Blackhawks, 4 – The Team With Some Guy Who Scored Like 100 Goals In The Past Two Years And Who Already Had Two In The Game But Wasn’t Worth Covering And Therefore Scored Another (And Then Some Other Guy Scored One In OT Too Just To Piss Me Off More), 5



Yeah, it was about that wide open all night. (Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)

 

Going into last night’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning I figured that if Toews’ line (with arguably not the strongest defensive wingers) could hold it’s own, then Kane’s line would clean house and the Hawks should come away with 2 points. I guess I didn’t account for the meltdown of the Hawks’ checking line who had been relatively solid (although showing a few cracks as of late) until this point. Just keep repeating the company line, “3 out of 4 points ain’t bad.”

The fact of the matter is that the Hawks dominated play for most of the game. Unfortunately, they paid the price for forgetting about one of the league’s premier snipers, Steven Stamkos. How does that happen? Instead of breaking down the game, I’ll go straight to some player observations.

 

Viktor “Stone Cold” Stalberg
Stals had 15 – yes 15 – shots directed at the net last night and was officially credited with 7 SOG, but 0 goals. (Toews, by comparison, only had 1 SOG) Even though Stals had some prime chances, many of those shots were directly into the chest of Dwayne Roloson, blocked by the defense, or way off line. For a player who gets most of his opportunities in close, his career 8.5% Sh% is telling. He can’t finish – and with Toews and Brunette doing all the digging, a finisher is what that line needs. Toews deserves better. Am I unfairly blaming the player who has been forced into a spot that might be out of his class? Probably. I can (almost) admit that.

Aside from moving Sharp back to Toews’ wing, there are no other obvious answers on the roster, so let’s hope coach Quenneville makes a change or Stalberg is better up to the task in the future. I still firmly believe that he will be traded well in advance of the deadline for a top 6 veteran who can fill what is currently the biggest void on any line. Stalberg did lead the team with a +16 Corsi rating, so my criticism isn’t of his overall game, it’s just that of the top 6 forwards, he’s the last guy you want taking all those shots. Put down the coffee, Vik.

Look Vik, I've got more than half the team covering me - ya got this right? (Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)

 

Nick Leddy-Sean O’Donnell
The pairing of Leddy (-4) and Sean O’Donnell (-2) didn’t even win the steak knives against the Lightning. As I stated when these two were paired in practice prior to the Panthers game, if you had problems with the Keith-Leddy pairing, have fun with this one, especially on the road where Q couldn’t protect them. Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher was much less concerned with matching forward lines than he was with who the Hawks had out there on D. Just about every time 6-8 stepped on the ice, he countered with the Stamkos line.

The second part of this is on Quenneville. From the end of the 1st period, he continued to match 6-8 with Bolland’s line (which normally skates with Seabrook-Hjalmarsson). He got away from this in the 3rd period, but the damage was already done. The only reason I can come up with is “balance,” so if someone wants to explain the rationale to me, I’m all ears.

On the bright side, 6-8 weren’t as bad as their Plus/Minus suggests (hence one of the reasons Plus/Minus isn’t always an accurate gauge of play over a small sample). Leddy had the lowest rate of SOG-Against of all defensemen. Unfortunately, only 7 of those shots were saved while 4 went in (.636 Sv% – this will happen when you leave cookies on the table for Stamkos. Ho! Ho! Ho!). 6-8 also had a strong edge in Corsi, mostly because they were out there with Toews’ line for much of the 1st period when they were generating lots of chances but couldn’t capitalize. (Newman! Stalberg!)

Would the Hawks still have exploded for multiple goals in the 2nd period without compromising the defense by leaving Bolland’s line exposed? From the way they were rolling in the 1st, I think so. Still, if Q wanted to skate 4-7 with the top lines in the 2nd period, I don’t understand why he didn’t reunite Monty and OD in a shutdown role? Dropping Leddy down to the 3rd would’ve been a better option.

 

The 4th Line
When Boucher wasn’t chasing Leddy-O’Donnell, he got his top line out there often against Carcillo, Kruger and Mayers – and the Hawks 4th line more than held their own. And when Kruger and company was out against Tampa Bay’s 3rd or 4th line, they took advantage. Carcillo was 2nd on the team with 4 SOG and scored on a nifty break away.

Although Carcillo looked great on Kane’s wing, this is exactly what the 4th line needs; someone who can capitalize on limited opportunities and physically wear down the opposition. If Q moves Sharp off of Kane’s line, then Carcillo is the player to fill that spot. Other than that scenario, Carbomb should continue to prove an efficient bumslayer on the 4th line.

 

Kane-Hossa-Sharp
When you put these 3 together, you’re gonna get good results. In my opinion they have been more dominate than any other line that Q has assembled over the past 3 years – and the results back that up. Patrick Kane (+8, 15 pts, 13 games)  and Marian Hossa (+7, 13 pts, 12 games) have been averaging better than a point per game and Patrick Sharp (+7) is one off that pace with 12 points in 13 games.

But the question remains, do you sacrifice the effectiveness of Toews’ line for one power line? Kane’s line seemed to control the puck just as well with Carcillo at RW. If the net result is the same there, then there’s no reason for Q not to give Toews the sniper he needs to take advantage of all the scoring chances he’s been dishing out.

 

The 3rd Line
They got their collective asses handed to them in Tampa. Sometimes legends in their own time aren’t always so legendary. That’s been the case recently for Dave Bolland. Dave Bolland was a -3 last night and is fighting it both offensively and defensively. He continues to choose to take 40 foot shots and has shown very little interest in the offensive zone – and if you subscribe to the theory that the 3rd line is only as good as Bolland makes it – his line is suffering because of it.

In the last 8 games, Bolly has a total of 2 points and was the main culprit on at least two Lightning goals, including the game winner in OT when Bolland decided to return to the bench for a new stick while the puck was still in the Chicago zone, leaving Leddy alone to face a 2 on 1. (I should add that Sharp was no help either as he drifted toward the blue line even as the two TB skaters headed past him toward the net. I also don’t understand why Leddy was out on that shift for almost a minute-and-a-half without a stoppage. During 5on5 that’s bad enough; during 4on4 that’s a disaster waiting to happen.)

Bickell. Bickell. Bickell. The book on Bryan has always been that he’s prone to lapses. After a stellar start to the season where he showed an increase in physicality to go along with 4 pts in the first 5 games, the guy has completely disappeared. Bickell has been a -7 with a 1 goal in his past 8 games and the hits have been less effective.

Although the defense of the 3rd line has been mostly acceptable, the quick strike counter punch hasn’t been there. Hey Bolly, leave the 40 footers to Bickell so we can all go back to just bitching about that. Um K?

Frolik, I’m sorry you’ve had to deal with these two.

 

Pat Foley
Sam Fels over at SecondCityHockey.com wrote a recent article regarding the unbearableness of Pat and Edzo that encompasses most of my thoughts. Although his knowledge is unquestionably extensive, I’ve never been a fan of Ed Olczyk in the booth. On the other hand, Foley was as much the face of the Blackhawks for me in my youth (since we used to sit right near him) as almost any player. For a guy who’s been around hockey for so many years I expect more than storytelling from him. I instead now often find myself shaking my head at some of his calls.

Last night was a prime example. While Foley was wetting his pants over Hjalmarsson’s hit on “Vinny” during Tampa Bay’s sole power play, most fans probably saw danger on the horizon. There’s a reason you don’t see many hits during a penalty kill. Hits often take you out of position – and defensive positioning is first and foremost on the PK.

When Hjammer left the slot to lay one on Lecavalier (who Toews already had covered), it started a series of unfortunate events that could have no other final result then the goal that quickly ensued. Going for the hit – and not the puck – only worsens a 5 on 4 to an even less desirable 4 on 3 situation. But to top it off, Hjammer’s hit also leveled Toews, leaving both Chicago players on their asses, and created a 4 on 2 which Tampa easily took advantage of. As Foley cheered.

Did I mention Duncan Keith was out of the lineup? Taking two games to OT without D2K and with the distraction of entertaining their dads isn’t anything to sneeze at. So repeat after me, “3 out of 4 points ain’t bad.”

 

John Schultz
Follow me on Twitter @ChiNativeSon

Tags: Brent Seabrook Bryan Bickell Chicago Blackhawks Daniel Carcillo Dave Bolland Duncan Keith Game Summary Hockey Jamal Mayers Jonathan Toews Marian Hossa Markus Kruger Michael Frolik NHL Nick Leddy Niklas Hjalmarsson Pat Foley Patrick Kane Patrick Sharp Sean O'donnell Tampa Bay Lightning Viktor Stalberg

  • cliffkoroll

    Great analysis John! ditto for cliffkoroll.

  • cliffkoroll

    and another thing. Stalberg was a positive hindrance on another night of pretty good Toews Brunette chemistry. His goals the last few games did not come from running an offense- he’s no sniper but the guy can create his own chances. Please put him back on the fourth line.

    • http://BlackhawkUp.com/ ChicagoNativeSon

      @cliffkoroll The hilarious part is we both want to see the same thing, just for different reasons.

      If Q needs to throw the spare parts on a line that’s gonna avg only 8 mins per game, then I’m fine with that. I just don’t think Stalberg is anywhere near the 4th line player that Carcillo is. “Speed” does not equal “energy” for me and when Stals doesn’t have Toews whipping his ass in gear, I just don’t see it from him. But yes, he’s much more skilled than the avg 4th liner. I just prefer 4th liner who are better forecheckers than Stals. /not meatheaded like you presume

      I want to see Carcillo on the 2nd line again because 1) it did work, and more importantly, 2) Toews needs a sniper because he and Brunette have been doing excellent board work. Sharp please.

      • cliffkoroll

        @ChicagoNativeSon the third reason is that the real magic there is Kane/Hossa. The line wasn’t THAT much better with Sharp on LW (which he apparently hates, even though it’s where he has mostly played, except for center, which he also hates) than with Carbomb, whereas I expect Sharp would clean up a lot of the opportunities Toews and Bru generate that Stalberg demonstrated he’s not the mop-up guy for (although I knew that before yesterday but everybody, including Q, was in love with the hot hand.)

        The fact that Carcillo meets most people’s a priori idea of a 4th liner better than Stalberg is a comparatively minor consideration.

  • wardrums

    nice wrap, finally. What, we we too hung over to get up at 6am this morning. Certainly, in this case better late than never though.

    Great Toews face and caption in the photo. I don’t notice stuff like their coach throwing the Stamkos line out against the 6/8 combo, but I’m learning.

    I know I’m probably just hoping, but hopefully Stals will pot a few of those chances.

    • http://BlackhawkUp.com/ ChicagoNativeSon

      @wardrums Ha! Hey, that’s a couple of hours of writing! Plus sifting through the shift charts, repeatedly going over the game highlights, repeatedly grumbling about how open Stamkos was…

      And did I mention? I’m building a large shed. Try convincing *your* wife which has a greater priority!

      As always, thanks for stopping by wardrums. Will you be at the game tomorrow night?

      • wardrums

        @ChicagoNativeSon i forget how much time and effort is involved – i just checked earlier this morning and came to some erroneus conclusions. Hopefully you got some shed work done – I’m well aware that what I and my wife see as important can often be two different things. Great day to work outside.

        I’ll be at the game with my son. We’re up in section 320 right next to fels.

        foward to it immensely

        Looking

  • My name is not Chico Maki

    This is a really good write-up, John, a really good one. I can’t tell you how frustrated I was during that game, minus, obviously, the 90 seconds when things went our way.

    The game got me really riled up … the way we gave up that lead–pure mental errors–made me pulverize my own teeth. I see three general growing problems. and it scares me a bit because we’re getting points and that makes me think nothing will be adressed. But Bolland’s line has to be better; we need better d solutions/pairings for whenever Keith of Seabrook miss games; and Toews, like you ask, is being wasted, simply wasted. Here’s one of the single best players in the game and he has Brunette and Stalberg on his wing–it chokes me with anger.

    Kane-Hossa-Sharp has been unholy, true, but outside of Colorado and Dallas (how odd) we haven’t played very many good teams, and we’re going to need more than one line at some point.

    My own feeling is that we should put 81-88-25 and 10-19-13 together, and put Brunette on the 4th line. Brunette is on pace for 13 goals and we’ve played 16% of our games. Experiment over. 13 goals is not nothing, but it’s hardly going to be a difference-maker night to night. I don’t expect Carcillo to score that many, but I do expect that he’d be able to keep up, and with Sharp there, too, that line would at least provide a viable second threat.

    Anyway, ya. Like, I hope, the experiment, my harangue is over.

    • http://BlackhawkUp.com/ ChicagoNativeSon

      @My name is not Chico Maki Hey Chico, I did see this until now. A day late and a dollar short, just like Q’s lineup changes.

  • DaleHalas

    Hey John, Hawks seem to have a problem when facing teams with two real scoring lines. Do you match your shutdown line and shutdown d-pair against the Stamkos line or against the Lecavalier and St. Louis line? Q put his checking line against one of them and his shutdown d-pair against the other.

    Unless Hossa and Toews play together the Hawks don’t have a second defensive forward line. And Montador doesn’t appear to be able to play the Left D side (as you have said he is right handed). Kind of ironic that you miss Campbell on the defensive end, at least when Keith or Hjammer are injured?

    • http://BlackhawkUp.com/ ChicagoNativeSon

      @DaleHalas Yeah, well Monty was supposed to pick up some of that slack (or so we thought), no? Now Q has to apparently move OD to play with Leddy based on “preferred side”? Is that really something that should take preference over “preferred pairings”?