After two pretty thrilling games, things now end up on back on Madison for one final showdown as the Hawks were able to upset the Kings in LA on Friday. The big question is simply – how much do the Hawks have left in the tank?
As Fels stated after Wednesday’s game, the Hawks were running in the red for just about the whole game. And of course they did with with largely only 9 forwards. Things were more of the same Friday night. Bollig played only 6:46, Handzus only 9:25. Patrick Kane meanwhile played 20:40, more than any other forward and more than even Seabrook. It certainly didn’t hurt his game in the third though.
In two games where the Hawks have pushed themselves to the limit, they’re going to have to go even further tonight. And they’re still likely doing it with just nine guys up front. The lines from a light skate this morning are:
So yeah, Versteeg is back in there over Regin but at least that’s better than Brookbank playing on the fourth line… maybe?
We’ve wasted enough time talking about the fourth line though. It’s not going to change and they’re mostly going to be stapled to the bench however this game plays out. The comforting fact is that we’ll still have Saad and Shaw skating with Kane. When they’re unleashed, it’s a struggle for the Kings to keep up. They essentially nullified the Kings advantage on the second line which was what was killing them in the first 4 games. Putting together that mixture of skill with the speed they now have makes life hell on the Kings defenders. The forecheck is getting to the pucks and causing mistakes (look for more failed clearing attempts from the Kings if it keeps up) and they’re getting beaten to rebounds. If the Kings play a forward and defender coming out to attack Kane, all he really needs to do is throw it on net where Shaw and Saad have been causing problems. It could be that we see Drew Doughty coming to take on Kane. It’s worked in the past. But that leaves a much weaker second pairing against Toews and Hossa.
And when we start talking about rebounds, we clearly have to focus on the goalies. Neither of them have been great this series. Crawford has come back down to earth from his highs in the first two rounds and Quick has looked somewhat pedestrian. He’s making big saves when it counts though. There’s been several in each of the games, some of which likely either kept the Kings in it or damn near gave them the win. If the Sharp or Seabrook were able to convert on their prime chances, we may not be facing this close of a series.
That’s not saying Quick is responsible for the wins directly though. They haven’t been games he’s stolen just where he’s able to show his brilliance in the right spot. I’m not counting on a goalie battle tonight since both goalies have combined to give up 16 goals in the last two games.
If there’s anyone that could really easily be the difference maker though, it could be Patrick Sharp playing on the third line. We written many times about his struggles so far this post-season but there were flashes from him on Friday that makes me think he’s either getting better or not caring about the pain he almost certainly is in. Lined up with Kruger and Smith just screams “bum-slayers”. Sharp had one of his better games possession wise Friday. If there’s anything left in his tank, now is the time to go all out.
This is going to be a game of mistakes. Whoever makes the least is pretty likely to come out on top. The Hawks may have the advantage the last few games in the strength of play but the Kings have still shown that they can and will jump on top of any mistake the Hawks give them. Seabrook hesitates getting to the puck behind the net and Zus is out of position again – that’ll be a goal damn near every time. So the key, as always, is to play hard and fast but also to play as smart as you can. And yes, that still means staying the hell out of the penalty box. The Kings PP hasn’t reached its lights out status it was humming along at for most of the series against the Ducks and the first 4 games of this series in the last two. If the Hawks win the special teams battle, they can win the game.
So there’s numbers and trends for both teams to feel comfortable about. The Kings have won two Game 7′s already this year, both on the road. They have slightly more experience than the Hawks in general when the series goes to 7. And we all know the Hawks record in elimination games the last few years. It’s unstoppable force meeting immovable object. Something will have to give. It’s not going to be a fun ride. Fels and I may end up throwing punches at each other before it’s out but lets hope for our season to continue.
Let’s Go Hawks
If you’re heading to tonight’s game, make sure you pick up a copy of our game program outside the U.C. If you aren’t, you can get the PDF right here: