So much to say when so confused and so shocked.
I don’t think anyone, whatever side you’re on, though we’d find ourselves here. While the temptation is to start pointing fingers and do the postmortem, we’re not there yet. Because after two very close games, the Hawks have come up on the wrong end for small reasons. Let’s try and parse out how they got here, who’s responsible, and why they’ll come back in this series (and they will).
Most arrows in the quiver are being aimed at Q. Most of them are justified, some aren’t. The rest are being aimed at Toews. Mostly fair too. But for the first time tonight in the 3rd with a 2-on-1, Toews deferred when he shouldn’t have. That’s discouraging. But it’s not the end of the tale.
-The Hawks had the game they wanted in the 1st period. The Wings defense was nothing short of awful, coughing up the puck like a radioactive hairball. The Hawks didn’t make them pay for it, which they should have. But they still controlled play. This is what we thought would happen for most of the series, and it will still happen if the Hawks are as determined to pressure them. Believe me, this blue line of Scum’s is not going to be flawless from here on out.
-To the 2nd and after Leddy hits a post (of course). This where all the debate starts. At this point, the Hawks have completely dry heaved on two power plays, and this is on the coaches. Taking your best PP QB off it entirely (Leddy) to give time to Rozsival just defies belief. And the entries were the problem. It doesn’t matter about your traffic in front or lack thereof if you can’t get set up. The entry is so predictable. A ring around the boards, where generally the Hawks get to first and then try and ring it around the other way. Of course, the Wings are waiting for that. The Hawks need more chipping into the corner on the same side they’re carrying it on or carry it in, which Leddy is the only one capable of. But he didn’t get out there until that fateful third power play.
-Toews’s three straight penalties also killed the flow the Hawks had. I don’t know what I can say here, and I don’t really know what his complaints are. They all seemed legit calls to me.
-Of course, Toews is a massive debate for those wanting to blame him and/or Q. You can go either way. Q doesn’t seem too fixated on getting him away from Zetterberg, though you’ll recall the hoops he jumped through in ’10 to get the matchups he wanted, even on the road. But back then he could A) trust Dave Bolland and B) had Sharp and Madden as backup. He doesn’t now. Say he gets Toews away from Z. Who’s taking Z on then? Who do you trust? At this point he has to find out, but you don’t feel comfortable.
-Yeah, nice save from Howard on Bolland in the 3rd, but Bolland has to get that puck up.
-We get to the 3rd, and the Wings fixate on that stretch pass that had given them issues in the 1st. And yet the Hawks keep trying it. The Wings were basically trapping. It’s got to be simpler than that. And the Hawks never adjusted. That’s on Q. It has to be.
Ok, so what next? Well, this will never happen but it’s time to listen to common sense. Sharp to center, Frolik up to on the other side of Bolland and either Bickell or Stalberg, with the other flanking Sharp and Kane/Hossa (doesn’t matter). Bring Ben Smith in.
But that’s the lower discussion. It’s dark. It’s confusing. It’s infuriating. But to suggest the Hawks are out of this is folly. They’re still the better team at even strength, and have been by some margin the past two games. They haven’t made Howard work hard enough to hold them out, but that won’t last. Maybe it’s too tall of a mountain. But I don’t think so.
At home, Toews can be gotten away from Z. The posts won’t come to the rescue again. The Wings D will keep making those turnovers. They will eventually pay.
It goes to a Game 6. I’ll go so far as to promise you that. Find a way to take that, you have a Game 7 on your turf. It’s what you played for.
It’s hard to see. But it’s there. And I firmly believe it will happen. Come with me, you have nothing else to lose.