Game Times: 6:30PM (4/15, 4/17)
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago (4/15), NBC Sports Chicago+, NHLN (4/17), WGN-AM 720
White Boy Rick: Winging It In Motown
With the trade deadline having now passed, both the Hawks and whatever is left of the Wings right now are hoping to get a look at what is on their roster that could possibly be useful in the future, with the added bonus of the visiting Hawks desperately needing both of the games this weekend in regulation in order for next week’s three game set with Nashville to mean a damn thing as far as any playoff aspirations are concerned.
In Detroit, favorite son Steve Yzerman pulled off probably the biggest deal of the deadline in sending former first round pick and recently re-signed Anthony Mantha to the Capitals in exchange for Jakub Vrana, old pal Richard Panik (who sadly has not turned into Mike Bossy), and perhaps more importantly first and second round picks. The first inclination as Hawks fans is to wretch and gag and assume that both the hockey cognoscenti and Wings fans are positively moist over this move simply because it’s Yzerman who made it, but as difficult as it is to admit, this is actually an incredibly shrewd move. Yzerman likely could see Mantha for what he was, a gigantic oaf with all the skill in the world who simply can’t be bothered to give a shit. That the Capitals would give up so much to get him speaks to the fact that they’re still enamored with that size and speed combination, and were willing to give up draft capital for it, particularly with him locked in at a reasonable number of $5.7 for the next two seasons, thinking that playing with more skilled players will unleash the fury. But Mantha played with Dylan Larkin here, who is far from a bum even if he’s not a franchise savior on his own, so that theory might be flawed. Mantha scored in his Caps debut against the Flyers, but really, a blindfolded glass of orange juice could score against the Cold Ones these days. Panik and Vrana are obviously decent depth scoring pieces, except there’s nothing above them in Detroit to push them down the depth chart now, so they’ll likely be skating above where they would be slotted on a team that isn’t historically bad. Furthermore, Vrana is 25 and Panik is now fucking 30, so it’s not like they’re going to be a part of some completely re-imagined youth movement. But still, they’re NHL players one way or another.
And the fact of the matter is the Wings need goals however they can get them, as Larkin along with Filip Hronek are their leading scorers with just 22 points, and Adam damn Erne leads them in goals with 11. There’s just simply not a lot here, and they haven’t gotten much from recent lottery pick Filip Zadina with only 5 goals to his name. None of that is good enough even if Jonathan Bernier should have played well enough to get traded somewhere even as insurance, with a very sold .928 at evens. And that’s not to say that this team can’t jump up and bite a team in the dick if an opponent isn’t paying attention, as they’ve taken points in 4 of their last 5 games, with three wins including a 5-1 shocker against Tampa, and sweeping the Canes in Raleigh. And as the Hawks have proven against this very outfit earlier in the season, they’re quite capable of playing to a level where the Wings can blow their doors off even without Dylan Larkin.
As for the Men of Four Feathers, both Adam Boqvist and Calvin de Haan will be out tonight, which means the one game reprieve from the waking nightmare that is Nikita Zadorov is unfortunately now over, but also that Ian Mitchell will draw back into the lineup. It will be interesting to see how Mitchell fares after the first speedbumps of his development, as he looked overwhelmed and during and after the homestand against Tampa a few weeks ago, prior to which he had started to show some nice offensive insticts with real flashes that are so valued in this rebuild/retool/reload experience. Boqvist missing time via the concussion protocol is not encouraging however, as he’d suffered them in junior with London before, and prior experience with them makes one susceptible to them going forward. And it wasn’t even Boqvist’s slight frame at 20 that could be blamed for him getting suplexed in the corner or anything, it was just a freakishly errant puck that caught him square in the jaw. And given what he’d show since coming back from covid and what the future could hold for him, there should be little anger if he’s shut down for the remainder of the season simply as a precautionary measure.
Given the rosters that these two teams are going to be throwing out there, expecting a couple of crisply played games is a fool’s errand. But once again this is a minor measuring stick for Coach Vinny Del Colliton, to see if he keep his team as best aligned for a huge upcoming series as possible while playing against lesser competition. They damn near pissed away two games in Columbus to Patrik Laine on his own, which is certainly saying something given his propensity to be a passenger and have Torts bench his Goat Boy-looking ass just for his own amusement. This Detroit bunch doesn’t have any talent on that level, but Jeff Blashill has them playing with as much structure as that talent will allow, and Bernier can keep them in most games at evens, and clearly they haven’t quit in looking at the most recent results against the Hurricanes. Let’s go Hawks.