Well, that was harder than it should have been. Two points secured, a lot of dominance from the Hawks (the Stats make hilarious reading), some good things, some bad things., some things to learn. My brother the Stats Guru was assuring me, prior to the game, that this Islanders team is the real deal and are going to tear it up in the Metropolitan Division. Colour me unconvinced, but they do have a very impressive sucker-punch and they got to use that a couple of times tonight. Also, John Tavares is very good at Hockey.  Let’s get into it ..

  • I will admit that I was a little surprised that Khabibulous got the first start of this back-to-back: surely the Buffalo Sabres and their lack of everything would be a better match-up.  Sadly we were spared a “Really-Old-And-Not-Much-Good-Anymore Russkie-Goalie-Off” as the Isles left Nabby on the bench and started Kevin Poulin in net. Khabby was reasonable and not at fault for either goal, but please, someone, nail him to his crease because when he goes wandering to play the puck he makes me afraid and gassy.
  • Ben Smith came back into the team at the expense of Jimmy Hayes (whose gliding-around-behind-the-net-to-no-great-purpose act was starting to get tedious) although if you blinked you likely missed it: he got 6.3 minutes TOI yet still managed to get an Assist in that time. Brandon Bollig got 8.3 minutes and got fuck all.  More of this later.
  • The Hawks started off in Beast-mode and yet again totally dominated the early running.  The relentless pressure was rewarded when Patrick Kane ended up in the “Gretzky Zone”  behind the net and dished a beautiful feed to Joakim Nordstrom for his first NHL Goa… wait, what do you mean “That was Hjalmarsson”? The Swedes combined brilliantly to open the scoring and Hjammer continued to Hjave a good day at the office.
  • That rapidly became 2-0 when another period of unrelenting Hawks pressure ended up with a neat finish from the Captain at a tight angle with Poulin stranded. Thoughts of blowouts started to cross my mind…
  • … So, naturally, the Hawks failed to make it out of the period with the lead. I think “Blown Leads” is going to become this years’ “Meatball Narrative”, however there was very little excuse for either goal: the first was another quick odd-man rush following pinching from Keith (and you won’t catch me complaining about the D joining the rush because that’s been the source of a lot of joy over the last year) and the other was just.. bad. Hint for the D: if you stand around looking at each other while an unmarked Tavares gets to go behind the net Bad Things are likely to happen. If you leave Kyle Okposo all alone in front, they’re guaranteed to happen.
  • Michal Handzus scored a nice goal in the 2nd Period and that was almost the last we saw of him for the night. Q hit the line blender early and hard and it got very.. onnovative. Saad on the Top Line we’ve seen before and Bickell has the instincts of a bottom-six guy (but not the paycheck, obviously) so their switcheroo wasn’t too weird.. Kruger on the 2nd Line is .. well, better than Zus? Maybe? I’m not going to start second-guessing Q yet but .. well, watch this space.
  • Patrick Sharpe seems to be trying a little too hard in the last few games. He’s getting slightly out of position (and what in the holy heck is he doing on the point in a PP situation?) and, I think, just needs to relax a little. That said, with Zus struggling to keep up and Hossa clearly not 100% (yet) you can see why he’s trying to make things happen.
  • Some numbers: the Corsi was 69-40 in Chicago’s favour, shots were 28-19. The Hawks got hosed at the dot with the exception of Zus (5 from 5) and, as ever, the Captain (70%)

Basically, this is another game that should have been out of sight early on yet made for some nervous 3rd Period moments. When you get the two points then it’s fine, when you don’t (hello Tampa and St Louis) it’s a worry. But it’s too early to be predicting patterns yet. A performance like last night against Buffalo should see the Hawks win by 1579 Goals and John Scott being humanely destroyed.

 

* First Hockey wrap headline to feature a TS Eliot quote? Almost certainly?