It finally happened, folks! The Hawks played a solid game nearly the full 60 minutes, they had even-strength goals, Corey Crawford was back to his old self. And all is right with the world (well, not really, but for like this very minute it kinda is).
–The big news (aside from the win, obviously) is that the Hawks didn’t get domed in the second period. And not only did they avoid playing like shit, they were actually dominant in that period. They outshot the Oilers 17-6, led 32-8 in attempts, had a 75 CF% at evens, and of course got the only goal of the period thanks to a quick shot from Kane off a faceoff win by Dylan Strome. And it was an even strength goal—who knew they could still do that? Beyond the numbers, they passed the eye test too. Brandon Saad had two excellent chances in the period, both off lovely feeds from Dominik Kubalik just above the circles. Darnell Nurse made a great play on the first one to break up Saad’s momentum and the second one he hit the post, but despite the lack of finish they were exactly the plays and chances we want to see. And Connor Murphy made the same feed to Caggiula in the second so if any of these guys could learn to finish, we may have that air raid offense we keep talking about.
–There was, however, an element of luck to all this. Yes, the Oilers did not play all that well tonight but Connor McDavid‘s speed is still other-worldly even on an off night, and he nearly tied it after calmly stealing the puck from Ryan Carpenter (who otherwise wasn’t bad) and driving right to the net. He lost control a bit and the contact with Crawford negated the goal, but if he had stopped about six inches sooner the second would have ended tied.
–And that exemplified how even in this dominant period, it felt like the Hawks’ lead was tenuous—that they were one bad break away from losing their grip on things. The Oilers seemed confused as to why things weren’t going their way, why all the bad bounces and classic Crawford saves were thwarting them, and it wasn’t until the second goal in the third that it began to feel like the Hawks were in control.
–Alexander Nylander got that go-ahead goal—did you think you were gonna hear that? We like to give Nylander a lot of shit around here, but it actually was a nice takeaway from McDavid of all people (again, he had an off night). It was a badly needed insurance goal. So they’re going to still try and make Fetch happen, get ready. I’m of the opinion that one good play does not a useful player make, but the Hawks NEED this trade to work so despite being marooned on the fourth line, he’ll worm his way into the lineup again and they’ll keep Fetch around for a little while.
–Crawford was fucking great. He had a .964 SV% and made the point-blank saves we know and love him for. He absolutely deserved to be the first star of the game, and everyone who was freaking out that he’s lost his touch should sit down.
–Speaking of things working, can we keep Kubalik-Kampf-Saad together? They had a 79 CF% on the night, and to put it another way, they were largely responsible for keeping McDavid-Draisaitl-Kassian to a 41 CF%. It’s telling in and of itself that Beto O’Colliton put 8-64-20 out against one of the best lines in the entire NHL and not the ostensible top line. And it made sense, seeing as McDavid’s line had some of their most productive shifts against Strome’s line in the third. Like everyone else, I’m confused if Toews is hurt or if he’s just in a slump or if it’s a sign of a course correction after his renaissance last year. It’s probably too soon to tell, but signs aren’t good thus far.
–The penalty kill was marginally better. There was a shot off the post in the first, so again, a bit of luck, and obviously the Oilers converted late in the third which really created some unnecessary drama. But, even aside from those issues it was still better, going 2-for-3. The power play…meh, I guess it was slightly better at times but that’s not saying much. They avoided the frustrating stand-around-and-wait-for-Kane bullshit, but they got held to the outside, which they still struggled to do on their own penalty kill. So special teams are a work in progress, is what I’m trying to say.
–Brandon Saad worked so damn hard to get a goal and even that empty netter was like there was a force field on the goal line but he PERSEVERED people. Four shots, one goal, 72 CF%…he had himself a night.
Obviously we hope this is the start of the Hawks turning things around—getting some reliability with the lines, less awful special teams, people shutting the hell up about Crawford. But it remains to be seen, for now, onward and upward…
Line of the Night: “They’re sellouts but there are still tickets available.” —Foley doing the mandated wheel pose about the sellout streak and GREAT SEATS STILL AVAILABLE at the same time
Beer de jour: Lagunitas Daytime (yes, it’s nighttime, I know, leave me alone)