It’s come to me to clean this one up. Oh joy. I made sure to have my new favorite snack before I attempted this (peanut butter and rib belly sandwich. Trust me, it’s the tits). There’s a few games every year where it feels like something has truly gone wrong. And then you take a breath, a moment, and realize you didn’t learn anything new. It’s just some things about that particular defeat rankle more than normal.
The Avs are the Hawks’ bogey team. It doesn’t matter where they are in the standings or how they are playing. They’re just going to play well against the Hawks. It’s been going on for three seasons now. Maybe even five.
And hey, that pisses us all off. Because by any measure the Avs are not a good hockey team. They are coached by a lunatic who isn’t very good at his job (so might the Hawks be, but that’s another discussion for another time). They’ve learned all the wrong lessons about last year. They have annoying players up and down the lineup who have been made more annoying by their dumbass coach. No getting around it, not pounding them into dust sucks.
But that doesn’t make this loss really that much different, beneath the surface, than any of the others lately. If the Avs were this ruthless all the time… well, it’d probably look a lot like last year and we know how that went. Throw in a really stupid goal, which always gets the unwashed riled, and you have a few raw nerves.
It’s kind of amazing how much of a pattern from last year this season has followed. Hawks roll through November. December brings a ton of points as well but you start to notice some creaks. Those creaks turn into loss of points after the calendar turns, exacerbated by not full focus from the Hawks. The gap in the division and 2nd place grows, Hawks realize there’s no point in bothering, problems get worse, and we run out the clock until April. Here we are.
Jonathan Toews can complain about his team’s urgency all he likes, but why would there be urgency? His coach conceded the division in the press last week. Any chance some if not all of his players didn’t see that? Can you really get pumped before a game if you’re yelling at each other, “Let’s grab 2nd place!!!”? Especially when it’s over a team you beat last year without home ice? I’m guessing no. The Jets are five points back having played a game more and are trending the wrong way. The Wild are eight. The Hawks aren’t facing any pressure from behind, they can’t apply any in front, so why would there be urgency?
There’s been urgency in games that popped up. They were tired of being beaten by the Jets this season, so they played well there. St. Louis? Usually up for that. Played one of their best games of the season. Penguins in town? Got better as the game went along. Detroit for its one and only visit saw the Hawks much tighter than they’ve been.
The rest? Eh. Whatever. That’s how they seem to feel. That doesn’t mean I know, or am in any way convinced they can just turn it on four out of seven times against whoever they face (and in the playoffs you often have to do better than that because you will lose games in which you play well). But they appear to be waiting for that.
The problems are still clear, and didn’t change tonight. The Hawks can have trouble exiting their zone because their defense doesn’t have enough quickness. That’s also the reason they give up more shots than we’re accustomed to seeing. The bottom six is not scoring because Marcus Kruger is not a playmaker and Andrew Shaw is not a center but most of all they’re just all on the wrong side of luck. They might have center-depth issues again if Richards fades, although at least tonight was a blip in the right direction in that area. And that’s kind of it.
I threw out this number on Twitter. It doesn’t sound like much, but if the Hawks shooting percentage were up just 1%, to where it was last year, they’d lead the league in goals per game. How many more point would that mean? Will there be a market correction in time? No one can answer that.
Sorry to say, but until the Hawks make a trade, or until they recall Teuvo and let him play center with actual talent, there just isn’t going to be much to watch until April 15th. The Hawks seem to have known that since last month. We probably did but didn’t admit it. But now we’re here.
Take a breath. Whatever answers you’re looking for aren’t coming for a bit.