Game Time Decisions: Coyotes @ Blackhawks - Preview/Pre-Game Thread/Easter Egg Hunt
Game Time: 8:00 Central
TV/Radio: CNBC, TSN, CSN and probably HGTV or something else too/WGN720
Feeling "Dizzy": Five For Howling
As Hack mentioned in the preview and as you've no doubt heard about a million times from a million people - the common saying is that "it isn't a series until the home team loses". Well that series doesn't just go away after the first time the road team grabs a win like the Hawks did on Saturday. It just shifts. With their win on the road the Hawks now hold home ice advantage in the series. Close out the games at home and we're done in 6 and ready to go. And that struggle will start tonight.
The Coyotes come into the United Center probably smarting a bit after they gave up a second last second goal to the Hawks and fell in OT. That doesn't mean they'll roll over though - The Yotes have one of the better road records in the NHL on the road, going 20-14-7. And that includes both a 4-1 and a shoot out victory against the Hawks in the United Center. The Coyotes play the exact kind of game that lends itself well to playing on the road. They're smart, disciplined and play their grinding game down to the smallest role player. They'll be looking to come into the UC and continue that tonight.
I wrote everything above last night before I got too exhausted and had to go to sleep. I figured I'd write the rest of this during my lunch break on Tuesday and maybe then I'd have a little more time to probably hear about Shaw's fate. I didn't quite expect that Shanahan would take the nuclear option on Shaw and suspend the little dolt 3 games. I've seen the comments on the BotD thread and I agree with all of you - it's excessive and unnecessary. But I guess Shanahan has decided to finally sack up and send a message to the rest of the league and Shaw is just the first to bear the brunt of his wrath. That message is - You can't make contact to the head of an opposing player... I mean.. goalie. Skaters are still fair game, right Weber and Carkner?
I'm not going to be so naive as to say Andrew Shaw was completely innocent or a victim of circumstance. He went in trying hard to take away a passing lane but certainly didn't do much to avoid contact completely. He very likely meant to run the goalie. And you know what? That happens in this game. Same way cross-checking, slashing, and any other penalty sometimes are very much intentional. I don't believe Shaw ever meant to make contact with Smith's head. If so, he did a shitty job at it seeing as how didn't leave his feet or raise his arms against a goalie that has at least 4 inches on him. Still, contact to his head was made and as much as we want to claim Smith was faking or embellishing, we don't have any way to prove it. In his video explaining the situation, Shanahan fails miserably to explain why this hit was so much worse than deliberately and repeatedly punching someone in the face or forcibly slamming their head into the glass with enough force to break a helmet. The two possible explanations are simply that goalies deserve more protection (something I don't completely buy, I think they're fine with the existing rules) or that the NHL is realizing players aren't getting the message are are cracking down - meaning Shaw just picked a bad time to become the poster boy. For that we'll have to wait for the next questionable headshot... which should only be about 3 hours from now.
So fine, we're without Shaw for the next 3 games. It's a stupid decision but there's no changing it now. Who comes in to replace him? The leading candidate would likely be Michael Frolik. Frolik has been a decent if not solid skater for the Hawks this year but with only 15 points still hasn't found any sort of scoring touch (and of course is doomed to never score again). With Frolik's addition, Q has decided to split up the lines a bit - Kane is being moved back to center with Brunette and Hossa on his wings. Toews will center Sharp and Stalberg and the Bolland and Bickell line will hope to continue to horse the Coyotes with Frolik being the new guy. We haven't seen much from the big names on this team yet and I don't think it's a safe strategy to count on Bickell putting in another two along with Bollig netting one of his own. The Hawks need the big names to step up now.
As good as it feels to come out of the desert with a split - the Hawks are far from out of the woods. They've played well but they've only got a win by the thinnest of margins. They'll need a much smarter and simpler game. The Yotes are a damn good road team and the Hawks will need everything they can to take the series lead tonight. A power play goal would help.. but you'd be better off yelling at clouds than hoping for any change there.
Let's Go Hawks