Everything Else

This Is A Close-Up?!

The Hawks didn’t exactly come in rolling to this three-game homestand. They had lost five in a row, though two of those came in OT or a shootout to the Stars, and three of them came without Corey Crawford (though the Hawks scored exactly five goals in the three games he didn’t play, so what difference he would have made wouldn’t have risen much above negligible). The idea was that getting to play three straight teams near the bottom of the standings would be a chance for the Hawks to rediscover some of their game, style, swagger, whatever you want to call it.

It didn’t really work out that way.

Friday night saw the Hawks get goalie’d a touch, as Robin Lehner was very good and that will happen. They tossed 51 shots at him and it wasn’t like the Caps game where their shots basically comprised a belly-rub. They had a good number of really good chances that he snuffed out or they hit a post. Happens, fine, whatever. Not ideal but you accept it and move on.

I’ll even let Sunday’s….whatehaveya, slide a bit, or would normally. A sleepy Sunday night in mid-December against a Coyotes team… that always can lead to a “fuck this” effort. While you don’t like to see them when a team isn’t winning…again, they happen. Figure you have a good effort against the Panthers and no one would bat an eyelash at a simple “let’s get through this” against Arizona.

And then you get last night. A Florida team that has a top line, Vincent Trocheck, and that’s about it, on the second night of a back-to-back and starting Reimer in both of them. And the Hawks were fortunate to get out of it with anything, thanks to the Toews line picking up the slack.

And please don’t tell me that Jan Rutta was the glue holding this team together.

Now normally, with other teams, when a struggling team like the Hawks are (and they are) can’t get it juiced for two straight games at home–games and points they need, mind–one might start wondering if the players have tuned out for some reason. And one might start looking hard at the coach, especially a team that has higher expectations than nicking a wild card spot and especially one that is coming off two straight first round exits that splooges its “ONE GOAL” slogan everywhere it can.

Clearly, that won’t happen here. Even if this summer saw Stan Bowman take control of the team as a GM would (and we’re only speculating on that but it sure seems that way), Coach Q has too much pull to get fired, short of ruining one of Toews’s vegetable gardens. Because yes, Toews can fire Q if he so chooses.

Next year if the Hawks were in the same spot? Yeah, maybe then we can talk.

Still, I’m sure there are fans that want to point to the Kings revival this year, or the Penguins coming alive under Mike Sullivan about two years ago, and claim the same thing could happen to the Hawks with a new voice.

The key difference is that the Kings and Penguins went from either a terribly defensive/clueless coach to one who opened things up. There is a freedom to their styles now that they didn’t have before, which just about every player is going to find refreshing. I’m not sure it works the other way. Oh hi there, Dallas Stars.

And the thing is, Q plays an open style. Whatever the Hawks problems are, it’s not because they’re too defensive or he’s too conservative. Forwards are allowed to express themselves in the offensive zone if they see fit (except Nick Schmaltz). Defensemen are allowed, and in fact encouraged, to get up into the play. Players love that. So bringing in a hard-ass who’s going to stress blocking shots or something is probably counter-productive and also this team isn’t exactly built for that. Even if Stan wanted to pull the trigger, and I would have high doubts he does, his options to move in are limited.

If they players are not responding, and if that’s a problem it’s certainly smaller than the problems of the holes on the roster, it’s not because they don’t like the style. Sure, maybe the Hawks could adopt a more Pittsburgh approach which is a little more straight-lined and sees more go-routes out of the zone and picking up passes off the glass. But given how defensively wonky the Hawks have been, I’m not sure they have that luxury.

But watching this team the past two games, something is off and it’s not just having no third line to speak of, or being thin down the middle when Schmaltz doesn’t play there. I can’t even blame the defense. Connor Murphy has been so good he’s actually masked Seabrook for the most part. Rutta and Forsling have their issues, but Forsling has done enough in the offensive zone to at least be balanced.

No, they’ve been sloppy, half-hearted at times, and lazy. Missing passes as badly as they did at times last night…that’s just not being focused because this team isn’t lacking skill. It felt more than just not getting it up for one game in the middle of the season. And this team hasn’t really earned the right to do that yet. There was a going-through-the-motions feel to it, one we’ve not seen from Hawks teams before. At least not ones that are a long way from securing their spot in the standings. When you do this in late February in Colorado because you’re already locked into second in the division/conference, no one cares. Do it now, and people do. I can’t imagine Q was too thrilled, but he probably wasn’t too thrilled with Sunday’s effort either. And this is how they responded?

And they’re running out of leeway for those kinds of efforts.

 

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