Peeking my head out of the mountainous pile of educational work that is my life these days, I bring to you a post with ponderings of the Blackhawks and coach Q as of late.
How much have I missed? Well, we saw the Hawks drop some games, then win some important games, and then drop a downer last night in Detroit. They lost to a Red Wings team that didn't have half their team including one greatest player in the league and their star goaltender. There were many holes, but most of it comes down to work and effort from the Hawks, because puck support was nowhere to be seen.
So, why do the Hawks drop some games they shouldn't, thenvplay a great game against the Avs only to drop a point, and win against the Bruins and Ducks, only to drop a big game in Detroit? I get a lot of arguments when I point the finger at Q, but here we go.
Let me start by saying that I could care less about losing games in January, especially if they win in the playoffs. I do have perspective, and am optimistic. But, I'm a blogger and this what we do.
The ways in which the Hawks often find themselves in trouble are constant complaints of this blog, and for questioning the coaching going on. This brings me to what I think the best attribute of Q's coaching is. The atmosphere of calm. One of the greatest aspects of this team is their composure and ease towards dealing with pressure. I just don't think they feel it anymore, and Q has a lot to do with it. You have that to thank for the best 17 seconds in Hawks history. Q brings composure and trust in certain players.
This has a lot to do with why the Hawks drop insignificant games in January, only to raise their game against the Avs, Bruins and Ducks. So, what about yesterday? This was a big game, against a big foe, and a limited occurrence these days. Jump out to an early 2 goal lead against a struggling, injured team you want to beat, and then blow it. Not good.
Here's where you get into the real issues of this team, and why I find the best reason for Q's winning record to be the great rosters he has had the luck of coaching. When the effort is not there, and the roster isn't covering up the faults of this team, they are very vulnerable. I'm talking about a 4th line that hasn't done very well in puck possession at all, the low minutes or benching of players who thrive at puck possession. I'm talking about the plain horrible defensive positioning this team displays when their opponent can lead in puck possession, and the terrible lack of support from any line besides the Toews' line.
Not only was Q outcoached last night, as he often is against Babcock, but a minor league team out smarted and out hustled his allstar roster. Shaw and Saad were hustling, but they weren't moving the puck correctly, or going to the right areas of the ice to support the transition into the Wings zone. Why is this? Where is the coaching? Kane was swarmed every time he had the puck, because Babcock saw his linemates not opening up the ice correctly. The only way to handle Kane is to swarm him and take away all of his space that other teams give up easily. You might question Pirri's efforts, but he was always in the right place at the right time which didn't allow teams to do this.
I hate to gripe about Saad, because he is a monster of a player, as is Shaw, but intensity is nothing without head's up movements and going to the right areas of the ice at the right times.
One might expect the defensive positioning to be the strongest element of a team coached by a defensemen, but this is the Hawks worst characteristic, and the Wings also exploited that last night. They got pucks deep, and kept them there, having all day to set up their point, or wait for the Hawks to get out of position. Sure, this was exacerbated by Oduya's rough play lately, and especially last night, but it isn't only him, and his wingers could do him a favor by staying in the zone a little longer. There was one play where I saw Hossa flee the zone when Oduya had the puck, and the Wings noticed the Hawks were a man short in the zone and pounced. They ended up with a prime scoring chance as Hossa made his way back into the zone for the faceoff.
I saw support against the Ducks, but it was completely absent from last night's game. This is far too common of a theme, and if they play any team in the playoffs that can find a way to keep pucks deep, they will be in trouble. I mean, maybe we can knock this off to always being on the offense, but that's just making excuses.
Hjalmer was interviewed between periods against the Ducks and he mentioned support and positioning as the greatest reasons they win or lose. When you tear down the star talents of the NHL, all that is left is playing hard, playing positioned with a purpose, and supporting your teammates. We saw what happens when one team does it, and the other doesn't last night, regardless of talent level.
When they want to win, it seems like the Hawks can pull it out no matter what. They have that much skill. They couldn't do that against the Wings, and this was even with a really shaky goaltender in net. I would really like to see the Hawks clean up some of these big holes in their game, because what just happened might start happening a little more often going forward.
P.S. I thought Kruger played great and has all year. This is only greater concern for what Bollig does when he doesn't have the puck, because that line is struggling.
And, why can't Kaner just do his slow down quadruple quick stick handling move every shootout attempt? It is the only thing that works for him, and probably would have taken that extra point.
Also, Darren Helm is my favorite player that doesn't wear a Hawks uniform. Has been for a while, and I don't say that enough because he plays for the Wings. He's Stalberg with more hockey smarts and purpose, and he owned the Hawks all night long.
Filed under: View from the Bench