I passed out on my couch last night. I was woken up at 2:30 in the morning by a 4 pound chihuahua licking my face. I thought I smelled something funny but was still in half-sleep mode. Once I gathered my bearings I realized there was a nice pile of diarrhea at the edge of the couch and the little dog couldn’t have been prouder of it.
So if you’re wondering how Joel Quenneville feels this morning, just ask me and I can give you a pretty accurate description.
Following my Game 1 recap, I said the series was either going to be a sweep or the Hawks and Wild were going to dry-hump their way through 4 games before finally dispatching Minnesota in 6 (Though after watching the Wild play in Minnesota, it’s going to take a special effort for the Hawks to win there). So I can’t sit here and pretend I have all this faux outrage over the events of the last two games. It was, after all, what I expected.
Let’s get to it.
–And just like that almost on command, Corey Crawford provided Exhibit A and Exhibit B as to why he’ll never get the benefit of the doubt like Jonathan Quick does. The Wild’s second goal, while it was after an extended zone time and a couple failed attempts by the Hawks to get out of the zone, simply cannot happen when you’re trying to win a road playoff game.
The third goal was even worse as it seemed like the Hawks were finally ready to go on an extended surge in the series after tying the game at 2. But a 55 foot off-angle shot beat Crawford to the far side and that was pretty much that.
–What’s happening right now is two-fold. The Wild are getting phenomenal performances out of their top guys and Mike Yeo is running a hot hand at home. In Game 3, the Wild were more than happy to sit back 1-2-2 in the neutral zone for two periods. Then all of a sudden, he flipped the switch in the third and the Wild exploded for two quick goals. In Game 4, they were aggressive throughout the game. He’s able to do this because everything has been going the Wild’s way at the Xcel Center in the playoffs.
He’s not some mystical genius who’s using psychic abilities to see five moves ahead of Joel Quenneville. For the time being, he’s staying unpredictable and without much of a track record to go on, this has the Hawks and Joel Quenneville a little unsure of what to expect.
This is why the Hawks are chipping pucks deep when they should be carrying it into the zone. Or why they try to carry the puck in when they should chip and chase.
It also helps that the Wild have played a helluva series thus far because Yeo could be making in-game adjustments until his hair grows back but it wouldn’t make a difference if his team wasn’t playing this well.
–Jonathan Toews may have played the most invisible playoff game of his career. Don’t look at his Corsi number from last night if you haven’t already. I beg you. The easy argument to make in his favor is that he played with 42 different linemates (pretty sure I saw Wayne Presley lined up at his wing at one point) and couldn’t get any momentum going. But he’s Jonathan Toews and that simply should not happen even if me and McClure are lined up on his wing.
Let’s be serious though. If you don’t think a signature Toews performance is coming up at some point in the next three games, you have not been paying attention at all in the last 6 years and/or you’re an idiot.
–Could the NHL please take any roster decision out of Joel Quenneville’s hand and just sit Bollig down for the next few games? His hit on Keith Ballard was absolutely ridiculous and would have been considered a chickenshit play even in the “Golden Age of Checking.”
Ballard had his back to the play and Bollig with a clear shot at his number drove him full speed into the glass. In fact, this type of check is the exact reason why every kid playing hockey in America has a giant stop sign above their numbers on the back of their jersey.
Please, someone attending Blackhawks fest this summer, can you ask what analytics they possess that told them Brandon Bollig was a) deserving of playing more than 90 games this year and b) worthy of a three year extension that earned him a 50% raise. This is an organizational fail on all fronts, coaching staff and front office.
–The Hawks have been in this situation a few times before. Calgary in ’09. Nashville and Philadelphia in ’10. Those are just the first few that come to immediate mind for me. The Hawks felt their way through the first four games and it didn’t look all that pretty, on the ice or in the fancy stats. But they always had a response.
Hell, even when they bowed to Vancouver and Phoenix, they responded. They just lost a coin flip in one instance and responded too late in the other.
That’s why I get such primal enjoyment out of people eager to write them off. They have a proven track record and yet, it’s the same hand-wringing and belly aching every time.