Game Time: 6:30PM Central
TV/Radio: CSN, TSN (Anglophone), RDS (Francophone), 87.7FM The Game
Les Incompétents: Habs EOTP
Tonight the home schedule for the Hawks’ regular season comes to its thrilling conclusion with an Original Six Matchup (TM) against their perpetually entitled ancient nemesis Montreal Canadiens. And neither really have much to play for at this stage heading into the final weekend of the season.
Much like the Hawks, the Canadiens are essentially locked into their playoff position within the new format as the second seed in the Flortheast division behind Boston. Technically, the Lightning could catch them and over take home ice in the first round, as the Habs lead the Ning by 2 points with three games left to play, and hold the ROW tiebreaker 39 to 36. But even prior to the news that the excellent Ben Bishop will miss an indeterminate amount of time including but not limited to the rest of the regular season, it was announced that Carey Price, Andrei Markov, Alexei Emelin, Travis Moen, Brandon Prust, and Douglas Murray’s moobs would not make even make the trip here for tonight’s game. It seems like Michel Therrien would want to take every opportunity to put some distance in between Tampa and his squad, but no one’s ever accused Therrien of being a tactical genius.
In any event, the team that will hit the ice tonight will still feature quite a bit of speed and skill in the form of Max Pacioretty, Tomas Plekanec, Alex Galchenyuk, Brendan Gallagher, Lars Eller, and the newly acquired Thomas Vanek. Pacioretty specifically is having an absolutely unholy season, currently sitting at third in the league with 39 goals, which seems to be getting shockingly little notice outside of Quebec. Patches is shooting well above his previous career high of 12.1% with a 15.1 clip, but he’s also averaging more shots on goal per game than he has prior (3.69 this year to 2.8 previous), which suggests that at 25 he’s truly entering into his prime as a goal scoring power forward. At 6’2″, 220 and fast, there’s not a lot that he can’t do on the ice, and will be an issue for whichever pair gets a look at him tonight.
The bleu line is where things get really dicey for Montreal, as they have for seemingly the last decade. It seems like they’ve been perpetually in a state of waiting for linchpin Andrei Markov to get healthy, even though how effective he is remains directly related to how far away from his own net he is. And even though he’s getting tonight off, he has been for the most part healthy this year. But Michel Therrien has chosen in his infinite wisdom to mess with the game of defending Norris Trophy winner P.K. Subban by either benching him for defensive lapses, trying to mute his game by adding more defense to it, or simply allowing the Canadian press to eat him alive during this season leading up to, during, and following the Olympic break because Subban doesn’t fit the mold of a Good Canadian Boy. Three guesses as to what the primary criterion for such a person is that Subban doesn’t possess. The hard-hitting Emelin will also get a rest tonight, and answer to no question but “Butter?” Douglas Murray is still serving his suspension. So the turd-like Mike Weaver and youngster Jared Tinordi figure to get extended minutes tonight.
Peter Budaj will get the call tonight for the Habs, and he’s filled in ably to spell gold medalist Carey Price, who will likely be spotted in the smoking pen at some point tonight during intermissions. Budaj’s .910 is about all anyone can ask out of a clear-cut backup, and plus he has Flanders on his goal mask, so bonus points for that. As a group, the Habs only control 46.2% of all shot attempts at evens, which makes one wonder just what exactly Therrien is doing to remain employed in Montreal besides speaking French given all of the puck moving talent at his disposal. That they give up 31 shots a game while only taking 27 shouldn’t come as a surprise in light of these facts.
As for our Men of Four Feathers, Brandon Saad will get back into the lineup after missing Sunday’s contest with the Blues with a “lack of more”. Saad will draw in with Handzus and Versteeg, thus bumping Ben Smith to the line Stepchild Line with Morin and Bickell, because clearly Peter Regin has been far more of a liability over the last two weeks than either Versteeg or Brandon Bollig, and he needs to think about what he’s done, and where he can find his “more”.
Johnny Oduya will also get back into the lineup tonight, to the audible exhalation of one Niklas Hjalmarsson, who has been forced to play the last week on his wrong side with Sheldon Brookbank- a punishment no man deserves. Corey Crawford will also get the call tonight, possibly for the last time before the post season starts, depending on how things elsewhere in the standings shake out. Crawford has been excellent since returning from injury, but the goals he’s let up have been a bit squishy here and there, even if they’re the result of some bounces and deflections. Taking the opportunity to tighten it up before the pace quickens would be ideal.
With the Hawks finally even in games played with both the Blues and the Avs at 79, the most points the Hawks can gain this year will be 111, and will lose the ROW tiebreaker to either team. With the Blues already at 111 and the Avs at 109, there is no way that the Hawks can win the division at this point. Furthermore, two more points from the Avs in any way shape or form locks the Hawks into third place and starting the post season on the road, even if how those two clown colleges sort out the top two seeds is yet to be decided. It’s essentially all academic at this point, so just keep everyone healthy and continue to hone and refine the station-to-station five man attack that has come more and more to the fore with Toews and Kane out. Let’s go Hawks.
If you’re not going to tonight’s game, pick up a copy of tonight’s Indian by hitting the button below. It’s also our Season Review Issue, so it’s worth it: