Don’t worry, this won’t be just hair-pulling and complaining about the terrifying lows…I mean, I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t thought about it, but I wouldn’t do that (yet)…
The Dizzying Highs
The Kubalik-Toews-Saad line. This has been working, when so little else has been. Brandon Saad in particular has been playing well lately, including not one but two goals in the eventual collapse to the Blues on Saturday night. Dominik Kubalik has also been setting up Jonathan Toews pretty nicely and is proving that he does in fact belong on the top line. Going into Sunday night’s game this line had a a 52.6 CF% and an xGF% at a healthy 55.8. And they’ve been doing the basics like winning puck battles, hanging onto it, making good passes, etc., not to mention they scored the go-ahead goal against the Wild. This one line isn’t enough to solve the Blackhawks’ many, many woes right now, but they are still a functional top line.
Whoever decided to let Boqvist play 10 games. Having played 10 games, the first year of Adam Boqvist‘s contract is now officially in force. This means that he will likely play only here with the top club, which is exactly what needs to happen, not any contract chicanery for some imaginary future state. No, Boqvist isn’t some kind of savior, and he hasn’t been playing all that impressively quite yet, but the only way for him to develop into a reliable NHL-level player is to play in the fucking NHL. The Hawks cannot pull any Jokiharju-level nonsense this time: no sending him to the World Juniors to beat up on other children, despite whatever “confidence boost” people say that will have. You know what’s good for a kid’s confidence? Telling him, “you’re an important part of our future and good enough to play at the highest level.” How is no one else mentioning that? Besides, with the defense literally in shambles there is no other choice, because if the Hawks really don’t care about this season and consider it lost, they need Boqvist to develop and get better so that things don’t stay this way. Or, if they really do believe their own marketing slogan and think they can claw their way back into the playoffs this year, they absolutely need a fast, puck-moving defenseman who can also be on the power play. Either way, contract timing should not be the deciding factor and I’m relieved that it no longer is.
The Terrifying Lows
Dennis Gilbert. Whatta jamoke. This fool spent half the week taking dumbass GRITHEARTFART penalties that directly led to goals against them. About a week ago it cost the Hawks the game, leading Adam Burish to ever greater levels of dumbassery on the broadcast to defend these meatball tactics. By this past Saturday Gilbert was almost not offensive to the eyes, but then he got paired with Seabrook (not his fault but still) and was on the ice for both the second and the game-tying goals by the Blues. In fact, in his first nine games he was on the ice for just one goal but also out there for 11 against the Hawks. He is not an NHL player. Full stop.
Alex Nylander. Fuck this idiot, seriously. Well, actually let’s say fuck the stupid front office who traded a talented young defenseman for this idiot.
Erik Gustafsson. So many options for the Terrifying Lows this week, amirite? Gus was particularly awful against the Coyotes earlier in the week and really just couldn’t accomplish basic defensive coverage, stickwork, what have you. Oh wait, but then there was the pass to Mark Stone in the Vegas game (technically a turnover but felt like he just forgot which team he was on). And fucking up on the Knights’ short-handed goal that same game. Really, too many terrible moments to choose from.
The Creamy Middles
Connor Murphy. Connor Murphy is fast becoming the Rodney Dangerfield of this team and I am not having it. He is the only actual defenseman the Hawks have right now—and he’s been playing as well as the lone d-man on a bad team can. He’s leading the defense in CF% (51.3), and has been trying to cover for Gustafsson’s stupidity, which is quite the unenviable task. So he’s been on the ice for a lot of shots and scoring changes against lately (29 and 33, respectively, going into Sunday), but he’s still managed to be one of the only decent players on a regular basis. And he even had two assists last night against the Wild—one on a shot that Kampf redirected for the third goal, and another shot for a bizarro redirect that became the winning goal. Also, did I mention he’s the only actual defenseman they have?
Corey Crawford. The numbers won’t show it, but Crow has been keeping the Hawks in it over his last few games. Against Vegas his SV% was just .865 and against the Blues it wasn’t much better, at .895. But if you saw any of it, you know that Crawford has been one of the few reasons why things aren’t even worse, and his play is largely how the Hawks aren’t losing by a touchdown on a regular basis. Also please note this is not to say Lehner has been bad, but Crawford has borne this burden with class and a lack of appreciation, as always, so he gets the shout out.