Over the next 48 hours, you, the Blackhawk fan, are going to hear a number of common themes. Desire, hustle, TWTW, and intimidation. These were the words infecting my Twitter feed like a zombie-fied strain of the the Bird Flu sprinkled with a little SARS and Mad Cow. None of these narratives are accurate or effective in describing the Blackhawks 3-1 loss, and 2-1 series deficit to the Detroit Red Wings.
The Blackhawks were not outworked. They played as hard a game as they've played all season. The Hawks also "wanted it" plenty, and they were not intimidated. They were the instigators of most of the physical play Monday.
Let me try to offer a few better descriptors. Out-executed? How about out-goaltended? Out-coached, perhaps? Out-classed? You bet.
Let's dissect each on their own.
Out-executed : While the Blackhawks played a much better top to bottom game than they did in Game 2, the Red Wings still dictated far too much of the action, especially after capturing the 2 goal lead. The Hawks were slaughtered in the faceoff circle, winning only 44%. The Wings won seemingly every big faceoff in the game. Even Jonathan Toews, who was among the league leaders in faceoff percentage during the regular season, was held to a paltry 47%.
Turnovers were another huge factor in this loss. Somehow, the Hawks were only credited with 5 give-a-ways. To the naked eye, that number seems incredibly low. For the second consecutive game, the Hawks errors (mental and physical) cost them. Credit Detroit for playing two solid games in a row, but many of the Hawks' problems were self inflicted.
Out-goaltended : While Corey Crawford had an overall good game, he must stop Detroit's 3rd goal (scored by Pavel Datsyuk). The Hawks had just cut the deficit on Patrick Kane's goal, and had all of the momentum, even after an apparent Andrew Shaw goal was waved off. The timing couldn't have been worse for a soft goal. It completely shifted the flow of the game, and seemed to demoralize the Hawks until desperation mode set in at the end of the 3rd period.
Outcoached : For his Hall of Fame credentials, Joel Quenneville will leave you scratching your head at times. Why, for instance, was Viktor Stalberg ever scratched? He was his typical self tonight, generating scoring chances with his speed. In fact, he almost tied the game after hitting the goal post on a rush 100% generated with his top end speed. Sure, he's good for a mishandle here or there, but his speed and skill more than make up for his shortcomings.
Also, if Michal Handzus must be in the lineup, he has to be taking faceoffs. What is the point of having him on Marcus Kruger's wing? Handzus is here to win faceoffs. Have him take every draw he's on the ice for, then move to wing after the puck is dropped. It can't be that complex. Rinse and repeat for the Dave Bolland / Patrick Sharp situation on the occasional 2nd line. Sharp is better at faceoffs. He should take them.
In my opinion, Handzus should be a scratch for Game 4. He's too slow (or too injured) to play...and if he's not going to take faceoffs (he took 8 tonight), why is he in the lineup? Keep Daniel Carcillo in the lineup, or better yet give Ben Smith or Jimmy Hayes a chance on the 4th line.
The best faceoff man should be taking every draw. The best players should be playing every night. Pretty simple.
Outclassed : Take a look at the box score from Monday's game. Roughing, unsportsmanlike conduct, slashing, holding, roughing, cross checking, and misconduct. The Hawks are frustrated. You can't blame them, but spending 8 minutes of the 3rd period short handed is not the way to chip away at a 2 goal Detroit lead. For the first time in 2013, the Blackhawks are having to deal with adversity, and they haven't handled it very well. If it's Jonathan Toews crying to refs, or Shaw taking yet another stupid penalty, this is not the Blackhawk team or style that won them the Presidents' Trophy.
All of this said, the Blackhawks still played a solid game. A number of shots hit the post, one was disallowed, etc. I truly believe if they can play the same game for the rest of the series, they'll win. They just need to eliminate the mindless, out of character penalties and mental mistakes. Winning a couple more key faceoffs would certainly help as well. The Hawks are still the better team, and Jimmy Howard has to crack at some point, doesn't he?
Filed under: ben smith, Blackhawks, bryan bickell, Chicago Blackhawks, Chicago Sports, Corey Crawford, Dan Carcillo, daniel carcillo, danny mac show, dave bolland, duncan keith, Headshots, hockey, jay zawaski, joel quenneville, johnny oduya, jonathan toews, Marcus Kruger, marian hossa, Michael Handzus, michal rozsival, NHL, nhl playoffs, Patrick Kane, patrick sharp, red wings, sports, stan bowman, viktor stalberg, wscr