I should really be sitting here writing about the Hawks’ prospects in Game 7 against the Wild, trying to cheer you (and myself) up with the record at the United Center and assuring you that the next one will be different. Instead we’re eyeing up the Kings and Ducks and hoping for 5OTs before the Hawks head to California. Funny old game, Hockey, eh?
Let us not beat about the bush: that was flat-out larceny in St Paul. The Hawks won that game through a combination of luck, luck, Corey Crawford, luck and a little bit of genius from Pat Kane. The Wild dominated pretty much every metric (except the scoreboard, ho-ho) and for those who disdain the fancy stats, your beloved “Eye Test” would have shown you similar: waves of Wild players pouring forward, battling for everything and generally forechecking like beasts. I think we all anticipated this sort of approach in an elimination game in the Minnesota fortress, but that the Wild could sustain it almost all night came as something of a shock. Equally disturbing was how flat-footed and off their game the Hawks looked under this barrage. Somehow, the Hawks managed to score first with Kris Versteeg scoring a rather odd deflected goal after two minutes (deflected in off noted paste-chewer Clayton Stoner, for the record). Cue a relentless onslaught from the Wild which led to Erik Haula tying it up early in the 3rd. There was some debate on Twitter about whose fault it was.. I’m inclined to share the blame equally between the Swedes, after review. Hjalmarsson needs to get that puck the hell out of there in the first place, and Oduya let himself get out of position, lost a step and got torched by Haula.
The Hawks actually came back into the game in the 3rd, possibly because the Wild began to tire, and had some golden chances to retake the lead (admittedly, so did the men in Green), instead we got to overtime, some heart stopping moments and then.. well, you all saw it. Patrick Kane, folks. The bounce was an odd one, but the (mostly) Wild fans bemoaning their bad luck need to watch Peter Regin neatly removing Ryan Suter from the equation and Matt Cooke realising he’d left his headlights on in the parking lot and stopping to find his keys while Kane scorched in on the rebound.
And so it goes. Let’s have some talking points, shall we?
- I’ll get this out of the way, because I feel like saying some swears. The Wild crowd started on the “Craaaaw-fuuuurd” chant early and often. They were, in fact, in the middle of it when Patrick Kane sent their dumb fucking selves out into the St Paul night to eat three times their body weight in Lutefisk. Goalie chants are bush-league at the best of times, but are usually reserved for the aftermath of a goal.. chanting all night just makes you sound like an idiot. But these are probably the same people who booed Josh Harding when he came in cold during a thumping by the Oilers last year. So, fuck them.
- As for the target of the droolers: Corey Crawford was not made #1 Star of the game because dumb. This may be one of the best performances I’ve seen from him. He turned aside 34 of 35 shots, withstood a physical barrage of Wild players hitting his crease in numbers and was all-round cool as a breeze. Make no mistake: this was as much of a goalie win as that shutout vs St Louis. According to Extra Skater he is now second only to Tuukka Rask in this postseason, with a Sv% of 93.1%, only 0.2% behind the Finn. Craaaaw-fuuuuurd.
- Let’s give some credit to the Wild: Well Done Wild.
- ..Ok, seriously, they were the better team tonight and may well have been the better team in the series. The difference, of course, has been goaltending (although Bryz has had his moments, too and had a Sv% of .928 last night) and the Hawks’ gamebreakers like Kane & Toews. Erik Haula had himself a heck of a series, as did Niedderieter, Spurgeon and Scandella. With these guys and the rest of what is, mostly, a young team, they are going to be a gigantic pain in the ass for some time to come. Also, fuck Matt Cooke.
- Of course, we all know the Hawks have many more gears that they can go through. They need to take this time to have a serious think about what lies ahead. Principal in these things is going to be the role of Michal Handzus. He’s still a useful player, but he cannot be exposed to speed and he can’t keep up with Sharp & Kane. Q needs to address this which will likely mean a reshuffle on the bottom lines. On the subject of which..
- I said some things like “Marginal NHLer” and “Get him off my hockey team” about Peter Regin when he first joined the Hawks. If this were Soviet Russia I would be required to stand in public with a sign denouncing myself (before being sent to Siberia). Mea culpa. Regin was, again, very bloody useful. he was involved in both the Hawks goals and seemed to be one of the few players not wilting under the pressure. I don’t think even Q can justify sitting him when Bollig returns. But this is Q we’re talking about..
- Effing heck, there were some shocking refereeing decisions last night. Haula’s Yohimbo act on Bickell’s stick, Kane getting roughed up while prone on the ice and Bickell’s ridiculous “High stick”. Bad zebras. Luckily it didn’t cost the Hawks in the end.
Right. A few days off and the joys of a Game 7 between the Habs and Bruins to point and laugh at, not to mention the denouement of the California contest that will decide the next round opponent.
We’ll be back with more before then, in the meantime… take care.