See me and the boys we don’t like it, so we’re gettin’ up and goin’ down.
Well, at least the Witching Hour of the trade deadline drawing nearer feels to have a bit of purpose with Kyle Davidson permanently installed as the General Manager with his interim tag lifted. And now he’ll get the opportunity to really show what his vision for this team is, and he quickly did so by jettisoning part of the pro scouting department, which always seemed to land on players that had previously been in the organ-I-zation but couldn’t play dead. Of course, this now begs the question why both Henrik Borgstrom and Erik Gustafsson sat all three of these games if they are out of favor with the team and are trade candidates with scouts in attendance nightly and the Hawks playing for exactly fuckall with 25 games still to go. Maybe Kyle’s still just getting the hang of this thing.
Five games into a season-long six game homestand (albeit augmented by the schedule being altered on the fly by covid postponements), the Hawks find themselves 1-3-1 with one game remaining in it, in what could have been at least a half assed attempt to keep themselves remotely viable in hair brained wild card talk. But given the results of this weekend where they needed TWO hat tricks to get past a punchless Devils team, and were humiliated once again by the Blues this afternoon, it’s time to start stripping this team down to the floorboards, assuming a fucking GM is ever hired to have the authority and autonomy to do so.
There have been a few games like this that the Hawks have deigned to break up the toil and drudgery for us during, where both the Hawks and their equally bad opponent manage to put on an entertaining hockey game for the true sickos who are actually still paying attention to this. Such was the case on Friday in a back and forth affair that had neither team particularly interested in defensive zone coverage, the Hawks less so, surrendering all five NJ goals at even strength. Kevin Lankinen made his first start in over a month, this time with a hand issue after a protracted covid absence earlier in the season. He didn’t look particularly sharp but really wasn’t done a whole hell of a lot of favors by the group in front of him. But at least they figured something out against the Devils’ PK (which has been above average), scoring 3 times, which ended up being the difference in the contest, the two empty-net Hat Trick cappers not withstanding. It had apparently been 19 years since Hawk teammates had pulled that off, with the legendary Steve Sullivan and Eric Daze each turning one.
On to more dire matters, where the Hawks once again got utterly pantsed at home by a Blues team that clearly has zero respect for them. The Hawks played well enough in the first period to at least control the territorial battle, but without converting, there was a growing sense of the Blues simply playing with their food on a lazy mid-February matinee against an obviously overmatched opponent. A quick burst of effort got the Hawk defensemen scrambling wildly in their own zone, with Amy’s Youngest continually being the worst offender in this matter. Obviously he was brought here as a lure to his brother, but it’s been pretty evident that he just simply isn’t an NHL player. Erik Gustafsson was scratched and Jones was kept in the lineup somehow, which is one of the only times Gustafsson will get any kind of defense here on these airwaves. Isaak Philipps drew in, and it once again begs the question what the actual fuck are Ian Mitchell and Nicolas Beaudin doing still in Rockford when leadfooted dopes like Philipps and Alec Regula are here, and Regula is getting power play time to the abject horror of everyone bearing witness. None if this is helping the fact that the Hawks forward group has like a guy and a half who can finish at this point, so not getting literally anything from the back end and doing so on purpose with personnel decisions like this doesn’t seem to make a whole shitload of sense.
To add insult to all of this, smirking piece of shit David Perron was sitting on two goals late in the game when the Hawks went back to the box with about 90 seconds remaining. Coach Craig Berube, who in a past life was certainly an on ice fucking cop of a player, sent his first unit out in a 4-0 game to feed Perron one timers to try and complete a hat trick in a game that was already well in hand. Now these are professionals, not pee wees, so the Hawks get paid to prevent the other team from scoring. However, it’s highly doubtful that Craig Berube The Player would have appreciated such tactics or suffered through them without at least one attempted decapitation. Just further proof than any and every code in this game is abject fucking bullshit and everyone who has used it as rationale for anything is merely trying to justify their own dickhead actions.
The Oilers, the Flyers, and the Lightning are up next this week, and hopefully, lord willing, the Hawks will actually have someone in place who can unload some of this dead weight to the point where these games aren’t merely going through the fucking motions and some kids can get a legit look.
Look, it’s difficult enough to get in any way fired up for mid-February, post-All-Star games against non-marquee opponents when a team is good, but it’s been a good goddamn long time since the West Side Hockey Club could make that claim, which makes this stretch even more of a grind than usual. About the only thing left to be determined for this season with this team is who is going to get the privilege of being shipped elsewhere in the coming weeks, and even that can’t really happen until a new general manager is hired in THAT protracted process. Throw in the fact that these are makeup games to begin with and the weather is shitty, and it’s not exactly a recipe for scintillating hockey. The fact that the Hawks’ roommates are now on their all star break certainly helps ease some of the scheduling conflicts that the Covid postponements could have caused, but that’s still put a very quick 3 games in 4 nights on the table for the Hawks, starting this evening.
Game Time – 7:30PM CST
TV/Radio – NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720
Justin Fields. That’s It. – The Cannon
At long last, Amy’s Oldest gets his “reunion” against his old Q-pilled brothers in arms in Columbus, having missed the first encounter at Nationwide as a last minute Covid scratch. Whether or not any of that matters between these two go nowhere teams is up for debate, but at least there might be slightly more juice to this one at least to start. Arvid Soderblom gets the start tonight out of necessity given the back-to-back, and it will be the first non-Fleury start since he returned from the Covid list after the Holiday Break/Pause. Soderblom predictably looked like a deer in headlights having to spell Colin Delia in his first ever NHL appearance, but settled down a bit the following night against Calgary, where he made 37 saves on 41 shots, getting done no favors by the team of front of them. Coincidentally, the Jackets are arriving in town having most recently caught a beat down in Calgary with their new acquisition Tyler Toffoli, but had won 5 of their last 6 games, the loss being the Panthers hanging 8 on them. This Jackets group isn’t any damn good and has really no finishers other than Patrik Laine when he’s interested, but there’s enough of a floor here to beat bum ass teams, and a getting a rookie goalie in his second ever start would seem to fit that bill.
Game Time – 7:30PM CST
TV/Radio – NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720
Southfork Ranch – Defending Big D
So with Ben Bishop finally calling it a career after something like 14 backiotomies, the Stars now only have to split time between the three somewhat useful goalies they have in net in Braden Holtby, Anton Khudobin, and Jake Oettinger, though Khudobin has been buried in the minors for some time. Between Holtby and Oettinger, both have nearly identical save percentages at 5v5 (.923 and .922 respectively), which is a nice rebound for Holtby after his disastrous turn in Vancouver. Neither of them are signed past this season, so that leaves Hall of Famer Jim Nill with some decisions to make. The obvious choice is to cash in on Holtby at the deadline for a team looking to solidify their crease situation into the spring and then plan on giving Oettinger the full workload next year. But the conundrum lies in the fact that the Stars are only a point out from the last wild card spot, and have games in hand on the Kings and Ducks ahead of them, as well as the Preds whom they’re 3 points behind. It’s difficult to see this Stars team as presently constituted as on track for anything but an ass waxing in the first round against the Avs, Knights, or possibly even the Flames, but this group is living proof that goofy shit happens in the playoffs. It’s just not necessarily wise to bank on it.
Game Time – 2:00PM CST
TV/Radio – NBC Sports Chicago, SportsNet 1, WGN-AM 720
Cruisin’ Like A Fanboat On The Glade – Litter Box Cats
The Panthers are very good. They are second in the league in points behind only the Avalanche, and they just beat the Canes in their own building last night. And Sasha Barkov did this devilry. There may be a hope that the Cats get into the city on Saturday night and hit it hard prior to the matinee and the fact that the Hawks are pretty bad, and if the Hawks stay disciplined in limiting chances they might be able to keep it close. But those are very big ifs and a wholly incongruous matchup where the Panthers shouldn’t ever have to get out of 2nd gear.
The Hawks careen in into the All Star break hosting the Canucks and Wild tonight and Wednesday respectively, with their date last night against the Blues having been rescheduled as a part of the NHL revamping its schedule on the fly to accomodate COVID postponements and the resultant lack of participation in this coming weekend’s Olympics. Coincidentally, the not so dearly departed Jeremy Prinze, Jr is now tasked with coaching Team Canada after Claude Julien sustained a freak eye injury, so it will be utterly hilarious to watch the Canadians try to chase puck carriers above the circles on the extra wide ice. And even with the NHL not sending players, that doesn’t mean the Canadian citizenry won’t feel entitled to gold and nothing less, so those hockey-birthright jingoistic psychos should be in full froth by the medal round. But back to more pressing matters on this side of the International Date Line, where the Hawks only have two more regulation wins than the laughable Habs and Yotes, and one of the Coyotes’ SEVEN wins cam against them.
After the obligatory Boudreau Bounce, where the Canucks went 8-0-1 after he replaced Travis Green at the beginning of December, but have gone 3-4-3 since, and still find themselves well outside the final wildcard spot, even with Edmonton absolutely shitting all over itself for like six weeks straight now. As is always the case when Gabby takes over, the pace quickens and players skate like their asses are on fire, but most of the time in every direction at once. Boudreau’s limitations have been well documented over the years in this space so there’s no need to rehash them again when this particular roster won’t get him anywhere near the top of the conference playing his signature style. The thought was that Boudreau could maximize the floundering offense of Elias Petterson, who to this point only has 24 points in 44 games, which is well off his basically point-per rate his first three (truncated) seasons. Since Boudreau took over, Petterson only has 12 points in 20 games, so things have yet to pick up for him, and it’s not as if his shooting percentage has absolutely cratered – he’s at 12.2%, but that number has been trending downward since his rookie rate of 19.9% to 16.7% to 15.9% to where it is today. Even if he were shooting his career rate (this year included) of 16.6%, that’d still only result in 4 more goals on his 90 shots. His shots on goal are only down .2 a game from his career rate, so something is off here. Considering that he’s locked up for two more years and that this season likely is going result in a sell-off prior to the deadline (where the most attractive piece might be leading scorer JT Miller who is at a point-per and plays a great two way game and has another year left), it’s probably not cause for riots in the streets, but is certainly worth monitoring,
Game Time – 8:30PM CST
TV/Radio – TNT, WGN-AM 720
Doublewhiskeycokenoice – Hockey Wilderness
This will be the third meeting in two weeks between these two teams, and not really much has changed since the first two other than Jonathan Toews being out of the lineup in the concussion protocol. It’s anyone’s guess when he’ll return, and the continued presence of Lukas Reichel in Rockford makes even less sense now that the Hawks are down a center and apparently Kirby Dach has given up trying to score 120 games into his career leaving the Hawks with really only one guy with any finish, and he’s headed to Vegas once this game ends. The Wild dong-whipped the Hawks on UC ice two weeks ago in a game that was never close, and then the Hawks at least kept things interesting for a bit in St. Paul before blowing multiple leads and losing in OT. In both games the Hawks suppressed shots well enough on this Wild team, something they’ve been fairly good at since the aforementioned Coach Kelvin Gemstone got whacked, but with little to no finish, and lacking the team speed the Wild have, there’s only so much that’s going to impact actually good teams, as was the case twice against the Avs last week. This game is once again on national TV, but at least this one is the late game that a national audience won’t have to be subjected to it. After this it’s the all star break, where we’ll probably take a breather here too, because this new writing schedule is so exhausting.
A new era is upon us for The Beloved, and the Hawks keep trying to figure out if their new era is ever going to get here. We thank you for your continued patronage.
It seems fitting that the Hawks would get a double dose of the Avalanche this week after the city received it’s first real snowfall of the year and season on essentially back to back days. And after for the most part not really having any kind of answer for the solidly middle ground Minnesota Wild for over the weekend, this week certainly doesn’t bode well. There hasn’t really been a particularly good time for the Hawks to face the Avs over the past few seasons, but right now seems particularly bad given how things have been going in Denver for a while now.
Game Time – 8:00PM CST
TV/Radio – NBC Sports Chicago+, WGN-AM 720
Frontier Psychiatrist – Mile High Hockey
When last the Hawks saw the Avs, Cale Makar was putting Kirby Dach in a covid-infested blender before burying an OT winner on his backhand from an angle few would even attempt let alone roof and water bottle. Since then the Avs have gone 9-0-1, and are 17-2-2 since the beginning of December. This run has caused them to ascend to their rightful place atop the Central and the Western Conference, and has them only two points behind Tampa and the Cats for the best record in the league, and they have games in hand on both. They’re tops in the league in scoring at 4.15 goals per game, and second in goal differential, only one behind Florida with the aforementioned games in hand. They have five players averaging over a point a game, including the prohibitive favorite for Norris in Makar. And they’ve been doing it all with a 53 share, so this isn’t exactly a fluke- nor was it ever constructed any other way. Darcy Keumper has been fine with a .913, which is more than serviceable with an offense like this. Quite simply, keeping a game competitive and not getting embarrassed right now is really all that can be asked of this Hawks team, and even that feels like kind of a reach.
Game Time – 6:30PM CST
TV/Radio – TNT, WGN-AM 720
Pointes High Class of ’87 Reunion – Winging It
Right now, delusional Red Wings weirdos will tell anyone who will listen that this team is ahead of schedule and they’re better than they have any right to be and they’re FUN and they’re just outside of a wild card spot. And while some of that is partially true – Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider have been the first real Wings prospects to actually jump to the show and make an impact since now-captain Dylan Larkin SEVEN years ago, the reality of the situation is that while yes, there is no one between them and the last wild card spot, there are 8 points between them and the Bruins, and 11 between the next closest team in the Leafs, with each of them having four games in hand. They also have a goal differential of -26 with Alex Nedjelkovic having a wholly respectable .926 at evens in 30 appearances. So while there are some bright spots here, there is nowhere near enough offense on this roster as presently constituted. That being said, the offense here is still getting more than the Hawks are currently (2.67 goals per game to 2.34) while having a particularly dire power play at 14.8% where only the Coyotes and Habs are worse. This game will be on TNT for obvious television market reasons, but certainly not for the quality of play. Neither of these two teams are even wacky-bad anymore, it’s just boring low event hockey from both sides as that’s the only way either can hang on for dear life against better competition. But who knows, maybe these two sub-mediocre teams may produce an entertaining spectacle on the national broadcast out of being so evenly matched. Don’t count on it however.
Game Time – 7:30PM CST
TV/Radio – NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720
Summit County Mountain Retreats – Mile High Hockey
Same as above but at Club 1901 this time. The Avs host Boston on Wednesday, which is the headliner late game on TNT after the Hawks/Wings opening act. And oh yeah, the Avs have won 15 straight at Pepsi Ball Bag Arena or whatever.