Game Times: 7:ooPM (1/22) , 11:30AM (1/24)
TV/Radio: NBCSN Chicago (1/22), NBC, TVA-S (1/24), WGN-AM 720
Big Money Rustlas: Winging It In Motown
Prior to the season starting, the common refrain was that the Hawks couldn’t be that bad, they’d be in the same division as the Red Wings, and they were ass on ice last year, so they’d at least be able to rack up a few wins against them. But the early returns a week into the season have shown that there will be no game the Hawks can’t find themselves capable of losing, and the Wings themselves are at least kinda sorta a little bit improved from last year.
Coming into tonight, the Wings are 2-2-0, having split series with both the Hurricanes and Jackets so far, with their most recent game being an OT win against Columbus on Tuesday night. The Hurricanes are clearly battling a covid outbreak at the moment, and the Jackets are benching their leading scorer from last year out of spite, but these are the games that were scheduled. To this point the Wings are still getting fairly snowed in in terms of possession, carrying only 47.1% of the shot attempts at even strength, but the goaltending tandem of Jonathan Bernier and Thomas Greiss has been exceptional to this point while alternating starts, and each as an even strength save percentage above .930, and both at or around that number overall, with each only surrendering a single power play goal against to this point. With both goalies in their mid 30s and only Greiss (pudwhack that he is) signed through next season, the best that the team can hope for is that this continues and that they can unload one if not both at the deadline for futures, though if the goaltending stays this good they may find themselves falling ass backwards into a playoff spot given this stupid season.
In front of both of them is a ramshackle blue line filled with castoffs from other teams, and that was before Jon Merrill was added to the COVID protocol list, joining forwards Adam Erne, Robby Fabbri, and Feather’s guy Sam Ganger. Merrill was paired with the somehow-still-here Danny DeKeyser, so it looks like former Cap Christian Djoos will draw in to that spot. Onetime Stars prospect Patrik Nemeth is on the defacto first pairing with Filip Hronek, and the very useful Troy Stetcher (late of the Canucks) mans a third pairing with Marc Staal (who is donezo), but on paper provides a nice safety net for Stetcher from the third pairing.
For the Detroit forwards, things are currently a mess with the number of players they have out and who won’t even be making this four game trip, but even if the aforementioned Erne, Fabbri, and Ganger were available, the whole operation goes through newly minted captain Dylan Larkin anyway. Larkin has 4 points in the early going, and is still grabbing a 55% share drawing top assignments in four games against teams in Columbus and Carolina who have real ass top pairings. Bobby “Ryan” Stevenson (speaking of pudwhacks, his Masterton trophy is a fucking joke) has four goals in four games so far, a pace he will clearly keep up. The wings are still hoping from big things out of former lottery pick Filip Zadina, who finally figures to get a full season to figure it out at the NHL level this year, after fits and starts the past two. Zadina should get a more prolonged look on the top line with Larkin given the personnel issues up front, and if he and Larkin end up finding something together that could end up being a problem long-term.
As for the Men of Four Feathers, they appear to be running back the exact same lineup as on Tuesday in Florida, because holding a lead for a minute and 11 seconds of the first 243 and change is not really a formula Coach Jeremy Suhonen wants to fuck with. That includes Kevin Lankinen, who was the first Hawk goalie to not give up a fifth goal to the opposition until overtime. Lankinen clearly didn’t look fully comfortable in his NHL debut, as his angles looked to be those of a goalie who only has played limited time on a North American sheet, and is used to the wider dimensions of European ice. Lankinen also plays small for being listed at 6’2″, but that could just be the usual exaggeration of pro sports teams. Either way, while none of these goalies have distinguished themselves yet, it’s certainly not fair to them to ask to bail out the defensive zone coverage in front of them that looks like an interpretive dance of the Mr. Bungle album “Disco Volante”.
Given what the Hawks have exhibited so far this season, there were always going to be very few wins and even fewer easy ones, but if the Wings continue to get plus-goaltending and finally have Dylan Larking taking THE LEAP, the over/under is going to get pushed even further down. Given that the Hawks are at home at the UC, in theory there are obvious matchups to be found here, but that would require a coach being able to see them and not being hell bent on giving Janmark and Wallmark more time than Dominik Kubalik on a heater. But hey, that’s why he’s got a fresh new contract. Let’s go Hawks.