In a game that had "measuring stick" written all over it, the Hawks came away with a 2-1 OT victory, and perhaps some answers, as well as some lingering questions.
Though I am not one typically for the "hawwwt takez" style of game review, I will offer a range of thoughts on what I saw.
First, in a broad sense, I'm sure a lot of fans shared my frustration at the number of puck battles the Hawks either lost or chose not to engage in last night, at least until the latter part of the third period.
The lack of effort and engagement at times is inexcusable in a big game versus a division rival—especially the one that humiliated you out of the first round last Spring. But even when you do engage, Nashville is a big, mobile, physical and good team. You're not going to win every loose puck.
So staying at 30.000 feet, the Hawks are no longer, by virtue of talent on the roster, a team that can just show up most nights and win. In truth, they were for several seasons. Although the team is 4-1-1 and leads the league in goal differential, there are still some underlying issues—they give up way too many shots night after night for example—so the coaching staff needs to get the most out of the roster, and Stan Bowman should not be sitting on his hands as far as making a move or two to optimize the talent.
More specifically, yet again, the goaltending bailed the Hawks out for about the first 45-50 minutes of the game, as Nashville dominated offensive zone possession for long stretches.
I liked the effort and engagement of a few Hawks all night: Brandon Saad, Patrick Kane, Michal Kempny, Tommy Wingels, Ryan Hartman, Artem Anisimov. Duncan Keith made a few very smart plays and continues to have a solid season.
I'm not sure it's a good thing or a bad thing that the glacial, recent camp PTO Cody Franson really looks better than Connor Murphy. Franson plays within himself and makes smart plays, generally speaking.
Alex DeBrincat was part of a line juggle that seemed to help ignite the Hawks in the third period, with Ryan Hartman and Patrick Kane. DeBrincat's slipperiness and nose for open seams helped create some problems for Nashville in their zone.
On the other hand, he needs to learn to keep his head up in the corners or he is going to get it taken off. After the latest big hit that knocked hm knees over elbows, ADB seemed a little hesitant to engage on loose pucks when he needed to. Work in progress. The ongoing huge adjustment from junior hockey to the highest levels of pro hockey.
Tanner Kero is a useful player but he was the latest audition at second line center that failed to work. It wasn't until the versatile and somewhat nasty Hartman took over in that role that the Kane line got going.
And this al leads back to the absence of Nick Schmaltz. It really seems like when the Hawks have had a lot of tempo and push up the ice—with a lot of extended offensive zone possession—it takes a lot of pressure off and exposure away from a mostly "learning on the job" blue line.
Perhaps, if Schmaltz is not back by Wednesday night's roadie in St. Louis, Joel Quenneville will leave Hartman centering Kane—which seemed to work last night.
But the margin for error for this team—while it appears somewhat improved, especially up and down the forward lines—is very thin.
The Hawks won last night and turned it on late—without their second line center—but they eventually overcame a Nashville team missing two of their top 4 defensemen—including the all-world Roman Josi.
I'll have more as I hear it leading up to Wednesday.