Three overtime games this week as the Hawks ended up with five of six points that somehow doesn’t feel as good as it should? Anyway, who did what this week?
The Dizzying Highs
Top Cat – Scored in all three games this past week, so it makes him a pretty easy choice. And two of them were the kinds of goals that only he and maybe Kane are coming up with–the snipe against the Bruins that hit top cheese and the finish from in close last night.. There hasn’t been too much panic about his lack of goals so far this year, because everyone knows this is a world-class finisher whose shooting-percentage is almost half of what his career mark is. Some of his metrics are slightly down from his first two years, and you never know how someone will respond to their first real contract even if it starts next year. But the slightly less attempts and chances he’s getting could be partially attributed to constant line shuffling, and since being paired with Strome and Kane and being left alone we’ve seen those numbers start to arc up. And the Hawks need it. The assumption was they’d find enough goals, but that hasn’t been the case with Toews’s struggles. Top Cat and Kane have to be scoring at a top-tier pace or this team is sunk every which way. Hopefully we’re getting back to that.
The Terrifying Lows
Andrew Shaw – This isn’t anything about what Shaw has done of late, and that’s the point. This is about how the Hawks handle Shaw from here, because you probably can’t get a more clear case of a player who needs to be protected from himself. We know that if given the choice, Shaw will head out there tomorrow and throw himself face-first into anything and everything. It’s pointless to try and do a concussion count on Shaw, because we know there were times even in his first stint as a Hawk where he played through it. Looking back on his Game 6 in Boston where he was knocked out cold and yet still barely missed a shift…that almost seems criminally negligent now. Shaw would tell you that’s what he wanted, and most players would in that situation. Would he tell you that 10 years from now? 15? Is he going to be able to remember it?
We’ve been critical of the Hawks’ handling of concussions in the past, pointedly with Marcus Kruger. Of late that doesn’t seem to be an issue, and perhaps Corey Crawford forced them to really make changes. Yes, Dylan Strome played a game through one, but he didn’t report anything to the Hawks and took himself out after that. Again, this is an injury that somewhat relies on the player being honest with the medical staff, which we know a lot of them aren’t. The Hawks and hockey have a long way to go, but at least they seem to be headed in the right direction for once.
Shaw was put on LTIR today, and it would not be a surprise if he’s out a lot longer than the minimum of past Christmas. It would behoove the Hawks to have a long talk with Shaw and really explore whether having him sit out the rest of the season is a viable option. We know of four or five of these for him already, and he missed some serious time with the Habs because of it. We can be pretty sure what Shaw wants, because what else is he going to do? But the Hawks might want to have his better interests in mind.
And when he gets back, perhaps the applauding of any fight he picks should be put down? He can still be physical and play a Shaw game without taking unnecessary risks, because you feel one good straight right and his career is going to be over. These are the kinds of things Shaw needs to be told, because if left up to him…again, we know the answer. If he’s not 100%, and really 100% and not close enough to it that the Hawks can give themselves a pass, by the time his LTIR stint is over, it feels like the risks to have him play this year are too great.
The Creamy Middles
Dylan Strome – Did you know Strome was playing at a 63-point pace? I guess I didn’t realize it that much either until now. But he’s been pretty damn consistent when healthy, and even if that’s his ceiling that’s solid #2 center production which was the idea the whole time. Strome’s metrics, while by themselves are hardly shining, are much better relative to the team than they were last year, which is encouraging. He got clocked a bit last night but had some glittering numbers against the Bruins and Devils. He’s been exactly what you would have asked for, even if you don’t notice him pop quite as much. In a stretch of time where it feels like Stan Bowman hasn’t gotten anything right, this one counts as a good move.