High Level Team Play on Display in NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs

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    Bob Rose Jr

    If you love hockey, and not just the Blackhawks, there are some things happening in team game play that show the direction NHL hockey, and hockey in g
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    Under Qs moustache

    I said this at the end of the playoffs (for the Hawks) last year. The game begins in the faceoff circle and ends in the opponents crease. Power play or 5 on 5 this remains. Krueger’s departure cost the Hawks a valuable face off asset. David Kamph came on later in the season and began to replace Kruger’s faceoff success.

    In years past the Hawks were big up the middle, with departed players Madden, Frolik, Richards, and Handzus. They just didn’t just win faceoffs, they maintained possession and played in the dirty areas effectively. They tied up defensemen, and created room for the forwards and the points to get both time and open shots.

    The smaller forwards that now dominate the roster, don’t control those areas like the players from the Cup Champion years. In the playoffs, owning the space between the circles in the offensive zone allows for second and third chances.

    The Hawks were one shot and done most nights this year, with lots of perimeter play, and low percentage shots when those shots did get through. Keith only had 2 goals. Is that because of Keith’s decline? Partially yes, but the Hawks were less than spectacular when playing from behind and on special teams because they lost possession after the point shot. There was limited sustained pressure, coupled by faceoff losses in the offensive zone.

    I look at Washington’s and Winnipeg’s size up the middle, there is nothing like that on the Hawks. Neither may win the Cup, but Detroit, Calgary, and Chicago didn’t make the playoffs because the forwards don’t hold the zone, and ultimately don’t score enough.

    Speed in getting the puck out of your own zone has never been more important, but getting pushed off the puck, getting out muscled infront of the net, and losing the board battles is the liability of smallish defenders. The Hawks have not dominated their own zone since Campbell and Buff left. Both had size and speed. 6 Tory Krugs on the back end aren’t going to bring the Cup to any team. There has to be a balance of size and mobility. It’s harder to be heavy on the puck when you’re not heavy to begin with. The Euros play in a bigger rink and are used to more time. The NHL size rink still favors size, especially in close games and the playoffs.  2 or 3 quick Keith like defenders need to be balanced off with Seabrook sized stay at home shot blocking defensemen.

    Yes the NHL is faster than ever with the change in the rules, loss of the redline, and emphasis on puck possession. But size and a hard nosed style of play isn’t out of style yet. See Tom Wilson, and watch the money from teams that will bid for his services in the summer. They won’t be paying him for his scoring touch. He creates space, retrieves pucks, and wins battles.

    The Hawks have scorers but just don’t have the roster or the determination to consistently win the small battles around the nets.  Don’t expect them to return to winning hockey until they do.

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