With Game 1 playing out about the way it should have between a top seed and the twelfth best team in the conference, the Hawks find themselves down 1-0 in the series, with today’s matinee slated to begin shortly.
Things could not have really gone any better for the Knights in Game 1, save for their hiccup on the power play which allowed the lone Hawks’ goal from David Kampf. Based on the shift charts, it seemed like Pete DeBoer was content with letting the Stastny line take on Dach, DeBrincat, and Garbage Dick, and not only did they maul them in terms of possession, Reilly Smith was able to put the game out of reach very early in the third with Vegas’ third and fourth goals. That they were able to keep the Hawks’ top offensive weapons playing in their own end went a long way in never having to get out of third gear for the entire game. That Keith and Boqvist were the most common defenders the Stastny line saw meant that the Hawks had zero push from the back end, and that this was a very workman like game 1 from a superior team. DeBoer also threw Karlsson and Stone most often at Toews and Saad, and while the gap in attempts is far closer, they certainly had their hands full, which is key, since every game the Hawks won against Edmonton, Toews was a major factor. Again, Peter DeBoer might have some severe limitations, many of them incredibly frustrating to fans of the teams he coaches, but he’s definitely not a moron, and has always specialized in shot suppression. That he can do that now with speed and aggression as opposed to trapping just shows that he’s capable of adapting to his roster and putting his players in positions to succeed- both incredibly novel concepts.
In net, Robin Lehner didn’t really have much to do on Tuesday evening, which must be why he spent yesterday afternoon taking the recommendations of snitch-tagging twitter accounts with 200 followers and looking for reasons to get himself agitated, as opposed to actually preparing for today’s game- long story, don’t ask. Either way, Lehner will be in net again tonight, and assuming he’s got all of his equipment figured out prior to taking the ice.
As for the Hawks, saying that Jeremy Suhonen is going to need to find a way to get either of his top two lines away from the matchups that are currently being dictated is an obvious step, but once again has zero meaning here in the Quantum Realm that is this era of Blackhawks playoff hockey. Exacerbating this issue is Vinny Del Colliton’s insistence on putting Kirby Dach out in the defensive zone in the first place, let alone to take a faceoff he’s going to lose anyway. That Dach is also on the penalty kill right now is also a crime. Again, there is a fine line between challenging a young and talented player with more responsibilities, and just simply setting him up to fail. Dach stood out against the Oilers because nearly everything on that roster past the top two guys is fetid cat barf, but there’s no such luxury here. And if the goal is to see what they have in him now at this level of competition, it’d be nice if someone said so as oppsed to insisting that they’re trying to win every game possible.
The same also holds true for Adam Boqvist, who again, should not be playing with Duncan Keith anyway, and should be getting far more sheltered minutes and zone starts. And again, this drives home the point that was stated in the lengthy previews coming into the series and before game 1, and absolutely 100% played out during those 60 minutes, that the Hawks have zero drive from their back end from any pairing other than Keith and Boqvist, and if they’re completely submerged, the entire attack is going to go absolutely nowhere.
In net, Corey Crawford will get his usual spot, and though he was solid, Smith’s first goal was quite soft, and there just isn’t that room for error here given what the Hawks are up against. He’ll have to be better in order for the Hawks to even keep it close.
On Tuesday night the Hawks went into the third period only down a goal, and then promptly spat up all over their laps despite being only a shot away. Furthermore, they didn’t put an even 5v5 ATTEMPT on net after their last power play midway through the third. No push, no last gasp, nothing. It’s not exactly a ringing endorsement to Coach Cool Youth Pastor’s motivational techniques on top of lacking any kind of defensive structure or deployment strategy. A coach with a thought in his head might even see the mismatch here and consider trying to trap the life out of the waves of Vegas forwards, because a track meet definitely isn’t in the cards here. But that would take an actual recognition of a number of things, and that’s clearly not Jeremy Prinze Jr’.’s specialty. And what’s left is just the off chance that hockey goes hockey and this gets weird. Not the best thing to root for, but it’s what’s available. Ride the Snake. Let’s Go Hawks.