You don’t need me to tell you what was important about tonight—but I will anyway, it was Corey Crawford coming back. And despite what the score was, he looked just fine. It was the usual suspects being the pieces of crap that they are that led to the loss, but you don’t need me to tell you that, either. To the bullets:
–After goal-a-thons in recent games tonight’s effort seemed rather anemic on offense. This could have easily been at least 2-0 Hawks at the end of the first, had it not been for Fortnite’s total lack of finish. Kane set him up beautifully multiple times, but to no avail. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him demoted back down to the third or fourth line after tonight’s performance (although it’s just as likely Q loves him and will keep him on the second line, so who knows). A poorly timed post by Schmaltz in the second period was another example of the Hawks being snake-bitten.
–Don’t take that to mean that there was no plain ‘ole incompetence tonight—that would be far too generous. Back to Nick Schmaltz, he had a pretty shitty game, to be perfectly honest. Yeah, his CF% ended up being 52.9, but that was a rebound from the mid-30s he had going in the first period, and he pulled his classic pass-when-he-should-shoot early in the third, which basically wasted a huge amount of time and space that could have been a good opportunity.
–But the real tale of woe here is Brandon Manning and Chris Kunitz and how horrible they truly are. We’ve already beaten this dead horse that they suck, but it’s hard to overstate just how much. Even with the aforementioned anemic offense, this game would have been tied at 1 (at worst), had it not been for Manning completely misplaying a 2-on-1 in the first and hanging Crawford out to dry, and had Kunitz not made a shitty, stupid pass attempt late in the third that Clayton Keller (GET A FIRST NAME, ASSHOLE) picked off and scored on to basically put the game out of reach. So after not being able to score a 5-on-5 goal yet this season, the fucking Coyotes found their even-strength mojo thanks to our useless clods who Quenneville refuses to sit, despite the availability of Brandon Davidson, Victor Ejdsell, and ANYONE ELSE FROM ROCKFORD AT THIS POINT.
–Alright, enough of what sucked. The silver lining was that really Crawford looked pretty good. Sure, there were a couple saves where he just barely got a toe on the puck, and in the second there was a terrifying moment where he half-somersaulted out of the crease and I held my head in my hands like I was trying to protect his brain by steadying my own, but all in all he was solid. That includes some great point-blank saves like the one he had on Grabner in the third, which at that point kept it a one-goal game (till Kunitz shat the bed). I’m guessing it’ll take a little while for him to be fully comfortable, and there’s always the chance he’ll regress after dealing with contact or other unforseen issues, but for a first outing after 10 months, this was a very good sign.
–You know who else had a good game? Erik Gustafsson. That’s not a huge shock as he’s been generally playing well, but tonight he had the lone goal after textbook passing from Toews and Top Cat during a 4-on-4 stint, and he made two huge shot blocks to bail out Crawford in the first and second periods.
–I can’t be mad about Raanta having a good game. And when Hjalmarsson was getting misty-eyed after his ovation I was basically at the point of yelling I’M NOT CRYING, YOU’RE CRYING at the tv. And I can’t be mad about Our Cousin Vinny scoring two goals either. I want to be mad because this loss is extremely aggravating, but of course it’s these guys who I can’t hate.
So the Hawks were dealt their first regulation loss of the season, and to the fucking Coyotes (did I already complain and call them that? I did, didn’t I?). It was bound to happen at some point, but the fact that it came at the hands of The Team of Hawks Rejects and on the night Crow finally came back makes it all the more painful. There are still positives to walk away with, though, and with a barrage of games coming up that’s what we’ll do. Onward and upward.
Beer: Lagunitas Sumpin’ Easy Ale
Photo credit: Chicago Tribune