Ok. Guess we’re going to have to drop the Kesha songs as titles. Shame, I was really enjoying it.
It’s important to make the difference clear between concern and panic. Concern is completely warranted, as losing the first two games at home and not scoring a goal in the process certainly is a new trick for the Hawks and ups the degree of difficulty to a level that will surely impress the Ukrainian judge. A lot of concern is fine, too. Watching the Hawks come up with a stale beer fart in a spot we’re used to seeing them respond is jarring.
But panic? C’mon. The Hawks lost their first two home games last year too, and pushed that to a Game 7 that they lost by the width of two posts. Sure, that series being a loss isn’t exactly something you’d draw inspiration from. And in their comebacks in the past, they rarely had to start them on the road. So again, a new trick. But it’s not like the Preds have picked some secret underbelly here. So let’s try and clean it up and see what’s what.
-If you want to get mad at Joel Quenneville this series so far, you have every right. If four drunks like us can comfortably predict that the Predators, a team built on speed and aggressiveness and coached by a mad conductor like Laviolette, wasn’t going to trap and collapse all series, you’d think the Hawks staff might have sniffed it out too. But they looked wholly unprepared for the Preds to do anything other than trap, which is why they were horrific in exiting their zone most of the night. They were trying to stretch a trap that wasn’t there, at least not until the Preds were up in the second.
Sure, the Preds did still collapse in their own zone when the Hawks eventually got there, and we saw a couple instances of Hawks point-men trying to go around the back door in sending shots off the end-boards to get the puck down low that way. At least that was one adjustment.
They need to be prepared for anything tomorrow night. Flexibility shouldn’t be a problem.
-Or so you would think, except the defense can’t quite play every style like it used to. We’ve documented Keith’s dip in play this season, and marked it as what should be the biggest fear for Hawks fans. Last night would have done no one’s apprehension any favors, because he was woeful with everyone else. The Preds’ top line danced on his head most of the night, whether he was paired with Hammer or TVR (and knock it off with this).
Of course, that was topped by Johnny Oduya’s tour-de-stupid. We weren’t sold when he was acquired, and we’ve seen nothing to make us feel any better in the interim. Q knew this was trouble in about Oduya’s second game with the Hawks, when he yanked top assignments and Hammer away from him. From what we’ve seen, Stephen Johns’s season in Dallas is now something of a minor miracle.
If this is all Oduya can be, the Hawks are probably better off with Kempny’s better mobility and offensive skill (only just), even if they have to risk his skittishness at times. But Kempny and Seabrook together, and the Hawks are going to need that.
When this season ends, be it this week or many more in the future, there’s going to have to be some scrutiny of Stan Bowman’s midseason acquisitions or his pro scouting or both. This is the fourth one that had some level of nostalgia attached to it–Versteeg, Kimmo, Ladd, Oduya. All have basically failed. Vermette worked out ok, at least when Q stopped fucking with him. The Hawks still got a Cup in ’15 because Keith went nuclear, but this is now a trend. Let’s be fair, as Oduya Acquisition I ended up being successful, though not really in the ’12 season when he was brought in. Frolik was as well, and he lucked out on Handzus too. It’s a spotty record, if we’re being polite.
As Fifth Feather likes me to say, the Hawks’ system isn’t the Mike Martz Route Tree, so others can probably learn it. They don’t have to have played here before.
-As far as the power play, I wouldn’t sit on a hot stove waiting for it to look glittery. This is kind of what the Hawks do in the playoffs, because the PKs are better and the Hawks just don’t have a natural QB for it with Campbell looking every bit of 38. It doesn’t come naturally to Keith. It never has. We’ve seen them adjust in the past by using the area below the goal line more, and I would expect that’s what we’ll see starting tomorrow. But the Hawks can’t simply power play their way out of this, so they’ll have to figure out the bigger questions at evens first.
And the answers are there. Because Lavvy is no dummy he’s going to have the Hawks reacting to whatever he decides to do tomorrow. But we’ve seen that before, and generally the Hawks get a hold on things.
Doesn’t mean it’s going to be a smooth ride, though.