Thanks to GMH for the pinch-hit recap. Hopefully we won't have to press her into duty too often as it's unfair to her, and plus she just made the three of us look REALLY bad. Taking nothing away from anything she wrote this morning (all of which I completely agree with), I have a few more points of discussion as we count the seconds until a critical game 4 tomorrow night (and for the 785th time, we'll be at the Bottom Lounge - bring your Stadium Pal).
- Regarding Brent Sopel's minutes, particularly in the third, it's become glaringly apparent that Catfish is Q's safety blanket. While I understand he's defensively responsible and a shot blocking machine, watching Sopel under duress from the Flyers forecheck handling the puck this entire series has looked like a 17 year old trying to fingerbang with oven mitts on, goal notwithstanding. It was a tie game for all of 20 seconds of the third, and taking a defensive posture isn't going to do anyone any good in the playoffs. Furthermore, this was at the expense of Campbell's playing time, who was having a terrific game to that point transitioning the puck, and his CORSI numbers bear that out, being the only + defenseman not named Keith or Seabrook, and was far from a defensive liability - not to mention the effect his limited playing time has had on Hammer when he's partnered with Sopel. The way to make that type of forecheck pay is to make it miss and transition quickly the other way while its caught deep - now which of those two blueliners have doing so when the team's in need of a goal? Think about it. But I highly doubt Q stops grabbing for his binky any time soon.
- As was pointed out during the broadcast, Patrick Kane started breaking the puck into the Philly zone on his left and proper wing with greater frequency when Pronger was out there against he, Toews, and Buff. While it does limit some of the black magic he can wield relative to coming down his off wing with the puck toward the center of the ice when on his forehand, I much prefer his chances against Matt Carle than Chris Pronger if he can get isolation one on one with only marginally fewer options given Kane's high skill level and offensive IQ.
- Speaking of Philadelphia Dick Cheese, while he certainly hasn't left Buff alone as I (stupidly) predicted, to me it still hasn't been the epic battle the media has made it out to be. That being said, Pronger has rendered Buff mostly ineffective, and has gotten a few "star calls" from their battles in front, one of which (barely) ended up behind Niemi last night.
As I'm sure has been suggested in the comments, it's time to get Buff off that line, and force Laviolette to decide where Pronger is going to be needed, preferably for Troy Brouwer, who seems to have regained his stride after an understandably tough start to the playoffs. Assuming Lavvy keeps matching up Pronger against Daydream Nation, Brouwer is far more mobile than Byfuglien, and will make him skate more in the defensive zone rather than just engage in crease battles, which could have postive effects in the third period, as Pronger has already shown signs of wearing down as the game goes on from logging such heavy minutes. In the unlikely scenario that Laviolette would have Pronger follow Byfuglien to whatever line he lands on, that would presumably leave Braydon Coburn and Kimmo Timonen, who are already getting their balls gnawed off by Marian Hossa, out there against Kane and Toews. YES PLEASE.
Either way, it seems that getting Buff off that line gives Quenneville more options and puts the onus back on Laviolette. And yes, for the record, a writer of this blog is advocating jumbling the lines.
- In keeping with the theme of the Hawks forwards against the Flyers defensemen, continue the monitor the gap between their blueliners as the Hawks forwards enter the offensive zone. As long as the Flyers continue to concede their blue line and not deny entry, my outlook on this series will remain positive.
- At the other end of things, Hawk forwards need to have better discretion in when they choose to help their defensemen at the hash marks and below, as they are leaving alleys for Flyer defensemen to shoot at will. Three of the Flyers' four goals last night originated from point shots - those defensemen need to be fronted better and forced to dump the puck back down low, particularly during the penalty kill.
- The power play is once again fucking clown shoes. How a team this offensively talented can't figure out how to consistently work a two-man isolation play between the half wall and the goal line I'll never understand.
- If Andrew Ladd can go tomorrow, Burwood needs to sit.
- And if the Hawks are going to be that matchy-uppy tomorrow, tighten up the fucking changes, boys.