I’ve never had Tactical Nuclear Penguin. I’m sure it’s not as fun to drink as it is to say. But then, how could it be? I’ll let the beer geeks nerd out in the comments about it.
Anyway, while I and a large swath of Hawks fans think the Hawks really only have to repeat Game 3′s performance (fort the most part) to win Game 4, Q is going to have to make a couple adjustments here and there to make things a bit smoother. Of course, he’s not going to do anything I’m about to suggest because they are far too logical because I’m just that smart and so smart that no prison could handle me and I’m so handsome that I once looked at a taxi cab and it turned to mash potatoes. And I ate it.
But back at the ranch….
-First, at practice today the only lineup change that anyone can spot is that Saad is skating with Kane and Bolland, and Sharp is with Toews and Hossa. This is actually inching toward what I have asked for all year and am about to again. Q has his winger combinations right. But he doesn’t have them around the right centers.
You can probably say it with me now, but what I think works best is 20-19-88 and 10-36-81. This puts Sharp in a position to take the draws for the second line. Combined with Toews and Handzus on the 4th line, that give the Hawks three guys who at least have a chance to win a draw.
While it was highlighted in this series, obviously faceoffs have been a problem for the Hawks all season. It was masked by Toews winning 60% to make up the difference for everyone else. The only reason everyone is noticing now is that Toews isn’t doing that, and suddenly everyone has discovered all the other Hawks centers (aside from Zus, sometimes) suck at it.
But Sharp doesn’t, and in limited doses has been pretty good at it this year. He also was over 50% at it in 2010 when he took them regularly because he was, y’know, a center. It’s the only card in the deck Q has to play when it comes to this. Perhaps Toews would benefit from having a true playmaker with him again, and the way that Sharp is playing he and Hossa can combine on a forecheck and cycle in much the same way Saad and Hossa were. I think Q eventually gets to this, just probably not tomorrow night.
-As for how the centers shake out, I would say it doesn’t matter if Kruger or Bolland center the 2nd line, but it does in that if Bolland is than Q won’t have Kruger center the 3rd line. Whereas if Kruger was between Saad and Kane now, Bolland would bump down Shaw to a 4th line winger. And that’s where Shaw needs to be. It’s not so much the reckless penalties that Shaw is taking that bother me that much — we signed up for that long ago and anyone who thought he wasn’t going to lose his mind in the playoffs just wasn’t paying attention. But at center, Shaw has far more puck carrying responsibilities, especially out of the Hawks zone and the Wings are specifically targeting him to make quick decisions. And they’re generally wrong. He’s basically Versteeg with half the skill.
Put him at a wing where he can charge around more freely like he wants to anyway with half the responsibility. But of course, Q decided long ago he was a center and he’s going to stick with it until it’s proven just how smart he is.
-One last thing, most of the beaters were commenting on the Hawks working on breakouts today, which is nice. In both Games 2 and 3, they fell into that trap of their forwards flying the zone. You saw it on Brendan Smith’s goal in Game 2 and Miller’s in Game 3, where a turnover saw all the Hawks forwards below their checks. The Hawks need to break as four or five man units, the former to have one forward stretching the Wings defense to open up a little space. What they can’t have is both wingers sprinting out of the blocks before possession is assured or the zone is broken, and Sharp and Kane have been guilty of this together a few times.
The Hawks have been thinking about too many 100-foot passes to attack, and where they need to be are 10-15 foot ones combined up the ice. When they do that, they’re far more dangerous than just trying to Daryle Lamonica their way up the ice.