Let’s roll it all into one. First…
The headline of this one should probably be that the Hawks have won two games in a row giving up over 40 shots at Antti Raanta. As McClure and I walked out last night we joked that has to be a sign of hockey magic. It’s certainly not the prescribed method to go about things.
But unlike against St. Louis, the Canadiens’ shot total wasn’t boosted by a plethora of power plays. They went at the Hawks at even-strength, and are one of the few teams that have enough speed up top that when the Hawks coughed it up at the blue line, they can streak away and create something. Of course, the Hawks did the same right back at them which is why we had a game last night that barely had any neutral zone time at all. The Hawks weren’t great, they got lucky at the end, and survived. Five is better than four. Let’s do some bullets.
-While Shaw’s line combined for the first goal, they mostly got their heads kicked in by the bottom six of Montreal. And that mostly had to do with Shaw being completely helpless at the dot. I wonder how Malhotra contained his laughter.
-A lot of this current Hawks streak has been built on being able to take out the other team’s top scoring either through Toews or Kruger. That didn’t happen last night, as Plekanec’s line was able to produce a goal against both. That’s why it got a little tricky there.
-It also got tricky because Carey Price is kinda decent at his job. Different goalie and the Hawks might have gotten six. And then you could see them trying to pick corners to try and get one past Price. The Hawks came out on top of a Price-Raanta matchup. That’s funny.
-Hey guys, do you think you can cheat over to Subban when killing a penalty? No? Well, thought I’d ask. Might want to check if he didn’t take off Raanta’s ear then.
-Quiet night from the Conjuring. But they were probably due for one.
Still, the Hawks found a way and muscled a win through. You certainly take it, as it’s become a bigger occasion tonight.
Hawks v. Predators
FACEOFF: 6pm Central
TV/RADIO: CSN, WGN Radio
ZAC BROWN SUCKS: On The Forecheck
Well no one thought that in the first week of December this would be a Central aristocracy matchup, but with a win tonight the Hawks would leap over the Preds, and into first place in the Central. First place in December obviously means fuck and all, but it’s always kind of a fillip to see the Hawks listed on top when you check the standings.
The Preds are still here. You might think they’re still doing it how they used to, being something of a defensive team that used Pekka Rinne to paper over their problems and then strike on mistakes and power plays. Some of that is true. Rinne has been wonderful, and probably is your clubhouse Vezina leader. They have been very solid defensively, as 1-6 this is one of the best blue lines around.
However, the Preds score under Peter Laviolette. And the power play has gone back to sucking, which is what we were accustomed to. So they’re doing most of the work at even-strength, and are one of the better possession teams in the league.
Not only do the Preds have the possible Vezina leader, they most certainly have the Calder leader in Filip Forsberg. Even a couple years ago when the Predators were real threats, it’s hard to think of a genuine top liner they had. Martin Erat? No. Patric Hornqvist? Maybe. A stretch. Forsberg is certainly going to be if he isn’t already. There’s just nothing he can’t do and according to Behind The Net he’s been the best even-strength player in the league. While his line with Ribeiro and Neal makes the Preds slightly on the top heavy side, they do enough damage to make it work.
But they’re hardly barren under that. Colin Wilson and Craig Smith have been a rash in the Hawks’ ass for years, Eric Nystrom specializes in annoying goals, and there’s always Olli Jokinen’s face.
But the real strength of the Preds this year has been the blue line. Weber and Josi take the tough assignments and hold their own, and they’re the only d-men underwater possession-wise. But it’s not like they don’t carry offensive threat, as Weber has 15 points. But the bottom two pairs do push the play through Seth Jones and Ryan Ellis, especially Ellis. Hmm, a nifty puck mover on the third pairing. What’s that like?
The Hawks will catch the Preds on the third game in four nights, with Nashville having won five of six (two via shootout). So it’s not the best time to have this game. It’ll be worth a watch to see who Laviolette deploys Weber and Josi against. Toews and Hossa? The Conjuring? Whoever he doesn’t choose is going to have to produce tonight. On Broadway, and under Lavvy, the Preds are not here to trap and gum things up. They have a good amount of speed up front, and they might want to skate with the Hawks tonight. They did last time these two met down there, and got a 3-2 win. They have the blue line that won’t get scorched.
But they still are looking for turnovers and mistakes, so the Hawks will have to be cleaner than they were last night. Stern test tonight. Six is better than five.