“I thought it was rock solid across the board.” –Joel Quenneville after the Hawks 5-2 victory over Phoenix
Yes, they made some mistakes, but in outshooting Phoenix 35-16 they dominated the game. Needless to say, the postgame locker room was a jovial environment.
"We came out with a shoot first mentality and I think that carried over for the rest of the game,” winger Jamal Mayers said.
Mayers scored his first as a Hawk on a tip-in of a Duncan Keith point shot. The Hawks blasted away from all angles and it paid off. Only two players, Nick Leddy and Marcus Kruger, failed to record a shot on goal.
“We controlled the neutral zone pretty well,” Marian Hossa said. “Everyone used their sticks in there [and] played smart. Patient game, we waited for our chances.”
Hossa notched his on a 5-on-3 power play, usually a momentum killer, instead of generator for the Hawks. Hossa blasted one by goalie Jason LaBarbera from the left point.
“The coach let me play [there],” he said. “I try to take advantage of it. I like to use the one timer or use the simple play.”
So a shoot-first mentality and smart play through the neutral zone contributed to the win. What else?
“We got some real skilled forwards who can hold onto the puck and can make plays and are tough to play against,” Keith said.
The Coyotes got a good dose of that.
Hossa’s blast came after good puck movement on the power play. Later, Dave Bolland iced the game with a nifty steal and score while the Hawks were killing a second consecutive penalty to open the third period. And just for good measure, Bolland’s entire line touched the puck on a Bryan Bickell blast. Michael Frolik took a hit to make a play and Bickell did the rest with his dangerous wrist shot. There were more examples as skill was on display up and down the line-up.
“We’re trying to build,” Mayers said. “This is a different team, a new team and we’re trying to play a certain way and grow together but it’s a step in the right direction.”
Newcomer Mayers was on the other side of the ice as the Hawks were putting together their puck-possession game the past few years. It was sporadic last season, but it’s coming together quicker now. No statistic tells the story better than shot differential. The Hawks are fourth in the league in shots for and seventh best in shots against. Through the first four games they were plus-6. Tuesday, they were plus-19.
Near perfection, indeed.