Cohesion: Hawks 3 Preds 1
The Good News: The Hawks returned to the scene of their worst performance of the year and came out with a modicum of pride restored and, more importantly, two points
The Bad News: There are still four more games against Nashville this season.
Boy, do games against the Preds suck, on pure aesthetic grounds if nothing else. Nashville basically had One Big Idea to create offense: namely getting the likes of Shea Weber to blast the puck in from the top of the circles. This yielded them a tying PP goal after Duncan Keith also scored from long range early in the 1st. Once the Hawks had this figured out, the Preds were pretty much as out of ideas as whoever programs the horrible music at the Bridgestone.
Therefore we got to see flippin’ great walls of piss-yellow uniforms clogging up the Neutral Zone and cretins like Matt Hendricks mistaking running into people after the puck had long gone for an aggressive forecheck. There was a march to the box on both sides for a variety of dumb reasons, some pretty poor officiating, including an (initially) blown call on Nick Leddy’s 2nd Period shot from range (that was, fortunately, reviewed) and.. oh, yeah, another highlight-reel effortless effort from Patrick Kane & His Amazing Performing Backhand.
This was done and dusted as far as scoring goes half-way through and thereafter it became a matter of seeing if the Hawks were going to turn it into a laugher/do some really dumb things to let the Preds back into it. Neither happened and Chicago even withstood a 6-on-4 for the last minute and a half to ice this one. Three of the four goals tonight came from long-range shots from D-men. that’s about as Nashville as it gets.
So a nice road win in what has been a tricky building to play in for the Hawks, also a return to full strength at Forward for the first time in a long, long time. Although the usual caveats about deployment persist, as ever.
Talking points ahead of two days off:
- Let’s look at some nice things first: Patrick Kane is on fire. Former Editor of this blog, Tim Currell, suggested on Twitter that Kane may have the best backhand shot ever. That may be open to debate, but there’s a whole pile of evidence to suggest that he may well be right. Kane barely glanced up before flicking that puck past Carter Hutton. As Patrick Sharp said after the game “There’s only a few guys in the world that can do that.” We’re blessed to have him. His point-streak is up to 10 games and, even more amazingly, 22 out of his last 23. He is now a point behind Sidney Crosby in the scoring race. He’s also doing this from the 2nd line with an ever revolving cast of characters (although it should be noted that. yet again, his goal came when on the ice with someone other than Michal Handzus)
- The Red Wedding Line (Sharp-Toews-Hossa for those that don’t speak Hockeenight ) was its usual terrifying self, even though goalless. One set up from Toews in Gretzky’s Office to Hossa out in front would have provided another glorious example of how to Play Hockey were it not for an excellent Hutton save at point-blank range. And all three got Assists anyway because that’s what they do. Marian Hossa, in particular, was in full-on Beast Mode for much of the night. I think I’m going to do a longer piece about Hoss really soon, so I’ll leave it there.
- Brandon Saad and Ben Smith both had excellent games. They both seem to be realising that when they drop their shoulder and barrel towards the net there aren’t many who can stop them. In Smith’s case this is going to make him an excellent Bottom-Six battering-ram & Bum-Slayer. In Saad’s case it could well propel him into the Elite stakes. It’s staggering to think he’s on the 3rd Line and also terrifying for the opposition: if needed Q can simply flip him up to hook up with Toews or Kane of whoever. Nice.
- The PK is showing signs of life. No, really. I know they gave up a goal on the first PP of the night, but Shea Weber cannon blasts are what they are. The other five penalties, including a Double-Minor against Sharp and an extended 6-on-4 at the death with Hutton pulled, were killed with aplomb against the 9th-Ranked Preds PP. Part of the success last year was the Hawks ability to turn defense into attack while short-handed and also their tendency to keep the puck or play with it out of their own zone. There was plenty of this in evidence last night, including a couple of sweet shorty attempts and exemplified, for me, by an imperious long pass from Kruger, up in the Nashville zone, back into the Hawks’ end, just to retain possession and kill off more time. Dare I say it, but there’s an air of confidence about them that’s been sorely lacking. We’ll see how this plays out.
- On the subject of penalties, boy was this a night for weird and stupid ones. Kruger went off for handling the puck at a face-off, Leddy got pinged for a dubious interference call on Hockey Superstar Mike Fisher, Kane somehow got his stick tangled up with Colin Wilson behind the Preds net (and was in the box before the refs arm went up) and Sharp managed to draw blood on a high-stick to get his double-minor. The Preds weren’t immune to this either: a pair of Too Many Men penalties in rapid succession and Hendricks, who had been launching himself at anything in a red sweater all night, caught an interference call on Sheldon Brookbank that he then, hilariously, tried to mitigate by attempting to start a fight. Brookbank, to his credit, laughed and skated away.
- The record books will show that the Hawks got outshot 28-27. However, a large proportion of those Nashville shots were specualtive attempts from range as they really struggled to get anything else going (nice wraparound attempt by Seth Jones notwithstanding). Antti Raanta looks more and more solid as every game goes by. There was very little he could do about a Weber bomb through a screen. Carter Hutton also looked useful but he seems to think he’s a young Marty Brodeur when it comes to playing the puck. Something to think about for the next meeting for the Hawks.
- The Nashville “Keep The Red Out” idea seems to have worked a treat: the upper levels at the Bridgestone looked positively Glendale-like. The lower bowl filled up somewhat but I’m sure lots of people got “Upgraded” for the sake of the cameras. There were still plenty of people dressed as seats, for all that.
- Maybe the reason for the poor attendance is the awful, horrible music played in the Bridgestone. Aside from the fact that the Preds have the worst goal song in the history of bad goal songs, what the fucking hellbastard is up with their powerplay music? I had flashbacks to sweaty clubs in 1992. Music City? Music Shitty more like. And don’t get me started on that terrible, orchestrated chanting. Jesus.
OK, I’ve ranted on for far too long about a game that will be erased from our minds in a days’ time. Just two things before I go and we start getting ready for the red-hot Nucks on Friday: first off Happy Birthday to our Supreme Dictator For Life Bartl. Second, and more importantly, here’s this:
One of our readers, Tiffaney Stubblefield’s, husband Ben is fighting Laryngeal Cancer, which is a bad and terrible condition. They’re insured but are running up staggering bills during their battle. To that end they are raffling autographed, authenticated and unworn Blackhawks jerseys from Duncan Keith, Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Brent Seabrook and Andrew Shaw. You know how tough it has to be to offer up stuff that cool, right? Desperate times. So go here and buy a raffle ticket to win one.
Because fuck Cancer, right? Right.
OK, stay safe folks.
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