In the spirit of what’s going on around here lately (on the ice and on this blog), this won’t be your traditional wrap.
Let’s get one thing straight. It would be nice if the Hawks were winning these past three games 2-1 or 3-2. A bounce here or a bounce there, and it easily could’ve swung that way. The Hawks have played responsibly enough defensively and have gotten the goaltending. This is the most important takeaway from the past few weeks. Don’t forget that.
With all that being said, I don’t think it would really change anyone’s anxiety level heading into the playoffs. With the Kings gone, there isn’t a team in the West that appears it’s going to be a steamroller. This is as wide open as the Western Conference has ever been since….I don’t even know. Maybe 2012? That year it seemed like any team could’ve walked away with it until the Kings got hotter than a pistol (or whatever the saying is).
Hockey traditionalists and meatballs won’t want to hear it but these playoffs are going to come down to a combination of luck, health and depth. It’s really wide open and if you have followed the Hawks for the past 7 or 8 years, you have to like those odds.
Let’s break down their playoff runs.
’08-09: Lose to Detroit in WCF; Detroit was clearly the better team. No shame in losing that.
’10-11: This was a pretty putrid Hawks team that lucked into the playoffs on the last minute of the season when Minnesota beat Dallas. Their draw was a Vancouver team that was the best in the league. Those first three games, the Canucks completely outclassed the Hawks. For the Hawks to come back and take the series to a coin flip is probably the beginning of where this mythical “on-off”switch was born.
’11-12: For the Hawks to lose against the Coyotes, it took Marian Hossa dying at the hand of Raffi Torres in game 3, Corey Crawford laying some massive turds in overtime in back to back games and Mike Smith playing the best hockey of his career. And the Hawks still almost pushed that series to a coin flip.
’12-13: Again, no reminder.
’13-14: A coin flip against the Kings in what was the deciding game for the Stanley Cup. This coming after the Hawks were pushed to the brink in Game 5.
So here’s the theme to remember as the Hawks head into the playoffs: As long as the Hawks stay healthy, it’s going to take some very special circumstances to knock them out or it will come down to a coin flip. This core has proven that when the games are most important, they don’t go down easy. With the exception of the losses against Detroit and Vancouver, you could make the case that a couple different bounces and those seasons could’ve ended up pretty special.
That’s why hockey can be the most infuriating and exciting playoffs. It’s so random and so unpredictable that you could make an argument nearly every year that the “best” team didn’t win the Cup.
As you take a look around at the other Western Conference teams in the playoffs, there isn’t a team that has less question marks than the Hawks. That has to count for something.
Now I’m not saying the Hawks are going to walk away with the West nor is this some opus seen through rose-colored glasses. They could very well get bounced in the first round or second round.
But it won’t be because of lack of effort or lack of heart or turning the on switch to off. It will be because something to the effect of Chris Campoli’s clear didn’t go over Burrows’ head or Mike Smith having a 45 save shutout or Nick Leddy losing his stick and then getting hit with the puck.
–When Jonathan Toews said after the game that no one was panicking and they were pretty pleased with their play over the last three games, he has to be talking about that from a defensive point of view.
Michal Rozsival excluded, the Hawks have really cleaned up their play in the defensive and neutral zone. I could be proven wrong but the games like we saw against Edmonton where they surrendered 98 shots are behind them.
Turnovers are being limited and forwards aren’t flying the zone looking for ya-ha time.
So again, we’re talking about a 2-1 or 3-2 game where a bounce here or a bounce there is the difference. Not the ideal way to go about winning but that’s hockey sometimes. So long as the Hawks are responsible in their own end with the puck, those games will start to flip back in their favor.
–One more game, peeps and then you can all properly freak out after any losses. I know you’re ready.