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 Breakfast – We’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.