Blues 3, Lost Sheep 0: Should Have Tried the Veal

Guess who's Backes? Backes again... Shady? Yes. Annoying? Yes. But I highly doubt that's the Real Slim he's speaking to. (Photo by Mark Buckner/NHLI via Getty Images)

 

Nothing much to say about last night’s loss, but I’ll give my two cents on the 3 goals against and then some thoughts on the state of the Hawks.

Although I question John Scott’s role on this team, the first goal was not on him even though he got turnstiled. Nor was it on Montador. Or Kruger. The Hawks executed a full 5-man line change with the puck still in the neutral zone. The Blues took advantage. Monty wasn’t coasting there. He was lending secondary support to Scott (surprise!). The Blues were in the Hawks zone before a number of them had a chance to leave the bench.

On the Blues 2nd goal which came on the PP, aside from Hjalmarsson making it too easy for Colaiacovo to park in the crease, the Hawks actually had good defensive positioning, including Crawford. The goal was a deflection high in the slot that most times Corey stops, but it snuck through 5-hole. It happens. Most likely he was screened by Colaiacovo who wasn’t the actual goal scorer (TJ Oshie to Chris Stewart). Having a guy park his ass in front of the net on the PP in order to screen the goalie and clean up any loose change isn’t a new concept. Wow, it worked.

Nothing fundamentally wrong either on the 3rd Blues goal scored by Oshie on a wrister from the top of the right face-off circle. The kid’s pretty good if you haven’t noticed. Bickell earns his money from that spot on the ice, other players do too. Although you’d like to see Crawford make that stop, possibly his view of the release was screened by Keith’s stick. It was also inconclusive on the replay whether or not Keith’s stick grazed the puck causing it to knuckleball.

 

Bad Timing

More concerning to me was the shake up of the lines by coach Quenneville. The Hawks struggled in Keith’s 3 game absence, as might be expected, why not return to what was working prior to Keith’s injury instead of wholesale changes? I was OK with the reuniting of 2-7, but adding Scott to the mix in this situation made little sense. If you’re going to try something new (Leddy-Hjalmarsson), give yourself more than one hand to play.

And although a number of forwards have been less than stellar, making a “statement” in Keith’s return game wasn’t good timing. I don’t mind Q’s line juggling; it’s what he does. But the deck shuffling was probably unwarranted when Q just got dealt his ace.

 

Two Camps

There seems to be two camps forming among the Blackhawks fan base: those who point to the standings and say “All is not effed here” and those who are jumping off the ledge. Both have valid positions.

Why we should be concerned:

  • In 15 games, the Hawks have only won 5 in regulation (33%). That’s not going to give anyone a warm and fuzzy. Add to that the fact that the Hawks are 25th worst in the league in percentage of ROW/W (Regulation+OT Wins/Overall Wins) and you can understand why there are those who are concerned, regardless of what the standings show today.
  • When you lump losses and the charity point for SO/OT losses together, the Hawks have lost 7 of 15 games. Even though the extra point is important, losing almost half of their games this year certainly can’t be good, can it? Hawks are tied for 14th in losses and one loss away from dropping to 25th in the league.
  • Special teams: The PP is dead last in the league. It’s no longer cute. It’s no longer a rough patch. It’s a problem. Last night Toews suggested that he was tired of hearing reporters ask about the PP. Well Johnny, I know one way to change that. And the PK was showing cracks prior to the dam bursting against Vancouver. It’s now 21st in the league.
  • Blackhawks goal differential for the season: +1. Meh.
  • The Blackhawks are 21st in the league in Goals Against (2.87/Game) and giving up 30 SOG Against/Game. Both are higher than last season. With the offseason changes, one might have expected a decrease in offensive production, but did anyone expect the team defense to decline?
Why the sky isn’t falling:
  • Even though the Hawks are currently 27th in the league in combined special teams (PP+PK), they have managed to find ways to win games. The PP will eventually get on track and the PK  isn’t as bad as its current ranking suggests. Wipe away Vancouver and there’s “nothing to see here.” If these get on track, watch out league.
  • Last year the Hawks were an awful 3rd period team. That isn’t the case this year. They’re 2nd in the league in 3rd period point differential (+6) and tied for the lead in fewest 3rd period Goals Against (9). If you want to be a downer, since 17 teams still haven’t blown a 3rd period lead and the Hawks have, they’re ranked 20th in W% when leading after 2 periods. I hardly think all those teams will remain unbeaten, so take it with a grain of salt. Stats, you can make them say anything.
  • Despite no help from the PP, the Hawks are 9th in the league in Goals/Game. (2.93). They’re also 3rd in the league in SOG For/Game (33.7). Last year the Hawks averaged 3.07 Goals/Game, but that was aided by their 4th ranked PP, which also still managed to look like clown shoes. Despite a couple of down games, the offense is doing fine.
  • Depth, we has it (at least compared to last year). Use it wisely Q.
  • Cap Space, we has it too. It is unlikely that this team is complete. One addition at forward and one on defense and this team will be as good as any “on paper.” (insert “but they play on ice” joke here) The trick will be finding those additions without selling the farm.
  • The taste in your mouth can’t be too bad when despite 1 point in 3 games, the Hawks sit atop the Central Division, are 3rd in the conference in Points (19), and 5th in the conference in Point Percentage (.633). Isn’t this where many predicted the Hawks would be? Nothing’s changed. Teams get hot. Teams get cold.

Where am I sitting? Basically somewhere in the middle. It’s a comfy – or at least sane – place to be.

John Schultz
Follow me on Twitter @ChiNativeSon

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