So, I was tempted to throw Jasper on here, because the Hawks were far and away the better team tonight. But 3-1 just doesn't quite earn a paddlin' Jasper. Even an empty netter would have gotten one. Next time, hopefully. I'm also heartened to see that I'm not a curse upon the Hawks, as the only game I've missed the season was the performance of the year at San Jose (sorry folks, but free Belgian beers in the East Village was too much of a siren song to resist) Happily, the Hawks can win when I'm an observer, and long may it continue.
The cushions on Craig MacTavish's seat have been heating up for a while, and on tonight's evidence it's easy to see why. The Oilers were a disaster in their own zone. A full house of defensive fuck-ups, with turnovers full of missed clearance attempts. They were also outworked and outhit, save their 4th line. As we learned during the Hawks slight dip last month, when you're 4th line is doing yoru best work, chances are you're in trouble. (Dustin Penner on the 4th line? $4 mil just doesn't go as far as it used to, except at the buffet table, where is where Penner's been clearly taking it.)
That's not to say this couldn't have gotten dicier than it did. The Amazing Cristobal had to come up with some big saves, especially after the Hawks did the short-bus routine in their own zone on occasion. There were at least three occasions that an Oiler found himself with the puck no more than 10 feet out and writing poetry about lonliness, as there were no Hawks in sight. Luckily, they failed to convert any of those. Their only scratch was on a total fluke, the bank shot off of Campbell's face, which I know a few Hawks fans would like to attempt (though now would be a good time to point out that 51 Phantom is tied for the team lead in assists, and frankly you can't ignore that).
From there on out, except for one hiccup to Horcoff in front in the 2nd, the Hawks stuck it in the Oilers face, and put them in their m*therf*ckin place. You know about the shot totals, and the Hawks were creating turnovers and chances left and right. Rolly the goalie kept this from getting silly.
This was my first look at Versteeg at center, and there were some things to like and some not. Clearly, his vision and hands are enticing in the middle. But the added duties down low -- in both ends -- is going to be a challenge. On several occasions VerStud was knocked on his ass, and he was culpible for a couple of those chances the Oilers had right in front. Still, I'm jonesing to see more of this, for several games. How good can you look with Albatross Buff on your wing?
The power play cashed in when we needed it again, and the PK finally wasn't breached. The kill looked much more in control and stable, instead of the Chinese Fire Drill it had been. Once Bolland tallywhacked in what turned out to be the game winner, it was hard to see the Hawks losing it (tallywhacked was Foley's word. Are we going to try and get it in as many posts as we can? YOU BETTER BELIEVE IT.) Bolland had a very strong game, with some nifty passing and gritty defensive play. On another night he could have multiple points.
I've watched Captain Marvel all season, and kind of felt like Homer Simpson watching the Yakuza-mafia fight on his lawn and in particular the small Yakuza member. "Marge, the little guy hasn't done anything yet. And you know when he does it's going to be good." I think we're getting this from Toews now. He might not have had a point tonight, but he created so much, won every battle he was in, and was the heartbeat of the team. Watch out for these two months. In fact, I'll just throw this up here:
Ah, almost forgot, your shift charts and Corsi. Couple interesting things on the shift charts. Line up Hemsky and Keith, and you'll see how Coach Mac T made almost no attempt to get him away from the Hawks best d-man. No wonder he'll be packing his bags soon. Also, you'll see that when the Penner line -- Oilers 4th line -- had their moments it was against the tons smaller Versteeg and Kane. Let's hope other coaches didn't see this. You'll also see Stortini was the only Oiler with a + in Corsi, reflect his and his linemates hard work. Sharp-Shooter was a silly +22. As long as Sharp keeps firing, the goals will come.
Good stuff tonight. Next one is the big one. It would be wonderful to go 4-0-0 against Calgary and have two wins against division leaders in three games. Also would give the Hawks more room for error on the rest of the trip. More more more! How do you like it?