The Chicago Blackhawks were able to rally for a three-goal third period Tuesday night at home in their hosting of the Vancouver Canucks, only to be robbed of the second available point in overtime
The Chicago Blackhawks played a game that in many ways was eerily reminiscent of their 6-3 comeback victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday evening. Unfortunately, the inability to string together a full 60 minutes of solid play cost them a point in this particular outing. Let’s take a look at some of the things that stood out.
The ‘Hawks have had a difficult time of late starting games in a productive manner. The general consensus among fans who have watched the last handful of games is that the team almost looks lackadaisical, or uninterested, at the start.
I think this is a hazard associated with playing so well this time of year. The playoffs seem to be approaching at a painfully slow pace, and the ‘Hawks seem bored with their regular-season opponents, particularly the non-playoff-contending ones.
Their ability to pick up the pace and play with a sense of urgency late in games is a fair indication to me that this is likely a mental thing that can be ironed out come playoff time. Still, they are in a tight race with the Wild, and icing the top seed in the Western Conference would be an excellent way to end the season, assuring them home ice throughout.
Faceoffs better, but still not good
The good news is that the ‘Hawks managed to win the majority of faceoffs Tuesday. The bad news is that this was almost exclusively due to the fact that Jonathan Toews was an absolute monster at the dot.
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Toews finished the night at 76 percent, while the team finished at 57 percent. Nick Schmaltz improved to 46 percent, while Marcus Kruger continued to struggle, and Ryan Hartman was average (as far as faceoffs are concerned).
Again, this has been an area of concern for the Blackhawks. It’s nice to see Schmaltz becoming more comfortable taking draws though, because once the team gets Artem Anisimov back, it would be nice to theoretically be able to lean on Schmaltz to take a few late-game draws in the playoffs, should Kruger’s struggles continue.
Some defensive breakdowns
This goes hand-in-hand with the first point, but it was definitely an issue Tuesday. I won’t spend a moment bashing Corey Crawford‘s play, because the fact is he was given absolutely no chance to build any kind of momentum and comfort in net. I think it’s time to draw some attention to Brent Seabrook‘s play of late, because it hasn’t been good.
The Seabrook/Johnny Oduya pairing looked uncomfortable and unnatural Tuesday. They both sported minus-2 ratings on the night, which could have been worse if it weren’t for some quality play from Scott Darling in the third.
It felt like Oduya was rarely back with Seabrook in the neutral zone as play transitioned back into the ‘Hawks’ end, and Seabrook simply wasn’t fast enough or quick enough with the stick to break up rushes on his own.
Seabrook is an excellent in-zone defenseman. He battles down low, plays physically and wins pucks in hard areas of the ice. Duncan Keith is a rush-oriented defenseman. He can break up odd-mans and step up in the neutral zone to throw plays offsides and kill momentum as well as anyone in the league.
That is why the two are such a quality shutdown pairing. I really think they belong together, and would look for Q to make that adjustment on Thursday.
Lastly, I didn’t like Trevor van Riemsdyk‘s pinch that led to the Canucks’ fourth goal. The ‘Hawks had a lot of time to fight their way back into the game, and have shown an ability to do so. There was no need to force plays that early in the third. Edzo blamed that one on Tomas Jurco for not covering when TVR pinched, which makes sense, but I don’t think it was a good call from TVR to step up.
Don’t Panik, this team has a ton of Hart
Once again, Ryan Hartman is the real deal. He looked super confident again Tuesday, with two goals on three shots. I like seeing Hartman get some time on the ’Hawks’ powerplay as well, where he can showcase his ability to battle in front of the net and cash in on some scrappy second-chance opportunities. His style is very much conducive to playoff hockey.
Richard Panik has 20 goals on the season. Who would have thought that in December and January? Better yet, how many of those goals have come in extremely crucial moments of tight games?
Panik is beginning to develop a niche scoring big goals when his team needs them — another promising trend as April approaches. His shooting percentage is a healthy 14.3 on the year. I think that has a lot to do with his willingness to walk the puck between the dots and take a hit to make a play.
This is another one of those league-wide issues that needs to be addressed. The officiating in the NHL this season has been a hot mess. From missed calls to wrongfully overturned goals and strange interference calls/non-calls, the referees in the NHL this year have been, in a word, inconsistent.
A perplexing array of missed calls Tuesday, including a pretty clear high-stick on Jonathan Toews, was complemented well by a questionable goalie interference that cost the ‘Hawks the game. I think there’s too much to tackle here for me to really get into it, but there’s certainly a number of issues at play.
What is goalie interference? Can you challenge a penalty call even if a goal wasn’t scored on the play? What if the play is close enough that the league decides to review it on its own accord? Why challenge in that case?
I think the league might be better served ironing out some of these coaches’ challenge growing pains than conjuring up some ridiculous amendments to the game that could lead to higher-scoring games (not allowing goalies to freeze play, not allowing players to dive to block shots, etc.).
Ultimately, the ’Hawks looked okay Tuesday. I think this loss was largely due to a mental inability to come ready to play in the first period. I’d expect the urgency to be there Thursday night, as they rarely make the same mistake more than twice. Look for those D pairings to get juggled a bit as well.
- John Hayden has looked awesome. Should he continue the consistent production, he might just earn himself a spot in this lineup come spring.
- The ’Hawks have looked awesome in the third period as of late, outscoring their opponents by an obscene margin.
- The Tomas Jurco experiment can be all but over at this point. We haven’t seen much from Jurco so far, aside from some serious difficulty finishing scoring chances and average defensive play.
- Marian Hossa has discovered the fountain of youth … clearly.