RECORDS: Devils: 10-7-5 Hawks: 15-6-3
PUCK DROP: 7:30pm
SWAMP SITTERS: In Lou We Trust
ADJUSTED CORSI%: Devils – 49.4 (18th) Hawks – 50.8 (12th)
ADJUSTED xGF%: Devils – 46.1 (28th) Hawks – 47.4 (22nd)
POWER PLAY %: Devils – 13.7 (25th) Hawks – 17.3 (16th)
PENALTY KILL %: Devils – 84.3 (9th) Hawks – 70.7 (They’re above 70%!!!)
The Hawks begin the December portion of the schedule tonight in the most coma-inducing way possible, with a visit from the New Jersey Devils. If there’s a chance to look good in regulation against a team, which the Hawks haven’t really done since San Jose, this would be it. But then again, no one looks good against the Devils. That’s just their way.
Please allow me to introduce the ’16-’17 Devils. It looks a lot like last year’s. Or the year before that. Except they’re not even as good at the stuff those Devils were. This is not the same shot and chance suppression over all squads you probably associate with New Jersey hockey. Their penalty kill isn’t very good either. But what is normal for the Devils is hardly any offensive star power, and a bunch of grunts, humps, thugs, pugs, muggers and buggerers that kind of just shlep up and down the ice in no particularly special fashion. And yet, they’re somehow only three points behind the Capitals in the Metro and currently hold the last wild card spot.
So you might guess that it’s all on Cory Schneider, but that wouldn’t be all that true either. Schneider has been ok, with a league average SV% and slightly below at even-strength. His backup Keith Kinkaid has been great, so that is part of it. But other than that? God, I really can’t help you. It’s nearly impossible to point out what this team does well.
There’s Taylor Hall, who will return from his regularly scheduled injury break tonight. But he hasn’t quite flashed because he doesn’t have a center worth a shit anywhere near him. It’s like the one worse place he could have gone than Edmonton. Mike Cammalleri can still shoot if you give him quarantine-like space and time, and he certainly won’t pass up any chances. Adam Henrique has been the very definition of “fine” since he came into the league. There’s big hopes for Pavel Zacha (dormez-vous?) but as a lot of 19-years-olds come to find in The Show you can get your head caved in pretty quickly.
The blue line might be even more of the guys you would have fill out a police lineup for 20 bucks than the forwards. John Moore used to be a statistical darling but has had a rough go so far this season. “Rough go” in this case defined as “playing with Kyle Quincey.” Andy Greene is the captain mostly because he’s just been here for longest as no one told him he could leave. He plays with Damon Severson, who is definitely Old Man Severson’s boy.
And it may be coming apart for the Devils, as they’ve lost six of seven and their only win was a shootout-variety over the group home known as the Toronto Maple Leafs. That trend would seem them sink to the level every number suggests they should be at, and only a revival of sorts from Schneider can save them.
Pivoting to the Hawks. Jonathan Toews won’t play again, and if you want to go ahead and worry about a physical center dealing with back problems, I’m not going to stop you. Still, the points already banked allow the Hawks to be extra careful and patient and it’s good to see they’re doing so. One would hope that sitting Michal Kempny for the other Michal would stop, because Kempny has been their best overall d-man this year. Crawford will get the start after a stellar performance against Florida that kept the Hawks from losing by three.
It’s the Devils, they’re on the road, so break out Admiral Ackbar. There’s no way the Devils try and run with the Hawks, though they gave them something of a game in New Jersey. This is where the Hawks’ depth on defense really counts, because Keith, Forsling, and Campbell can all skate through a trap and Seabrook and Kempny can certainly pass through it. The straight-line game of the Cerebral Assassins will also come in handy, as they’re the only line the Hawks have right now that can just put the puck deep and then go get it. Look for them to be most effective tonight.
And try not to fall asleep.