Sunday, September 11, 2011

Hawk rookie forwards find scoring touch, but defensive lapses cost them, lose to Ottawa rookies 6-5

Game 2 of the 3 game rookie tournament in Oshawa this afternoon saw the hawks forwards get untracked offensively, but the defense was unable to stop Ottawa and the hawks dropped their 2nd game within 19 hours, in a wide-open affair.

There were 4 lineup changes for the hawks from last night. Scratched skaters were Philippe Paradis (with a suspected concussion suffered in last night's game), Chris DiDomenico (who scored the hawks' first goal vs. Toronto) and Dylan Olsen, replaced by Paul Zanette, and invitees Peter Leblanc and Neil Manning. Johan Mattson replaced Mac Carruther in goal.

The hawks again gave up the first goal, early in the first on a scramble in front, but they quickly got that one back, with Leblanc moving in from the left side fired a shot that beat Sens rookie goalie Matej Machovsky. Later in the first, the hawks got a powerplay, but some nonchalant play by the hawk defenseman Lavin retrieving the puck behind his own net & some aggressive fore-checking by Ottawa penalty killer Corey Cowick lead to a turnover, with the puck heading toward the crease. Hawk goalie Mattsson was slow in covering the left side of the net and as he slid over, he actually knocked the puck into his own net with his left leg pad, which made it 2-1 Ottawa.

Hawks quickly responded again on the same power-play, with Brandon Saad again connecting for his 2nd goal of the tourney (& 3rd point), standing just off to the right of the net and flipping in a rebound to make it 2-2, with Jimmy Hayes creating traffic in front & earning an assist on the pp goal.

Saad struck yet again late in the first, with his 3rd goal of the tourney, to put the hawks up 3-2 at the end of the first, outshooting the Sens rookies 17-12.

Ottawa came out flying in the 2nd, and with the help of a couple of power play opportunities, seemed to wear down the hawks and converted on one of their chances, with Sens Dman Stephane DaCosta scoring the natural hat trick - the 2nd with a blast from the point that beat Mattson high stick side on the powerplay to make it 4-3, and followed that up shortly afterwards with another slapper this time low stick side, where Mattsson was apparently screened, throwing his hands up in the air in frustration as Ottawa took a 5-3 lead.

Hawks managed to get a late powerplay of their own in the period, and this time it was Jimmy Hayes making a nice move from close in, lifting a backhander past Machovsky to pull the hawks within 1, at 5-4. Saad picked up another assist on the play, giving him 3 points on the game, and 5 in 5 periods. He should have had yet another assist when he made a beautiful cross-ice pass to a hawk all alone in front, who simply missed getting his stick on it to steer it into a yawning cage.

The third period saw the checking get tighter, as both teams tried to clamp down on the scoring chances that were abundant in the first two periods. Both teams nevertheless managed to hit iron, and late in the third, the Sens struck again, hemming the hawks in their own zone and seemingly putting the game out of reach.

But less than a minute later, Jimmy "Purple" Hayes found himself high in the slot with the puck, and after taking a quick look, fired a wrister that beat Machovsky for his second of the game, making it 6-5. The Hawks then pressed again in the Ottawa zone, but lost control of the puck and Phillip Danault attempting to swipe it away from a Sens player, caught his skates with his stick, knocking him down & was assessed a minor for tripping with a minute left.

Ottawa closed out the game by keeping the puck in the hawk zone to kill off the clock.

Danault had left the game in the 2nd period after taking a stick in the mouth, apparently from his own player as no penalty was called on the play. It appeared that Danault lost some teeth on the play, with blood dripping on the ice. After a minute, he got up & skated off, with Joe Lavin appearing to retrieve a lost chicklet from the ice and following them to the bench to give it to the trainer. Danault missed the rest of the second for repairs, but returned to start the third. (His parents were sitting behind me & his father indicated it wasn't the first tooth he has lost lol).

Observations on the game.

This was a more wide open game than last night - more emphasis on skating and not nearly as physical, which probably suited both teams more. The Sens have some excellent rookies as evidenced by winning the AHL Calder Cup championship last year and shutting out the Pens rookies 4-0 yesterday afternoon.

Brandon Saad continues to be the story of the tourney for the hawks - another excellent offensive performance - he was a threat every time he was on the ice, and produced whoever his linemates were. Hawks coaches continued juggling their lines throughout the game, giving different guys opportunities to play with Saad & Hayes.

Jimmy Hayes is going to be a very productive NHL forward - Great size at 6'5, but he can skate (not quite Viktor Stalberg speed, but very quick acceleration) and he has fantastic hands that he showed again today. How Burke could have given up on this guy is baffling, tho I suspect that Hayes doesn't play it rough & tough enough for Burke. I would like to see him use his size more & be more physical throwing his weight around out there to create more space (and if he did, he would be a dominating player), but it doesn't seem to be his game - tho I doubt he is a pushover - he doesn't go looking for trouble, but doesn't appear to be afraid to stand up for himself or teammates either.

Danault had another solid performance - he's played better than MacNeil, who seems to be having some trouble adjusting (or perhaps he was overrated?). MacNeil made at least 3 blind passes that were all picked off and was not an offensive threat, while Danault seemed to have a nose for the puck and the areas to be in offensively. His skating seemed more effortless than MacNeil and he seemed more determined in his play, looking more comfortable offensively. I don't have the plus minus stats & took more note of the the hawks offensive performance than who was responsible for the goals against, so perhaps MacNeil might have been better defensively of the two, but right now, I'd take Danault. That said, both guys are only 18 & I don't expect they'll be playing in Chicago for a couple of years.

Toews didn't seem to get as much ice time today - he didn't get on the scoresheet, but when he was out there, he went all out - just didn't get that much accomplished offensively.

Gilbert & Froese were more noticeable than last night, showing some flashes of ability, though can't say they made a big impact.

The two invitees in the lineup, Leblanc & Manning also put in fairly solid performances - with Leblanc scoring the first goal & Manning showing some good skating & mobility at the back end, tho didn't look that big.

Paul Zanette, also in his first game of the tourney, had some decent shifts, but had limited ice time and impact.

On defense, Joe Lavin looked fairly steady, tho he did have some lapses, particularly on the play that led to the shorthanded goal against. He's a decent skater & puck mover, and is a fairly aggressive defender (as all hawk defensemen appeared to be) in terms of challenging the puck carrier in the hawk zone.

Danis-Pepin may appear as a physically intimidating presence at 6'6, but as mentioned before, he's not overly physical and while a decent skater for his size, his puck handling needs some work - to me, he seems like an average 5'11 defenseman playing in a 6'6 body.

It was hard to pick out any stalwarts from among the hawk dmen - they seemed fairly interchangeable - though giving up six isn't going to help any of their causes.

Johan Mattsson looked shaky on a couple of goals, especially the own goal he knocked into his own net with his left leg pad when sliding across the crease, though he also made some nice saves on difficult chances, and picked up a delay of game penalty when he played the puck in the trapezoid area, tho seemed to dispute the call. He also seemed to show his frustration after the 5th goal, a low point shot by DaCosta which he apparently didn't see - something which I'm not sure his teammates or coaches would have been that impressed.

Overall, another entertaining game, well-played for the most part with some lapses by the defense & goaltending that ended up costing them.

The two guys that have really stood out so far have been Brandon Saad & Jimmy Hayes with an honorable mention to Phillip Danault. These are three guys to keep an eye on in the hawks regular camp.

In a nice gesture, there was a moment of silence prior to the US National Anthem in memory of the September 11th victims back in the 2001 terrorist attacks in the US.

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