Though the game on the ice was ultimately incidental to what was going on off of it for both teams as far as any of the near, mid and long term outlook is concerned, the Hawks managed to take both games from a Jackets team that could very well be appointment implosion television to close out the season. With the Preds winning on OT against the Stars last night and the Hawks OT winner tonight, the Hawks are two points out and 2 regulation wins still back of the Preds with a three game series coming up next week that’s likely to put a bow on this season. But they did what they needed to do and got contributions from kids, which is all that anyone here has been looking for this season.
- First up is Wyatt Kalynuk, who eked his first NHL goal through a sea of bodies on Saturday night, and also assisted on the OT winner this evening. Kalynuk is obviously an over-ager signing as a college free agent (he’ll be 24 on Thursday) after waiting out his rights window as a Flyers draft pick, but with that age and playing for a big program at Wisconsin comes a fair bit of polish. He’s more positionally sound than any of the kids on the blue line to this point, even eschewing the MAN DEFENSE occasionally (not him staying home on the turnover by Dach right before the goal), and isn’t shy about using his feet when he’s given space. He probably maxes out as a third pairing guy on a good team, but for right now he’s showing he’s at least worth further consideration when he was just a flyer of a signing.
- As far as other new guys in the lineup, Riley Stillman (yes, he’s Cory’s kid) got absolutely torched on the first and third Columbus goals (though at the point Laine was his man on that rush, what was he going to do?), and looks to be a fringe NHLer at absolute best. Brett Connolly, whom this publication has always lusted after being possession dynamo on good teams and generally contributing 15-20 nondescript goals a year, made his presence known with a nice cut to the slot in the third period. And while it’s unknown if Connolly is in any plans here (he’d be eligible for the expansion draft), he certainly fits the profile of what the Hawks acquired, which is “beaten favorites” – players with pedigrees who haven’t worked out elsewhere, and believe it or not Connolly is a former 6th overall pick. He was a salary dump from Florida in order to get the rights of Henrik Borgstrom (who is playing in Finland) and is a Big Projectable Center, but there are certainly worse depth scoring options for a team to get a free look at in the process.
- In other trades today, the Hawks were able to swap Matthew Highmore and whatever intangible grit and sandpaper he in theory brings straight up for Adam Gaudette, who has been waylaid like every other Canuck by covid, but at least was able to put up 12 goals in 59 games last year. Gaudette is has been a defensive liability, but there’s certainly more skill there than Highmore ever showed, so again, it’s worth a look.
- In strict rental off-loading news, Mathias Janmark and Carl Soderberg were sent for picks and bodies to Vegas and Colorado respectively. Janmark and a 5th got a 2nd and a third, and Soderberg brought back another scion on middling NHL talent in Brian Rolston’s son. It’s all lottery tickets, but at least the assets were properly converted. There was some smoke for a minute about Nikita Zadorov being moved, but unfortunately that didn’t happen, and at least his big dumb ass was scratched tonight.
- The Jackets were able to get firsts for both David Savard and Nick Foligno, which seems like intense overpayment for both Tampa and Toronto, but this is the time of year where that kind of playoff grit bullshit gets GMs turgid, and ends up with very recent MVP Taylor Hall only netting a second and whatever it is Anders Bjork does for anyone. Mercifully this stupid market worked out for the Hawks in Janmark’s case.
- Patrik Laine had three awesome goals in these two games and the Jackets only got a point to show for it, which seems to be what his fate in Columbus is going to be until Torts spikes his drink with ricin.
- Max Domi is a real big fucking asshole.
- As of right now Adam Boqvist is in the concussion protocol, which sucks. There’s a very real possibility tonight was his last game for the season, and he was every bit as enjoyable to watch start to feel confident at the NHL level after he returned from covid. Shutting him down would not be the worst idea, but players want to play.
- Up next is the conclusion of the season series with Detroit, where Red Wings fans will have beaten themselves chafed by Thursday’s game time over the deal Yzerman was able to pull moving the untapped potential of gigantic oaf Anthony Mantha for Jakub Vrana, Richard Panik, a first, and a third, which is a good deal even if those two players provide depth that the Wings don’t need.