This is going to sound strange. But strange is what we deal in around these parts. The Hawks really weren’t that bad tonight. In fact, for the first two periods, they were pretty good. It’s just that whenever something can go wrong for the Hawks right now, it’s going to horribly. When you have to lean on you backup goalie for three straight games, he’s probably going to let in a softie. So there’s the Caps’ second goal, which changed the outlook of the game. Still, you’d like to see a team like this respond a little better than giving up another one 29 seconds later, but we’ll get to that. Toss in a power play that can’t hit a bull in the ass with a snow-shovel right now, some players that are being asked to do the wrong things, and you get what looks like an ugly loss. The time for consolation is running out quickly. Hockey remains weird, and because of that there’s no guarantee that things will bend back the way that the Hawks play really suggests it should.
-While the second Caps’ goal–The Fels Motherfuck is on a real streak this season–appeared to be the game-changer, really it was the power play in the 2nd period when it was still a 3-1 game. Actually it was two of them. And the Hawks power play didn’t do anything. Like it’s been doing, or not doing I s’pose, all season.
What’s most frustrating is it’s obvious to everyone, and it must be obvious to the players, that the coaches have no idea where to go. Every power play the Hawks try something different. First we had Kane on a point, though moving down to the right half-boards with Saad on the left. But what good does having Saad on the left do? He’s a left-handed shot. The next power play saw Kane on the other side with Schmaltz where he was. A third power play saw the Hawks move two guys below the net.
We see this every game. The Hawks have new personnel or a new look or both on every chance. It doesn’t suggest that they’ve got a lot of plans. It suggests they don’t have any plans, and that translates to the players. If the coaches have no confidence in what they’re putting out there, why would they? And it’s costing them points, because for the most part at evens, the Hawks are where they need to be. Yes, I know, but it’s true.
-The new lines were… well, the new lines. It’s hard to get a read after one game. Toews’s line looked exactly like we thought, didn’t have a role. Schmaltz made some things happen with Top Cat, but they also could get overpowered down low in both zones.
-The problems are still on defense. All of Forsling, Rutta, and Franson got exposed in ways that the coaches simply refuse to see. Rutta and Forsling cannot handle anything but lower competition, but found themselves out against Backstrom’s line a lot of the night. And the Hawks seemed happy to have it that way. And ti’s not the first time we’ve seen that, because Tyler Seguin’s line spent two games making them look like Glass Joe. The Hawks best d-man right now is Connor Murphy, and it’s about time the Hawks start treating him like that.
For the Caps third goal, which made this hill really steep, came from Franson’s inability to recognize danger and his Snuffleupagus-like feet. Keith had pinched down the boards and no forward had covered for him. But Franson has to recognize that, instead he was sinking down into the offensive zone. So when the go-route was thrown for Wilson, he’s never going to catch that. He needs to be a free safety there. He was also slow getting back into position for the Caps’ 5th, trailing Kuznetsov.
You simply can’t keep asking Franson to take anything more than third pairing assignments, if that. The Hawks haven’t discovered gold here where no one else could see it. Three teams have decided that Franson is no better than a #7. There’s a reason for that. Stop thinking you’re geniuses. You’re not.
-While the Hawks certainly controlled the possession game for the first 40, most of it was pretty much restricted to the outside. This is where the annoying “Annette Frontpresence” discussion always rears it’s ugly head. I don’t know that the Hawks lack guys who can get to the net. Panik can’t buy one right now. Anisimov is Anisimov. Bouma and Wingels are what they are. You would think Saad would be another, but he isn’t really, is he? Most of Saad’s goals seem to come on the rush or elsewhere. He doesn’t score as many tips and rebounds as you feel like he should. And this was the problem the Hawks had with him the first time.
It’s an ugly scoreline for sure. And the 3rd period wasn’t pretty. There are serious problems here, but a good portion of it is the Hawks own making. Things have to turn sharpish, but it’s there. At least I think it is.