The Hawks refuse to die, and I’m 100% okay with another night of possible heart failure. The Hawks dug themselves into a hole and then decided to swap out their shovels for sticks and play their way back out. Despite the waves of panic across Blackhawk nation, the finger wasn’t really pointing at anyone in particular. Toews was put under the microscope, but despite the smothering he had to deal with, it didn’t all fall on him. Some blamed Q for not matching up lines better to help his captain out. I personally felt that it was the small contributions up and down the lineup that made all the difference. It seems that in the end, everyone was right with their theory. Everything was going wrong, no one person was screwing over the team, and more importantly not just one singular person could fix it. The Hawks as a whole, as they did all season, worked things out amongst themselves with a little help from Q. They will need to continue with that mentality into game seven if they want to succeed.
I was wrong about Handzus when I called for him to be sat for a speedier center. While I didn’t fault him for any wrong doing or bad play, I undervalued his experience. Handzus has had some of the best scoring opportunities throughout both series, and he finally put one away in game six. He has won a few board battles, and he knows exactly how to use his 6’5” frame. Slow players will always be at a disadvantage in this increasingly skilled and speedy NHL , but Handzus reminded me of the value a vet can bring. His five points put him in eighth place on the team for point totals, and he has won a few key draws in his own zone. If Handzus can keep it up, he can be a key piece to the success of game seven.
After harping about the power play over the last few weeks, I can finally say that it’s looking pretty good. In the Hawks back to back victories, the PP was converting at nearly 27%. That is enough to help force Detroit to lay off some of the extra slashes and holds. The overall puck movement and entries have gotten a lot better as they gained some confidence. It’s possible that reaching that edge of elimination may have simply forced the Hawks to be more aggressive and less picky on their passes and shots. In game six the hawks went one for five on the PP, but really only had three full PP chances. With that in mind, you can say that the Hawks were almost converting at a rate of 50%, which is going to win you games.
The pace and fore-check have been the biggest factors in the turnaround for the Hawks. When the Hawks fore-check hard, it really exposes the youth on the Wing’s blue line. The young defensemen may have played a major role in getting the Wings into the playoffs, but they are learning that the game vastly changes once you’re in. The third period surge was largely sparked by the fore-check and by the defensemen being active. On the game tying goal, Hjalmarsson pinches perfectly to keep the puck in and gets it to a wide open Handzus who then took advantage of a wandering Smith. On the the third goal, Hossa and Toews outwork two Wings in the corner, and Bicks wisely moves to the net to tap in his own rebound. The Hawks are winning the battles and are moving to the net. Not too many times did you see three Hawks in the same corner, no, they had at least one player always circling the net.
The Hawks have found the keys to success against the Wings, and with home ice they can put them away. They will get the match ups they want with the last change and should have a slightly easier time at the dot. Detroit has a very good record when it comes to game seven victories. Let’s just hope the Hawks can extend this amazing season further.