It’s always nicer to answer the mail after a playoff win:
Q: Hey Jesse, I know you usually don't comment on rumors, but I heard that [Kim] Johnsson isn't playing because he doesn't get along with the team. I've always heard the Hawks are a very tight group of guys, and this surprises me. Is there any merit to this rumor? Thanks. -- Rebecca, Chicago
A: I understand the confusion over Johnsson, and no offense to you of course, but that’s about the dumbest thing I’ve heard about him yet. People like to pretend they are in the know about things when they are not. There very well may be more going on with Johnsson, but from all the people within hockey that I have talked to, he has a bad concussion, and that’s it. Why he’s not around the team at least a little is up for debate, but organizations act weird toward injured players so who knows? He and Patrick Sharp, for example, go way back, so I don’t think there’s a rift. The Hawks and the NHL could do a much better job of explaining these things, but they choose not to, so I don’t blame people for speculating, but guessing or making things up is different than speculating.
Q: Jesse, both games have been very similar in style of play. Do you see the Hawks exploding in either the Tuesday or Thursday’s game? I feel like they are close, and if some of their passes start connecting they could put up 4 or 5 easily. Or will Nashville's D (especially Shea Weber and Ryan Suter) just not let that happen? -- Fitz, My Cube
A:Anyone who has read my blog knows I’ve been comparing this series to the Vancouver Canucks series last season. Just like then, if the Hawks stay the course and are able to win games in this gritty style they may be able to frustrate Nashville and force them into a more wide open game. Take a look back at Games 3-6 against Vancouver. After wide open affairs in the first two games, it went the other way but slowly it came back because the Canucks got antsy culminating in that 7-5 finale. The only difference is Nashville is more disciplined than Vancouver, and they really only know one style, so the Hawks just might win this thing in six games with nearly every game the same.
Q: Big game last night from Dave Bolland ... had the one goal and, if not for a quick whistle, would have had two. My question is, is he starting to get back to form? I'm not sure if the back is still bothering him, but he hasn't been the same since returning. Hopefully this kick-starts him to the level he was at last spring. -- Aaron, Aurora, Ill.
A:The goal was nice but bigger than what it did on the scoreboard is hopefully what it will do for his confidence. He’s a very smart player, and he needs to get back to playing with an edge and taking some chances. He seems to be playing it safe so maybe that back-hander will spark him. Anyone can put that in if they bear down, it’s what he does to create and help out the rest of the game that I want to see more from him. Maybe this is a start.
Q: So it's looking more and more like Brian Campbell might make an appearance in this first-round series. What kind of boost do you expect adding Soup back to the blue line? What does it do to the defense and the power play? -- Michael, Chicago
A: I think some fans are acting like he’s the savior. He simply adds another puck moving player to the lineup. Over time, that’s only going to improve all aspects of the offensive game, but he can get bogged down just like anyone else against this Nashville team. If you can skate out of trouble and into the offensive zone or near it so you can dump it in, you can only help. Campbell adds that to both five on five and power play.
Q: Jesse, first off, huge fan of the blog. I've heard a lot of talk about the Hawks making adjustments to meet the Predators' style of play, but watching [Sunday night's] game, I can't help but think that the Hawks' biggest problem is the breakout. When the Hawks slowed things down and made clean, simple passes out of the zone, they were able to more quickly revert to their solid puck-possession game. Do you think that the changes being made by Joel Quenneville relate more to addressing internal changes rather than adapting to an opponent? -- David B., Chicago
A: I’m not exactly sure what you’re asking regarding internal changes, but I think the breakout thing is a good point, however, I think they are trying to be extra careful for the most part so it doesn’t look as smooth. There are exceptions, like when Dustin Byfuglien tried a couple of fancy plays. Here’s the bottom line. If the Hawks play smart and patient, they still have more talent than Nashville. Don’t let that be negated by mistakes. They learned that Sunday night, and I think it will hold true for the rest of the series.
Q: Everything was better after the win last night, however if you look at tweets during the game, it was a bit rough-going for a while. Did anyone [players/media] talk about the "difficult" part of the game, when you actually heard a few boos directed at our guys? I was wondering if you think it got the team's attention, because they seemed to play with more energy to me. -- JM, Naperville, Ill.
A:I think everyone was just antsy for a second goal. Until that came, it felt a little like it might be deja vu all over again. No one in the dressing room addressed anything about it except to say they knew that second goal was huge and it probably relaxed everyone in the building. I think they were focused on finishing the job. Simple as that.