Oh There You Are: Preds 3 – Hawks 4 (Hawks win series 4-2)

Box Score

Event Summary

War On Ice

Natural Stat Trick

The talking point of the Hawks “turning it on” had become just about as tedious as “Good Rex Bad Rex, “Good Jay, Bad Jay,” “Why no one goes to Comiskey Park, ” and “The Wrigley Bleachers.” It had gotten silly, and I fell into it, because the Hawks aren’t selectively playing well or not based solely on their whims. They’re inconsistent because that’s the team that they are.

And then of course they went ahead and turned it on.

Since about March 1st, and certainly since “Local Boy vs. Rich Goofy Drunk: Judgement Day” started this series, our main question has never been which goalie but when would the Hawks stop asking their goalie to be their best player night after night, and whether they could even manage that. It took five games and 10 minutes, but finally the Hawks showed off the defensive tightness that we hadn’t seen since those wins over the Kings and Canucks is succession, and haven’t seen consistently since probably The Circus Trip.

Once Crawford came in, he faced 13 shots. 13 in 48 minutes of play. Darling saw 12 in 11 minutes. Think about that change for a second. For those 48 minutes, the Hawks throttled the Preds. Their third goal was on their 13th attempt at even-strength. They managed just 22 more the rest of the way.

The Hawks finally stood up consistently at their blue line (at least after Keith got horse-donged by Matt Cullen). They made the Preds dump pucks in. They tried just enough stretch passes and high-flips to get the Preds defense to back up just enough to pick their way through their own zone (though still a touch too much for my liking, but I won’t argue with results). They retrieved their own dump-ins far better to keep the Preds back and keep them from attacking with four and five guys. Their backchecking actually kept up with a Nashville team that is not exactly easy to keep up with.

They had to wait and wait for it to pay off, but it did. Whether they can reproduce that kind of defensive effort 12-15 more times (as they might lose a couple when they do) I have no idea. But it is refreshing to see that it’s still there.



The Two Obs

-What’s even more satisfying about the defensive effort is that it came after such a shoddy defensive beginning. Both Hammer and Oduya were nothing more than crossing guards for James Neal on the 1st. Keith the same for Cullen on the third, and that came after lazy and sloppy play at the blue line. There were other turnovers in the d-zone from what looked to be a pretty nervy Hawks team. Didn’t see them the rest of the game.

-It’s a good thing the Hawks did tighten up so quickly, because Crawford looked anything but comfortable to start. He was beaten clean by a relatively tame Neal wrister that hit the post, but from there did what he had to.

It’s unfair to judge him too harshly. Since getting pulled, Crow would have only had really optional skates to work on his game and those have been barely attended. I don’t think the Hawks have had a proper practice since he exited in Game 2. However long this break is, it’ll be necessary to get one or two good practices in for him so he can find his rhythm again. This game will help the confidence, but now the muscles need to get stretched again.

And maybe we can stop with this debate for five minutes.

-Speaking of goalies, Pekka Rinne went back to trying to be Joakim Noah in net, just in time. He was overcommitted on Keith’s shot wide that left Sharp the whole net to shoot at on the other side. His angle and tracking for Keith’s winner bordered on hilarious. Keith literally had half the net to shoot at as Rinne lost where the puck was or his angles were just that off. That’s one Vezina finalist down, is another one coming next?

-Oh, so you can open a shooting lane for yourself, Duncs? Good to know.

-I see a lot of vitriol for Brad Richards during this series. I don’t know where that’s come from. He’s been good the past three games for sure, and the past two better than that.

-We kept believing Playoff Stupid James Neal would show up. There he was with an asinine cross check at least 150 feet from the puck to get the Hawks back to 3-2 and keep the building alive. We knew you wouldn’t let us down, Real Deal.

-Oduya and Keith are significantly above water in possession. Hawks win. These two things are not a coincidence.

Now we sit and wait. Better than just sitting, of course.

  • Aaeismacgychel

    That game honestly went just about the best I could have imagined- Chicago went down early and played bad enough to get Darling pulled and get Crawford back in net. Then the Hawks pick up their collective defense and offense allowing what must have been an ice cold Crawford to settle in, war himself up and get his bearings, tie up the game, have Crow get a few good saves to up his confidence, then after seemingly a half-period of pressure and what must have been about a 2 minute shift in the Preds’ zone, scoring the eventual game winner and then not giving the Preds much of a chance with the extra man. Now they have it all set up for career playoff Blues and Wild killer in Crawford to come in and do what he has done best the past 2 postseasons. In fact it would’ve been hard to script a better Game 6 for the Hawks in terms of putting them in good position for the rest of the playoffs.

    • jordyhawk

      Yeah, I don’t think anyone seriously thought we would ride Darling all spring. It was just a question of when CC got back in and how he would do. Now (hopefully) he’s back in the saddle.

  • Aaeismacgychel

    Also it looks like Richards is healthy again, and I agree with you that he showed positive signs of getting his game back in Game 3, then had really solid games in 4 and 5, and last night was just phenomenal. He has been an absolute steal for us all season and if he can keep up the play he’s had the past few games, he really gives us 2 potent scoring lines. He’s been great for us, especially at his salary, and no idea why he’s gotten the flak he’s gotten from fans this season. It’s beyond crazy by my mind, the eye test, and even by the metrics. He’s been great.

    • TheRealBBOX

      Like a lot of things, the Richards animosity is driven by people clinging to a predetermined narrative rather than assessing actual results. Richards was pretty mediocre last year and wound up on the fourth line in the SCF for the Rags, then had a just OK year here, so a lot of folks are falling back on to the “he’s done/can’t play any more” trope even though I think that’s been demonstrably false this series. He’s clearly never going to be the player he was at his prime, but he doesn’t have to be, and if he can just keep up the level of play he’s shown over the last few games, he’s going to be a real asset for the Hawks.

      • Aaeismacgychel

        Agreed, though I truly believe he did more than simply okay this season. Granted compared to his Conn Smythe days it was just okay, but for his age and what was expected of him coming in, I thought he really has played almost all year like the 2nd line center we asked for. And if he’s back in form for this playoff run, it really bodes well for us

        • TheRealBBOX

          Yeah calling it “just OK” is probably underselling it but I didn’t want to spend too much time trying to describe my exact feelings on his play over the season.

  • Say what again

    For the life of me Sam, I don’t see the goalie “controversy” you write about. I guess you read more hockey stuff and talk to more fans than I (especially as I live in SW Florida.) I just look at it as managing your goaltenders and trying to get a win per night. Crow is the better choice, usually. But you can’t be afraid to

    pull the trap door wire if things go bad. Darling is a nice option to have. Now, once we get to off season cap talk……we might have some controversy.

    • Jane Doe


    • SamFels

      That’s what I see, but believe me when I tell you I was bombarded with “Never Want To See Crawford Again” sentiment.

  • jordyhawk

    A couple of comments about the winner. That was some shift. I think in a sense the Preds just capitulated on it. I agree with Same, there was no reason for Rinne to be so deep in the net with the short side wide open. He cracked.

    The other thing I’ll mention on the winner is I was holding my breath that Saad didn’t break that guys stick when he chopped down on it to keep the play alive after one of the scrambles in front.

    On Saad, I thought he had a good series even thought he flew a bit under the radar. To me he seems more and more willing to step up at the key times. I really like what he’s showing.

    • Aaeismacgychel

      I thought on that play that Rinne just like everyone else for the Preds on the ice were beyond exhausted. That was a 2 minute shift of pure constant and unrelenting pressure. When you get tired you start losing focus and start making mistakes. Jones was too exhausted trying to keep with Keith and Rinne was extremely weary from the constant movement as well, lost focus, lost the puck that wasn’t shot, and lost his positioning. That was just an epic shift for Chicago. A shift that was much like a drive in football where you hand the ball off every single snap and bruise them for 5-10yds each play down the entire length of the field for the game winning drive. It was great. And yeah, I too was hoping they wouldn’t blow the whistle on the slash or cross-check during that cycle

    • TheRealBBOX

      I’ve loved Saad since he made it with the big club, he’s my favorite post-2010 addition by far, and I try not to let my personal feelings about him impact my judgment too much, but I think he might be making The Leap from “pretty good top-six forward” to “unholy terror who will ruin your day.” I know he didn’t fill up the stat sheet a ton but I thought his play this series was tremendous.

  • Sparky_The_Bard-barian

    Hawks could have scored three times on that shift before Keith potted the GWG with great patience, superb sniping, and a textbook perfect screen from Marion (I do everything well) Hossa.

    • SuperHawk27

      except score goals….

  • Sparky_The_Bard-barian

    13 SOG in 48 minutes. NBC and the beat writers never mentioned that. That’s why I come here.

  • Tom Pinch

    I doubt that fans have seen the last of Scott Darling this (post) season. That being said, should Corey gain his confidence and play with significant team defensive commitment, the results may ge superior.

    James Neal exited Pittsburgh for similar idiocy. Thanks a ton, son.
    Ribiero- always good, never great.

    Bring on the Mild.

    • ‘hawks58

      I would be surprised, and I think it would mean bad things if we see Darling again. I think that was just a combination of circumstances (Crow not paying well against Nashville [ever] and a terrible start, Darling killing it and Crow them being bad in game 2, Hawks playing well the next 2 games). Darling is a huge asset of the bench, but he is solely a backup here on out

  • Brandon Murray

    I was there. Top Row. Ok, I was in Standing Room Only, but I was there. Great atmosphere, great series, great GWG. Favorite part of the game? Face-off straight to Showtime straight to the back of the net to end the 1st and tie it up. 88 is a special person. 2nd favorite part, “Corey! Corey! Corey!”.

    On to round 2 and home ice advantage because the Blues did Blues things today. BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Let’s Go Hawks!

  • meme gene okerlund

    Sam can you write an article about James Neal’s massive white teeth?