If the podcast we made last night is ever returned to us by the Internet Monster, you’ll hear us discuss the state of the league and how boring certain matchups have been. It seems like more and more teams are content with executing a conservative gameplan and looking to win games by scoring 3 goals or less. Meanwhile, teams are continuing to sacrifice depth because of the hard salary cap and the quality of the league is suffering as a result.
Tonight’s game would not qualify in our conversation. With two hot goalies in net, both teams looked to take chances throughout the night because sitting back would’ve resulted in another 0-0 game through regulation. The result was odd man rushes back and forth, wild scrambles in front of the net and a lot of excitement. Even though this final score was only 2-1, it’s hard to argue that tonight’s game represented all that’s right with the sport.
What’s so hard about that?
On Friday, it was Antti Raanta that was a little better than Scott Darling. Tonight, it was Darling’s turn. And mercy, was he better. Which isn’t to say that Raanta was bad, Darling was just that good.
It took a near miraculous effort to beat him as Jesper Fast had to basically juggle a puck with a defender draped on top of him and then bat a puck out of mid-air to get it past Darling. That was the only puck to get past him.
The save that jumps out to me in a game full of highlights is the odd man rush near the end of the second period where Marc Staal had the puck from 20 feet out and no one in front of him. Plays like that are generally slam dunks for NHL players if they hit the net. Darling stood his ground and made a blocker save.
The Hawks and Artem Anisimov scored shortly after, thanks to a brilliant rush and pass by Brian Campbell.
–The TVR Redemption Tour continued as he scored a goal tonight in true TVR fashion – falling face first to the ice with his jaw agape. If you’re counting, this is three games in a row where he hasn’t made any critical mistakes that led to extended zone time for the opposition and his possession numbers weren’t completely wonky. So that’s good.
It bears repeating though, this is pretty much his ceiling. From an organizational standpoint, it’s a curious choice to continue choosing him over better options. Unless your goal is to not field the best team possible, then they’re on the right path.
He did only play 14 minutes tonight and I don’t remember much ice time for him or Forsling in the final 8 minutes. So perhaps Kempny will draw back in before the world freezes over.
–Ryan Hartman had another impressive performance and with Toews back healthy, the top 6 looks to be quite formidable for the time being. Hartman is such an improvement over Shaw. It’s going to be quite entertaining to watch him (hopefully) grow more confidence playing with Toews and Hossa. His north-south game, willingness to retrieve pucks and cannon for a shot should fit in nicely.
If that’s settled, they can concentrate on rounding out their top 9.
–Tyler Motte was more noticeable than he has been recently. Hopefully that means finding the back of the net (I’d even settle for finding the scoresheet some other way) is not too far off. He’s another young guy with a sneaky hard shot. In the third period, he came barreling down the right wing and snapped off a shot on Raanta that seemed to just hit him. Had he found an open area, I don’t think Raanta would’ve been able to get a piece of it.
–Toews drew back in the lineup for the first time in almost a month and the Hawks started to resemble a complete team once again. Toews had a few good chances to score and couldn’t beat Raanta (clearly he’s not alone). His best opportunity may have been an empty net shot from center ice that he somehow airmailed over the net. That may have been one of the more impressive things he’s ever done on the ice.
–Two points in New York down, two more to go. Bada Bing Capuano and the boys from Brooklyn await on Thursday. Until then.