Morning Links (11/22)

With any luck, Sin City set the Hawks' souls on fire.

They'll need it.

The Hawks resume the circus trip against the Sharks Plact_mediumtomorrow night. They'll meet the Sharks headed in the opposite direction as San Jose has won three straight, handily dispatching Scum, Dallas, and the Avs. The Hawks could play well and still lose, let alone serve up an encore performance from the past weekend, which could give the word "chum" an added metaphorical dimension in South Bay.

Hawk fans made it through the weekend using hair of the dog remedies, including the usual apologetics and denials. The most interesting one writes off the weekend as an anomaly in an otherwise successful first quarter of the season. Well, it's hard to argue with numbers (though the phrase "strength of schedule" has come up in conversation); however, apathetic efforts are hardly alien to this team the past few years. The Cup team showed up when it mattered most, but last season's team showed up too late.

Despite the strong start, it's still too early to say what kind of show may be expected of the 2011-2012 Hawks. For reasons known only to the players and coaches, the Hawks remain prone to leaving their focus and mental preparation at the morning skate.

The symptoms of this phenomenon are common enough to qualify for classification: when the Hawks are late to loose pucks, when they lose board battles even with superior numbers and positioning, when lazy windshield wiper stick swipes are substituted for taking the body, and when gap control begins at the top of the circles in the defensive zone. One-and-done wrist shots from the dashers, just inside the blue line, are also a feature of this phenomenon. If one sees any of these events in conjunction at the beginning of a game or period, it might be a good time to do the dishes or take the dog for walkies.

I suspect that what is most frustrating is that the Hawks are a team with size, speed, and elite skill. Effort and work are thought of as physical acts, and winning loose pucks and board battles might be seen as a matter of quick feet, strength, and endurance. In actuality, these aspects of hockey are mental as much as physical. Legs may feed the wolf, but what, in turn, feeds the legs? When the Hawks struggle, Toews and Q talk about support and positioning. These aspects of hockey, like desire and confidence, live in the mind. They can be the difference between a winning streak and a losing skid---among other things.

With a soapbox dismount, I give you your morning links...