Atop The Sugar Pile – 3/2: Kuba’s Korner

The Dizzying Highs

Dominik Kubalik – First career hat trick in Tampa, which he had taken a run at before but didn’t quite complete, and five points in three games. Kubalik has had a rookie season beyond anyone’s dreams, and has been a genuinely fun thing to watch night in and night out. The power play has been revitalized with him on the right side and Kane switching to the left, though one might worry that teams will eventually cut off the one pass that has led to all this. But that’s for another time. Kubalik’s policy on the power play of just firing all the time is working for now.

Of course, the discussion will turn soon to whether if this is what Kubalik actually is going forward. It most certainly isn’t, because he’s not going to shoot damn near 20% for his whole career. No one does. Draisaitl and Oshie are right above and below him now, and their career marks are much lower. This is a spike, and we know that from how much he’s outperforming his expected marks. Still, his 0.86 individual xG/60 ranks in the top-30 in the league, which means that Kubalik could be viewed as a 20-25 goal from here on out with the occasional spike that will land him at 30 and above (he’s only 24 so you’d like to think he’ll have some years to play with). He also might always outperform his metrics given that he’s a good finisher.

Given Kubalik’s nose for space and finishing ability, you sort of wonder what he could do with a gifted passer. It’s not that Jonathan Toews is a bad passer or playmaker, but it’s not his specialty. Perhaps in the future, when the Hawks add another forward or two, Kubalik could find space for Kane or Dach on a full-time basis (even Strome is probably better passer than Toews) and keep his goal-totals inflated.

Again, discussion for another time. Sometimes you just have to enjoy what’s right in front of you.

The Terrifying Lows

Jeremy Colliton – It seems unfair to kick the guy after the Hawks got wins over two good teams competing for things right after they had one of the bigger stomach-punch losses in St. Louis, given all that went on before that one as well. The Hawks showed fight and pride, which isn’t always easy with a team going nowhere for a third year in a row.

But it’s hard to track Colliton’s comments that he’s proud of the way the Hawks have played hard all season and never given in, and then think about his comments after the losses to the Rangers and such where he claims that they didn’t care enough to start well or play the right way. What message do you want to send there, chief?

I would imagine that when this team plays hard it’s doing so for Toews and Co., and seeing as how Toews and Keith have made it pretty damn clear what they think of the steward of this ship, he’s probably trying to scramble to keep his job. Something tells me he’s going to keep it through the summer, but the leash in the fall is going to be awfully short.

This was also the week that down a goal to the Blues, Colliton sent his top power play plus Saad out for the final 2:51 of the game without a timeout. There isn’t any player on Earth that can keep his starch for 2:50, no matter how many stoppages. Needless to say, the Hawks didn’t really come close to finding a tying goal.

When the Hawks drew that power play with nearly three to go, the move was to send out the second unit, even for just 30 seconds if that’s what it was, and then send out the first unit with the goalie pulled for the rest of the game. Sure, you’re never guaranteed a stoppage when you need one to change, but you’re also not going anywhere with players out there for three minutes.

When anyone can point to what Colliton does well or who is a better player today than when he took over, I’ll think about removing the label “Worst Coach In The League” from around his neck. I’ll be waiting.

The Creamy Middles

Corey Crawford – Crow had a rough one in St. Louis, as everyone did. And maybe Crow’s pattern at this point in his career is just going to have a semi-regular clunker that keeps him more in the .915 range now instead of above .920 (though give him an improved defense and we’ll see). With nothing on the table, there would be no questions if that struggle had continued against two high-powered offenses in Florida (though the Bolts were hampered by injury). Instead, Crow turned away 74 of the 78 shots he saw in two games from teams loaded with finishers, and got the Hawks four points.

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