Thursday, June 13, 2013
Some guys have all the luck.
Game one of the final was one for the ages eh? I hate drawing conclusions from just one game unlike Healy, Hughson and Simpson who were writing the Hawks obituary before the second period was half over. The Hawks took the Bruins lightly (really? what the fuck). The Bruins playing hockey like a machine. Healy falling over himself exclaiming how Rask was unbeatable just before the Hawks started pumping pucks by him.
God how HNIC has fallen. Its depressing for an old hand like me. I grew up watching Peter Puck and Showdown and Howie Meeker between periods and of course back then Hockey Night was the only game in town. Literally. Two channels, no internet and all that. Now of course I don't remember Hockey Night back then but I remember it from more recent times and the level of discourse and commentary has fallen off a cliff. Its almost unwatchable.
The game itself on the other hand was fantastic. Now I picked the Hawks to win the series but have no doubt that Boston could take it. Both clubs are very good. Going into the first game I really felt that it was a must win for Chicago. I know that sounds crazy and I'm not one to talk about intangible mumbo jumbo bullshit but Boston came out of the conference final on a huge roll and a win for them in game one would mean that the margin for error for Chicago in game two would be very slim. A bit of Boston luck or a huge game from Rask in game two or quite simply a game where Boston outplayed Chicago would mean a two game deficit going back to Boston. Series over.
For me the big advantage Chicago has is that they are very fast and very skilled (derr) and if they skated and played their game then they could give Boston trouble just as Toronto did and at the beginning of the game they did exactly that. There was a lot of white noise from the crew about Chicago playing physical and how, like the Pens, they were falling into some sort of Boston trap but the Hawks were hitting to separate Bruins from the puck, they weren't running around like idiots and as Justin Bourne noted even the missed hit on Krejci was understandable and part of the Hawks' gameplan.
Krejci is wonderful isn't he? What a player. One advantage they have for sure, having him and Bergeron as one and two up the middle. It looked like Q was trying to match the Hjalmarsson/Oduya pair against them and they seemed to struggle a bit, especially early, maybe just nerves though. Oduya has rebounded from a rough stretch late in the Wings' series and Hjalmarsson has really turned into a terrific player. I would bet though, especially if Chicago wins, that Oduya gets moved this summer and Leddy slides up in the order. They'll extend Roscival or pick up another vet and then break in another kid I think. That and Bolland will be gone as well now that Shaw has taken his job and Kruger likely gets his shot between Kane and Sharp. Or maybe Shaw does for that matter. This is the Hawk model. Core (Toews, Kane, Hossa, Sharp, Keith, Seabrook, Hjalmarsson) locked up, cycle kids on cheap contracts/vets on short deals through. Anyways both Bolland and Oduya would bring back some more kids most likely for 2016. Two good players, reasonable contracts.
What I thought would be the Bruins' biggest problem became apparent as the game wore on and indeed it has actually gotten worse and this is the question of depth. The Hawks run four lines and three D pairs deep and prior to last night I felt Chicago was superior when it came to their bottom six forwards and bottom two defence pairings.
The difference, I think, is on the blueline and here is where Chicago has a real edge. They are six deep, unlike the Bruins' previous opponents, and the Hawks' D, for the most part, are speedy and skilled enough to avoid the forecheck, as they proved against LA. Compare Chicago's top pair to Pittsburgh's. There is no comparison. The Bruins are obviously pretty solid back there as well but I don't know how guys like Ference, McQuaid and Krug will fare. I think this may be where the Cup is won
If you look at last night Krug ended up getting benched for a good part of the game after his gaffe and McQuaid didn't see a lot of the ice as well for a while and what I noticed in the third period is that Seidenberg, Boychuk and Ference were all labouring. Seidenberg, who is terrific, was really struggling late in the game and it all has to do with the fact that the Hawks roll four lines of fast players out constantly. Chicago is also a team that has the puck a lot and so the Bruins defence were doing a lot of defending. And defending is tiring. And when two of your teammates can't keep up or can't handle it then you have to play even more.
If this thing goes seven then anything can happen of course but for the Bruins to win I really believe they had to win last night and then end the series quickly because of they're going to be forced to go with four D then Chicago is going to run them out of the rink.
To add to their problems it looks like Horton is out for at least one game and while Seguin strikes me as a guy who is due you have a bottom six which is now without him and Campbell and things are starting to get a bit dicey down there. I don't even know who draws in but again you're talking about a drop off in quality while the Hawks actually have Stallberg in the pressbox. (Don't get that at all although Bollig held his own. Of course his linemates are unreal too).
Two other notes. Anyone who follows me on Twitter or comes here often knows I'm a big fan of Marian Hossa. Probably my favourite player. (Chara is up there too). Hall of Famer imo and if Hawks win this I think he may be first ballot if the class is not out of this world. Its funny how things work eh? For years Hossa was derided as a playoff choker (this despite unreal numbers in the spring, even when he was a Sen) and of course as usual the Euro double standard applied. He played badly hurt in 2009, never complained or made excuses, but there was Pierre Maguire calling him Maid Marian and man sometimes I wonder why someone doesn't fire a puck at that loudmouth. Pick off him and Healy. Time to pass the hat for that one.
Anyhow Hossa was always a terrific playoff performer and did everything you would want. Nothing has changed except he has won a Cup and lo and behold here was PJ Stock (Bruins will win because they are meaner!) lavishing Hossa was praise.
And there was hellfire. FIRE! *groovy beat*
Watching Hossa last night though, what a player. Boston would have the puck, exit their zone, three on two and then here was Hossa, like a missile, tracking the puck carrier and either taking the puck back or destroying the Bruins' thrust. Unreal.
And then there is Brad Marchand. Fantastic player but unbelievable what the league lets him get away with. Its almost like he's a wrestling heel and they are encouraging his persona. That water bottle stunt should have been a penalty and a suspension and I can't believe his antics last night didn't get penalized either.
The league lets him run wild. Not sure why. One day probably soon he is going to get absolutely filled though. Someone will have had enough and they will step in and that will be it.
Hell of a player though.
As an aside Colton Orr was extended today which I found totally hilarious. Now some people say that over the regular season a facepuncher has value although I look at a team like Chicago which was last in the league in fights and I really can't see it but anyhow it was interesting to see folks come out of the woodwork defending the signing when Orr barely saw the ice as the Leafs' series against the Bruins went on and indeed didn't see the ice at all when the chips were down. Meanwhile Frolik and Kruger had the Kings hemmed in their zone with a minute left to close out game five (before the first line came out and blew it) and then worked the tying goal in the third last night. Plus they are the Hawks' premier penalty killers. In other words they are invaluable members of one of the two best (and perhaps the best) teams in the league. But some fans would rather have a guy like Colton Orr. Or Mike Brown. Man I don't get it.
Best was guy who accused me of using advanced stats to make my case on the Twitter (I did not) and told me to watch the game to which I replied that in the games I watched Orr was usually stapled to the bench. And in the second game of a back to back, the biggest Leafs' game in a decade, he barely saw the ice at all. Not sure where the advanced stats are there. Just watch the game. He was on the bench. MacLaren was in the pressbox.
Anyhow the issue for the Bruins is that the game Saturday is now a must win for them. I truly believe this. Julien can say that they came back from two games down two years ago and they did but I don't see them winning four of five against the Hawks. As a matter of fact I would bet that if Chicago wins Saturday that we might see a sweep or the Bruins out in five. Can Boston win Saturday? Of course. They almost won yesterday. But their margin for error shrank a bit last night - it works both ways - and with that edge in depth for Chicago growing with Horton's injury and the difficulty Boston's bottom pairing is having they really need to have a fantastic game and probably get some luck as well to do so.
Posted by Black Dog at 10:44 PM