And so ends the 2011-12 regular season. Despite knowing where the Hawks will end up (6th overall), we're still a few hours away from knowing who exactly the Hawks will face in the first round. Just a reminder, if the Coyotes win, we play them. If they lose in regulation, whoever wins the Kings/Sharks game is the Pacific champion and we play them. If the Yotes go to OT but lose... well, shit gets complicated.
As for this afternoon's game though - it seemed early on that neither team was all that deadset on doing their best. That may just be a slightly skewed version of the truth though since the Hawks had at least 4 minutes of power play and it's hard to tell what the hell they're ever really trying to do anything on the power play. Still, it was a Sharp shot from the point that lead to a big rebound that Stalberg was there to put in. That caps off Stals' great year with 22 goals and 21 assists. In the second, it was Sharp who found Andrew Shaw with a nifty backhand pass to put the Hawks up two.
The third period is where we see two different sides of the Hawks. The first is them taking their foot off the gas (or was it maybe the Wings putting their foot all the way down?). Either way, the game in the third was tilted very much in favor of the Wings. The shots on goal are damn near even (10-9 Scum) but it was the Wings that fought harder and seemed to want it more. Their effort paid off too. They destroyed the Hawks hope of finally nailing down a shutout for the year when Franzen somehow found a way to get the puck past Crawford. I'm still not entirely sure how it made it into the net but according to Doc it was "squibbed in".. so there's that. Finally, with Howard pulled it was a solid effort from Zetterberg to get the puck to the net and a nice no-look pass from Holmstrom to Datsyuk to tie it up with less than a minute left.
In the shootout, we saw Dats and Kaner trade fancy "between-the-legs" attempts with Dats missing but Kaner converting. Kaner's goal would be the only one in the skills competition as Crawford was as good as he needed to be for the next two shooters. So that settles that - the Hawks face whoever comes out of the Pacific but also ruin the Wings chance at home ice. There really wasn't one option that was better than the other. To the bullets:
- Though the Hawks didn't seem to be giving it their all - they still played an incredibly solid game. (An odd contradiction, I know). Without two of their centers, they still managed to be just about even with the Wings at the dot.
- Another game that we continue to see confidence in Crawford build. The first goal was odd (and probably stoppable) but the second one was just an amazing effort from the Wings and maybe some blown coverage from the Hawks. The questions of who is our #1 going into the playoffs has been firmly put to bed. Crawford has turned his game around well since struggling earlier in the season. Crawford made a few incredible saves throughout the game, especially showing off his glove hand several times.
- Speaking of goalies - it seems that Stan Bowman liked what he saw from Ray Emery enough to bring him back for another season. Just before (or just as the game started) it was announced that Razor was extended for another year for 1.15M. Emery proved to be a more than suitable back up for the year and obviously threatened to take over the #1 spot multiple times. He's got his warts and major health concerns but I have no problem with the signing. Tough to say what this means about the Hawks feelings on Salak... signs don't look good though.
- Sharp continues to have a phenomenal year with primary assists on both goals including a beauty of a pass for the second goal. The Sharpie and the Swedes line continues to produce.
- Nice to see the return of Sami Lepisto for the first time in a month. Sad to see he still couldn't crack more than just over 8 minutes of TOI.
- The slight trend of blowing third period leads (even multi-goal leads) is a bit dismaying but the Hawks play of late has made me for more optimistic than I imagined I would be a few months ago.
- So after all the hemming and hawing - we finally know the Hawks position. There isn't going to be an easy path for the Hawks. One does not simply walk into the Stanley Cup Finals. Whether it's Phoenix, LA or San Jose, it's going to be a battle. We'll be around tomorrow when the Hawks opponent and schedule is released. Until then.. gentlemen with beards, enjoy your remaining time with them and get those razors ready. Gentlemen without, get ready to get itchy. Ladies... umm.. do whatever it is that you do.
Lets Go Hawks