Ok, Let's Clean This Mess Up
There are no defining losses or wins in November, or at least there generally aren't. I guess that five-goal comeback against Calgary in 2009 was a defining moment, but it takes something that silly. Last night is not a defining moment. As the Fifth Feather pointed out, it's once a season that Vancouver comes in here and slaps it upside the Hawks head sideways for a night. Just as the Hawks have won once in Vancouver in each of the last three seasons. While most of us wanted to revel in the Canucks struggles as the Hawks put down the exclamation point on them last night, or so we hoped would happen, I couldn't help but recall last November. Then, the defending Conference (and Cup) champ was inconsistent, a bit injured, and having a hard time being motivated for every game. They struggled out of the gate. They had just been embarrassed on the road. They showed up at the arena of their biggest rival with their fans salivating at the thought of stamping a new order on the league. And the home team got gorilla stinkfisted. You remember, right? Was it the Hawks 7 - Canucks 2 that night? Felt the same, just on the other side of the looking glass.
And if we really have to go lowest common denominator here, and if Canucks fans got a little chirpy either here or at NM (I haven't checked, but I assume) maybe I'm looking at it wrong but the scoreboard still reads:
Playoff Series: Hawks 2 - Canucks 1
Recent Cups: Hawks 1 - Canucks 0
There. Feel slightly better?
That doesn't mean we can't learn a few things about our favorite team from last night's loss, and I think you learn more from a loss than you do a win. To wit:
-While the main focus was on the penalty kill, and probably rightly so after the ADD children's theater it was, the 1st period worries me more. The kill will have bad nights. Maybe not that bad but it's not always going to be nails. But the 1st period is a trend that the Hawks don't have an answer for, and that's scarier. And that's the fact that the Hawks right now wilt under a whisper for a forecheck.
While the beat writers and some players ran to the familiar oasis of explanation that is "we came out flat", as usual that's not the entire case or just utter bullshit. What they came out against was a disciplined, organized, determined Canucks bunch who knew that if they kept putting the puck behind the Hawks defense, the Hawks eventually wouldn't cope. Especially without Duncan Keith, the Hawks cannot breakdown on-rushing opponents. Their only tactic was to fire the puck out to center where the Canucks simply gathered up possession and started all over again. This would lead some to think the Hawks were "flat", because they were being suffocated and creating nothing. But that doesn't have anything to do with energy or excitement, it has to do with not being able to play the game the Hawks claim they want to play.
And let's face it, the defense has been a mess since The Flash went on the shelf. While we've btiched and moaned about the Keith and Leddy pairing, after three games away from each other it's pretty obvious why the pairing doesn't work. And it's not because Keith has an adverse affect on Leddy. It's because Leddy's skittish, and at times teen girl in a horror movie skittish, play in his own zone is causing Keith to cover all ends of the Earth. I think we can all safely assume that now.
Which is my biggest fear about the Hawks, that they're a puck possession team that can't possess the puck for long stretches. They certainly can't when Leddy is getting his head kicked in in the defensive zone, which he is right now. They can't when Keith is constantly having to cover for him or is hurt. Seabrook and Hammer simply can't move fast enough when paired together. It's a real problem.
And yes, this all leads to another sentence that ends with, "...miss Brian Campbell."
But they do, an it's obvious. But that doesn't mean there aren't other solutions or answers. The first being that Nick Leddy proves to be what the Hawks seem to think he is but remains a mystery to the rest of us. But that clock has officially started. If Leddy still can't be anything close to what Campbell was on a 2nd pairing by the Holidays, the Hawks have to go shopping (Ron Hainsey and Mark Streit are two names that pop into the mind). The Hawks think their Cup contenders, and well they should. There's no one in the West who I can definitively say would beat the Hawks in a playoff series. But they can't lose out on a chance of another parade (and you're never, ever guaranteed another one) simply to prove that they were right along about a kid d-man they have obviously rushed to the Show.
While a lot want to sit here and bemoan the power play or the lack of discipline of Carcillo or Brunette and Stalberg (some of those are valid, some aren't), from my view in 320 the Hawks inability to play the puck possession game they made their hallmark is most worrying. Ignore when Kane and Hossa are on the ice, ignore when Leddy gets a free break when the other team is changing. The Hawks are really struggling under a heavy forecheck right now, and what's worse is they don't have an answer for it.