You can’t only show up for the last 20 minutes and expect to win a hockey game. The Hawks have pulled it off a couple of times this year. They’ve gotten away with 20-minute efforts. But eventually it will bite you in the ass like it did last night.
Games like last night’s are especially frustrating. It was a perfect example of the Hawks’ bipolarity: a team that can get dominated and then turn around and dominate. While it wasn’t the worst start we’ve been from the Hawks, it was far from their best. In two periods there wasn’t really any intensity or offensive zone pressure. They lost a lot of battles left and right and it seemed the Penguins had more jump in their game.
Even worse, the Hawks were unable to make the necessary adjustments early in the game to counter what the Penguins were throwing at them. They had absolutely no answer for the hard Penguins’ forecheck and were unable to close gaps in their defensive coverage that were being exploited by stretch passes. This resulted in a lot of opportunities for the Penguins. These issues weren’t resolved until the final frame.
The Hawks absolutely owned the Penguins in the third period, scoring 49 seconds into the period, then again 5 minutes later. They pounded Marc-Andre Fleury with 19 shots (as much as they had in the first two periods) They played the way you have to play a team like the Penguins: force them to play defense. The Hawks controlled the play and hemmed the Penguins in their zone, which generated a lot of scoring chances. Unfortunately, the Hawks weren’t able to complete the comeback. Credit Fleury who made some terrific stops late to preserve the Penguins’ lead.
In the end, this was a very entertaining game (well, the third period was entertaining, the rest sucked) I really hope these two teams meet in the Stanley Cup Finals this season or at some point in the future. They both have a tremendous amount of skill and depth and both play an exciting brand of hockey.
The loss is tough to swallow, especially considering that this was a game the Hawks could have taken had they played the whole game with even half of the energy they played with in the third period, but credit the Hawks for not throwing in the towel when they were down, for showing a lot of heart and for continuing to prove that no matter who the team is or how big the deficit is, the Hawks have the talent and the tenacity to climb back.
Some quick thoughts:
- Viktor Stalberg tapped into his ancestral Viking blood and took the game over in the third period, getting a helper on Toews’ goal and finishing a Globetrotter-like play with Kane and Hossa. Vik is playing his best hockey as a Hawk. We all know about his blinding speed, but more importantly he’s utilizing his size down low, he’s starting to develop some nice hands and his overall compete level seems higher than its ever been. Keep it up Vik.
- Ice-times are getting pretty scary. Last night Toews had 23:09 of ice-time. Over the last 5 games he’s averaged 23.5 minutes per night. I know the Captain is Superman’s long-lost brother, but that kind of ice-time, especially considering how hard he competes, will wear him down over time. Similarly, Duncan Keith played 30:05 last night. Over the last 5 games he’s averaged 27.9 minutes per game. That is absolutely unacceptable. Dressing John Scott to play only 5-6 minutes a night doesn’t help at all. After this Christmas roster freeze is over the Hawks better go out and get another goddamn defenseman they can rely on before they skate Keith back to the 2010-11 season. And we all remember how much that sucked.
- Deryk Engellend’s hit on Marcus Kruger was despicable and is absolutely suspension worthy, probably 1-2 games. From my perspective, he took advantage of a player in a vulnerable position and the head was the principle point of contact. That’s a very suspendable hit.
- I never knew the Penguins had so many scumbags outside of Matt Cooke (see: Deryk Engellend and James Neal)
- Completely unrelated to the Hawks but I feel I have to include this in here: Evgeni Malkin now has 15 points in his last 6 games and is tied for the NHL-lead in points. It kind of makes you go “Sidney who?”
The Hawks take on the Jaques Martin-less Canadiens tonight at 6:30 CT. I’ll be back tomorrow with some comments on the game, as well as a couple thoughts on the state of the Hawks as they go into the Christmas break and some updates on what’s going on around the league.
Thanks for reading! Happy Holidays!