Hawk Talk - Notes from Last Night's Victory
I'm going to take a more straightfoward and simplistic approach to my reaction from last night's Hawks' victory over a mostly AHL roster of Red Wings players. Ultimately, because Chicago came away with a win, there were obvious positives. The biggest questions from last night surround Patrick Kane's effectiveness at Center and the defensive breakdowns that led to three Red Wings goals by some AHL, albeit talented, forwards.
I'll touch on the defensive breakdowns first. Is it the end of the world that a Hawks team consisting of mostly of their starting defensemen had a few miscues on positioning that largely contributed to at least two, if not all of Detroit's goals? I should say not. But it does raise a slight cause for concern, though you can't discredit the offensive instincts possessed by Fabian Brunnstrom of the Red Wings. The kid obviously has talent and made his opportunities count last night.
However, and I attribute some of this to defensive pairings for the Hawks still getting acquainted with one another, there were certainly some blatant positioning errors between a few of the pairings, such as covering opposing forwards downlow in the slot and on the doorstep (see Brunnstrom's second goal). This will improve, though it's safe to say that Lepisto looked a little overwhelmed at times when moving the puck. That's not too surprising, but it reinforces the fact that there is still room for his confidence to grow. Did Crawford look even a little rusty at times? Sure, but the point is that you have to take the D breakdowns with a grain of salt in these preseason games.
Kane At Center - Kane very surprisingly won 8 out of 12 draws in the circle. Keep in mind that he wasn't taking them against Pavel Datsyuk or the like, but that's still pretty good. He was his usual potent self on the offensive side of his game, though he was somewhat unnoticeable defensively at Center. However, that doesn't mean that he failed in his efforts to be defensively sound, it just means his two-way play wasn't a "game changer." The truth of the matter is that Kane doesn't have to be Pavel Datsyuk or Mike Richards to be an effective Center. Let him get more comfortable in that new role and we should see his game reach a level that will allow him to be effective offensively without hurting his team at the same time. In short, let's see how he continues tomorrow night vs. the Pens.
Hit on Ben Smith - Say what you want about whatever "last minute move" Ben Smith may have made just before Brendan Smith gave Ben a blindside hit to the head with his shoulder, the end result is simple: Rule 41 most certainly applies here. Brendan Smith may have not meant to target the head of Ben Smith, but to me, it doesn't really matter. He used his shoulder to make a hit up high from and when that happens, the risk of hitting an opponent in the head is always present. In short, Brendan Smith should be suspended. But that's just me.
Tomorrow night the Hawks return to the UC to take on the visiting Pittsburgh Penguins. Ray Emery will be the started in net and should play the entire game. I will not be surprised if this essentially seals the deal for Emery as backup to Cory Crawford. Though Salak is 24 years old, another year in the AHL can't hurt his development. Emery is a nice insurance in case a variety of bumps along the season occur, and he will most likely improve as he gets used to the defensive corps playing in front of him.
I am planning on going to the Hawks game tomorrow night and will be posting Twitter updates throughout the game regarding more reactions on Kane's play at center, as well as Emery's game in net. Game time is 7:30 pm Central time and will be broadcasted on both NHL Network as well as Comcast Sports Net Chicago.
Hawk, Hawk, Hawk it up!
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