It’s not quite a surprise, and it’s not quite a disappointment. But there’s a melancholy about this loss. It’s partly the fact that Vegas comfortably coasted like a vegetable-oil-powered hatchback downhill and still stifled the Hawks. It’s partly the fact no matter how you slice it, this defensive system sucks shit. They didn’t get van Hagar’d, which is something I guess. Let’s pan for gold in this indoor outhouse.
– At least Kirby Dach was noticeable for the first half of the game. His greenness came through on his first instance of noticeableness, as he held the puck way too long on a 2-on-1 with DeBrincat while waiting for a passing lane to open up. Everything prior to his shitting the stage was good though, as he showed off hands by taking a pass in stride through the neutral zone before passing off to Kane, speed and power weaving the puck into the zone, and vision by looking for DeBrincat in the first place. But as we’ve found ourselves saying more than once during this run, just shoot that, baby.
But Dach learned quickly, taking a one-timer off a nice DeBrincat pass following a forced turnover. And later in that same period, Dach just missed Kane stalking in front of the net with a backhand pass from behind the goal line. He became less noticeable as the game went on, but there were things to like about what he did tonight. The Hawks have something in him. Whether they use him correctly going forward will be the big question.
– Adam Boqvist isn’t a defensive defenseman. That would be fine if he also weren’t petrified of making a mistake with the puck. The whole point of drafting him was to develop him as a puck-moving play maker. At no point did he show any ability to do that tonight, while also getting totally pantsed by luminaries like Ryan Reaves.
Pairing him with Duncan Keith doesn’t help him at all. Keith simply does not give enough of a shit to pare his game back and play centerfield for Boqvist, which is what Boqvist needs if he’s ever going to develop the way the Hawks need him to. By no means should we or the Hawks give up on him. But they have to set him up for success, which they have utterly failed to do all season.
– On that note, I would like to double or even triple down on the notion that Jeremy Colliton’s defensive system sucks unwiped ass. On the Knights’s first goal, we had Duncan Keith chasing Reilly Smith from below the goal line up past the near-circle dot, leaving Adam Boqvist and Dylan Strome to defend down low. I’ll grant that this is a shot that Crawford should have had. But the system itself forces Duncan Keith to rove between the goal line and beyond the dot by himself, as Strome and Boqvist stick to their men down low. This gives Shea Theodore way too much time and space to create a play, whether a quick wrister or a potential rebound in an area where the alleged defenders aren’t defenders at all, but rather Adam fucking Boqvist and Dylan fucking Strome.
Part of coaching is simply knowing your players’ strengths and weaknesses, but here’s Coach Nathan For You expecting a light-in-the-ass Boqvist and Dylan Strome to guard the net, and Duncan Keith to do everything else. Brilliant.
The second goal was a perfect example of how this Colliton system can do everything right and still trip over its own dick.
On this goal, it looks like everyone has their man covered. But that doesn’t fucking matter if your team is both too slow and too inexperienced to anticipate. Boqvist follows Roy past the dot by design, opening up space for Ryan Reaves down low. Reaves manages to pump fake Keith and curl back, leaving Keith flat footed. With Boqvist past the circle covering Roy, the system now relies on Matthew Highmore to stick with Carrier. He falls down trying to do so.
The biggest problem is that Ryan Reaves has both time and space to create a play because Keith has no real support on his back end. Boqvist is on the same side as him, and Highmore is overwhelmed by Carrier, who managed to shake Highmore off and get back to his feet to sweep the puck in. THIS IS WHAT THE SYSTEM IS SUPPOSED TO LOOK LIKE. It relies too heavily on guys who simply can’t match up one-on-one, and when one of those guys is even slightly out of position, the entire system falls apart. Where’s the upside to this?
– Though we can bitch and moan about the system (and we will at every chance we get, dear reader), we’d me remiss if we didn’t admit that this was not a good Corey Crawford game. Though there’s a lot to hate about how the first goal developed systematically, that’s a shot Crow should have. Neither Boqvist nor Stasny really screened Crow on this one. You can argue that system fucked Crow, but it’s a shot he should have had, regardless.
Reilly Smith’s goal (#3 for Vegas) was another inexcusable goal. Yes, Toews’s pass through the neutral zone was bad and directly led to the chance. But it was a straightforward wrister that Crow just failed to absorb. The Hawks need Crawford to be everything and more to have a shot in this series, and those two goals were backbreakers.
– Brandon Saad was very good for some of the game. His pressure and power on Theodore led to Kampf’s goal on the penalty kill, and he was one of just three Hawks to be above water in possession tonight with a team-leading 54+% share. (The other two were Dominik Kubalik and Alex Nylander, which fucking rules).
– We can give the Hawks some credit for limiting the high-danger chances in the first and second, and even for controlling possession for the second. But watching this game, you get the feeling that Vegas was doing an after-morning-sex stretch with them through the first 40. Despite being down a goal going into the third, the Hawks only managed five shots in the third and only had the puck for 37% of the time. It’s one thing to play a faux trap early. It’s another to play to your weakness despite the situation, which is exactly what PARADIGM-CHANGING COACH Jeremy Colliton chose to do.
– Robin Lehner lost two skate blades while the Hawks had possession, once on the goddamn power play, and the Hawks fired one shot on goal that technically wasn’t a shot on goal because it hit the post. But please, tell me more about how Jeremy Colliton is a coaching wunderkind whose players definitely listen to him and who has them all dialed in with the focus required to take advantage of a fucking goaltender without a fucking skate blade. Twice.
– Kane’s been awfully quiet for Kane these playoffs, which might throw a wrench in the one cool move Colliton has in the magic bag of tricks he stole from Felix the Cat’s loser fucking dropout cousin, Horace the Fucking Moron.
Vegas is just that much better than the Hawks. Unless Crow throws up a .950 for the rest of the series, there’s not much they can do except try to go air raid, which simply won’t work against a team that can gobble up the puck as much as the Knights can. The best we can look for is development and improvement from guys like Dach, Boqvist, Kubalik, and DeBrincat. We’ll take that.
Booze du Jour: Maker’s and Evan Williams
Line of the Night: “Edmonton could not check their hat in the qualifying round.” -Eddie O.