Thanks to a wonderful and determined goal by Saader, the Hawks proved that they can win tight defensive games, and that Antti Raanta can provide the shutout necessary to do so. Now, the Kings are not exactly a powerhouse of scoring, but Raanta made more than a few big time saves, including a doubler from Dustin Brown after stopping the breakaway and awarded penalty shot (Oh, now you call the penalty shot). The team, and Raanta bounced back from a weak performance in a big way, which shows them taking 5 out of the possible 6 points in this 3 games in 4 days stretch following the holidays. Not bad at all, especially when considering the opponents they faced. (Should have 6 of 6 points)
Games like this aren't very fun to watch, but again, the Hawks proved they can win the Kings way, and they have more than proved they can win their own way throughout the season. Besides a few bad positioning moments, the Hawks weren't far away from being perfect. I would argue that this game was a little too close for comfort and that the Hawks find a balance between still forcing the offense without cheating on their D, but you have to be happy about the outcome. The way the Kings play puts a damper on utilizing a backcheck which is the fuel for the Hawks offense. So there you go.
Someone I like to pick on this year, and last year, and the year before is Brent Seabrook. Besides his shotty play through the year, I have a problem with how much he is promoted in the media for his "great" play, because of his stats. Just remember that Hjalmer and Oduya have been getting the toughest assignments and hardest shifts. This has allowed for Seabrook and Keith to exploit their offensive talents, while masking Brent's defensive laziness. This game was a little different however. I thought Seabrook had an inspired effort and used his body to be a difference maker, which is something he doesn't do enough. Honestly, in the past 10 games or so, Seabs has been strong in at least 7 of them.
Now, I read a comment by someone somewhere that touched upon what I just mentioned. Could it be that Q has purposefully put Keith and Seabrook against other team's weaker offenses in not only an attempt to shield them from defensive follies, but also to allow their offensive talents to shine? It has also been common for 7 and 2 to play against other team's 4th lines with our very own 4th line. I like this thought, but just wish Eddie O would do a better job of mentioning the work load of Hjalmer and Oduya. All of the work, none of the glory.
Sure, Seabrook was the one who caused the penalty shot for Brown, being that he was the last D-man back and the one who put his stick on Brown's hands. But, as it was mentioned elsewhere around the interwebs, Handzus was actually the one who was out of position on that rush that allowed Brown to slip past the whole team untouched. Sorry, I have to point out when Zus makes costly mistakes.
Another inspired effort from Saad. I would go so far as to say an inspired effort from that entire line. Not shocking seeing that these are the types of games where their skills can be better utilized. I thought Shaw made some great plays throughout. It is just expected of Saad at this point.
Unfortunately, Kane's scoring streak came to an end. Hey, the Hawks won without Kane or Sharp scoring!
Better job by the PK. I'm still not okay with Bollig playing here, and find it hard to understand how his mistakes are completely ignored, though he is playing hard and making the best of his abilities. Bollig had more ice than Bickell did, and I am still waiting for Versteeg to take that PK spot from Bollig. Worth mentioning as well, is that the hit Bollig laid out on Doughty should have resulted in a Kings power-play, which was not a good time for one. Yes, when a team plays like the Kings, they ask for it a little, but that hit was dangerous for Bollig to make.
Another game where Ben Smith was taking some of the more important face-offs, and he almost never cleanly lost one. He fights so hard that his losses end up a battle for the loose puck.
And back to Raanta. He made some big saves and finally broke his 2 goals against theme, coming off of his worst showing no less. With little time in the NHL, he has really made a good impression and has shown to be a quick learner. Sure, those angles are still killing him, but like we have said here before, the good seem to outweigh his needed improvements, which will most likely come.
So, the question becomes, what should Q do with him when Crow comes back during the next trip? They could send him back down to Rockford and let him work on his needed improvements with a little less pressure, freedom, and more ice-time. LaBarbera would then be the back-up.
I say keep Raanta up here, and let Crow ease back in. The main goal is to keep this team healthy, and days off help that along. I have little doubt that Crawford was so strong in the playoffs because of the many games off throughout that season. Switching between Raanta and Crow would end up being a plus for both goaltenders IMO. Raanta will have less pressure, Crow will get his rest, and Raanta will continue to work on his play against NHL caliber players. It should not be overlooked, the effort Raanta has shown after getting thrown into this situation, and it should also be rewarded.
Filed under: Game Recap