The Capt gets serious as Hawks win in OT 2-1 to force game 6
As the sun was setting in Arizona and we were heading into the early hours of Sunday morning back in Chicago, a familiar hero took out his six shooter and blazed it in the desert. Jonathan Toews never ceases to amaze me and leaves me in awe. On a team that is filled with stars that shine so bright they could probably scorch the desert, he always manages to shine the brightest and reminds us why he is the one wearing the C on this team. I would follow this kid into anything. I would have loved to have been a puck on the ice when he gave his speech to the team minus the coaching staff following their morning skate. It must have been inspiring as the entire team played with focus and purpose.
The Hawks were being criticized for a lot of things like goaltending, poor defensive play, the stars not showing up to play and the power play. Except for the power play in last night’s game the other three issues were corrected and probably account for the win. The Hawks maintained their composure and did not panic even though they were down 1-0 all the way until the third period.
The lone mistake they made was at 2:46 in the second period. They gave up an odd man rush coming out of the Phoenix zone. This resulted in a goal by Phoenix’s Gilbert Brule who let a slap shot go that beat Crawford high glove side from the far wing circle. Besides this goal, the Hawks out played Phoenix on defense. That is saying a lot. Their positioning was near flawless and their sticks very active as they limited the shots on Crawford to a meager 19 for the entire game including the overtime.
The Hawks showed incredible composure as they did not panic or make mistakes and patiently waited for their opposition to break down and make a mistake and the Coyotes did. Half way through the third period Nick Leddy let go a blast from the far point which Mike Smith was screened on as he never saw the puck until it was in his net. Credit Dave Bolland with a skate by that might have blocked his view. This time we did not have to wait til the last 15 seconds or so and have our goalie pulled to tie the game. The usual overtime that we have become accustomed to did ensue.
It did not take long however in the OT when Jonathan Toews won the face off battle in the Phoenix zone then proceeded to battle along the near boards to come away with the puck. Incredibly there was not a Coyote close to Toews and with time and space the captain was able to score a shooters goal. He perfectly placed it high over goalie Mike Smiths stick side and the far post to bring his team back to Chicago for one more try.
This game could be the momentum changer in the series. The Hawks left the Phoenix Coyotes GM Don Maloney rolling his eyes and shaking his head as he watched on in disbelief. They left goalie Mike Smith showing emotional breakdown ala Roberto Luongo when Leddy scored to tie the game as he was pounding his glove and blocker on the ice where he knelt in his crease. They left Coyote players after the Toews goal breaking their sticks in disgust. The Hawks left 17,746 in attendance wondering who are these guys? The Hawks may now be in the Coyotes heads and must stay on them and break them down mentally, emotionally and physically.
- The Hawks need to continue to work on that power play. Specifically, they need to get people to the net to screen Smith out. They may need to send two people to the net to get this accomplished as he is such a large goalie. Keep blasting away from the points and practice deflections.
- Keep shooting from anywhere and everywhere on the ice but stay patient. Eventually something will either go in or bounce favorably for the Hawks. Try to move around the Phx defenders to avoid blocked shots. They had 29 blocked shots to Hawks 9.
- The most important thing is everyone needs to watch their spacing and positioning. Forwards need to assist with back checking. Don’t give the Coyotes anything. Keep active sticks at all times and work on blocking shots in your end. The fewer Crawford has to save the sharper he will be in the end which, is when & where these games are being won this is imperative.
- The Hawks now will get Shaw back from suspension. This will give coach Q more flexibility with his forward lines and should provide the Hawks with more net presence. This will be key along with getting sustained pressure in the offensive zones.
I’m not sure if this game will turn the tides in the Hawks favors but it has to have the Coyotes scratching their heads as to why they can’t put this team away late in games. The scary thing for Phoenix is I still don’t think the Hawks have played their best game. This game was close to being perfect for the Hawks, but I still think they have another level. I think they have taken the best Phoenix has and are still standing which does not bode well for the Coyotes.
The Patricks - Kane & Sharp still have not played their best and Viktor Stalberg’s speed has yet to impact. Viktor, stay out of the penalty box don’t get frustrated. He accounted for all four of the Hawks penalties in this game. Luckily for the Hawks, the Coyotes power play is worse than theirs. If the Hawks can open up the ice a little more for the Patricks and Stalberg to skate this series will not be close.
Momentum is now with the Blackhawks and maybe some confidence in their game plan too. They must capitalize on this. I’m still not sure how this series will end for the Hawks. Let me just say this, with Jonathan Toews leading this thing don’t be surprised if the Hawks and Coyotes have to go back to Phoenix one more time. If that happens, I guarantee this time around in a play off series game 7 Captain Serious will not be leaving the desert without a win.
Three stars of the game
Hawks play again Monday night against the Phoenix Coyotes which can be caught on live on TSN, CNBC RADIO: WIND 560. Start time is at 8:00 pm CT