Hawks laid the beatdown on the Stars last night. When was the last time they scored 8 goals, I wonder? It was a total team win; the Hawks were faster, quicker to the puck, and had possession of the puck for, like Konroyd said, 80 percent of the game. Saad, wow, he had a strong game, he’s very impressive for a rookie; really has a nose for the puck, goes hard to the net, and plays d. Toews’ first goal was a pretty deflection, and the second was classic Toews, dig it out and poke it in. Hoss was being Hoss, taking the puck away from everybody, his 2 goals were like, sure, why not? whipped cream on the sundae.
And that’s just the top line. Kaner had the cherry on top with the highlight reel spin-o-rama, putting it right in the right spot with the backhand flip over the nearside shoulder, without looking, so just before the goalie thought he was going to do it, he did it, and it was done and over with. Overall, he had a good puck-controlling game, floating through the offensive zone; you can overlook his 2 or 3 stupid turnovers when the rest of his game is as good as last night, but that’s Kane and that’s what he’s going to do, so you take the good with the bad. He’s never been more confident with the puck, he’s playing with a lot of patience, even if he still gets too cute at times, which, also, he’s doing less of this year, being too cute with his passes, and just burying that shit, instead. So, more goals and less assists, and he’s never played better or impacted as many games.
The D corps had three goals, which tells you about the one-sidedness of the game, but hopefully portends more production in the future. Like on the power play, still their biggest weakness, though improved over last year. And more goals from slap shots from the top, in general, is going to make their game better, obviously, because it increases their threat level if they can score from anywhere. Leddy’s game is improving, he’s so smooth with the puck; if he becomes the offensive-defenseman Campbell-replacement he’s looking more and more like, sooner rather than later, watch out. Roszival, I got a hard on for this guy. As Leddy’s D partner, he’s steady eddie so Leddy can work his tricks up the ice; but on top of that, he handles the puck like the seasoned veteran he is, never panics, and can really make some sweet up-ice passes. He plays like the steady veteran defenseman that surprises you at times Sopel-replacement the Hawks have lacked the last few years; and, hockey fans should know, the sixth defenseman is important, because if he’s bad, it tends to show up on the score sheet. I had a hard on for Sopel, too, if that matters.
Hjalmarsson and Oduya have been the Hawks’ best D pair so far this season, it was nice to see Oduya get a goal as a reward last night for those guys. Hjalmarsson blocked another shot as you read that last sentence. Keith and Seabrook are Keith and Seabrook, they haven’t been the Hawks best pair so far, but that isn’t because their play has dropped any, it’s because the Swedes upped theirs. And they finally don’t have to play 30 minutes a game each, and always on the crucial PK and power plays, because they can be confident with their other 2 pairs; so less minutes for them and less production is a good thing.
Crawford had a good game, which, it’s kinda hard to remember back to when the score was tied 0-0 while basking in the postgame glow of a 7-goal curbstomp, he made a few good saves early, before the ice tilted so heavily down into the Stars’ zone. He didn’t need to have a great game, I think the Stars only had 6 shots through 2 periods, but he didn’t let in any soft goals either, something he obviously worked hard to change before this season, so that all went exactly according to plan.
Finally, as this becomes more and more the replacement for the post that got eaten the other day, quick thoughts on personnel, who to dress and whatnot. So, the Hawks have a good problem, in that they sorta have too many guys that are capable of handling it, but not enough spots on the roster each night. (20 guys dress for each game, which usually breaks down as 2 goalies, 6 defensemen, and 12 forwards (four centermen and eight wingers)). So, every game, there is a guy or two or three that didn’t dress, but could have, and had he played, played capably. Plus, right now, Sharp is hurt, so when he comes back in a few weeks, there’s another roster spot taken, and another guy squeezed out. My opinion, and this is over the last couple of roster spots, since it’s mostly determined, but I’m going to write out all the names to keep it straight in my head:
top line: Toews, Hossa, Saad; Saad is playing so well, not only in the role this line needs but the total package, he’s got to stay there, and moving Hoss with Toews rather than Kaner (in years past, Kane played on top line and Hossa on second) has improved everybody’s game, and is a better fit in that Toews’ and Hoss’s games work better together (and Saad’s fits in with as well), with the puck possession, and the taking it away from the other team, and the constantly pressuring the other teams’ zone, while it gives Kane more space to pull his magic tricks, rather than trying to find Hossa and force a pass because you gotta get it to the big guy, he’s Marion Hossa, a two-for-one win-win deal. The game comes to this top line because they bring it to the game, and they don’t have to force it, meanwhile Kane’s game grows, like putting a fish in a bigger fishtank.
second: Bolland, Kane, Sharp when he comes back; Bolland does something every game to earn his status as ‘guy who when he’s on your team, you love him, and when he’s on the other team, you fucking hate that guy’, so, of course, he’s great. If he could only improve his percentage at the dot (Kruger, too, but Kruger seems to have a knack for winning defensive zone faceoffs, and faceoffs at important junctures on the PK, so that’s probably why his line is the defensive specialists line this year, and not Bolland’s like in years past, though the Rat is really good on the PK. Remember that shorthanded goal against the Canucks the year they won the Cup? Duude.). Sharp, before he got hurt, was having a wonky season. He must have hit the post ten times the first few weeks of the season, so he was playing fine, but it wasn’t showing up on the score sheet. He’s always been streaky, but his streaks in the past have been ten games in a row where he scores, not ten games in a row when he hits the post. So, he wasn’t off. But he was a bit off. You know? Fortunately, other guys have been able to step up and fill in on the scoring, before and after he got hurt. Hopefully he comes back healthy, and the time off sets him back to ten games in a row where he scores mode.
third, and this line is clicking so hard with the secret gritty ingredient Andrew Shaw, who, playing with him, Stalberg and Bickell have upped their games like they ate the manna of the gods, they are a goddamn menace in the other team’s zone, especially behind the net: Shaw, Bickell, Stalberg; Stalberg has been playing awesome, his speed makes him dangerous, and he’s contributed way more than what he shows in points. Bickell is realizing his potential, and together this third line being such an offensive threat is what has put the Hawks over the top and separated them from everybody in the rest of the pack except the Ducks. Shaw, he’s affectionately known as the Scrapper in this household, he plays hard and bigger than he is, and he’s the glue, or the grit, or the magical incantation power word Abracadabra! that created a monster.
fourth line, also playing really well in their role as defensive pains in the ass: Kruger, Frolik, and the interchanging of Mayers, Bollig, and Carcillo game-by-game, depending on who they are playing and what they need in that game; Kruger looks really good this year, he’s taken it to the next level. Frolik in years past was the guy that played good and played hard and had a bunch of shots but none of them ever seemed to go in. So this year, he’s the guy that plays good and he plays hard, and he has a bunch of shots but none of them ever seem to go in, but he’s on the defense line, so all that is just groovy, because the other team didn’t score, either.
(the only thing I’ll say here, is that I obviously like Roszival in the 6th spot, but over the course of the season, I’m cool with giving him a break here and there and getting Brookbank his reps, that’s been working out so far)
(and the only thing I’ll say _here_ is that you got to go with Crawford, even as well as Emery has played. Emery is still the backup, if it turns out that he’s going to go for the playoffs, he goes then, but until then, and the only way you find that out, is Crawford plays most games. If Crawford can play like he has been playing and like he did a couple years ago in the playoffs, or just a shade under, he’ll be just fine for the Cup run. And he looks very solid, thus far, I think he still leads the league in goals against, which is obviously doing a good job.)
So that leaves 2 open spots, barring injury of course, one of which is Sharp’s when he comes back, barring any crazy shit with that. The pool of players who can take the last spot(s), which is basically the ‘tough guy spot’, with the Hawks: Carcillo, Bollig, Hayes, and Mayers. Who is the last guy to dress, in my musings to no one on the internet? Bollig, with a caveat; but first, why not the other guys. Mayers, he’s been the utmost team player, but I’m going with a younger guy. Hayes, he’s the right call-up with Sharp out, but I don’t think he’s there yet (which makes him the right call-up, to get him more reps), if he can play tougher with his big boy frame, which is what he is doing in Rockford, in the big boy league while he’s up, I will have to reconsider. And then Carcillo, in my musings on the internet to no one, the last man cut. I like Carcillo, I do, not everyone does, and they have good reason not to. He plays like a methhead, and it’s when he crosses over the line he constantly straddles of ‘fucking just enough shit up/fucking up too much shit’, that his play becomes a liability, and is ultimately why he’s my last guy cut, and I give the ‘tough guy’ job to Bollig. Because he too straddles that line, but as he’s getting more and more play, he’s making less stupid plays that put the Hawks on the PK and more good hockey plays, contributing more than just big checks and knuckle sandwiches. Carcillo, I think, has played great at times, before he got hurt this year and last, he was mostly ‘fucking up the right amount of shit’ up on the top line, but now Saad has that spot. So, it’s him or Bollig, and I give the nod to Bollig, with the caveat, he keeps getting better and better as he has been; and like I said, it’s a good problem to have, you can never have too much depth, and thus finisheth the Blackhawks musings for the day.
edit: oh yeah, The Streak is what I forgot to talk about, hilariously enough, as that was the only thing that was being talked about before. It’s good that it’s over, it was becoming a distraction, and when it got to the point of ‘what do you think about what Lebron James said about your streak’, I think it can safely be said it became that becoming, past tense rather than future tense. It was a thing in and of itself, rather than just an indication of consistent, sustained strong play that happened to have a couple lucky bounces and a couple games where Emery pulled a rabbit out of his hat that filled in the gaps where a loss here and there would have been. And it had no real significance in and of itself, because keeping the streak together doesn’t mean shit, winning the Stanley Cup is the only thing worth a shit. So all The Streak ™ does is indicate what I just said it indicated above, and potentially give the Hawks a better position for the playoffs. A means towards the ultimate ends; a good thing to have happen along the way, on the journey to Mount Stanley.
The good thing is, the Hawks knew that/know that/have been stating on the record that/and have been playing like they believe that all along. To play ‘em one game at a time, each game is a separate event, and you play to win each one, and then add it up later. Every sports cliche, just like Crash telling Nuke to write it down on the bus, but showing exactly why they are cliches in the first place, because they work. Their collective mindset is in the right place; they’re playing like they ain’t done shit yet, because they ain’t.
Furthermore, and finally, forsooth and forthwith, that the streak happened at the beginning of a shortened season, the focus on starting strong can really pay off for the Hawks if they can finish strong, and finishing strong is what they’ve been doing within games, which is how they put The Streak ™ together in the first place. Putting yourself in good position for later by playing good now, and the Hawks jumped on it from the beginning (beating the defending Cup champions convincingly on national tv the first game of the season right after they hung up their banner was a pretty good start). They went exactly half of the season without losing in regulation, which is ridiculously good, it doesn’t matter that it’s a half-season. They’ve really put themselves in good position with The Streak ™, it was a good thing even though it’s a good thing that it’s over. The Streak ™ is dead; long live The Streak! ™