Hockey

Maybe Magic Training Camp Takes A While To Have Effect

We joke a lot around here. Mostly it’s to keep from crying. It’s certainly better than thinking about anything you’ve seen seriously with this team the past couple seasons. Anyway, if you’re somewhat new or just missed it, we refer to “Magic Training Camp” because every excuse for the Hawks last year seemed to get back to the fact that Jeremy Colliton didn’t have a training camp. It’s why the penalty kill sucked. It’s why they were defensively awful. It’s why Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook essentially un-velcro’d from the season. And we could keep going. It asked us to ignore that the fact that Colliton had five months in charge to install…whatever it was he was trying to install. The problem is we don’t really know.

So tell me, is this good?

Now it’s only two games. But it’s two games against one team that isn’t any good (Flyers) and another that wasn’t particularly interested in anything other than maybe getting their coach fired but couldn’t turn down the gifts the Hawks felt it mandatory to hand them (Sharks). So yeah, this is a problem. There’s all the time in the world to fix it, but it is a problem.

If it makes you feel better, the Hawks don’t have the worst PK in the league. Yet. The Devils have killed less than half their penalties. So we have that going for us. But still, batting 50% over two games, wherever they fall on the calendar, is less than ideal.

We probably all have a theory on why the PK sucks, and the thing is they’re probably all correct. Talent-level is an issue, Crawford probably could have made a save or two more, structure, entries, whatever. It’s all a problem. Ok, the goal on the PK against the Flyers was a fluke that bounced off Koekkoek, so let’s not hold that against them.

To me, the entries for the Sharks last night were way too easy. Again and again, the QB–generally Karlsson–would skate up to around the red line, hit a man along the boards on the blue line, and that player would immediately pop it to a charging teammates at the line through whatever Hawks forward thought it was a good idea to go charging out to the boards on the PK. Not only were they in the zone, they had possession and speed. From there you’re always chasing.

The first goal was off a scramble, but look at how it starts:

Somehow, Kampf ends up with three guys to cover. Karlsson at the point he’s fronting, then LeBanc on the wing, and Kane in the middle. Murphy and Toews both go out to Couture at the point. Now I’m no expert, but two guys covering one when you’re down a man already is a Custer-esque strategy. Maybe that’s just an individual goof…but when you’re fresh out of training camp–that got something of a bonus week thanks to the schedule–shouldn’t individual goofs not be a thing that happens? Also Keith never moves here, though never really takes anyone either.

So to the second PP goal against:

Again, another ridiculously easy entry, that has the Hawks chasing. Zack Smith (who is awfully close to the Bobs question of “What is it, you would say, you do here?”) chases Gambrell (who?!) far too low in the zone, and because he’s slow he can’t get back to the point to cover for Karlsson’s shot. Seabrook and Maatta can’t recover from the rush from Gambrell, then trying to get set up for the point shot, leaving all sorts of free sticks everywhere.

There were times last night when it also looked like the Hawks were moving out of the way of shots on the PK, which is…a choice. The idea of any kill is to front the point-men, force the puck to the wide areas and block off the cross-seam pass. You want the shots coming from beyond the circles from that angle. It’s easier to block off whoever’s in front of the net there. There is far less net to shoot at. The angles are easier to cover up. And yet it feels like the Hawks never force the puck there.

The other excuse I’m supposed to give you is that Calvin de Haan hasn’t played. That’s cool, but Calvin de Haan is Calvin de Haan. He’s not Larry Robinson circa ’77. He’s also not all that quick, so if everyone else is getting pulled out of position–or not in one to begin with–there is little he can do.

Not exactly the start they were hoping for.

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