Blackhawks Make Kings Look Like Paupers

By Joe Kremel

Hawks Team Effort Is Giving Them The Edge So Far In The Series. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

So maybe going down 3-1 in the Detroit series is exactly what Chicago needed to focus on the challenge ahead.  Since then, the Hawks have won five straight, and all of them were full on team efforts.  In the process of clawing their way back, Q started doing all the things a coach needs to do, and the players did what they needed to do.  As obvious as that sounds, it’s not always as easy as just going out there with that mindset.  In the stretch of those three terrible games against Detroit, the Hawks were a rather slow disorganized mess.  Q dedicated practices to defensive zone exits and moving to support each other.  It worked wonders for the team.  No longer were forwards sitting at the blue line in their own zone waiting for the puck to come to them.  Defensemen were not hurling the puck down the boards blindly in an attempt to reach said forwards.  Rather, they skated to pucks, not allowing the Wings to intercept passes.  All of a sudden, the Hawks found their legs, giving them back their signature speed and possession.

When you look at the first two games of the Kings series, you can see the Hawks haven’t forgotten what brought them success.  While the Hawks did get hemmed in a bit here and there, they never once felt completely at the mercy of the big bad Kings.  Many writers were claiming a Kings sweep, or at least a dominate Kings’ series against “a smaller, weaker Hawks squad”.  What did we end up with after two games?  Hawks came out and shocked the Kings with 38 hits in game one and 36 hits in game two. The Kings had 44 hits in game one and 48 hits in game two.  The Hawks not only played their speedy possession game, but played the Kings’ physical game on top of that.  The Kings had no answer for the Hawks who played a completely solid hockey game.  Oh, I almost forgot, the Hawks are leading in takeaways 26-9.  The Hawks will need to keep up what they’re doing heading into LA.  The Kings might find a spark inside the building where they have been phenomenal in all year.

On to the points!

  • Handzus might be laughably slow, but he’s on a five game point streak.  His face off percentage has been where it needs to be, and he made a very nice, timely block.  Is he this year’s John Madden? Old, slow, doesn’t exactly fit in to the style, but brings a vet presence that can’t be overlooked? Might be just that.
  • Anyone think they would ever see Jonathan Quick with a .765 SV% by his name in the playoffs? I sure didn’t see that coming.
  • Speaking of goalies, Crawford is developing into quite the starter.  While he still can work on his puck handling behind the net, he has made some nice stretch passes for breakouts.
  • More Crow love. One hugely important aspect of Crow’s game that has drastically improved is his puck play on no man’s land plays.  He had a bad habit of staying in the net and letting the shooter get the puck, which tended to end badly.  His diving cover play was huge, and he deserves full recognition for that save.
  • “FUN FACT!”  The original Kings’ crown logo was a queen’s crown, which was later revised.   So calling them the “Queens” is less immature and more historic. A special thanks to quiz master Marek from the Marek and Wyshynski podcast for that little tidbit.
  • Sharp has six goals and eight helpers; he’s been very noticeable. And I’m enjoying every minute of it.
  • Hossa has six goals and seven assists, and yet he seems to be rather quiet.  And by that I mean you aren’t hearing his name every two seconds.  He is playing the sneaky sniper, the opportunist.  I love watching Hossa go all out beast mode, but watching him quietly dismantle opponents is pretty amazing as well.
  • Seabs has another goal, and while his defensive efforts haven’t improved much, I like the slightly upward trend in his play.  I really want Seabs to snap out of whatever it is that has been holding him back defensively.
  • Hawks signed Finnish goalie Antti Raanta to a one year deal.  Looks like Emery might be gone, but we gain a very talented young goaltender in the process.

What is the biggest area of improvement for the Hawks in your opinion?  Will the Hawks continue their strong play in Los Angeles?  Let us know know your opinion.