I’m sure like most of you, I was very, very close to shutting this game off after the first 2 minutes. In what is becoming a dangerous habit with this team, the Hawks came out totally flat, without any sense of urgency or intensity. This look destined to be the Edmonton disaster all over again. But slowly the Hawks began to show signs of life and there was a feeling that this game was never quite out of reach.
In the second period, defensive breakdowns led to some high quality Anaheim scoring chances and a Bobby Ryan goal which restored the Ducks’ 2-goal lead. The Hawks had some really good chances but Jonas Hiller managed to shut the door. At that point it was questionable whether or not the Hawks would be able to get enough pucks past Hiller to win this hockey game.
And then the third period happened.
The Hawks dominated every single aspect of the game in the third period. The offense was potent, the defense was tight and the goaltending was solid. The Ducks had no answer to the ferocious forecheck of the determined Hawk. Led by Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp the Hawks scored 3 goals in under two and a half minutes and chased Hiller from the net.
This game is a testimony to just how good the Hawks can be when they want to be. If they choose to outwork their opponents and not only rely on sheer talent alone, they will be an extremely difficult team to beat. Pat Foley made that point during the broadcast. Toews and Sharp were unarguably the hardest workers on the ice last night and look what happened.
Still, despite the glorious comeback victory and the unleashing of the juggernaut that is the Hawks offense, there were still a number of problems with this game.
The Hawks gave up 5 goals to the lowest scoring team in the NHL that was averaging a mere 2 goals per game. Every single one Anaheim’s goals (except perhaps the powerplay goal by Selanne) were preventable and were the result of the defensive ineptitude’s that have been plaguing the Hawks this season.
There’s a very dangerous pattern emerging with this team. The Hawks have been beating opponents simply by outscoring them, not by using a combined offensive and defensive effort. The Hawks are currently second in the league ingoals per game (3.26) but are 20th in goals against per game (3.09) The Hawks have given up 73 goal. Thats tied with Columbus for worst in the Western Conference.
For a team with Stanley Cup aspirations, that simply is not good enough. Defense and goaltending must be the focal points of improvement for this hockey team.
Some quick points:
- I don’t know what Toews and Sharp were on tonight, but whatever it is, get them some more and make sure Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa have some too. Heck, just give it to everyone. The Captain was possessed and determined to cease his team’s losing streak and Sharp had his best game of the season and was rewarded with a well-deserved hatty.
- Over the past week or so there’s been a bombardment of Duncan Keith, with criticism that he’s inconsistent and overrated. To those people I have one thing to say: shut the hell up. If you want to know his value to this team and just how effective he is, look no further than this game, where he single-handedly stopped a two-on-one in the second period that would have been an open net goal for Bobby Ryan and possibly put this game out of reach. Keith was in full Norris form tonight and it was a pleasure to watch.
- John Scott did not play tonight. I guess Quenneville finally found that part of his brain called “common sense”
- I really like the lineup Quenneville has configured right now. Sharp always seems to play his best hockey with Toews and Kane’s line wasn’t doing much of anything. The new lineup gives the Hawks a very fast top six that can score lots of goals and play responsible defense. I’m not a fan of Andrew Brunette on the third line but I’m happy that Marcus Kruger is getting more minutes and responsibilities there and a fourth line of Carcillo, Mayers and Bickell has potential to be a very physical energy line. I’d like to see Quenneville ride this lineup for a few games.
Hawks take on the Kings tonight at 9:30 CT. I’ll be back tomorrow with some post-game thoughts and comments.
Enjoy the game everyone. Go Hawks!