An unfortunately rare sighting - Stalberg on the ice.
With Soupy nursing a bum knee and Hammer nursing his bad timing, we knew this game was going to be a bit of an adventure and it lived up to most expectations. Q wisely split up Marlboro 72 to even out the depth of the blue liners - leading to pairings of Leddy/Keith, Scott/Seabrook, and Boynton/Hendry.
It was probably a good time for Keith and Biscuit to be split up anyway though. Keith hasn't been great so far this year but Seabrook has been worse. His positioning is off and his passing is suspect. It's almost as if he thinks Keith got the Norris too easy and wants to make it harder on him this year. Neither of these two were the cause of the defeat tonight though.. more on that later.
The game started off well enough - Kane buried a lightning quick wrister from the face-off dot after a good wrap around pass from Toews. Former Hawk Steve Sullivan didn't wait long to tie the game though off a nice little scramble in front of the net on a 4 on 4 that led to Cal O'Reilly poking the puck out to Sullivan who was streaking across the net and had an easy top shelf shot above Crawford.
Hossa once again showed us why so many of us have a tingling feeling when he gets the puck late in the first. Realizing he was alone deep in the Nashville zone he doubled back to allow linemates Kopecky and Toews to get into place. Hossa fed his fellow Slovak beautifully down low and he immediately passed to the captain who was coming hard towards the net. It seemed at first that the play was for naught as Toews' shot caught the lip of Lindback's pads and was only able to tickle in.
The second period seemed mostly back and forth with Crawford really stepping up with some big saves... I would try to say more but The Whirlaway accidently scheduled their trivia night for the same time as tonight's game and I can't pass up a chance to test my collection of useless knowledge. Sadly, my team came in second by 1.5 points to the whiners who argued for every point and i wasn't able to focus on the game either. So it goes...
In the third it all fell apart. The Hawks had trouble clearing the puck or starting their transition game and it came back to bite them. Jack Skille and Viktor Stalberg, again arguably two of the better skaters for the Hawks, were on the ice for an early goal against by Colin Wilson. Inexplicably, they were never heard from again. They never stepped on the ice for the rest of the period. A late delay of game penalty by Nick Boynton led to the demise as J.P. Dumont made a nice pass across the crease to find a wide open Joel Ward with less than 30 seconds. Game. Set. Match.
- There are coaching questions galore in this one - few if any will actually be asked unfortunately. The most glaring is the choice in starting goaltenders. I have no problem with Crawford getting a good amount of starts - I think he's shown he can handle a good work load. But back-to-back starts is questionable. Making matters even worse - the Predators are a team we know with an aggressive forecheck. We talked all summer about how Turco's puckhandling abilities could be a perfect antidote to the pressure we saw hurting the Hawks last year. Why do you sit him when his game is perfectly suited to disrupting the Preds at their style?
- Back to the Stalberg/Skille problem too - we've seen these guys skate their asses off in the three games beforehand and while they haven't found their way to the scoresheet yet they've hardly been a disappointment. The Colin Wilson goal came off a play that was obviously set up perfectly by the Preds and still needed a deflection off Hendry's knee to find the back of the net. The third line has been all motor this season - there was no reason to nail them to the bench.
- The Boynton penalty late really just crushes the Hawks - with Hammer gone already they're down to basically just Keith and Biscut for their normal penalty killers. It would have been nice to see Keith and Seabrook split the two minutes with Scott, Hendry and Leddy splitting time... instead we saw a pairing of Hendry and Leddy on their own. Hendry once again found a puck bouncing off him and J.P. Dumont picked it up - Leddy committed to the puck, leaving Ward wide open for the game winner.
- The Hawks were great at clearing the puck away from the net and out of the zone in the game against Buffalo - tonight... not so much. It could be because the pairings were so screwy, it could be because the Hawks were off their game or it could be for some completely different reason. Either way, it's a large reason the Hawks lost tonight.
- The Hawks only managed 4 shots in the third period and were pretty soundly outplayed for possibly the first time this year.
- Keith had his fourth straight game of 30+ minutes - I think Foley mentioned he only had 8 games all of last year where he went over half an hour. It's still early but this is clearly something to watch.
- It's a goddamn shame that the Hossa/Kop/Toews goal had to come in a loss... that was far too pretty to be wasted in a game with no points.
- Speaking of TOI - Stalberg only had 7:46. I know I mentioned it earlier... but I just don't get it.
- Oh hey - I changed my screenname here on SBN again. How many of you noticed until now? My goal is to become the
Prince, Artist, Artist Formerly Known as Prince, ,Prince of SBN.