It’s clear that Joel Quenneville recognizes what his team’s problems are. Defensive depth, trouble scoring at even-strength, some mismatched lines. He attempted to address them tonight, rightly or wrongly. It didn’t quite work and the Hawks dropped their 4th straight game. If it wasn’t for Panarin’s buzzer-beater in St. Louis, they wouldn’t even have a point in that stretch.
This one started a lot like the Kings’ game, but for a longer stretch where the Hawks had the upper hand. They actually took the lead this time when Ghost Bear broke his stick and fell over, giving Hossa a runway that he didn’t turn down. Once again, they hit a post or two or Neuvirth made a couple big saves that kept them from extending the lead. The bugaboo of a PK reared it’s ugly head again at the end of the 1st.
After that though, it wasn’t good. The Flyers found their legs, or were at least able to complete two consecutive passes on occasion, which they struggled to do in the opening stanza. While Toews was able to pot after a scramble, the Flyers deserved to be tied and they were when Kane didn’t cover for Hammer, who turned the puck over which let Giroux behind him. To his credit, Kane hustled back enough to cover Simmonds when Keith corralled Giroux, but there are few players with the patience and vision to wait for Schenn. Sadly for the Hawks, Giroux is one of them.
And from there the Flyers just choked this one out. OT would have been fine with them. Until they fell behind, the Hawks had one shot. They couldn’t find any way through the trap the Flyers set up in the neutral zone, and they lost a lot of races and board battles. It was one of those that led to the winner, Raffl able to get a puck past Rozsival on the wall and over to Couturier who got it out to the point for Gudas to bounce one off Ehrhoff (who probably won’t be seen again). Neuvirth had to make a save or two to preserve the win in the final frantic minutes, but you wouldn’t say he had to perform miracles that have to be chronicled on a scroll.
Q’s grand experiment tonight was to use Rozie and TVR as a second pairing and spot Porkins and Ehrhoff where he could. While the numbers say it kind of worked, watching the game it most certainly did not. Rozie is not in any way cut out to skate over 20 minutes against the likes of Coots and Raffl (who’s sneaky good) and the longer the game went on the worse it got. What TVR does is a mystery. He’s got no feet, no ass, and no brain. Other than that he’s fine. A telling moment was late in the 3rd and Ryan White (Old Man White’s boy in case you’re asking, “Who?”) was able to outwork both of them behind the Hawks’ goal line to waste time with the Flyers ahead.
This is not a long term solution. Q is never going to like Ehrhoff’s defensive game, but he’s going to have to get over it or get over Gustafsson’s lack of experience. You cannot roll any of Rozie, TVR, or Seabrook out there consistently without a partner that can skate. Try that shit against Dallas, or St. Louis, or the Kings, or Ducks or even Preds and it will not have an alibi.
Let’s clean the rest up:
The Two Obs
-On the other end of the spectrum, any time Q rolls out Daydream Nation ahead of Keith and Hammer, good things are going to happen. But that might be the only time, which is not something Hawks fans are used to.
-Panarin made some things happen as he always does, but he also had two egregious turnovers in his own zone again and that keeps happening. That’s the kind of shit that can turn a playoff game or series and Q had better learn the Russian phrase for “sit your ass down” the next time he does it.
-Yes, Hossa had a goal and another breakaway, which is good to see. But do you ever remember him getting walloped into the bench? By a thug like Gudas? Also in the last two minutes he handily lost a battle for the puck in the corner to Andy MacDonald. The fall is precipitous.
-I thought Ehrhoff had a great 1st period and was driving the Hawks up the ice and creating through the neutral zone. The Hawks need that so badly from someone else other than Keith that they need to live with whatever he doesn’t do in his own end.
-The 4th line got housed tonight, to the tune of a combined -31 Corsi. The third line wasn’t much better. Anytime anyone notices Andrew Ladd at even strength, feel free to drop a line.
-I’ve learned over the years that faceoffs don’t make as big of a difference as people think. But when you get skulled as badly as the Hawks did tonight that does.
So the next few days will see the PANIC/DON’T PANIC fight on the interwebs. I don’t know why there’d be any fuss. The problems aren’t new. It’s just the special teams and Crow aren’t bailing them out anymore. The solutions only “might” be on the team, and I fully expect Q to try a few more before the season is over. Should be an interesting watch.