gets.

  • Keep in mind that Teuvo Teravainen will be in a Hawks uniform next year. Could very well be the rookie of the year when he does. This doesn't bode very well for Pirri either. You just can't argue that Pirri isn't the best thing for the 2nd line right now, especially given that we should anticipate him being far better by the end of the year if he is coached well.

    And that's where it is. Coaching his young talent well now, will pay off for him by the end of the season. It isn't as much about winning games now as it is getting your team ready to win in the playoffs. Maybe, he assumes Zus will be playing during the playoffs anyway, so why bother, but that seems like a pretty crappy attitude IMO.

    Teuvo might also be the replacement for Kane if he decides not to stay in Chicago.

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