I suppose if I were on the other side of this (meaning I was about 50 pounds heavier and hell of a lot uglier and I’m not pretty now), I would say that the Hawks have scored one goal against the Blues in about 130 minutes of play the past two games against them. I would say that it doesn’t matter that the Blues are doing exactly what they shouldn’t against the Hawks, i.e. backing up and trapping and grinding, because even with Keith returning for Game 2 he’s still the only trap-buster the Hawks have. I suppose I would say that the Blues probably can play better and they still have a 1-0 lead.
But I’m not on that side, so all I can help but say is, “Haven’t we seen this before?”
Before this series, and last week when the Blues were here, I wondered on blog and program whether the Blues could do the things that drove the Hawks nuts this season, specifically what the Wild and Stars did to them that saw the Hawks lose 9 of those 10 games. The answer last night, at least for one game, is that the Blues weren’t going to bother. They barely attacked the Hawks’ defense in the corners, down low, or really anywhere. As soon as a possession even looked remotely lost, they retreated to the neutral zone. Their offensive plan consisted of dumping the puck in and if that one forechecker wasn’t obviously going to win the puck or the Hawks simply didn’t hand the puck back under no duress, retreat. This is why they mustered all of 18 shots. The Hawks’ defense is certainly limited but it can at least get into shooting lanes when given all the time in the world to do so. They had 16 shots blocked at evens, and I would have sworn it was twice that. Their best chances came from blocked shots that just landed in the slot. Everyone was doing a Duncan Keith shot from the point impression. Their one goal came off yet another bounce. This is essentially what they’re counting on all series.
The Blues can, possibly, win a series like this, I guess. The margins for them are so small though. If you simply invite the Hawks into the neutral zone with no pressure, they’re eventually going to figure it out. Especially with the limited mobility of the Blues defense, you’re basically accentuating the strength of this Hawks team which is its forward depth. The Blues weren’t even all that physical, and given their coach’s postgame quotes this is his main complaint. Not the 18 shots. Not the 36 his team gave up.
We’ve seen this move before. The Blues fall in love with their defense (which according to shot-suppression metrics this season isn’t THAT good), kneecap their offense, their goalies falter once or twice, they get blamed when they lose and they totally ignore that they scored 10 goals in six games. We’ve seen this move with them the past four years. They don’t appear to have learned anything. And in some ways, winning Game 1 this way is actually going to cause them to learn all the wrong lessons.
In the end, this is the game the Blues had to have. If they’d lost at home with Keith still in hockey jail, this series would have basically been over. Fairly sure the Hawks know that.
Let’s do it up:
The Two Obs
-Toews, Panarin, and Kane combined for 16 shots. Try that again and see what happens.
-In fact, would not be shocked if that’s rolled out as a line in Game 2. Jabe O’Meester and Alex OrangeJello were mauled by the Anisimov line in possession last night. Throw Toews in there and I’m fairly sure the fireworks would be right behind. Anisimov, Ladd, and Hossa would make for a fairly decent second checking option behind Kruger’s line.
-That said, Q doesn’t come out of this smelling like roses either. I’m not sure how you’d miss the lesson from last spring where the third line was a true weapon (you may remember it from such episodes as Teuvo taking over the 3rd period of Games 1 and 5 against Tampa), but he did. Saddling Teuvo and Flash with Man Shitter was a fuck up of near epic proportions. The one thing the Hawks equal the Blues with is forward depth and the one thing they have over the the Blues on paper is speed amongst their forwards. Q handicapped both by dressing that dolt.
-Real creative power play the Blues have there. Do they know you can bring the puck below the circles?
-The Hawks would have been in more trouble if Tarasenko didn’t all of the sudden think he was Jason Kidd.
-And that said, it took Hitch all of a period and a half to put Schwartz with him, and this is probably the only big move he has in the bag.
-TVR was actually pretty solid all game, but got scorched at the line right before the winner (which he was unlucky for). Though Crawford could have bailed him out by freezing the puck instead of just poking it back out into the middle.
-Svedberg, on the other hand, sucks to high heaven and I basically never want to watch him play hockey again. I certainly have my scratch picked out for Keith’s return.
-Rozsival also had a pretty solid game.
You’ve seen the Blues plan now. I highly doubt they have a Plan B. They never have before. This is where the Hawks adjust, either in Game 2 or at home. Then when the Blues don’t have an answer, it’s basically series over. Like I said, we’ve seen this movie.