The Western Conference is beyond competitive right now. When considering that the 8th place team in the West would be tied for 1st in the East, yeah, it looks kind of ridiculous. Currently, the Hawks are 2nd in points within the league, trailing the Ducks by just 1 point. The Hawks have 2 fewer games than the Ducks and therefore have a better winning percentage, but they are behind both the Blues and Avs in that category. You could almost say that the top 8 Western Conference teams are separated by only a game or 2. That leaves the Vancouver Canucks down at 9th place with 28 points, which would be good enough for 5th in the East. Getting points is huge, and a bad skid could knock any team out of contention right now.
With that said, last night's win was huge, and not just because it was against the Nucks, even if that did make all the sweeter. Being that it is the circus trip makes it even sweeter. It did not look too promising for far too long last night, but in only 9 seconds the Hawks changed that tune. It is funny however, that I thought the Hawks controlled the majority of play until they took that 1 goal lead, when the Hawks switched to the defense first mentality.
Good to see the Hawks win a 2-1 game like that, but I can't help feel uneasy when the Hawks lead by a goal and stop playing offense. All in all, the Hawks move too well for the Nucks and most other teams. Their transition game is a killer and when they stop pushing I find that they start holding the game out in front of the opposition to take.
In the end, I give much of that win to Crawford who hasn't been looking all that awesome lately. Last night was a nice switch in gears for him, even if he was still showing some unwanted characteristics. More on that soon.
My hope against the Jets was that Raanta might have gotten the start. It seemed like a good time. He got his feet wet, and the Hawks have dominated the Jets thus far. Unfortunately, that was not the case, and the Hawks delivered on their offense as expected to, winning 6-3 in game that Crawford was not too pleasing to the eye.
2 wins in a row on the infamous circus trip, which I hate for multiple reasons, including the fact that I hate the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. They have the record for getting the largest animal abuse fine ever, and it has changed nothing about their practices. If you love animals, think about not supporting their acts of violence. Thanks.
So, what can we learn from the past 2 games:
- Vancouver had a crappy coach before, and that is still the case. It doesn't really matter that much, because I felt like last night's game proved that the Hawks are the superior team, controlling significant amounts of play and doing so with authority. I will say this about Vancouver's new system, they sure plug up that middle now, which helped keep the Hawks from scoring for 2 periods, but it sure makes a sad thing of an offensive team. I say play to your strengths and coach the team in front of you.
- The Hawks top line is beyond control even when Hossa is out. When he is in, it is best line in the league. All in all, the Hawks just seem to have too much fire power to handle. Toews had 4 points in the Jets game! Hossa had a goal and an assist, as did Kaner. There were 9 points between Toews, Hossa, Kane, and Sharp. This is a trend and not a fluke.
- Kane is peaking. The guy is controlling the ice in ways he just hasn't done before. And, call me crazy, but doesn't he seem like 2 or 3 steps faster? Needless to say, when you factor in how dominating that top line is and that Kane isn't even on it, yeah. That Versteeg deal has pretty much solidified the Hawks 2 of the strongest lines in hockey, and a 3rd that will equal most other team's 2nd line. Is this what it felt like to be a Detroit fan?
- Let us hope that Q took an example from Vancouver's new goal of skating their top 3 players into total destruction. The average ice-time between the Sedins and Kesler was more than Keith's time on the ice last night.
- Q seems to be aware of this, as he has started lowering his top player's minutes a tad. But, Morin didn't even play 5 minutes (though it is a huge gain just to see him at all), and Brookbank was back on D, but only played 6:23. Sure, Keith and Hjalmer were on fire, and have been in general lately, but still. Is there something Morin has been doing wrong that everyone else besides Q is missing?
- Seabrook is stinking up the ice. I hope he has completely blown any chance of making the Olympic team by now. Given that he is this harsh, why can't Brookbank take a few of his shifts? Or better yet, when does Q sit him? He has no problem sitting the youngsters for no reason.
- You know what, watching Tortorella's coaching makes me love our coach.
- Did anyone else have a problem with the penalty to Shaw? Yeah, I get it a little, but it seemed like Sedin put himself there to interfere with Shaw and then took an extra step to dive when Shaw tried to avoid the blueline. Not a great move by Shaw, but I can't believe the officials made that call. This allowed Vancouver a lead that stood for almost 2 periods worth of time.
- The Kruger, Smith, Bollig line has been struggling lately, and I don't think it is because of Smith. Meanwhile, Morin looks great. Nice to see Kruger get that goal though. It is also nice to see him winning his face-offs lately, which he is obviously working on.
- Pirri continues to get better when he doesn't have the puck. His line started a good amount of draws in their own zone, and ended a good amount of them in Vancouver's zone.
- Crawford gets a lot of the credit for that win in Vancouver, but he was pretty bad against the Jets. Again, Raanta should have started it. I think Crow is getting fatigued and losing focus. When he does this, he starts cheating on his angles and comes too far out of his net. Crawford's strength is in his positioning. He was better in Vancouver, but he still looked too far out on occasions. The Hawks D helped him out big time. I would put a great deal of emphasis on the fact that Crow played only half of the regular season games leading up to the Hawks Stanley Cup run. Raanta needs to get in there. Winnipeg was the game for that.
- What is up with Bollig on the PK? The more puzzling question might even be why Versteeg is not on the PK? The most puzzling then becomes, how the hell is Bollig killing penalties and Versteeg is not? Is this not one of the main reasons we acquired Verstud?
The Hawks are in a good position to end up grabbing at least %50 of the points on this road trip. Here's to them picking up 10 of the 14 possible! In related news, Handzus was activated from injured reserve. I hope that Pirri stays right where he is and that Morin still gets to play. I think with ample time to get better (even though he has already looked strong), Morin will be a an important figure in the playoffs.
Filed under: Game Recap