After crazy start, Hawks top Sharks in battle of the West

After crazy start, Hawks top Sharks in battle of the West

If you blinked, you missed a lot of the action.  I had to rewind Andrew Shaw's goal while Tweeting after Michal Handzus scored.  The Hawks and Sharks, two of the NHL's three best defensive teams, found themselves tied at 3 after 12 minutes of play.  In fact, four of those goals were scored in the span of 89 seconds.   Everyone expected a good game...but not quite such a chaotic game.

Once the dust settled, the Hawks came out on top 5-3, and Corey Crawford was a huge part of the victory.  That's perhaps the most encouraging thing about Tuesday night's win.  Crawford has admitted himself that he can be mentally fragile.  Bad games had a history of getting in his head, and cost him for the next couple of starts.  Crawford ability last night to rebound from a disastrous start is a great sign.  Most people watching (myself included) felt Ray Emery should have replaced Crawford after the third San Jose goal.  Joel Quenneville decided to stick with his starter and it paid off.  If confidence issues are a thing of Crawford's past, the Hawks' perceived weakness in goal becomes a strength.

RANDOM THOUGHTS

- Twitter and Facebook were alive with discussion of Duncan Keith's reaction to  Andrew Desjardins' hit on Jamal Mayers.  Regardless of your thoughts on the legality of the hit, Keith reacted like most hockey players would.  I want to be clear.  I don't think what he did was necessarily the right thing, but it's the thing that every player is expected and taught to do.  From a young age...athletes (especially hockey and football players) are instructed to stick up for their teammates.  Right or wrong, it's the mentality.

I also believe there is a benefit to a physical response, even if the responder is penalized.  Think back to last season when Joe Thornton punched Jonathan Toews.  Toews was concussed by the hit (though he played a number of games after the punch) and no one responded at all.  Did Raffi Torres notice that no one responded?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  The point is that players notice.  Teammates and opponents take note.  Here's how I sum it up:  If one opponent hesitates on delivering a violent hit, then the reaction has served it purpose.  It can't be quantified.  It can't be seen on a stat sheet, but it's real.  Any player will agree.

- Bryan Bickell and Michael Frolik are playing their best hockey.

Bickell leads the team with 24 hits.  The closest Hawk to Bickell is Andrew Shaw with 16 hits.  For years, Bickell has been maligned for his lack of physical play.  He's the biggest forward on the team, but hadn't played like it.  Through 10 games, he looks like a different player.  This is an important season for Bickell.  He will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.  There are a lot of third line types in the Hawks' system.  If he wants to stay here, he has to maintain this level and style of play all season.

Frolik has been solid on the 4th line.  He brings an element of speed and offense to a line that has, historically, been reserved for grinders and thumpers.  On the penalty kill, he's been especially noticeable.  I've been impressed with his hustle.  If he could pair his hustle with some sort of hands, he could be a decent scorer.  Until then, he's an elite 4th liner who could play a role on any line on the team.

- It was great to see Brandon Saad get his first NHL goal.  He hasn't looked out of place on the top line with Toews and Marian Hossa.  The only things missing from his game have been the points.  The chances have been there.  There's even been a "wow moment" once or twice this season.  With the monkey off his back, maybe he can start piling up some points.

- The Blackhawks finally get to face Raffi Torres Thursday night.  This is the first time the Hawks see Torres since his infamous hit on Hossa in last season's playoffs.  Many Hawk fans are expecting some sort of retribution.  I think they're in for a disappointment.

The Hawks have never been a "revenge" team.  It's not their game.  They'll try to get back at Torres by taking two points from the Coyotes.  If there's a physical response at all, it will be an upset to me.

Thanks for reading.  Please follow me on twitter @JayZawaski670.

 

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