I am an optimist by nature. You all know that by now if you've been following along on this website since I started back in 2013. I believe in the Blackhawks. I have too many great moments burned into my brain that prevent me from going negative about this team. I took a walk last night after the game and vented on instagram. When I put my phone away and laid down I fully expect to feel better when I woke up. I think the refs screwed up on the Reaves offside goal call. If Toews scores instead of hitting the post. If Strome buries his chance when Lehner lost his blade. If Dach shoots and scores on the Hawks scoring chance early. If Crawford makes the stops that he needs to make like he almost always does. Etc, etc, etc. A few bounces go their way, a few adjustments by the coaching staff, and bang. Let's get a split in the first two games, which is always the goal for a road team, and the Hawks are in the series.
Then I saw this tweet/quote from Jeremy Colliton
Let's get one things out of the way first. I do NOT think I know more about hockey than Jeremy Colliton and his staff. Those guys are professionals who live and breathe hockey every single day of their lives and spend an inordinate amount of time learning about aliens, nature, and history. Having said that, this is the same staff that after missing the playoffs in 2018-19 had 5 months to come up with a plan to put their roster in a position to be successful and decided to play a man-to-man system in the defensive zone even though they knew they had some young forwards who could get lost and a defense littered with guys who lack foot speed to stay with NHL talent while defending. That same system, which was a horrible decision defensively and didn't do anything to prevent scoring chances, also made it difficult for the Blackhawks to breakout and support the puck while exiting the zone which took away the one thing that the Hawks did very well the year before which is creating in transition off of the rush. They were forced to become a dump and chase team which is tough for a team that doesn't have a lot of great forecheckers. Those decisions cost the Blackhawks anywhere from 1-3 months of the season, depending on who you ask(Duncan Keith). So to reiterate, I am not arrogant to think that I know more about hockey than Colliton and his staff. However, I have ZERO faith in their ability to properly evaluate their team, evaluate the other team, and come up with a plan that puts the Blackhawks in the best possible position to win. Scott Powers wrote an article about Stan's faith in Jeremy paying off and how he's won over the room. I find that hard to believe after listening to chiclets and hearing this clip from Duncan Keith after game 2 against Edmonton when Colliton threw Keith under the bus to the media
With all of that said…I HATED the game plan last night. The reason I brought up October is because I was having flashbacks. The Hawks weren't playing a man-to-man system, but they played in kind of shell defensively. I just don't think that is the best hand the Hawks have. They need to be able to create off the rush. They need to be able to possess the puck. They need to be able to establish possession in the offensive zone and get their own D-men involved like they did against Edmonton. We saw a TON of one and dones last night in offensively from the Hawks. The only time I felt good about what the Hawks were doing was at the beginning of the game when things were a little chaotic. It was up and down. The Hawks were giving up some good looks, but they had some of their own as well and I really believe that is the formula. That style quickly went away as the teams settled down and the Hawks went about 10 minutes in the first period without getting a single shot on net. Call me crazy, but a system that leads to zero shots on net probably isn't a good plan. If that is the result of your plan then that plan should be lit on fire. The coaching staff doesn't have 6 weeks to bang their head against the wall like the did in October.
I am of the opinion that Vegas is always going to generate offense no matter what style you play. We saw it play out last night. They had the puck a lot. They forced the Blackhawks to play 200ft from their net and the only relief was putting it back out to the neutral zone and getting back to the bench. Vegas is awesome. It's going to be a grind, Colliton is right about that, but if you concede the fact that they're dangerous no matter what you do then I think your best bet is at least give your top guys a chance to run and gun and create enough at the other end to make the game more competitive.
We'll see what kind of adjustments are made before game 2. People are clamoring for lineup changes. Maybe those are coming too, but if the Hawks want to play this style again I am not sure it'll matter.
A few other quick notes
--Brandon Saad had a pretty good night. Obviously had the steal on the PK which led to an assist of the goal. He was active everywhere. When you have a top 6 forward with 2 Stanley Cup rings who plays big boy hockey against a big boy type of team how does that guy only get 13 minutes of ice time?
--If it were up to me there would be lineup changes before next game. The Hawks don't have a ton of options, but I'd probably give both Sikura and Hagel a look. Rotate Nylander and Strome out. Have one of the 4th liners move up to center on the 3rd line. That guy would probably be Kampf. We'll see though. Adjustments to the gameplan are more important than the bodies, in my opinion
--Need more from Boqvist. He needs to be given the greenlight offensively. That is why he was drafted so high. We have yet to see it and he's not good enough defensively to justify that pick so without the offensive component to his game he kind of becomes a liability. Again, put your guys in a position to do what they do best. He's such a good skater that he should be able to jump in plays and still get back with ease. The Hawks need more puck support and it has to come from the backend. The only guys you want playing that way are 2 and 27 so communication between them has to be tight.
--Crow needs to be better and he will. I am not worried about it.
--I would consider putting Cags with Dach and Kane. That line needs more puck retrieval. I hope 91 can provide it. Then if Strome isn't rotated out perhaps having his soulmate on his wing will gas both guys up a bit.
--PP got a little stale again. I want Toews in the slot and Kubalik on the right side. That way you always have a the dangerous one-time option available for Kane when he's the QB on the left side of the 1-3-1
--The banned list will active for game 2. Watch your mouths.