Fantastic series. Can’t say that enough. Nothing in sports beats OT playoff hockey and the Hawks and Blues played 4 of those. The margin for error between the two teams was razor thin, but the Hawks had the special players to make the difference. The NHL going back to divisional playoffs is one of the best decisions the league has ever made. This matchup isn’t going anywhere. Both teams are relatively young. The Blues, Hawks, and Avs will be having great battles in the central for years to come. The difference here is that the Hockey Gods would never allow a team with Backes, Lapierre, Ott, Polak, and Jackman to win anything significant. Too scummy of a team. Feels good to have a divisional rival again though.
–I hate to nitpick after ripping off four straight wins so I will get the one criticism/question of Quenneville out of the way now. If Bollig(1:50 TOI) and Nordstrom(2:07) aren’t going to play why are they in the lineup? Versteeg hadn’t been playing well and he probably deserved to see a game from the press box, but he certainly gives you more than Nordstrom. I like having a sheriff in the lineup, but maybe in the next round you won’t need him since the Avs/Wild don’t run around as much as STL. I’d like to see Morin get a look. More upside with Morin and he plays with enough snarl.
–Blues had 52:37 of powerplay time in the series and got 2 goals. That’s an incredible stat. Almost a full hour of powerplay time and virtually nothing to show for it. The Hawks’ PK struggled at the outset of the year, but it’s been pretty good since probably Christmas time. Handzus and Hjalmarsson really set the tone with their shot blocking, but the entire unit is working well and the faceoffs have been great. Most importantly, their best penalty killer was the goaltender.
–Corey Crawford stood up after the first couple games and took the blame. He said he had to be better, and he was. Sensational 4 game for stretch for Crawford. .952sv% in those four games and made many difficult stops with Blues in his face. I don’t know what else Corey Crawford has to do to get respect. All the guy does is win and stand up for his teammates. For some reason one bad game in the Stanley Cup Finals, a game that the Hawks still won, has over-shadowed the rest of his career. He could’ve easily won the Conn Smythe last year, but all people want to talk about is his supposed leaky glove hand.
–”Every time someone seemed to be scoring a goal, he had 19 or 88 or 81 or 10 on his back”–Ken Hitchcock. Couldn’t have said it better myself(maybe I could have, I did it in the preview blog). The Hawks elite scorers were the difference in the series. When space gets tight in the playoffs you need special players to make plays in a flash. The Blues had Tarasenko, the Hawks had everyone else.
–Ben Smith really emerged for the Hawks. He was arguably the best player on the ice in Game 5. He has been a big game player going all the way back to his high school days. Coach Q giving him big minutes in the top 6 gave the Hawks an extra dimension. No offense to Handzus, but he can’t skate well enough to play major minutes anymore.
–Duncan Keith was named a Norris Trophy Finalist today. Less that 24 hours removed from what Coach Q called the best game of his life. I think I agree with him. Both teams looked a little sluggish at the outset yesterday. The only player who was dominant from the moment the puck dropped was Duncan Keith. Gap control was perfect all night, he made countless plays at the blueline, started the rush, and obviously had a big night on the score sheet. He should absolutely win the Norris again this year and their isn’t a defenseman in the NHL I’d rather have. He’s superman.
–Several people asked me on twitter yesterday who I’d rather see in the 2nd round and I’ve seen a few Hawks columnists write pieces on that question. Would I rather have home ice against a team with Kuemper/Bryz or play on the road against a Vezina Finalist and the 2nd fastest team in the NHL? What are we even talking about here? Give me the Wild 1 billion % of the time.
With that I turn it over to the comment section. You guys were downright prophetic after my blog saying that Miller wouldn’t make a difference.
Ryan Miller Best Of The Comment Section:
“I don’t think I’ve ever read an unbiased blog on this site. If you don’t think Miller improves the Blues cup chances heavily, you clearly know nothing about hockey. Get off your Hawks pedestal.”–Dolomite4
K, See ya.
“Ryan Miller posted a .925 save percentage on the leagues worst team, pretty sure hes gonna make a difference on the blues…”–Soucthemoose
Well he had a .897sv% in the series, but ok.
“Huge deal for the Blues! They already have a great team and now they add a top 5 Goalie in NHL! I would say they are Cup Favorites!”–BriGuy
Much has been made about how the Blues played an eerily similar series vs the Kings in the first round this year. Now they have a top 5 goalie and got bounced in the first round in 6 games again. Got it.
“Chicago is TOO SOFT to beat the Blues this year”–Nobodyfuckswiththejesus
I don’t really understand the Hawks are soft line of thinking. 1) Hard to throw hits when you have the puck on your stick the whole time and 2) you don’t win the Stanley Cup by being soft. They went through LA and Boston last year. Two of the “toughest” teams in the NHL. This is basically the same roster as last year, but somehow the Hawks are softer.
“Might be the worst hockey blog ever written on the stool. And that says A LOT. Miller is top 2 when he’s at the top of his game. And he’s pretty close to being there. You’re out of your mind if you don’t think this puts them close to the cup finals. And I’m a bruins fan. Miller is insane.”–Carmine-Scarpaglia
Good one to end on. It ended up putting them exactly as close to the Finals as they were last year.