Even under normal circumstances, this stretch of the year can feel arduous and get to be a slog, and that’s without the now constant looming specter of random roster configurations and potential postponements at every turn. Furthermore, the style of hockey the Hawks are now trying to win with is anything but scintillating, but at least it netted results on this 3 game, 3 time zone trip, with the Hawks taking 2 of 3, and two in regulation, though not necessarily the games one would have guessed going into it.
1/6 – Coyotes 6, Hawks 4
Everyone pretty much had this game penciled in as 2 points in the bank, as the Coyotes have not only been one of the very few teams tangibly worse than the Hawks, but obviously and intentionally so. Marc-Andre Fleury did not look sharp in the early going, and the traffic in front of him did him no favors as there were plenty of seeing eye shots that got through. Eventually the Hawks would make a game of it because the Coyotes also blow real bad, including a highlight reel serve-and-volley goal from Strome and Debrincat, but it would be too little too late. Exacerbating things was Brandon Hagel getting put into protocol right before the game and forcing some odd lineup combinations that included starting Riley Stillman at forward and only skating Nicolas Beaudin for like literally a minute, but Brandon Hagel simply cannot be that important to a team that it prevents them from beating this collection of dog vomit (GET IT) in Glendale.
1/8 – Hawks 2, Golden Knights 1
In yet another homecoming/milepost game for the long career of Marc-Andre Fleury, on Saturday night he made his first appearance back in Las Vegas, where he was the franchise’s first ever player, backstopped them to a Cup final, and won a Vezina trophy just last year. Obviously the fanfare was in full effect for Flower, and he delivered on the occasion as he did last month in Montreal. After surrendering another seeing eye goal from distance, the Hawks caught a couple of lucky breaks in the 2nd period to find themselves up 2-1, which included Jujhar Khaira getting about a day and a half to shoot and pick his corner on perennial pudwhack Robin Lehner. It seemed like, given the disparity in rosters and the means by which the Hawks have to protect their very rare leads these days, that a full on siege in the 3rd period was coming from the Knights, and then it just kinda…didn’t? The Hawks did a very solid job of the ol warhorse tropes of keeping the play to the outside and getting sticks and bodies in lanes, and while there was a push late from the Knights, it wasn’t an all out blitz, and ultimately they only out attempted the Hawks 21-14 in the final frame, which is rather tepid considering the circumstances. And at the end of things, the Knights were just simply out of time, and the Hawks walked out of Vegas with a regulation victory, a seemingly impossible feat.
1/11 – Hawks 4, Jackets 2
If there was ever a game that aesthetically lived up to its exact billing of “Two mediocre to bad hockey teams playing on a Tuesday night in January in Columbus”, it was certainly last night. Neither team plays a particularly inspiring brand of offense these days, and the one potential point of interest for the game, Seth Jones’ return to Ohio after being traded this past summer, was nipped in the bud due to a positive covid test, which is obviously its own form of hilarity. The Jackets would get on the board first with Boone Jenner shaking loose of Amy’s Youngest in front, but the lead was short lived with an answer from DeBrincat (who else). And befitting of the weirdness of this time of year, the Hawks would then get two goals from defensemen while their obvious #1 was out. First would be Calvin de Haan as the late man crashing down the slot after Philipp Kurashev beat trade piece Adam Boqvist down the ice to feed him, and then Connor Murphy capped off a nice passing play between he, Toews, and Garbage Dick to give the Hawks a 3-1 lead. The Hawks would allow a late shorty getting the Jackets to within 1, but DeBrincat would add just the second Hawks empty netter of the season. Jakub Galvas made his NHL debut on the blue line after he was pressed into service, and certainly didn’t look out of place or even lost in his first NHL action. It’s definitely time to start finding out what the Organ-I-Zation has in some of these kids rather than giving the pointless Erik Gustafsson minutes, and the initial impression was solid. And news today is that Lukas Reichel is making his way to the taxi squad (not sure why he’s just not right on the roster now but whatever), where he’s one cough away from giving this forward group some desperately needed finish.