FACEOFF: 9pm Central
TV/RADIO: WGN for the locals, NHL-N for the non-locals, Sportsnet for the Hosers, WGN Radio 720
You would think that this would have been the game circled on the calendar before the Circus Trip started. And yet it doesn’t feel like there’s an extra charge about this one. Maybe it’s because it’s the last game of the trip. Maybe it’s because both teams know that these sorts of things in November don’t really matter. Maybe it’s because neither team has fired on all cylinders this year for the most part. Or maybe it does and I just haven’t noticed. I am kind of oblivious that way.
This will be the first time these two see each other since playing one of the better playoff series in the past decade (if not the best, and I’d struggle to come up with one better). It probably doesn’t take on that extra buzz because the Hawks know that winning a regular season game doesn’t make up for a playoff loss (that’s Canucks and Blues shit), and the Kings are once again busy checking their watch and wondering if April will ever get here.
Because things have not been all rosy on Figueroa Avenue this year, though you won’t hear much panicking about it. The Kings sit 4th in their division, and can thank the Sharks for being so mediocre for not being lower. Most surprising, the usually possession-dominant Kings have been anything but this season, and have relied on Jonathan Quick perhaps having his best regular season to get by. Quick is rocking a .932 SV% while seeing near 32 shots per game, which is basically unheard of for the Kings. L.A. still has a team-Corsi percentage of 51.2%, but they’re used to being up around 57% or 58%.
Why? A couple reasons. One, the blue line doesn’t have a lot of drive from the blue line behind Doughty and Muzzin now that Slava Voynov is on his way back to the Gulag. It’s Alec Martinez, and then a group of leaden-footed trolls in Matt Greene, kid Brayden McNabb, Robyn Regehr, and Jamie McBain. Good luck with that.
Second, there’s a big division between the Kings’ top six and their bottom six. Kopitar and Gaborik (for the seven minutes he’s actually in one piece) on the top line and Carter, Toffoli, and Pearson on the second are still a fucking fright (though Toffoli has been skating with Kopitar of late). However, Stoll and Richards are pacing themselves at best or headed for a trade at worst (Richards). Dustin Brown is basically just a group of roaches shaping themselves into a human form at this point, and if you slapped a #10 and the name “Perry” on the back of his jersey you wouldn’t notice a difference in douchebaggery. Dwight King has always been an overrated oaf. Stoll and company will probably come good in the spring though, so don’t get all that excited. It’s kind of this thing they do out there.
However, the Kings have been much better at home than on the road. Must be their new theater style/Lakers/Emo lighting at Staples Center. They’re 10-2-1 there, and only 2-4-4 on the road. So if the Hawks have the bus running at all on the last game of this trip they’ll get run out of the building.
Further dispiriting is that the Hawks have played three games in four nights three times this season. They’ve lost the third game all three times. Two of those were the home losses to Winnipeg and Anaheim where they weren’t all that bad but got stoned by a goalie. The other was the fuck-this in Vancouver last weekend.
In the past though, the Hawks have closed the trip with a flourish. They swept SoCal in their one trip there last year, and back in 2012 they did as well. They’ve got three days off after this, and didn’t have to work all that hard yesterday afternoon. No reason to not leave it all out there.
Don’t be shocked if Q goes for broke here and rolls Crawford out there again, considering how well he’s playing. He’ll have to back off the throttle at some point but he probably sees a sterling road trip in the sights and wants to claim it. No word on if Hossa will play or not after Perry assaulted him yesterday like the petulant child he is. If he can’t go Morin will draw back in, and might even get a look on the top six if Q wants to keep all the other lines that are clicking at the moment together.
Let’s Go Hawks.
Update: Crawford in net, Hossa is a go. Hopefully Raanta gets a couple starts on the next East Coast swing. Don’t hold your breath.