It’s been a while since it felt like the Hawks were playing a regular season game that was central to the hockey world. Saw a bunch of tweets and columns today from non-Sharks or Hawks affiliated people today. I don’t think anyone would say they were disappointed in the entertainment provided.
There really is no such thing as a “statement game.” It’s fun to think there is, and it feels better when you win one to think there is, but it’s kind of a myth. Who knows how we’ll regard this result in a month or two. But other than getting a win in San Jose for the first time in three seasons, beating your closest competitor, and now guaranteeing the minimum amount of points we all agreed was necessary for a successful road trip, we learned a couple things. Possibly. Though I wonder if any of them will be the overriding theme.
It’s not a huge shock that this team showed a pretty big pair of balls, because they did a lot of times last year. But being down 2-0 after the first keg hadn’t been kicked at the concession stand, with the building going nuts and the Sharks running around like that female character in Toon Town after sighting a man (I promised I’d try and cut down the pop culture references, but I do love that one so), that trait that I find most endearing about the Hawks shone brightest. That trait of dusting themselves off, a quiet smirk, and go about clawing the game back. Didn’t take them long either. No panic at all.
And after taking the Sharks best punch and not ending up on the canvas, they actually controlled the last two periods for the most part. Not only can they win in the tougher buildings around, they can control those games too. That’s encouraging.
We also saw that while it isn’t exactly a Picasso, Corey Crawford can get over a shaky start and at least make it work. That definitely didn’t happen last year. At least he got through, and his team didn’t roll his eyes at him, which did happen a couple times last year. So consider that encouraging as well. However, Crow was off on angles and feel. He has been a lot this year, but gotten the bounces. For instance, Braun’s shot that he stopped but got by him only to go out of play. At some point this year, those will bounce in. Important that we, and he especially, don’t lose their mud when they do.
Right, to it.
-Let’s get the main talking point out of the way here. It’s rare that I disagree with my colleagues here, but this is one of those times. Not that I think they’re wrong.
Logically, yes, it is completely correct to say that Keith chasing after Desjardins and getting a double minor, taking himself off the ice for 19 minutes, and possibly costing the Hawks a 5 min power play is stupid (but I’m not totally convinced Desjardins would have even been penalized had their not been shenanigans after it, which doesn’t make it right. Yes, NHL refs can work like this). It makes perfect sense. Even what numbers there are on such things kind of prove this.
However, the 40 guys on the ice believe it does have meaning. They believe that if you don’t respond, you can be pushed around. So in some sense, I guess it’s kind of true.
I know, you’ll call me a hypocrite. But my complaints about these sorts of things is when they come after an obviously clean hit. This did not look obviously clean at first glance. Replays showed it might be, but who thought that at the time? Keith certainly didn’t have time to figure it out. It was a reaction. And the fact that he can’t fight doesn’t really matter to these guys. They just want you to show up. Which is another non-sensical hockey thing, but it’s what they all think. I don’t have a huge problem with it. But I don’t think those who do are wrong.
How’s that for some fence-sitting?
-However, don’t buy the bullshit theory that says that changed the game, because the Hawks were already kind of gaining control of it anyway.
-Let’s get to good stuff now. Brandon Saad. I don’t think I need to say any more. He just seems to be everywhere he needs to be. His first goal, and one gets the feeling that it’s going to be the first of many in a short little stretch here.
-Back to bad stuff. The second line continues to be an issue. Patrick Kane had four shots, but one was obviously the empty net goal and the other was 4-on-4 with Toews. Sharp didn’t have one. Bolland had two. It’s not enough. I thought the answer was flipping Saad and Sharp. But now it’s clearer that Bolland and Toews need to switch wingers. While the fear in the past has been Bolland being right-handed would not lead him to getting the puck to Hossa enough, with the way Hossbollah and Saad are playing, Bolland would merely just have to stay out of the way. And they could recover the Bolland’s lost draws much better. Sharp and Kane would find themselves with the puck more with Toews. So simple, which is why we won’t see it.
-While Leddy had a couple of yippy moments, his composure with the puck in his own zone is miles ahead of where it was a season ago. I counted three times when he picked it up in a scramble around his net, and with three patient strides had skated himself out of trouble.
-Kruger had probably his strongest game of the year.
-The more Pat and Eddie bitch about Shaw on the PP doing the net-front thing, the more they make the case that he should be replaced by either Hayes or Ben Smith when healthy. They both have far more experience in front.
-Early in the 3rd protecting the lead, that sickness the Hawks can’t quite shake of getting jammed along the boards in their own end, and/or having their forwards drift to the neutral zone while the Sharks point-men stayed ahead of them in the Hawks zone reared it’s head again. Made me jumpy.
-Sharks fans, at least some of them, will claim things will have been different if Brent Burns had played. I will find this humorous.
-While you can’t use a regular season game to hammer more nails into a guy’s rep, it was another bigger game that Joe Thornton resumed his Passenger #19 act. The more the Sharks fans and organization keep heaping the blame that should go to him on Patrick Marleau, the more they’ll miss the point.
-At least most Sharks fans are catching on that Douglas Murray absolutely sucks.
-One of the most infuriating factors of this season is big games like this will be compromised by fatigue from one team. The Sharks were clearly flagging from three games in four days. Does harm the occasion a bit.
Player Of The Game
Kneel before Saad…..