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Special Teams Gone Bad, Turned My World to Black: Sharks 5 - Hawks 3

Is there really any other way to slice this one? The Hawks were the better team at even strength tonight, but like we've seen way too many times this year, special teams play cost them points in the standings.

Michal Frolik put the Hawks behind the 8 ball right out of the gate; what started as a good shift with Toews and Hossa turned into a 4 minute high sticking penalty at the end of that shift. The ensuing PK can be described as nothing short of a complete disaster. Leddy was unable to clear (or even advance) the puck, Hossa took a terrible route to the point, which allowed an easy lane for Burns, Leddy wasn't able to keep Couture from gathering up the rebound and circling behind the net, Crow somehow managed to get inexcusably out of position, and OD probably wasn't aggressive enough in trying to prevent the pass that led to Braun's easy tally. Crow's positioning on that goal might have been the most egregious offense, but the guys in front of him continue to allow easy passing and shooting lanes, while displaying a complete inability to clear out rebounds.

Later in the period, the Hawks came out on the wrong end of a Captains' tussle near the benches, and were assigned the extra minor (I don't care what Edzo says, that mess was started by Thornton rather than Toews). With about 8 minutes remaining in period, Crawford kicked out a redirected point shot to Dan Boyle who didn't miss. If someone can explain to me what Marian Hossa was doing on that 5 on 4, I'd really appreciate it. Rather than coming out high to challenge the point shot, Hossa sat back in an almost 5 on 3-like triangle position, which allowed Couture plenty of space to get a shot toward the net.

At 0-3-1 on the road trip, and down 2-0 after one, it was encouraging to see the Hawks come out looking to dominate the 2nd frame rather than let apathy set in. The 2nd period charge was led by the diminutive Marcus Kruger, who at 6'0"-180 (a good forty of which might be in the cojones) continues to show a nose for the net which surpasses that of most of his larger and more experienced teammates. On both Kruger goals, Sharp got the puck to the point, and Leddy and Seabs fired hard shots on net that eventually found their way to the young Swede's tape. Unfortunately, much of the ground gained in the dominant middle frame was lost when Viktor Stalberg handcuffed Duncan Keith with a bouncing pass. The pass confounded Dunc, and the the resulting odd man rush ended with a Sharks goal as the Hawks caught a tough break when Thornton's centering pass was knocked in by the stick of Dylan Olsen.

The Hawks overcame the one goal deficit early in the third after a nice keep by Sami Lepisto led to a Bolland centering pass, through two sharks, to a wide open Bryan Bickell. Shortly thereafter, the Hawks found themselves down again. A Burns point shot caromed to Brad Winchester, who was stopped by a sliding Corey Crawford. Crawford was unable to cover up the loose puck, and couldn't get back to his crease in time to prevent Ben Ferriero's tap-in goal on a beautiful centering feed from Winchester. In an ending that surprised no one, the Hawks PK was unable to stop the bleeding and give its team a chance in the final minutes.

To the Bullets.....

  • On any given night (assuming John Scott isn't in the lineup), there are 5 defensemen that I'd rather have on the PK than Nick Leddy, but apparently our coaching staff doesn't agree. I get that, due to the penalties to Keith and OD, Leddy had to be on the ice for the 2nd goal against; I also get that the PK woes are not all on young Leddy, but the fact that he's on the ice for so many 5 on 4 goals against can no longer be chalked up to coincidence or bad luck. When you couple Leddy's PK time with his zone start numbers (for the season), it's easy to see that Q isn't putting his young defenseman in the best position to succeed. I'm hard on Leddy, but I have high hopes for him; he's great on the rush, he's a solid passer, and has a nice shot from the point (see Kruger goal #1). With all that said, Nick Leddy's effort on goal number 4 was nothing short of pathetic. There's no reason that Leddy can't at least try to lift or tie up the stick of Ben Ferriero in that situation.
  • How long are we going to have to sit and watch special teams losses before a head rolls?
  • I was annoyed to see that Crawford was getting the start against San Jose. I didn't think that Emery was horrible against Colorado, and I don't think the Hawks lost that game because of him. Simply put, the Hawks are losing games because of Crow right now. Crawford was way out of position on goals 1 and 4, and it's getting tougher and tougher to watch. The way I see it, Ray Emery might not be spectacular, but he's much more solid right now than Crow. I give Emery starts until the Hawks lose a game because of him, ie Crow vs. Edmonton, Nashville, and San Jose.
  • Crow and the PK might be bad, but I have a hard time blaming either for the McGinn goal. That goal was all sorts of ridiculous, and it's plays like that make you wonder aloud why we don't see more sweet in-tight skill goals from guys wearing the Indianhead.
  • The CORSI numbers for Marian Hossa are solid, but I really don't think he had an impactful game. I already noted Hossa's mistakes on the PK, and he's definitely in an offensive funk right now. No points and a minus 5 on the road trip thus far, Woof.
  • It had been so long since we'd seen Sami Lepisto on the ice that I literally forgot that he is a left-handed shot. It was a decent game for Lepisto; he had a couple little turnovers, but he was generally solid, and did manage a point and a +1 in over 11 minutes of ice time. If the Hawks are going to add a Dman, I'd obviously like this Dman to be a PKing stay-at-home type. We already have a Chris Campoli on the roster, and he's wearing number 20.
  • Aside from Ben Ferriero blowing by him early in the game, and somewhat questionable decision making on the Thornton own goal, Dylan Olsen had a nice game. The kid skated almost 19 minutes, most of which was beside Duncan Keith, and he did not look out of place.
  • None of us enjoyed seeing Jonathan Toews get roughed up all night, but I certainly hope that the sharknanigans don't lead to more John Scott appearances. Q did the right thing by moving Mayers up to the top line for some protection. The difference between Mayers and Scott is that Q can actually put Mayers on the ice in different situations, when some muscle is required. Not only did Jammer drop the gloves with Clowe, he had a quality chance in transition in which he nearly roofed a backhander over Antti Niemi's shoulder. There's simply no intimidation factor that can be provided by a player (Scott) that's not versatile enough to be ice for situations in which he can actually defend the Hawks skill players. Sometimes being driven into the glass on a big retaliatory hit is more intimidating (a la Bryan Bickell on ME Vlasic) than a guy who can only punish you when you accept his offer to fight.
  • I'm not sure what to make of the Viktor Stalberg situation anymore. Yes, Vik's had a handful of turnovers lately that have resulted in goals against, but A) he's not the only forward on this team that turns the puck over and B) if the defense and goaltending were capable of keeping mistakes from ending up in their own net, we'd still be getting a net positive from the play of Stalberg.


In the Desert You Can Remember Your Name - Hawks @ Coyotes Preview/Pregame Thread/Core Power Yoga

Blackhawks-logo_medium @ Phoenix_coyotes_2000_medium

Game Time: 7:30
TV/Radio: WGN-WGN720
Tippettan Monks: Five for Howling

Things won't get any easier for the Men of Four Feathers tonight as they head to Phoenix to face the well coached Yotes, who are winners of four straight. The Hawks are 1-1-1 against Phoenix this year, and they square off against a well rested team that is getting great goaltending from Mike Smith (3 GA in the last three games, 81 saves, and a 0.964 sv %). Being that this is the fourth meeting of these teams, we know who the Coyotes are: a team that's better at keeping the puck out of their net than they are at scoring goals, a well coached team that works hard on the forecheck and waits for the opposition to make a mistake, a team with a dreadful powerplay and a decent PK, and a team that is aided by their goaltender's puck handling skills.

The Hawks and Yotes have competed in some closely contested affairs over the last few years, and I don't expect that to change tonight (unless the Hawks get off to a bad start on this, the second night of a back-to-back set). The Men of Four Feathers are generally solid in the second night of a back-to-back, but you've got to assume that it's going to be tough sledding after last night's demoralizing loss. The Hawks don't figure to be the better even strength team for two nights in a row, and if it comes down to special teams between these two squads, no one really knows how the game will pan out.

With no morning skate, lineups are all guess work. As I wrote in the game wrap, I'm hoping that Q starts the same 6 Dmen, as there's really never a need for a John Scott appearance. I've already made my feelings about who I think should be between the pipes abundantly clear.

What can change from last night that would put the Hawks in the win column? Stay out of the box, and make the most of any powerplay opportunities that you're given. The Hawks will have to be on their game with their puck possession upon entering the zone. I'm not saying that dump and chase won't work, but as we saw during their visit to the UC in late November, the Mike Smith-led Yotes can be a dump and chance killer. Who can take advantage of the Yotes forecheck and make some plays in transition? (Q plugs his ears and gives me the "La la la la" treatment) Viktor Stalberg.

We can also hope that Captain Serious plays a determined game after the beating he took last night, but again, we really don't know how healthy he is right now. Let's make a baseless prediction because I'm out of analysis......If Marian Hossa doesn't find the score sheet tonight, the Hawks don't win this game.

let's go hawks....(said with apathy)