It was Chris Kunitz‘s 1000th game, it was Valentine’s Day, there was so much to distract from the fact that it was two crappy teams both trying to bounce back from particularly crappy losses. But in the end, the fact that Cory Schneider is horrendous and Cam Ward was, well, really good, made the difference. To the bullets…
– This game looked like it was going to get real ugly early on. The first period ended with shots at 14-13 Devils-Hawks, but the Hawks only caught up late in the period so that figure really masks how badly they were outplayed. A more accurate reflection is the 44.7 CF% at evens that they managed that period. In what will come as the least surprising statement of the night, the defense looked like total shit, with Erik Gustafsson being particularly putrid. He lost his man along the boards (or more accurately, stood there watching as he skated away) leading directly to the first goal by Damon Severson, he made multiple awful passes, and was generally useless. But it wasn’t just Gus. Everyone looked terrible except Cam Ward, who was lucky to keep it 2-0 for a while, and Patrick Kane, who just said fuck it and scored to make it 2-1 with just a couple minutes left.
– OK, it actually wasn’t just all Patrick Kane on that first goal; Dylan Sikura set up the play by winning a board battle with LOCAL GUY Nick Lappin and getting the puck to Kane in the first place. Sikura ended the night with a 68.4 CF%, and his line with Saad and Wide Dick had a 75 CF%, and I really wish Coach Cool Youth Pastor would see the value in the actions and numbers just described and play him for more than 10 minutes (or let’s just start with keeping him here instead of Rockford).
– Why would that possession matter so much? Because the Hawks were positively schizophrenic in their control of the puck tonight. They got domed in the first as described, then bounced back with a strong second period and managed a 60.5 CF% at evens, only to suck pond scum again in the third with a 34.5. They managed a paltry 8 shots in the third against the 19 they gave up to the Devils (yes, that’s right, 19 in the third), and it was really just Ward standing on his head, occasionally without a mask because of some bizarre wardrobe malfunction, that kept them in the period.
– And to that point, Ward was really good tonight. You know I don’t want to admit that, but I have to. There were flurries of shots he faced in both the first and third periods where it could have absolutely gotten out of hand. His positioning was excellent and rebound control was solid. Ward finished with a .953 SV%, and like always faced an obscene number of shots (43). Conversely, Cory Schneider is so bad I actually FEEL bad for him. He basically hasn’t won a game since the first Obama administration, and his total lack of rebound control led to Anisimov’s insurance goal in the third, which basically put the game away. At the end of the day, I’m glad the Hawks won so whatever, fuck him, but it’s actually kinda depressing at this point.
– Brandon Saad got his 300th and 301st points tonight, and on this Valentine’s Day this guy FUCKS. A shorthanded goal, a 76 CF%, be still my heart.
– Kane and Toews continued their Fuck You tour. Kane had three points, including the first goal which arguably changed the entire trajectory of the game because it came late in the first, and it seemed to energize them since they dominated the second period. Kane to Koekkoek to Toews in the second was probably the prettiest goal, but Caligula’s was no slouch either and set the tone for the second (namely, that the Hawks were going to kick their ass for 20 minutes). All around, a good night for the top line.
– Slater Koekkoek actually didn’t play terribly tonight. Again, you know I don’t want to admit that, but it’s true. He had an assist and a 68 CF% (SO CLOSE to making the joke), and generally was not offensive to the eyes or causing your face to melt in horror.
– Look, he’s not an important part of the organization nor does he have much history (or much future) here, but it’s cool that Chris Kunitz has played 1000 games, and the Hawks did their best in marking the occasion and being generally nice about it. Thumbs up all around.
So it was a good bounce-back game after the ignominious end of the streak against Boston. There’s some more shitty teams coming up over the next week and a half, and the conference remains a weird clusterfuck so who knows! Onward and upward…
Photo credit: NHL.com