Atop The Sugar Pile – 1/20: Top Top, Top Of The Pops

The Dizzying Highs

The Top Line: We don’t usually split this but what’re you gonna do? It’s hard to talk about Jonathan Toews without Domink Kubalik, considering they piled up 15 points and eight goals in just four games together. Toews especially has been delirious, with 42 points in 39 games. That doesn’t mean his possession-dominance has returned, but when he’s piling up the points that seems a bit nitpick-y. And he definitely domed whatever the Leafs threw at him on Saturday, which is always nice. Reports of his demise, some of which were authored by me in October, were obviously greatly exaggerated.

Kubalik is yet another showcase of the Hawks’ European scouting, and hopefully this time they don’t cash him in for a plodding, third-pairing d-man. Kubalik’s success of course makes the offseason even trickier, as if he does get to 30 goals then you can’t just hand him $2.5M and tell him to take it as they were probably hoping, even as a restricted free agent. But we’ll save that for May and June and whatever. No, he’s not going to shoot 30% for the rest of the year as he has this week, but it’s clear he is something of a ruthless finisher and also has a sense of how to get open.

The Terrifying Lows

No One? – It’s hard to pick someone out when you go 4-0 during the week and do it to the tune of 18-7 in the aggregate. So yeah, Drake Caggiula’s four penalties last night weren’t ideal, but who cares? Kirby Dach could be scoring more, but then he goes and does that last night and you see what might be possible down the road very quickly. The power play still hasn’t really chimed in yet, and the hope was Boqvist would goose it a bit more. But when you’re killing every penalty and finishing at evens at the rate the Hawks are, it’s not a big deal. That’s why Quenneville never really cared about the power play.

So maybe we’ll set it at the hype for tomorrow night’s game, which we’ll cover in-depth tomorrow. You know it’s going to get a little out of hand, but the video package is probably going to bring a tear to everyone’s eye. And frankly, I’m crying too much these days (though usually out of joy thanks to Gini Wijnaldum).

The Creamy Middles

Corey Crawford – While the headline has been how good the Hawks goaltending has been, the truth is that most of that has been Robin Lehner. Corey, who I will always defend and root for and am basically going to be the leading voice stating he should be the one kept and not Lehner next season, has only been all right at best. He flashed the form we know and love earlier in the season, but that went away. And even with these two great performances in Montreal and Toronto he’s only at .910 for the year, which is not the standard he’s set. And maybe he can’t get there again, but I don’t necessarily believe that.

I had thought he was still adjusting to splitting starts. But he got a row of them when Lehner had a bit of a knee-knack, and his performance against Detroit and Nashville were…iffy. Earlier in the year when he got a stretch of starts for the only other time, he was much better in Vegas and in Pittsburgh. Maybe he still hasn’t quite come to terms with the gaps between appearances. Now he’ll likely go two or more weeks.

Still, the Hawks will need him. And they’ll need him to be really good. It’s still there. I know it. And it’s more satisfying when we see it from him.

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