Hit stats! Toughness! Stick up for your teammates!
It seems as though there's been a recurring theme since the 9-game Freak Out Hell Bus ride with this iteration of the Hawks. Start shitty, claw back, shorten the bench, bombard the opposition for the final frame, and hope to come away with at least a point. Tonight, they walked away with two huge ones, both points and rocks.
The script started at least a little differently this time. with the Hawks taking advantage of what was thought to be prior to tonight scarce space in the neutral zone, as Marian Hossa chipped a pass to a streaking (yes, you read that right) Andrew Brunette, who broke in alone on Jaroslav Halak and roofed it glove side to give the Hawks an early lead for a change. Never ones to deviate from a system, however cockamamie it might be (this team is still coached by Joel Quenneville), the Hawks quickly farted the lead away when Jamie Langenbrunner blew a 50 footer by Ray Emery that Razor should have had, and the Hjalmarsson should have cut off in the first place rather than giving us some Roger Dorn-caliber ole bullshit. A nifty passing play after a Hawk neutral zone turnover gave the Blues the lead on an Andy McDonald goal (who has been treating the Hawks as Viktor Stalberg treats the Jackets), and a Patrik Berglund redirection would give the Blues a two-goal lead, which is exactly what COULDN'T happen. The indignities didn't cease there, as the period ended in a fracas of dumbassitude which resulted in the Hawks being down a man going into the second, but more on that in a bit.
With Corey Crawford now on in relief of Ray Emery, who allowed 3 goals on 6 shots, the Hawks continued to press, and actually exhibit at least a little bit more patience than we're used to at the Blues' line, repeatedly chipping pucks deep and winning races against a for-the-most-part lead footed Blues d-corps. A fortunate bounce found its way to Viktor Stalberg's stick and/or leg from some hard work from Sharp and Kruger to get the puck there, and trickled past Halak and brought the Hawks within one. As sure as the tides and Cheerios going through me like a laser beam, the Blues started a steady march to the penalty box due to their inability to keep up with the Hawk forwards' speed as well as their general idiocy (see Sobotka, Vladimir), it was only a matter of if a clown shoes Hawk power play could finally make the Blues near record setting PK pay.
At long last midway through the third, Brent Seabrook blew one by the low glove side of Halak from the right point (again, take a note Duncs), with an unnecessarily jumping screen from Andrew Shaw in front. Though the Hawks would have several glorious chances in the remainder of the third and overtime, alas, things would get to the skills competition. Patrick Kane slid a backhander through Halak's five hole, and Corey Crawford made it stand up with three solid stops. Hawks 4, Blues 3, here's a ballbag full of bullets.
- I've said it before and I'll say it again, Brandon Bollig's fight with Ryan Reaves at the end of the first after Reaves drilled Jamal Mayers with a borerline hit was stupid and useless, I don't care what the players say in their comments at their stalls after the game. They can only say that because they won, there have already been instances in which that has bitten the Hawks in the ass (Pittsburgh), and points are far too valuable at this time of year at least in part because of things like that putting the Hawks where they are in the standings.
I have been, and forever will be against starting a fight after a clean (or at least unpenalized) hard hit. While the Reaves hit was on the line, there simply was no call made, and in the instigator era, the extra 12 for sticking up for a teammate is an automatic. Not to mention the Hawks were down 2 goddamn goals at the time, and would end up having to work incredibly hard to claw back against literally the best defensive team in the league. With the Blues actually playing a bit of big boy hockey, the plan that's worked this year and years past is to be patient for chances, don't engage when they predictably lose their shit, and make them pay on the power play. Toughness be damned, there's no need to lose the valuable time needed to play that kind of patient offensive game to shorthandedness, especially with the Hawks kill being what it is, and the standings being what they are. Bollig (who didn't see the ice after that, by the way) would have done more good had he given Duncan Keith a lecture about the death pass he laid out for Mayers.
So go ahead and and ask me where I played my hockey, tell me I don't know the game, tell me that the because of the Hawk postgame comments that I couldn't possibly know what I'm talking about because I'm here and they're the players/coaches, call me whatever name you want for deriding a player for "sticking up" for a teammate (a teammate who leads the Hawks in fights himself and had one earlier in the period, by the way), none of it is going to change the fact that it was a stupid thing to do tonight, and will continue to be as long as the instigator penalty exists. The Hawks are only able to call it a spark and a turning point because they didn't dick the dog on the penalty kill as they had before, and it had no tangible effect on the game, as the Hawks were all over the Blues from the word go, and were only failed by piss poor goaltending. Eventually the Hawks did do the right thing, which has been the same gameplan against the Blues as it's been for going on four seasons- take a number, get him clean next time, make the fuckers pay on the scoreboard.
- Back to more pleasant matters - Corsi. Make sure you're wearing sunglasses.
- While the power play continues to need Yakety Sax as its theme music rather than whatever that dubstep-house-whateverthefuck they're playing at the UC, it certainly came through when it needed to, both in time to knot things up, and in time to shut everyone up about the Blues annoying (albeit impressive) PK streak just shy of the record. Fuck knows the Blues gave themselves enough opportunities to keep building on that streak.
- Again, on that power play goal - a low, hard shot, with skaters actually moving with and without the puck. Who knew?
- Niklas Hjalmarsson did not skate in the third period.
- The hits were 29-29. Clearly that's Bollig's doing. Maybe now Foley will shut his drunk mouth about them.
- The only time the Hawks were shorthanded was for the Bollig instigator.
- While Corey Crawford didn't have much to do in relief of Ray Emery, he made the saves he had to, and was a stone motherfucker in the shootout.
- With the win, the Hawks are 5 points up on idle Phoenix who have a game in hand, and 7 clear of the trap door just below the Sharks.
- One of the things we've been beating to death (as is our wont) has been the Hawks' gap between the forwards and defensemen when breaking out and regrouping. While there still were some ill-advised passes from time to time, things were a lot tighter tonight out of necessity, and there was significant support on the strong side from the looping forwards on breakouts, which enabled the Hawks to gain a bit of speed through the neutral zone, and exposing the Blues defenders as a bit sluggish if they have to skate to regain position. I'd like to think it's a blueprint for future success, but Ken Hithcock, for all the boring hockey he provides, is a good enough coach to recognize and correct that.
- Even after comeback wins (albeit at home) to the two conference leaders, things still don't get any easier on Friday for the Hawks, who will travel to Dallas to face the Stars, who after tonight's 1-0 win have taken 21 of the last 22 points available as the league's hottest team. But if the will and brains (at times) on display tonight can be replicated, and a healthy 19 can rejoin the team at some point soon, we're seeing that the ceiling on this team can be a lot higher. But that's always been the caveat- consistency.