I hope everyone had a fantastic Christmas. I’m sorry for my absence over the past few days. My wireless went down and getting technical support over the holidays is about as likely as John Scott getting a goal.
Anyways, I have a lot to cover today so let’s get to the game shall we?
I blame this loss on a number of things:
1. Jonathan Quick. Give him full credit for this one. He was flat out brilliant, making a number of excellent saves and brushing off everything the Hawks threw at him. The Hawks didn’t get enough bodies at him until the third period but by then it was too late.
2. The Hawks deciding to not show up for most of the first 45 minutes. They completely lacked any kind of intensity, weren’t physical enough and let the Kings control the puck too much. A puck possession team like the Hawks can’t execute their system effectively without the puck.
3. Both Kings goals were the result of weak defensive plays by the Hawks’ defenders.
In the end, it wasn’t a terrible loss. The Hawks were in this game the whole way but the Kings were just one step ahead. Remember Jonathan Quick leads the league in shutouts and were it not for him, the Kings’ record would probably be about as pretty as their new head coach.
You could also consider that the Hawks were two teams last night, with half of the players playing ok but were unable to finish while the other half were struggling. Every team is going to have an off night and I would rather the Hawks do it against the Kings than against the Red Wings, who they play tomorrow.
Some quick thoughts:
- Quenneville wasn’t happy with both Kings’ goals. This is what he had to say after the game:
“Both goals should have been whistled down. Both goals should have been called something. Infractions on both their goals. Clearly the refereeing tonight was tough to watch.”
While I won’t fully disagree with Q’s statement, I would claim that both goals were more a product of the weakness of the defenders around their net rather than missed calls. Both goals came within five feet of the net, after Kings forwards had repeated hacks at Crawford. On the Kings first goal, both Leddy and Hjalmarsson allow Clifford and Hunter free whacks at Crawford. Should there have been a whistle on the play? Maybe. But there wouldn’t have been a need for a whistle if the defensemen: A. had better positioning and B. punished the opposing forwards hacking at their goalie. The second goal is a bit different. Leddy was taken out of the play and that deserved a penalty but instead of taking out Williams who was whacking at Crawford or battling with Stoll for positioning, Hjalmarsson aimlessly went to the front of the net and let Stoll bury the rebound. My point is that both goals were, at least partially, a result of poor positioning, lack of battling in front of the net and allowing the Kings to take hacks at Crawford without paying a price. This is a problem the Hawks have had all season and it directly led to two goals against last night.
- Following up on that, the Christmas roster freeze is over and the Hawks need to go out and get a defenseman who will fill that void for them, someone who will battle hard in front of the net and be physically imposing. The problem is, despite the fact that its nearly January, not a lot of teams are out if just yet. There’s probably no more than 3-4 that are ready to throw in the towel just yet but keep an eye on are Carolina, Montreal, Colorado, Ottawa and Tampa Bay. Each of them have a defenseman or two the Hawks could use.
- A couple of Hawks players were really fighting the puck last night, notably Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. They were unable to handle the puck, a lot of their passes were off the mark and they were unable to get good shots on net or corral rebounds. It was a bad time for these guys to have a bad game. Nick Leddy, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Sean O’Donnell had rough games as well.
- Speaking of the Captain, I know he’s Superman and given enough time he probably could learn to play hockey with his feet but even he needs a stick to handle the puck. Not sure what he was trying to do on the play that led to the Richards breakaway and penalty shot. Yes his defensemen abandoned him at the blueline, but why is Toews receiving that puck without a stick?… Did I really just question the Captain’s judegement? This is a very, very rare moment for me.
- On the flip side, I thought Marian Hossa, Michael Frolik, Patrick Sharp and Dave Bolland had solid games but were shut down by Quick. Frolik and Sharp especially had a number of high quality opportunities turned aside.
- Corey Crawford had an excellent game. He made a number of huge saves, including the Richards breakaway, that kept this game within reach the whole way. While you could argue he should have gloved the puck on the first Kings goal, when you have an a-hole like Clifford harassing you and your defensemen do nothing about it, you can only be faulted to an extent for not freezing the puck. On the second goal, don’t forget Williams had two or three whacks before Stoll was able to get to the rebound. No help from his defensemen on that one. Leddy was on his ass and Hjalmarsson was thinking about his Christmas presents.
- Jimmy Hayes was called up this morning and Brandon Pirri was assigned to Rockford. Hayes is one of my favorite Hawk prospects because of the assets he brings: size, speed and skill. At 6’6″ 222 lbs, Hayes is huge but skates very well for a player that size. He possesses good finish and playmaking ability. He should be a dominating power forward but he prefers to play a skill game, still Hayes is willing to take the body and create traffic around the net
-The carousel that seems to be bringing players in and out of Chicago from Rockford should be a good indicator that:
1. The Hawks have a few tradeable AHL prospects that they want other NHL teams to have a look at
2. While there’s some promise in Rockford, a lot of the guys we’ve seen, despite playing really well, are not quite NHL-ready. Smith probably is but for some reason isn’t playing like it; Morin and Pirri probably need another year to work on various parts of their game and other guys like Hayes and a number of defensemen are unproven yet. Not only is Bowman probably showcasing a number of their prospects, but he’s probably trying to get a grasp of who will fill the ranks in the coming years.
Thanks for reading everyone. I’ll be back later with some WJC thoughts and other stuff, so stay tuned!
Also, I’m looking for additional writers for this site. So if you’re interested in voicing your opinion on the Hawks and can commit to writing 2-3 posts a week, please sent me an email at [email protected] Thanks again!