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I guess part of the problem of being the reigning champs is that the opposition raise their game when you’re in their building, especially if they don’t see you that often.  That, combined with a distictly lacklustre performance from the Hawks, leads to nights like last night.

The Habs were up for this game from the puck drop, the building was loud and intense and the Blackhawks.. well, they just kind of bumbled around out there. I guess we could place some of the blame on the unfamiliar lines, but these guys have all played together before and should be used to tthe line blender by now. The top line of Toews, Sharp & Hossa worked hard all night and got a classic dagger-to-the-heart goal but they had a tough battle against Tomas Plekanec, PK Subban and Josh Gorges. The ‘Bickell on the 2nd Line’ experiment seemed to re-energise him and he looked an awful lot sharper than he has since returning from injury (he actually led the team in Corsi % but that was helped by the poor performance of his teammates in general).  To no-one’s surprise we also saw Brandon Saad filling in there as the Hawks chased the game. TOI was more evenly spread, with everyone except Ben Smith & Brandon Bollig cracking 10 minutes.

Corey Crawford had a storming game, which included pulling off a highlight-reel save with the blade of his skate to deny Lars Eller.  But make no mistake, this was a shoddy performance from the Hawks and they are in a rut, for sure. 4-1-5 in their last 10 games is hardly Championship pace, even if they are managing to pick up the loser point more often than not.  There were far too many over-cute pass attempts, or lazy dump-ins, icings and disinterested backchecking. Let’s get to some talking points for your post-GONNA DRINKEN hangovers..

 

  • Good as the Red Wedding line has been, it may be time for a shakeup. Teams are able to focus their big guns on Toews & co because the other three lines are struggling and inconsistent. When you have a weapon like Patrick Kane, he should be the focal point of the offense, not used to spark lacklustre teammates.  Sharp-Kruger-Kane is likely to be a defensive adventure at times, but will also give opposition defenses the willies.
  • Whatever the hell that was in OT.. lord. While its easy to blame Don Cherry & Eddie Olcyzk’s favourite defenseman Brent Seabrook for the winning goal, the entire passage of play around the Hawks net leading up to it resembled a chimps tea-party. A couple of chances to clear the zone were missed and sure as eggs it ended up costing the Hawks.
  • The PP has lurched into full on rotting-flesh mode. The Habs could have had a couple of shorties as the Hawks gaily passed the puck out of the offensive zone and turned it over at a whim. The PK survived back-to-back minors on Daniel Briere and continues to improve.
  • Credit to the Habs, they played out of their skins. Markov got both goals, Plekanec was a beast and Emelin & Subban were throwing their weight around like nobody’s business. Subban was lucky to avoid a Boarding penalty on Toews in the 2nd Period, though.  Carey Price came up big where he had to, but didn;t need to stand on his head: shots were skewed in the Habs favour 38:20, which is nearly 2:1 and not a recipe for success.
  • Mike Kostka’s time as a Blackhawk needs to end, and now. Let me expand on that:

 

Ive said this before and I’m sure I’ll say it again, but this 3-way rotation of #6 Defenseman has to end. It’s not letting anyone get into a groove and its playing merry hell with Nick Leddy. We’ve seen enough of Mike Kostka to pick him as the odd man out so its time he got sent back to Rockford. Yes, he’ll have to go through Waivers to do so, but that’s a chance they’ll have to take.  There needs to be some offensive talent brought up from RFD because, at the moment, the only threat to any Forward’s place in the line-up is Sheldon Brookbank. Pirri is currently injured so get Jeremy Morin back up here and see if he can contribute. Sit whoever you have to to do so. No-one should be panicking, yet, this is a mid-season spell in the doldrums and it will pass, but we’re approaching the time of the year where it becomes time to start gearing up for the run-in to the playoffs.  The 6th D rotation is a failed experiment and it is time for it to stop.

 

OK. Edmonton are in the UC tonight. This would be a good time to hang 6 goals on them but I’m not holding my breath.

 

Have a good Sunday, more later.