Xs and Os

Legs Feed The Wolf

With some things starting to stagnate in the last couple weeks in spite of the ongoing points streak, it’s time once again to turn a critical eye to some on-ice issues.

What We’ve Seen

    • Corey Crawford Is Staying Home – It’s something we’ve harped on for the past season and a quarter now, but it appears that Crow has finally gotten back to what made him able to usurp the starting job from Marty Turco in late 2010.
      As a textbook butterfly goalie Crawford’s m.o. is to remain square to the puck at at all times, with his knees slightly bent inward, and drop to his knees and take away the bottom of the net at any opportunity. Crawford’s size (6’2″, 210 lbs) and lack of lateral mobility are two sides of the same coin, and the butterfly style maximizes his ability and mitigates his post-to-post quickness- when he stays a deeper in his net. That depth allows him to see the shot for however many milliseconds longer, which contributes to the anticipation time needed to control a rebound properly, and if a rebound is allowed, there’s less room on the doorstep because Crawford already has it covered due to being deep. The results have shone through in the last two games, with Crawford’s first shutout since Sharp’s daughter has been alive, followed by another solid outing against the Ducks.

 

  • Hell Is Coming To BreakfastWe’ve been hammering on this for a while as well, but we’re going to keep reiterating it. Dave Bolland getting absolutely dick punched at the dot (41.9%) coupled with the natural games of Patricks Sharp and Kane, which is to possess the puck rather than chase it down and retrieve it, is going to bite the Hawks in the ass sooner rather than later. The Corsi and BtN numbers are already an eyesore, and that’s with Kane terrorizing the league scoring leaderboard.
    Bolland has always needed that type of guy on a line for him to be successful long-term (Ladd, Bickell, etc), and Patrick Kane can only out-shoot that deficiency for so long. While no one is willing to break up the Saad-Toews-Hossa axis of power just for the sake of doing something, the fact remains that there is a severe lack of a puck winner on the second line, and there are arguably three of them on the first. I highly doubt it will stunt Saad’s impressive north south game to move to a line with Kane on it (with Sharp moving up with 19 and 81). Having a pure passer like Kane to skate with might finally result in the dam finally breaking for Saad on the scoresheet as well.

What To Watch For

  • The Power Play Is Fucking Clown Shoes -After a solid start to the year, that big top music on the calliope is starting to get louder and louder, with the Hawks managing a solitary power play goal against the abysmal Ducks PK on Tuesday, including playing pretty much the entire overtime frame 4-on-3, when scoring is supposed to be easier. 

    The primary problem is a complete lack of movement from either unit, especially from the men manning the points, whomever they may be. Hawk blueliners are either unwilling or uncoached to walk the puck along the blue line. This isn’t just done by other PP units around the league for movement alone’s sake. It opens up options.
    With the play most frequently coming from the right half wall from Kane or Hossa, when the pass is made (the green arrow) to the right defenseman (likely Seabrook or Leddy), the tendency has been to stand idly and either fire a shot through an oncoming defender, or send the puck right back to the half wall.

    What can open up options is if that point man moves along the blue line (the red arrow), which forces the penalty killing forward to make a decision in what he’s going to defend. If he stays at home, that gives Leddy or Seabrook the option of firing a low, hard shot from the center of the ice at the blue line with bodies crashing the net- one of the objectives of any successful power play. They can also slide the puck over to their defensive partner, who may or may not be drifting lower into the zone if that partner’s name is Patrick Sharp.

    If the defender follows the tightrope-walking point man, then the pass can be sent back to the half wall, where Kane or Hossa can walk unmolested to the middle of the rings on their forehand, in a prime position to put the puck on net.

    Of course, all of this assumes that the zone is entered cleanly or an offensive zone faceoff is actually won, but it’s certainly worth a try, as the penalty kill has to come back to earth at some point.

  • raditzzzz

    nice X’s & O’s. good break down on crow, would also throw in that he has been doing well managing when he needs to challenge. he has also been displaying excellent athleticism, although with emery as the other goalie for comparison, it makes him seem that the freakin flash.

    • Country_Bumpkin

      Crow is playing much better this year than last at this point, but I still think he needs to be less aggressive during the “fart lighting contest” and stay in his crease more.

      • zacked

        Jeez, the way people here talk about Crawford you’d think they want him positioned like this:

        • wardrums

          touche! throw a couple of d-men in there also.

  • laaarmer

    This PP scenario is when they a running an overload. It works in theory. Teams that pressure and do it well will always give PP’s trouble. Last year they ran an umbrella with Saebs at times. I think it’s best to alternate the two, even during the ice time. You can’t defend an umbrella with a box (should be a diamond) and you will get creamed in the diamond with the overload. If a team does not adjust when you switch, it’s like Rocky switching from RH to LH. If nothing else switching the attack will get players to move.

    • birdhead

      “Teams that pressure and do it well will always give PP’s trouble.”

      Didn’t the Ducks have like a 60% PK coming into that game?

      • laaarmer

        My favorite answer of all time.

        Sample size

    • cliffkoroll

      Spider Rico’s a bum!

  • justforkicks

    yes please and thank you, i think swapping saad and sharp or kane and hossa would do wonders for the 2nd line and still keep the 1st line as solid as it has been. yes we are winning – but that doesn’t mean it isn’t broken, it just means that the tape is currently holding together.

  • FakeASeizure

    I’d love to see more nitty gritty play breakdowns like this. Very informative.

  • Jim A

    Hawk blueliners are either unwilling or uncoached to walk the puck along the blue line.

    Unwilling? It’s hard to believe all of the point men decided to ignore what the coaches tell them. I remember Seabrook and Keith walking the puck on the blue line and switching sides back when the Hawks played Calgary in the playoffs (2008-09) They know how to do it. Why aren’t the coaches suggesting it?

  • Sparky_The_Barbarian

    I know what they’re trying to do… // Edzo

    The lack of movement on the PP is a side effect of trying to get a one timer from the point through a screen in front of the net. They tried it time and time again on Tuesday, and it worked for Leddy, but it was the only time I saw a clean one timer. Otherwise, the point man had to settle the puck down, allowing the G time to slide over, or he shanked the shot. I lost count of how many times this happened in OT alone. Good idea(?), bad execution(!). It’s actually starting to make me miss the back door play. What I’d really like to see is someone consistently take the puck behind the net, especially if that someone is Johnny Toews.

    I’m not defending the Hawks for doing this, it’s just an observation from a Monday morning arm chair quarterback who doesn’t know jack.

    I have to wonder if this is how they’re being coached, and if the early success came from the guys who were winging out of an autumn in Europe and a short camp before Q and Co could fit them for their size 26 FFF’s.

    Great article, I’d like to see more, and see it balanced with good news when the boys in the suits do something right.

  • Paul the Fossil

    About Bolland’s faceoff pct…has anybody seen some analysis of how team faceoff success rates correlate with team outcomes? Either general success (winning pct) or more-specific stuff like goals per game or G/GA or shots per game etc.? Haven’t seen anything like that myself and am curious about how large a variable faceoff success actually is in NHL teams’ success/failure.

    • Accipiter
    • Bullitt315

      It was a comment battle here the other day. Advanced stats say it’s pretty minimal over a season Laaaaaaaaaaaarmer disagrees. I like Laaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarmers disagreements because they are funny.

      • rhodes

        He’s funny, how? Funny like a clown? Like he’s here to amuse you?!

  • http://twitter.com/neo873 Neo

    Somewhere along the line the Hawks are going to have to admit what they have in Sharp, and then play him that way. And that is NOT as a center. He was -12 two seasons ago when he played center.

    Sharp is the third wheel on a power line. Two seasons ago when he played on a line with two of the Toews, Kane or Hossa trio he was +12. Last season he was +23 when playing with two of those three. That is +35 when playing on a monster line.

    Over the last two seasons when not on a power line, Sharp was -12 playing with Kane and -2 playing with Toews. Sharp was +2 with Hossa while not with the other two, though. If that thrills anyone.

    I know people want to have two “core” guys on each of the top two lines but it just hasn’t worked out very well that way. At least not for Sharp.

    • Accipiter

      What was Sharps +/- when Toews missed the last 20 some odd games ?
      (playing with the 2 Swedes)

      • Z-man19

        He was +7 in March (tied for his high in a month for the year) and +3 in April

        • 10thMountainFire

          That’s a +10. I went to public school but low double-figures is still in my wheelhouse.

          Oh, wait…. eh, public school.

      • http://twitter.com/neo873 Neo

        Last 23 games Sharp was +8 (12/4) with the Swedes. And he was even (6/6) during that time when not.

  • 10thMountainFire

    Crow’s positioning is the most obvious improvement in his game. Although I still get yippy when he leaves the crease to take possession of the puck, he’s confined himself to squaring up to shooters.

    I had a pretty good look at Crow for two periods down at ice level against Detroit a few weeks back; the most obvious thing to me about his game was that he was squared up so well that several times he didn’t see the puck at all and his body was so perfectly positioned that he was able to deflect a shot and offer no rebound. His instincts are that good… it was his positioning and technique that suffered a bit last season. He’s back to where he should be now.

    • 334Rules

      Crow’s squaring up is a direct result of what he said was his mission coming into the season: keeping his eyes on the puck at all times – regardless of where it is on the ice.

  • 334Rules

    I remain firmly committed to the concept of swapping Kane and Hossa. Hoss is a damn beast at puck retrieval, can pass almost as well as Kane and Sharp will get more clean looks. Kane, moving up, will benefit both from his natural chemistry with Capt Serious and from the net presence of Saad. Any other movement among the current top 6 winds up with as much subtraction as addition.