There’s a line I like to use, I wish it was mine. Most of the shit I say isn’t mine. Anyway, I took it from something someone said about the first era of Mourinho’s Chelsea. It was, “The way to beat them is the same way you get flattened by them.” It works for this Hawks team.
I don’t think the Penguins had the wrong plan, even though they have maybe half of their strongest roster right now. You can’t beat the Hawks trying to be conservative, or trapping, or toeing carefully in the offensive zone. Give the Hawks too much space, doesn’t press their weak points.
You do beat them by going right at them. Trying to get speed to the outside, which the slower-than-accustomed Hawks defense can’t really deal with. You get your defense involved, ahead of forwards the Hawks might have left too high. You make the same, short passes at your line that the Hawks do at theirs to bypass the third forward and possibly a pinching d-man.
The problem though, is that if you don’t take the chances that creates, or the Hawks are at the absolute top of their game, or your goalie isn’t anywhere near his, or you go just a touch overboard, or some combination thereof, you’re going to turn the neutral zone into a runway for the Hawks. While they may not have the wheels out of the back they used to, they have more than enough d-men who can pass their way out of trouble if you give them the space.
Three of the four Hawks goals in the first were off the rush, which the Hawks got to way too easily by catching the Penguins too deep in their zone after not converting chances they had. And the Hawks just don’t need the same number of chances as most teams to make you look awfully silly.
It only took 20 minutes of that, and this one was over. Let’s clean it up:
The Two Obs
-It didn’t hurt the Hawks’ cause of course that Marc-Andre Fleury was a chili fart most of the night. He got two outside his net on Kane’s initial rush, panicked to the other side without realizing that both Working Class Kero and Dimebag were there. Not much he could do about Panik’s goal, but Kruger’s goal can’t really go in either. Ian Cole didn’t help him much on the fourth, but he might have had that one too. You’re certainly not beating the Hawks if your goalie can’t even be good.
-Not a single Hawk was below water in possession tonight, which I guess is what happens when you take every puck mover the Penguins have out of the lineup. Or close to it.
-Oh, there’s the Edmonton version of Justin Schultz. I was beginning to worry.
-Surprised Eddie didn’t mention how badly the Hawks lost the faceoff battle. Seems like he never shuts up about it, and it clearly cost the Hawks tonight.
-So that’s going to be it for the Penguins division chase. Now they’re outside shots to get even home-ice in the first round, and you never know if Bob is going to go nuclear for a round and make your spring dreams shrivel and die. Should be interesting.