Sorry for the delayed wrap. My insomnia got the best of me again and I was going to write this last night before my forehead nearly landed on the laptop.
I don’t think there’s much to draw from this one other than how the two goalies are playing. It was a pretty even 1st period, with the Preds certainly having the upper hand in the first 10 minutes and the Hawks the last 10. The Hawks benefitted from a good bounce to get their goal, but you see how the Preds can get caught trying to play at their skin-peeling pace. 1-0 is certainly no huge advantage.
And then Rinne gives up that goal to Panik, and he might have been screened by Barret Jenkem and his terrible gap but it was not a goal that should have gone in. Sure, the Preds quickly got back within one but the way Crawford is playing you’re just not going to make up two goals on him right now. The Preds didn’t, and once Panarin found Kane for a breakaway this one was basically over. And Rinne wasn’t bad for sure, but he’s giving up the goal he can’t right now. Crow isn’t.
Let’s to it:
The Two Obs
-It was a truly dominant effort from the Hawks’ third line, as Teuvo, Danault, and Desjardins were all above +10 in possession even though they only registered a point on Desi’s empty-netter. This is how the Hawks are now, with the top line getting going and Danault and Teuvo settling the third. There’s just going to be one of the lines that teams can’t keep under wraps for 60 minutes. Laviolette didn’t chase any particular matchup all night either, but they kicked around whoever they saw last night.
I’ve been trying to think of a comparison for Danault, and even though he only has one goal saying he’s just another Kruger seems a little flat. The player I keep coming back to is Cody Eakin. Eakin has put up 15+ goals in a season twice, though some of that is a result of having to be a de facto #2 center at times in Dallas. But they both chase the puck in the same way and I their offensive skills seem to be similar too. There’s more dash to Danault’s game than Kruger’s, who gets most of his points through determination rather than skill. It’ll take Danault a while to figure out how to score in the NHL consistently, but I see it.
-The broadcast likes to make a big deal out of how often the Hawks have scored first in a game this year, and obviously the nearly perfect record when leading after two periods which is only marred by the OT loss in L.A. Both are impressive, but I’m not sure the former is a product of anything more than how well Crow is playing. Every team wants to score first, this isn’t some special plan. But it’s hard to score on Crow at all at the moment, and it feels like a decent share of 1st periods the Hawks have taken a bit to find their game and he’s let them take their time. The latter mark is of course a team-reward, but this was another game where the Hawks took a shelling in the 3rd period and just let Crawford almost arrogantly swat the Preds away. It spreads to last year too, but this one is slightly more Crow-dependent.
-I would say it’s hard to believe that Erik Gustafsson can be this good so far, but then again it isn’t really hard to believe the Oilers didn’t recognize a good d-man in their system. In fact, that probably should have been the first clue. This was certainly more of his type of game. We’re still not even 20 games into his NHL career and there’s obviously going to be a rough patch for him around here somewhere, and I’ll be curious to see how long it lasts and how he comes out of it. But confidence does not appear to be a problem for him.
-I keep waiting for the floor to drop out under Panarin, and there may be a wall for him fatigue-wise in February just because of the demands of the schedule. But that pass to Kane for the breakaway. He didn’t even really look, just knew and it was on the tape. Too good.
There was something methodical about this one. When the Hawks are oozing confidence like this, it’s not how they blow teams out. It’s how they win games by a comfortable margin without appearing to ever work that hard. They didn’t let the Preds turn this one into the Monaco Grand Prix, were careful with the puck got behind the Preds defense. Yeah, the shot-suppression could be better, but when you’re goalie is playing like this, it’s easy to understand why they might not care.