1:02 AM CDT, April 13, 2012
The Blackhawks scored in the final minute to send the game into overtime for THAT?
No, look, when you bang in a desperate goal the way Brent Seabrook did with 14.2 seconds remaining in regulation, you’re supposed to have some momentum. You’re supposed to actually win the game. Everything’s going your way.
The Hawks in fact dominated play early in overtime, holding the Phoenix Coyotes without a shot for the first five or six minutes.
But then the Coyotes took the play.
And then the Coyotes took a faceoff.
And then the Coyotes took Game 1 of this first-round playoff series.
Martin Hanzal deflected the winner off a shot from the point by Adrian Aucoin, a former captain of the Hawks when they were bad, and the Hawks aren’t doing so well right now.
It’s not desperate, but it will get to that point if the Hawks can’t clean up some basic and vital areas.
Faceoffs, for starters. It’s the first battle of the game. The Hawks lost more than they won, including the faceoff that started the play that led to the overtime winner. Even the return of captain Jonathan Toews, one of the best faceoff men in the league, couldn’t make a difference.
The power play, for another. It vexed the Hawks all season, so why should it be different in the playoffs? The Hawks failed on all four chances with the extra man, including twice in the third period when they went looking for the tying goal. On one power play, Coyotes goalie Mike Smith lost his stick and still made a save. That’s the kind of power play it was. That’s the kind of power play it has been. It's not enough to look good on the power play. You have to convert. I still can’t figure out how a unit with so much talent can be so abysmal with such an advantage.
Puck management, for yet another. The Hawks looked sharp to start the game, moving the puck out quickly and appeared to surprise the Coyotes with their speed and efficiency. But the Coyotes started forcing the Hawks with their forecheck, creating turnovers and changing the game. That was especially true in the second period, which the Coyotes owned. They so dominated the Hawks on one shift that they were able to change lines without losing the zone, eventually getting the tying goal. It helped that the Coyotes had too many men on the ice but weren’t whistled for it, but still, anytime you want to clear the puck, fine by me.
Ditto for winning faceoffs and scoring on the power play.
If a team beats you because it’s clearly better, that’s one thing. But if you give it away by failing to execute the basics, that’s aggravating.
The Hawks are more skilled than the Coyotes. The fear is the Coyotes might be the better team. Like I said, aggravating.
And if all that wasn’t aggravating enough, the Coyotes won this one without Radim Vrbata, who was drilled by Andrew Shaw early in the game and never returned, taking his team-leading 35 goals with him.
Vrbata might not come back this series, but it might not matter if the same goes for the Hawks’ puck management, power play and faceoff ability.
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