What a Sisyphean ordeal that was.
On the heels of last night's unacceptable third period collapse, the majority speculated that the Hawks would come out with bloodlust flying around the ice to start the game tonight, and for the most part they did early in the contest, even with Marian Hossa sitting tonight's contest out for undisclosed reasons. While that sounds rather ominous, we'll hold off on the speculation and panic until more details emerge. In any event, though the Ducks were clearly trapping, the Hawks still started off peppering Jonas Hiller, a trend that would continue for all 60 minutes. The Ducks scored first on a power play about seven and a half minutes into the game when Antti Niemi misplayed sweeping the puck to the corner while crouching at his post, and Corey Perry picked up the loose puck and then got it past Niemi. Later on, Saku Koivu redirected a Bobby Ryan shot on a counter-attack rush with all three members of the Sharp line caught deep.
From there on out, it became the Jonas Hiller show.
The second and third periods, the Hawks outshot the Ducks 34-6, which ordinarily is a good thing, but the eye test would reveal a bit of a different story. With Anaheim trapping, the Hawks reverted to their previous ways when dealing with such a tactic. Forced neutral zone passes and a refusal to dump the puck in when facing three and four defenders (we're looking at you yet again, Versteeg) at the Anaheim blue line led to the transition game being gummed up enough to give even Jacques Lemaire an erection. On top of that, the Ducks defense collapsed to keep the vast majority of chances to the outside, and those that got through, were completely smothered by Hiller, who gave nearly no rebounds. All of this adds up to a recipe for what we saw, which was a high shot total, but little to show for it on the scoreboard. Duncan Keith finally solved Hiller with about five minutes left on a high blast from the point, but ended up handing Teemu Selanne his obligatory goal by making a blind pass just inside his own blue line while Niemi was pulled. Ducks 3, Hawks 1, and three days to prepare for a home-and-home against a ball-sweat-stench-bad Columbus. So this is not the end of the world, but certainly a frustrating watch.
- Credit Anaheim for almost flawlessly executing a bend-but-don't break road game plan. Even with two of their scorers back in the lineup in Selanne and Ryan Getzlaf, they had no interest in gunning with the Hawks.
- When is Joel Quenneville going to cock-punch Versteeg by cutting his playing time for his continued refusal to get the puck deep? This is getting old, Steeger. We all know how slick you are, but you're not going to get through three guys every damn time.
Jack Skille skated in Hossa's lineup spot tonight, for the most part on a line with Patrick Sharp and Andrew Ladd. While he wasn't a liability out there, the game he plays when up with the big club would have probably been better served on Madden's line, and having Versteeg skate with Sharp and Ladd, giving that line an actual playmaker.
- Speaking of Madden, it was very, very curious to not see Coach Q not get all matchy-uppy using Madden against Getzlaf and Perry, and conversely, it didn't seem that he did much to get Kane and Toews away from Niedermayer.
Even aside from the gaudy goaltending numbers, Jonas Hiller did a fantastic job of basically swallowing every shot that he saw this evening, keeping the chances to mostly one-and-dones. While he was aided by his defense, he certainly did his part, as well, and made the saves he needed to make. And it pisses me off I have to have this column laced with Weezer references, as they basically have like four good songs, yet somehow everyone in my age group has got the utmost level of nostalgic reverence for their early work. Ok, enough with the music tirade.