I surmise that the Hawks-Panthers matchup looked for all the world a tricky, "trap" game.
Why? There was another game for the Hawks right behind it against a far better team, and the White House visit looming after that. It was against one of the lesser teams in the league that had come in losing 9 of 11. Coach Q was again rolling out Corey Crawford for a 12th straight start, and outside of Toronto he had looked shaky at times.
It was all adding up to a bad night. Sadly, it proved to be as such.
The Hawks just plain didn't come out for the first. They were sloppy, lazy, hazy, daisy, maizy and whatever other word that ends in y you want to throw in there.
Any NHL team can't be spotted three goals, especially one that's carrying a pretty good goalie in its ammunition jacket. Tomas Vokoun had an outstanding game, aided by the Hawks miraculously finding his feet and chest where there seemed to be much more pleasant options of open net on offer. Sometimes you just don't want the pleasant things in life, do you?
Still, the loss leaves the Hawks 10-2-2 in this last little stretch, so to get up in arms and throw toys out of the pram over a bad night probably isn't justified at this point. But now, the next game becomes vital, as with the Caps and Sharks -- both are playing well -- since the momentum created by this streak could evaporate as if out of an electric cigarette.
To the thoughts:
-I get that coaches avoid changing things on a streaking team like a smelly, armed leper, but it was utter madness to have Crawford starting at all tonight. Was he to blame entirely? No, of course not. But the first two goals were dodgy at best, with the opener a rebound falling to David Booth that you just can't give up. No goalie in this league should have to go 12 in a row unless you have a corpse or a wildebeest backing him up (and a wildebeest would probably cover a lot of net as it is). If I were Q, and I'm most certainly not, I'd wheel Marty Turco right back out there tomorrow night and give Corey all of a period of work in a week's time. He could use the break.
-I go back and forth on Niklas Hjalmarsson, whether this is just a customary sophomore slump for a d-man or if last year was the aberration. But too often this year he has opted for the cut corner option, just firing the puck out of the zone when he's had time to get his head up and skate a step or two for another option to open up. Tonight for the second goal he once again just fired a puck blinding out to the false-oasis of the red line, where the Panthers gleefully accepted the candy-gram and charged into the Hawks zone to score. Is he hurt? Does he not have the legs? Is he so afraid of the beating he took last year? I don't know these answers, but what I do know is that with Nick Leddy going to be here next year and cap space always valuable, Hammer's slowly zooming to the top of the list of movable parts in the summer.
-So you score two goals glove-side, and then in the third you never lift the puck off the ice? Interesting angle, I guess.
-Patrick Sharp is now entrenched in one of his patented cold-streaks. He must have had five chances tonight that would have been considered remedial, and biffed them all.
-Troy Brouwer is being totally wasted on a third line that has no specific purpose. This will change when Sharp has to go back to center, which he will because no one knows what purpose Jake Dowell is serving.
-The 2nd and 3rd periods looked a lot like Barcelona-Arsenal today, with the play rarely crossing into one half of the ice.
Sometimes it's just not your night, and this looked to be one of them. Grab the two points in Tampa, and move on. It was fun while it lasted, but there's more work ahead.