LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 03: (L-R) Ryan Smyth #94 of the Los Angeles Kings checks Jassen Cullimore #5 of the Chicago Blackhawks into teammates Davis Drewiske #44 and Alec Martinez #53 in the third period at Staples Center on January 3, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. The Blackhawks defeated the Kings 4-3. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
I, like you, was throwing things and scaring my dog during the first 19 minutes of last night's game. Here was just another night where the Hawks had put on the gear and assumed that was enough. They were beat to every loose puck, out-skated, and out-worked for the entire opening frame, and once again had their goalie and a post to thank for not being buried like Beatrix Kiddo after 20 minutes.
And then, of course, their superior talent kicks in right when it absolutely has to, and Marian Hossa makes scoring a goal look so easy you wonder why it doesn't happen more often. And then after 20 you're tied, even though the Hawks could not have deserved it less.
The final 40 prove that the first 20 were not a case of not caring, but merely getting their legs going after playing the night before, as the Hawks dictated play to a team that will be one of the better ones around (evidence not provided by the games against the Hawks this year). It's infuriating, but fascinating, and you can't help but look. And you're left with the results on a quick road trip that you thought you'd get anyway, just in reverse. The season's half gone and you know the second half has to be a couple steps better, at least, than the first, and you've just seen all the evidence that it will be.
Oh isn't this fun?
Thoughts from a nut in the cold:
- For the first time this year, I think Coach Q beat me to a suggestion. I was just about to scream at the top of my scarred lungs that Duncan Keith and Seabrook should no longer be considered a top pair, at least for now, and Brian Campbell and Niklas Hjalmarsson should see at least as much top-responsibility minutes. And who was out there to kill the last minute of the game off? #51 and #4. Campbell has been the Hawks best d-man since he returned from injury, and only the most inane and money-hating person will question that. Seabrook seems to have caught whatever disease has been afflicting Keith all year, and they just can't be trusted right now. Perhaps they can rediscover their game with less tense minutes. It's worth a try, unless you get down with insane decisions and passes that make grown men weep.
- That may have been Q's only good decision of the night. He got lucky that Sharp scored two goals, one on the power play and one he made himself. Having Sharp center a line with two distinct shooters in Kopecky and Bickell doesn't make a jot of sense. Who's getting Sharp the puck? Is he supposed to become a disher to the other two? So we'll just eliminate what he does best?
- Oh, we're not done by a damn sight. Patrick Kane and Dave Bolland have tried to play together before, and it simply doesn't work. Bolland can't get the puck to Kane while on his backhand that effectively, and they form an awfully small line. Bolland though is showing some offensive flashes lately, and his strength are the defensive side -- clearly not Kane's.
- Jake Dowell was scratched for reasons that will only be discovered when a stone tablet is unearthed in hundreds of years, while Tomas Kopecky is free to whiff, miss, get knocked over, and generally can't.
- That said, Patrick Sharp was everywhere, as was Campbell, and the Hawks need that 41 more times.
I think that's enough for now.