Haven’t done one of these in a bit, so we’ll kind of wrap up the past two weeks instead of just the previous one. And boy is there so much to get through.
The Dizzying Highs
Duncan Keith – I mean, what else is there to say? Did you know he’s only taken two minors on the year? As for the absurd amount of assists he’s racking up, I can’t help but feel it’s all a result of his defense. He’s not a playmaker or kickstart my heart rusher like Karlsson or Subban (though he skates as well). Keith’s assists mostly spring from closing down opposing threats quickly and rapidly getting the puck up to the forwards to do their thing. It’s why 17 of his 24 assists are secondary. In his Norris year he put up 69 points. The next two years when his defense definitely slipped, he couldn’t muster more than 45. Last year he was just about on pace for 50 over a full year when his defensive game returned. You know he’s playing his game on the back end when he’s racking up points on the other.
Marcus Kruger – It’s hard to decide if what Kruger and his line are doing is impressive or a statistical oddity. What can’t be argued is Kruger’s new-found prowess at the dot. He’s at 54.7% for the year, which I don’t think any of us saw coming. Maybe because of that, certainly partly, Quenneville has simply abused his 4th line in terms of zone starts. On the trip they started 4/5ths of their shifts in the defensive zone. Did it work? Kinda, as all three of Smith, Kruger, and Bollig came up with big goals. But the possession stats also suggest they were getting crushed, although that’s always going to be skewed with such a difference in where they begin their shifts. After all, even if they can turn around some or most of those, it’s hard to generate shot attempts when always starting in your own zone. You could suggest they got lucky to not give up as many big goals as they scored. But the bottom line is they haven’t. See if this still happens at home where Q can pick his matchups, as there’s genuine #1 lines coming in. Will he still be sending out 52-16-28 against Getzlaf and Perry? Kopitar? The Sedins? Giroux?
The Terrifying Lows
Brent Seabrook – He was awful in Colorado and at the very least was the main culprit in pissing that one away, if not the only one. His trip didn’t get much better, and it’s a good thing Keith has been imperious. I worry about what happens when Keith’s play falls off even a fraction, because this guy doesn’t look like he’s picking anything up other than a fucking fork. It’s all been masked so far. But for how long?
The Creamy Middles
Brandon Bollig – Certainly, the 4th line couldn’t pull off what it was asked to do without contributions from all three forwards. And as early in the year is supposed to be experiment time, there’s nothing wrong with seeing how much they can handle. I can’t help but wonder if Q is looking at Bollig and wondering if he can’t transform him into something like Travis Moen used to be. Moen began his career (here) as simply a brawler, but eventually morphed into a checking winger on a 3rd line of a Cup champion (the Ducks with Sami Pahlsson as the center). He still had that nastiness to his game but knew the right ways to channel it. Now, Bollig has a long, long way to go to be that. As much as his skating has improved, it would have to improve that much again to be Moen who could actually move a little bit. Moen also had better hands, though maybe not a better shot as when Bollig gets time it’s pretty lethal. It’s caused the Hawks to basically have three scoring lines and a checking line, which is not something I foresaw. I have no idea if it works long term, but it’s certainly a study that’s keeping me interested. It’s also going to cause something of a problem when Bickell returns. Sure, the easy answer will be to punt Pirri to the pressbox, though I think a rotation of Handzus, Pirri, and 4th line wingers to keep Zus fresh would be the best option (the best option I’m hoping for, as the best option would be to put Zus in orbit). But we’ll tackle that when we get to it.