I already started this post once, but “I disagree with Jonathan Toews’ usage last night” ended up being 600 words and its own post, so let’s try this again.
1. Life for Chicago after Hossa: not hopeless, but awfully bleak
After the game we found out Joel Quenneville knew there was some chance Marian Hossa may take warm-up and call it a day as he did, which makes it awfully bizarre that Ben Smith didn’t warm-up and Jamaal Mayers did, despite the former playing and the latter not. But anyway.
When Hossa’s out it tips the balance of the series to Boston with a reasonably heavy weight. Bold, I know. But he really is one of the league’s best puck possession players (and I mean actual ability to maintain possession, not Corsi), a nasty offensive threat with finishing ability and a big body that’s tough to deal with. In a series so even, with over 60 minutes of overtime played after three games, his absence looms as the potential back-breaker for Chicago. Apparently he’s going to play in Game 4, but if he’s seriously hindered, so are they.
2. Tough, clean hockey
We don’t generally talk about dirty hits in hockey until there is one, and this season there was no shortage. But it came across my inner brain-screen pretty early in the first period: for all the big, cringe-inducing hits in the last few weeks of hockey, players have really reined it in (the cleanliness of said hits, I mean). David Krejci absolutely crushed Jonathan Toews last night, and neither player so much as looked at the other after. Just “Good?” “Good.” “Good.”
Maybe there’s just been less games, or maybe Raffi Torres was eliminated. Both are reasonable options. Whatever the case, it’s been a pleasure to not have to deal with.
3. Dauggin’ it
Poor Kaspars Daugavins. Dude is a talented hockey player in a tough situation. He missed a freebie in OT in Game 1, is getting limited minutes, and is starting to stress and press. It’s like being a call-up player knowing you’re only getting a finite amount of chances. It’s HOLY S**T every time one comes along. He’s saw fourth line minutes last game, took a dumb penalty, stepped out of the box and got a semi-breakaway/odd-man-rush…and put himself offside.
I feel like most coaches aren’t particularly open to “learning experiences” in say, the Stanley Cup Final. Not sure what his usage will be going forward, but he saw four minutes the rest of the night after that display. Barring an injury, I suspect it’ll continue to stay somewhere around there.
The biggest difference that I can see between the two teams is a polar difference in net attack. You have to at least threaten to hack lanes to draw defenders out of position.
Yes, the Bruins second goal came off a Jaromir Jagr sauce pass low on a 5-on-3 to Patrice Bergeron, but that opportunity only knocks because Chris Kelly draws a penalty while trying to attack the Blackhawks cage, and Dan Paille draws a penalty…while trying to attack the Blackhawks cage. They looked almost identical, both men trying to take the rock to the house.
Later in the game, Patrick Kane got a wide open look…and stayed out wide, settled for a shot on a square goalie as a desperate defender (Bergeron) reached back and got a chop on his stick. He took no strides, and stayed out of traffic. Seems like a huge difference between the two teams (and why the Hawks PP has struggled as well, incidentally).
5. Speaking of Kane
He still gets the puck and looks like a fully wound-up toy in the neutral zone, then does exactly what Crosby did against the Bruins: skate it into three defenders and hope to make something fancy happen straight ahead, which doesn’t work. I feel like he needs to push the d-wide and try to cut in (to at least draw attention and get the puck to a dangerous area), or push the D back and delay, or cut laterally. This “try to stickhandle under a defender’s triangle” plan is garbagio.
6. Trigger unhappy
I wrote about another offensive issue of the Blackhawks on Monday, which is that they seem to have a case of Hot Goalie Hesitancy. Keith had a wiiiiide open look on Rask in the first period that he almost certainly shoots if he thinks the tender is crap, but he tries to find the perfect back-door tap-in. The Blackhawks took roughly six shots less than their playoff average last night.
7. This is/was happening
With 18 minutes left in the second period I said the words, out loud to no one, “Boston’s winning this game.” It just never really seemed in question, even at zero-zero. The Blackhawks had some good flurries in the first, and played pretty well in the third, but it was just…Boston is winning this game. They just had that jump, Chicago didn’t have Hossa, Rask was hot…it was just happening.
8. A question?
Remember when Brandon Bollig mishandled a simple wrap around the boards and the Bruins scored immediately after to win Game 2? I suspect you do. Was there ever a decent reason to have him in the lineup over a one-time 20-goal scorer and Hobey Baker finalist? I mean, regardless of the qualifications I use to phrase it (I took them directly from a friend’s Facebook page, for an insight into my research process), there never seemed to be a great reason to have pro-puncher Bollig in the lineup over Viktor Stalberg, who looked like he has more pop in his legs than a lot of the Hawks forwards last night.
9. (The right) Reputation call
There was a play in the third period with the B’s up 2-0 where Patrice Bergeron and Patrick Kane were battling for a puck, it popped up, and they both batted at it. It cleared the glass off one of their sticks, and Stripes was ready to call a penalty. But doing his due dilligence, he called a quick conference of the officials to determine whether it was the right call or not.
In fact, 37 was as good as in the penalty box at one point, and it really looked like it was being called. But Bergeron protested aggressively, which was completely out of character for him. He didn’t knock the puck out of play, Kane did.
I really feel like they took the protesting from someone who normally wouldn’t into account in their decision. I wonder how often that happens – “Who cares what he says, he complains about everything” vs. “Oh wow, Bergeron is upset and he never makes a huge fuss like this, he might not have been guilty.”
10. Cory Crawford is legit
I mean, I think we all knew he was legit by now, but the save he made on Tyler Seguin before Dan Paille scored was a thing of beauty. He gave the Hawks every chance to hang with the Bruins in Boston last night, and they blew it. Whichever specific player you want to get things turned around for Chicago in Game 4 if you’re a Hawks fan, you better leave your tender off that list.