I'm not going to sit here and blame tonight's loss on shitty officiating (though you could certainly make that case). The Hawks had plenty of opportunities to win this game and just about as many to completely fucking blow it. In the end they found themselves somewhere in the middle and walked away with a single point which is nothing to scoff at this late in the season and in this close of a race.
It seems that the rest of the NHL has found the best way to beat the Hawks isn't to just let them beat themselves but to bring a strong physical game early and often and the Bolts weren't scared to do everything they could to try intimidate the Hawks. Unfortunately, one of those early physical hits took Dave Bolland out of the game early on a gutless hit from Pavel Kubina. He finished out the first period but played far more like the early season Bolls rather than the player he's been of late and didn't return for the final 40. Mattias Ohlund took the game plan to heart and was throwing out big hits on Kane and Toews any chance he got. Last year we saw the Hawks respond to the physical game by taking advantage of the space created from players moving out of position and this year they simply haven't been able to do the same. Even more absent from the Hawks game was a lack of response til far too late. While the Hawks didn't lose the skill people claimed.. you could make the case they lost some of the sandpaper though and that could matter more. More on that later though.
To open the scoring, young protegy (who just wasn't quite ready two years ago, right Barry?) Steven Stamkos picked up the puck at center ice and fought his way around the mush brained Bolland and fired a puck between him and Seabrook with a shot that Crawford would likely want another chance at. Biscuit may have provided a screen but Craw has to have that kind of shot.
The Hawks drew even by a play started with a John Scott rush into the Bolts zone off feeds from... wait, what?.. Scott? Yes, John Scott brought the puck into zone on a nice play that led to Toews feeding Kane in soft ice who fired a nice wrister to tie the game. That tie wouldn't last though. Sharp had a chance on a breakaway that was taken away by the Bolts defenders. Instead of trying a nearly impossible shot... he went with an even more impossible backwards pass to Kane which led to Stamkos taking the puck into the Hawks zone. Three Hawks collapsed on him and unfortunately the puck got caught in Toews' skates and was kicked directly to St. Louis who scored his first annoying goal with just 16 seconds left in the first.
Early in the first the 'Ning got another break as a shot was deflected right onto Purcell's tape and he was able to catch Crawford completely out of position and unaware. Bad bounces, lucky breaks... either way - Bolts up two. Luckily, the Hawks were able to get a few good bounces of their own that allowed Patrick Sharp to score his first goal since Feb. 28th. He's tied for second in goal scoring in the league... just so you know.
In the third, Edzo informed us all about faceoffs... evidently they're fairly important. Right after doing so, Toews won a draw and the puck moved from Seabrook to Hammer who fired a shot at net. Toews was right there to re-direct it into the net. Just afterwards, the Hawks took their first penalty of the game and I, officially, put on my brown pants. The Bolts took every chance they could to put the puck on net and ended with an amazing opportunity that Keith was able to keep out of the net.
Hammer once again factored into the game as he took a bullshit delay of game penalty late in the third. For whatever reason, the Bolts were willing to concede a point (Thanks Eastern Conference!) and we go to overtime trading chances til the shootout... which did not go well. Let us know get into the random thoughts...
- So yeah, the Hammer penalty was utter bull. A really tough call on a guy who simply isn't catching many breaks lately. Though have you ever seen a guy plead his case to the authorities with more passion than he did here? "I SWEAR TO GOD!! SHE TOLD ME SHE WAS 18!"
- Bryan Bickell finally decided to throw around his weight late in the third taking out St. Louis and some other guy in the same shift. This was a welcome sight but could have been far more useful earlier in the game when the Bolts were just devastating the Hawks smaller forwards. The Hawks are averaging 23 hits per game this year... some how, that's up from the 19 hits they averaged last season. If you need some proof that "hits" is a total subjective stat.. it's in here somewhere.
- Lets talk about shootouts... You'll find the opinions on St. Louis' goal pretty split between Hawks fans and everyone else. Just about any Hawk fan will tell you the goal was bullshit. Yet count it did and the extra point it did decide. If you ever want to make the argument that the shootouts degrade the game to nothing more than a slam dunk contest... look no further than the two spin-o-rama attempts tried back-to-back by the Bolts. I still think St. Louis' goal was a crock though. What a joke
- That being said, it wouldn't have hurt if Toews or Kane would have tried to lift the puck over a sprawling Rolonson.
- Although the ice seemed to be a lot better than it was in Miami (or Sunrise or wherever).. the Hawks seemed to have a problem keeping their edges. Seemed like a lot of them were just falling over without any Bolt anywhere nearby.
- Crawford seemed shaky early on in the game but came up with some huge saves late in the game... It was a tough spot for Q though. He probably should have rested Craw but that would have made him go almost a full week without a complete game. He played him and it didn't work out early. So it goes.