Being a recovering Cubs fan for many, many years now, I am ALL too familiar with the phrase, “Wait ‘til next year.” Chicago folks have heard that far too many times in every sport, and I in particular, am sick of hearing it. BEFORE we get to next year, I’d like to address some things the Hawks need to do…..
The Hawks have 2 very capable back up goaltenders. Crawford, although he played well in regulation during the series, and did win 30 games in the season, is not the shut down type of goalie required to take you into the finals. Sophomore slump? I say no. The Blues have 2 of those “next level” net minders. I know that trades within a division are rare and tough, so where else. Ryan Miller? He did show signs of not being what he once was, at times this year. The unproven kid at Rockford Carter Hutton? Long shot at best. Carey Price? I don’t know, but something has to be done. This city has a very short memory, and those nightly sell outs at the United center could end very quickly, following 2 “one and done” Play Off series.
Over the last 3 seasons my son & I have a United Center game attendance record of 9 - 1. The one loss was to the Phoenix Coyotes a couple seasons ago. The Yotes, with yesterday’s victory, came in this season & post season and won 5 games straight at the U. C. That’s all you need to know. If you can’t beat a team on your home ice, you ain’t going anywhere.
Andrew Shaw returned from his suspension, and with the rest of his teammates, were part of every different line combination that you can think of. From the drop of the puck, the Hawks came out and controlled things. For the first 7 minutes, the puck was barley out of the Phoenix zone. Pucks were ringing off the post, just missing wide, and MOSTLY being gobbled up by opposing goal tender Mike Smith. However, that changed when the Hawks went on the Power Play, and then most of the action was spent trying to organize at neutral ice. The Hawks ended up 1 for 19 for the series on the P.P.—P.P. should stand for Pathetic Performance. I cannot fault the effort during the first period, they did every thing right but put the puck in the net. And that, my friends, is how you win a game. They out shot the visitors 16 -2 that period, but the score was 0 - 0.
Ok, here’s my theory on why the Hawks will win their series against Phoenix.
NASHVILLE won their series. As you know NASHVILLE is known as music city. When you think of AMERICAN music (teams in America have won the Cup going back several years) you thinks of the BLUES. The BLUES have won their series also. When you think of the BLUES, you think of B.B. King. B.B. stands for BLUES Boy. Plus, the KINGS won their series. When you think of the BLUES, CHICAGO, the home of the BLUES comes to mind. Many BLUES songs have been written about the HAWK, the cold wind that blows through CHICAGO. Therefore, without a doubt, the HAWKS form CHICAGO should win….. then again, the Phoenix logo does look like a HOWL’N WOLF, so what do I know.
If you’ve read me at all before, you know that a couple of things have been consistent in all 125 + blogs. One, I have never complained about the officiating or questioned the lack of a penalty. That’s over.
How 4 men on the ice could not see the puck carrier get hit the way he did is beyond me. Yes, I know only 2 of them call penalties, but I have seen conferences in the past.
Torres, for those who don’t know what I’m talking about, came in on Hossa, left his skates, and delivered a head blow just feet away from a referee. He was knocked to the ice and lay motionless at first. The doctor and 2 EMT’s removed him from the ice on a neck stabilizing stretcher board. Unbelievably, no penalty was given out.
Ok, now on to the game itself…...
So the NHL finally made up it’s mind, hours before game time, and handed Andrew Shaw a 3 game suspension.
This came after the collision with Phoenix Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith. Smith remained in the game, and finished it. It’s as simple as this with with NHL, they want to make a statement as long as it is not a marquee player. The inconsistencies through out the last couple of weeks are mind boggling.
Shaw did not target or go after the goalie. Could he have done more to avoid contact, probably. The head to head contact came when Smith turned his head, behind the net, with the puck. Shaw was going BETWEEN the goalie and the boards when this occurred. This to me is NOT intent to injure.
Weber grabs a guy by the back of the head and smashes his head TWICE into the glass and gets a $2500 slap on the wrist. How much more INTENT to injure do you need? The difference is an All Star vs. a checking line winger. Enough said. Just show some consistency here, NHL, to every one. I know that stars of game get preferential treatment. It’s like that in every sport but this is ridiculous.
Paul posted the Shanahan video for those who have not seen it yet.
This series certainly has shown a flair for the dramatic. If tying the game with 15 seconds left and an empty net wasn’t exciting enough in Game 1, the Hawks repeated the feat, with 5 seconds left in Game 2! Seabrook played a part in both, scoring and then assisting, respectively. That Overtime win in the first meeting, for Phoenix, really looms larger now. Had the Hawks won, not only would they be up 2 - 0 in the series, but losing back to back games in such fashion would certainly have a demoralizing effect on both the fans and the team. Oh well, IF ......
It was Crawford vs. Smith, as it will be baring any type of injury or COMPLETE melt down by either. Both again showed Play Off net minding skills. The only change in the Hawks line up was Sammy Lepisto as the 6th D-man (replacing O’Donnell). The lines were the same, for the start any way. After the ejection of Shaw, things were shuffled. However, with Coach Q, if he doesn’t see what he likes, things change.
In the 1st period, the Hawks had an early Power Play. It was by far the best looking one that I have seen in a long time. They controlled the puck in the Yotes zone for almost the entire time. Bickell scored with just a few seconds left to go up 1 - 0. He took a rebound out of the air and knocked it passed Smith.
Defensive zone turnovers, they’ll give you every time…. It was Game One, Hawks vs. Coyotes at the Jobing.com Arena outside of Phoenix. It was a “White - Out” night with all the fans receiving white t-shirts at the beginning of the game. I don’t get that, let’s all wear the color of the visiting team’s jersey. Oh well. Both teams went into this game with the Coyotes having had taken 3 out of the 4 regular season contests. The last 3 in a row (1 shoot out win). The Hawks would need 3 solid periods to win. They had 2. Crawford (30-17-7) was up against Smith (38-18-10) who had all 3 of the Yotes victories. Both goalies played very well, I thought, coming up with huge saves at critical times. Toews finally returned after missing the last 22 regular season games (concussion) and centered the first line with Hossa & Kane. The rest of the lines were pretty much the way that they have been lately, except a player here or there.
The first period opened up, and I mean OPENED UP with an extremely fast pace. 4 minutes in, Toews shoveled a back hander form a tough angle that beat Smith. Welcome back, Captain. Bickell had an unbelievable opportunity to go up 2 -0, but was stopped by Smith. The game was, as expected, very physical and there were some big hits. Vrbata (Yotes 35 goal scorer) left after a big collision very early, and would not return. The official word, was that there was no official word. I love the NHL… The Hawks Power Play looked better with Toews back on the first unit, but did not score on the Hawks man advantage, around 13 minutes in. There would later be coincidental roughing penalties to close out he period. With 2 seconds left, Crawford had a huge save. Hawks out shot, 11 - 8.
In the last blog, I dealt with the negatives of the regular season. In a nutshell, goal tending, power play & penalty kill. In this writing, I would like to focus on the positive aspects, mostly individually. It’s pretty amazing, when you think about it, that the Hawks managed to collect 101 point and end up fourth in their division. Tough division, and I still say the the Western Conference Champ will emerge from it. Vancouver was the only other team in the Western Conference with over 100 points. Any way, here we go, the positives…..
The first item would be the Hawks Captain. Toews would be both a good and bad. The good, his performance when he was healthy. In 59 games he had 29 goals, and 28 assists for 57 points. The bad, of course, having to sit out for the remainder of the season with a concussion. Even with missing the last twenty some games, he ranks 4th on the team in points. His face off skills (leading the NHL for most of the time that he was playing) and leadership was truly missed. Hopefully, he will return for the Phoenix series. It was reported that Toews / Kane / Hossa skated today as the first line. That sounds sooo sweet.
Although you can’t really judge a team until the Play Offs are over, when it comes to achievements, this is my take on the regular season. I am going to chop this up into at least 2 blogs. This first blog (part One) will focus on the negative or disappointing aspects of the team and individuals, performance wise. The second blog will end on a high note, looking at the positives.
There is no telling where this team would have ended up in the standings had they have received consistent play between the pipes. We went into the season with Crawford as the #1, and Ray Emery, after his preseason PTO emerging as the #2. I’ll be honest, I felt pretty good about that. I was wrong. The Hawks ended up with a 22nd ranked, 2.62 goals against average. Not good by any means. The statistic which is truly amazing was the inability to not even record a single shut out during the course of an entire season. Could you imagine if Elliot & Halak (St. Louis) were on this team….Hey, it’s fun to pretend. Crawford, who did end up with 30 victories, give him credit there, must continue to CONSISTENTLY perform at the level that he has shown himself to be capable of, through out the Play Offs. Emery played very well at the United Center, compiling a 10 - 0 - 3 record. I don’t care who it is come Play Off time, somebody needs to find the zone.
The Hawks WERE 30-1-2, when leading after 2 periods, add one to the loss column, as they fell to the Wild, 2 - 1 in a shoot out loss. This time the game was in Minnesota, but the results were the same (5 - 4 shoot out loss Sunday in Chicago.)
The Hawks were again without Toews (21 games now - concussion) along with Brunette, Bolland, Montador, Lepisto, and of course Carcillo. To lessen the effects of changing every line, Hayes replaced Brunette on Line #1, Morrison replaced Bolland on Line #3, Frolik related Hayes on the 4th line. As Coach Q said in a pregame radio interview, “We’ll be rolling all four lines tonight. ” He did.
Crawford (29-17-6) went up against Harding (12-12-4). Both goalies played well, with neither facing a lot of shots on goal.
The Hawks once again squandered power play opportunities in the game, getting little, to some times NO shots on goal. Again, lost opening face offs played a role. The Hawks had a 2 minute PP in the first, a 5 minute Major (more in a minute on that) at the end of the 1st & into the second, and another THREE more in the third.—The Major was a head butt on Mayers form Prosser which led to a game misconduct and most likely a suspension next season.
About Talk'n Hawks