Time again for the good, the bad, and the surprisingly acceptable in the world of the Hawks.
The Dizzying Highs
Dylan Strome: This guy gets demoted to the fourth line and comes back and scores two goals against the Kings after that humiliation. And he had an assist. Alex DeBrincat could be here as well but we’re giving the nod to Strome—it may only be one bounce-back game but he earned this.
Robin Lehner: He’s been getting hosed by by his teammates and should have a much better record, but despite the frustrations of terrible defending in front of him, Lehner has been solid. He came into Sunday’s game against the Kings with a .922 SV%/2.44 GAA and proceeded to finish that game with a .974 SV%. I still say there’s no real goalie controversy here and Crawford isn’t at full-on backup duties (yet), but Lehner could play himself into a more clearly defined starter role, or at least make the contract decision coming later this season a lot easier on the front office. All of that is well in the future, and for now let’s just be happy he’s playing so well and giving the team a more-than-reasonable chance to win every time he’s in net.
The Terrifying Lows
The Power Play: In the midst of all the disappointment last year, people kept saying well, at least the power play is better. So much for that, at least thus far. The Hawks’ power play is currently ranked 26th at a miserable 10.3% and hasn’t notched a goal since Top Cat’s against the Blue Jackets on 10/18. All the credit Colliton got for turning around last year needs to be held up against the current results before anyone decides if he’s worth much of anything. For example, his inexplicable decision to play Nylander over Strome (and don’t think I’m just bad-mouthing Nylander here, keep reading) made no sense, because as Sunday’s game showed, playing Strome and DeBrincat together can result in goals! Strome isn’t going to solve all the power play’s issues, let’s be clear, but it’s just another symptom of a coach who appears to not know what he’s doing and a team that struggles to finish.
Brent Seabrook: OK, I’m seriously not trying to pile on here or be a dick about it. For this article I have to objectively look at the team and describe who and what are demonstrably bad, and it would be kind of disingenuous to ignore how bad ‘ole Nachos has been. He finally got benched for the Kings game, which means it was so bad that Coach Cool Youth Pastor had to locate his balls and tell Seabrook to grab a seat in the press box. And we know he’s been loathe to do that. But the decline we all knew was happening has only worsened, like we all knew it would. He’s got the lowest possession numbers at evens of any Hawks defenseman (44 CF%), his xGA is 5.6 (not the worst on the team but certainly not good), the team gives up way more high-danger chances than they get when he’s out there (HDCF% is 41 and HDGF% is even worse)…I can keep going with these numbers but why? We all know what we’re seeing.
The Creamy Middles
Alex Nylander: I have no desire to adjudicate between Sam and Fifth Feather and their bet over the Nylander-Jokiharju trade being a good thing, so know that I’m just reporting what I see here. And, for the record I’m still not convinced the Hawks will come out ahead on this one, but Nylander HAS been playing decently lately. He had an assist while falling down against the Kings, which was as entertaining as it was effective. His possession numbers have been well above water (65 CF% on Saturday, 52.6 CF% on Sunday, all at evens). He’s even had some decent defensive plays, and those are pretty damn hard to come by these days. So here’s to you, Alex Nylander, for not being as awful as I feared.