We knew it wasn't going to be easy, but I don't think any of us expected the fire drill we saw last night.
There were seven goals in what was an adderall-fueled first, including a ridiculous fluke goal on a center ice ring-around credited to Patrick Kane, Jason Arnott finally showing up, and on the power play no less, and the teams trading goals in the final minute of the period between Arnott and Jonathan Toews on the power play.
The second saw the Hawks spend the majority of the time on the power play, swarming to the puck and forcing Nashville into taking penalties, but with the power play still being for the most part on the "fucking clown shoes" side of the ledger, they couldn't convert, despite outshooting Nashville 16-4.
Because this is the NHL, the inevitable onslaught of makeup calls came in the third, though the Preds desperation with their season hanging in the balance contributed heavily to the Hawks taking a string of ill-advised penalties, including a sequence of 3 consecutive minors with only seconds of even strength play between them. Much like the Hawks, the Preds just couldn't seem to find the back of the net, and John Madden sealed the series with an empty netter. Hawks win 5-3, Hawks win 4 games to 2.
Observations From Tonight and The Series
- The cries for the leaders to this team certainly did not fall on deaf ears. A look at the box score tonight shows goals from Keith, Kane (kinda), Sharp, Toews, and Madden, with three assists from Marian Hossa. And the Hawks scoring leaderboard after the series has a very similar look to it, with Kane, Sharp, Hossa, and Toews all operating at a point-or-better per game clip. These are the names that are going to carry this team, and it's fucking fantastic to see them respond. While it's not the insane amount of points we're seeing from Sid out east, that balance epitomizes the depth this team has been all about since day one.
- While it's normally Sam's job to break his shoulder patting himself on the back for calling Troy Brouwer's breakout year, I'm going to do so now for shouting from the top of my lungs from the outset of this series (the proof is in the podcast) to make Pekka Rinne play the puck. While it was a fluke bounce that ended up in the net, that he was conditioned to go out and stop the ring-around behind his net that early just to give himself enough time and space to make a safe play without coughing it up to a Hawk forward (again) shows the type of long-term effects doing small things like that can have in a series. And as Pat and Edzo pointed out between event plugs and lame Jim Mora jokes, after that goal, Rinne shied away from playing the puck, giving Hawk forecheckers a clearer path to the puck. In the brilliant words of the poet laureate Mike North - "I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'."
- Similarly, the effects of a long series showed on the Hawks, who severely lacked patience in breaking the puck out in their own zone. I had to take off my socks and pants to count the number of times the puck was just thrown up the boards for a breakout rather than having the d-man take a look and a stride once corralling the puck. This is the result of an aggressive forecheck - defensemen start to feel a forward bearing down on them that isn't there. And while it improved slightly last night, the Hawk wingers still need to do a better job of coming all the way down to the hash marks on the circle to start the break out.
- A bulk of the credit for the PK's stability goes to Brent Sopel and Niklas Hjalmarsson, who got pounded harder than Kagney Linn Karter after a tennis lesson.
- Dan Hamhuis has got this. If by "this" you mean "getting beat on the Sharp goal to the post as pictured above", or "softly turning the puck over on a weak clearing attempt on a penalty kill in the final minute of a period". And that was just this game. Sorry OTF guys, but aside from his textbook hip check on Buff, this very well could have been the series from hell for Hamhuis. Hell, he can't even get injured enough to get the opposition's big-money forward suspended.
- BIG faceoff wins at the end of regulation by Captain Marvel. BIG.
- The defensive zone coverage has GOT TO tighten up. GOT TO.
So now Men of Four Feathers march on for a rematch against Vancouver, and we'll have all kinds of thoughts for you in the coming days before game one on Friday, including a podcast. No rest for the wicked. Twelve more to go.