The Hawks have clinched the number one spot in the west and have won the president’s trophy, so what can we complain about? Coasting. We saw it start in the Dallas game which then lead into the Detroit game and continued in the first period of the Blues game. The same issue popped up in the phoenix game, and it finally really hurt the team in Vancouver. While obviously it’s not a huge concern with the number one spot locked up and the players getting some much needed rest, but the Hawks can’t let that carry over into the playoffs. The Phoenix game wasn’t a complete team loss, it was mostly a goalie loss, but against Vancouver, the Hawks just didn’t seem to care. To me, that game might hurt the Hawks more than stats and standings can tell you. Crow had a rather impressive performance after having two sketchy games, and any confidence he might have restored was potentially wasted. Toews battled with Kessler most of the night and, again, for nothing. It can be frustrating when you work the whole game and see nothing for your troubles. I’m not worried about Toews when it comes to mental fortitude; that man is pretty much the perfect captain on and off the ice. Crawford, on the other hand, I worry about. It’s fairly well known that Crow can lose his mental edge in games like the last few, and it can lead to some very soft goals. Crow and the Hawks will have two games to build up some confidence in addition to the boost from winning against Edmonton.
The first period of the Oilers game started out a bit frantic, and the Hawks looked a little out of sync. While the addition of Leblanc doesn’t help with familiarity, the Hawks can’t use that as an excuse. As the period went on, the Hawks started to settle down and played more consistently. The second period looked more like the team that has been nothing short of impressive. When the Hawks aren’t looking ahead in the schedule, they do everything better, from stick handling to passing. That’s what the Hawks need for the postseason. The perfect example of that focus can be seen in the difference in shot totals between the first two periods. The Oilers had eleven shots on goal in the first period while managing only two shots in the second. Focus is everything when you’re playing a team game.
I am glad that the Hawks can rest their top guys and let some of the farm guys play in the last few games. The Hawks just can’t let that lackadaisical attitude carry over into the post season. Fortunately, the team is mostly identical from the team that experienced the first round failures which should be a key factor for their playoff success. We saw it with the cup team when they got bounced by the Detroit the year before; we can potentially see it again with this squad. This team is built for the long haul, and everyone has a lot riding on these playoffs. The Hawks will need to flip the switch from conservation mode to 100% output, and no one can expect to be carried.