Steal the Warm Wind, Tired Friend: Hawks @ Yotes Game 2 Preview/Pregame Thread/Spinning Class

Images_medium @ Spacecoyote_medium

FACEOFF: 9pm Central
TV/RADIO: CSN for the locals, NBCSN for the transplants, WGN Radio
Stocking up on white face paint: FIve For Howling

The Hawks have participated in 8 playoff series over the last three seasons, and in 5 of those 8, they've lost Game 1. Of the 5 series that started out with a loss, they've gone 3-2, and in each series, the winner of Game 2 eventually moved on to the next round. If I've confused you with that very choppy interpretation of Game 2 importance, I think it can be more simply stated this way: In the Hawks last 8 playoff series, the Game 2 victor has won all 8 series. Conventional wisdom says that "it's not a series until someone loses at home," but I'd prefer that the Men of Four Feathers not force us to utter that phrase after tonight's affair.

In many instances, Game 1 features a nervous energy and a feeling out process that is less prevalent, if not nonexistent, in Game 2. Game 2 can give you your first real look at who the two teams are and what game plan they're trying to accomplish in a particular best of 7. Here are a few questions that this game might provide an answer to:
  • Will Phoenix stay committed to a taking a physical approach with the Hawks?
  • Will the powerplay continue to be a non-factor for both teams involved?
  • Will Joel Quenneville continue to give his fourth line and 6th Dman important shifts late in road games where he has less control over the matchup?
  • Will Hawks defensemen (and forwards to a lesser degree) settle down and make better decisions with the puck?
  • Is Mike Smith going to be the X-Factor in this series? Will Crow be as solid going forward as he was in Game 1?
  • Will the return of Jonathan Toews really go that smoothly, or will there be some regression tonight?
  • What is it about playing hockey out west that makes a team think it's ok to give their fans pom-poms? (We're probably not going to get an answer on this one). Maybe an organization that promotes the white out thinks that towel waving is unoriginal.......

As anyone who read my comments over the last two days should know, I'm in favor different personnel decisions than what Quenneville went with in Game 1. Was giving O'Donnell a month off during the season in favor of Dylan Olsen his strategy to get the kid some NHL time while resting a veteran's legs so that he might be fresh come playoff time? Whatever the thought process might have been, the decision is worthy of being second guessed after what we saw in Game 1. Sami Lepisto is definitely no savior, but most believe that his mobility/skating ability would be an asset to a third pairing that was a disaster trying to get the puck out of their own zone on Thursday.

As strong as the Kane-Toews-Hossa line was, it might be better for the top 6 if Q breaks up his three best puck possession forwards. It's probable that Sharp and Kruger will be much better tonight than on they were on Thursday, so they might get another chance to rekindle their late season magic before Q hits the line generator. Questions pertaining to the fourth line abound. Would Q really scratch Andrew Brunette, or might he give Bruno a shot in the top 6 before it comes to that? Michael Frolik might never score again, but his responsible two way game is needed after seeing the fourth line pinned into their own zone for the bulk of their Game 1 shifts.

The Hawks took the ice for their morning skate at 1:30 CT today, and the beats are keeping an eye out for potential lineup changes:

- Line rushes the same right now. From 1-4. Doesn't mean will be tonight - ROGERS

- D-pairings are the same as well. Either Q not showing his hand or hes ok w the one he has - ROGERS

- lines the same as game 1 here at the morning skate but I would bet they're different come game time - JAHNS

As you read this preview, you'll notice conflicting thoughts. If Game 1 isn't necessarily a true measure of a player or team's ability, then why panic with numerous personnel changes before we even get into the meat of the series? Either Q is playing coy with his practice lineup, or he is buying into the thought that his decisions should get two playoff games before they can be properly evaluated.

My apologies for the Hawks-centric nature of this preview, but being that the TOS has left few stones unturned in their evaluation of the Yotes, there isn't all that much left to say. Phoenix didn't do anything in the first game that should surprise anyone; they forechecked aggressively and took advantage of turnovers of the forced and unforced variety, and Mike Smith was solid as he turned away 43 of 45 Blackhawks shots. I've yet to hear about Radim Vrbata's status for this game; the Yotes leading goal scorer is day-to-day with an upper body injury caused by an Andrew Shaw hit. UPDATE: According to Rogers, Vrbata will play tonight.

The Men of Four Feathers know what they need to do to even this series at 1. Forward lines 2 and 4, the bottom three defensemen, and the powerplay need to step up. Hopefully the Hawks will get another solid effort from everyone else, and especially from Corey Crawford. 1-1 heading back to the UC is pretty much what you hope for when you don't have home ice advantage.......Let's Go Hawks!

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