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Game #20 – Kings vs. Hawks Preview: A Chilling Vision


RECORDS: Kings 5-11-1   Hawks 7-8-4


TV: NBCSN Chicago


It’s ok if you mourn the end of the Hawks Era. It can be a tough watch at times, especially when the memories of what a fine, oiled machine it was still so fresh. No team ever exits the spotlight gracefully, or at least it’s pretty damn rare. The fall is always painful. Especially in the callous world of the salary capped NHL, the tumble comes quick and the tide always wins. Maybe it was an impossible task set ahead of the Hawks, even without the mistakes they’ve made.

Then again, they could be the Kings.

It’s an interesting record. Since the Hawks last Cup win, they have three playoff wins. The Kings have one in the four seasons since their last win. They’ve missed the playoffs twice. And whereas the Hawks have tried to dance around their rebuild or collapse, the Kings have fallen face-first into theirs this year. Those days of Kobe and Kershaw wearing Kings’ jerseys are over, because this is a mess only identifiable by dental records. And given that it’s a hockey team, even that’s dicey.

They may provide a lesson in what happens when you cling too tightly to things that have past. The Kings for too long still tried to be a roving horde of barbarians that they thought won them two Cups, and watched as their team got slower and dumber while the league got faster and more skilled. Seriously, this outfit traded for Milan Lucic once. Firing the GM and coach is nice and all, but not if you’re not going to try anything new.

They also bought into fortune-stained results as reality far too much. Last year’s playoff berth was simply due to a magnificent Jonathan Quick season, which is not the norm or anything you should count on, and Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown shooting the lights out. No matter how much their fans bitched and whines that Kopitar should have been the MVP simply because no one stays up late enough to watch their dog-assed team, he was never likely to replicate that. And if he didn’t, he wasn’t taking Brown with him either. That’s what’s happened.

Jeff Carter is 33 now and looking it. Ilya Kovalchuk‘s style of impersonating waiting for a bus until a pass comes was never going to improve the team much, and it hasn’t. Beyond whatever this top-six is, and that’s clearly still very much a mystery, there’s simply nothing on the bottom-six. It’s more of the Kyle CliffordTrevor Lewis Axis Of Yuck that it’s seemingly been forever.

The real treat is at the back of course, where Drew Doughty got his money and seemingly doesn’t care anymore. He’s playing with something called Derek Forbort, not that it matters. Alec Martinez and Jake Muzzin are starting to look like the remnants of that Big Mac you left on the coffee table at 3am last night and discovered this morning while guzzling gatorade. Dion Phaneuf is even more of a monolith than he was, which shouldn’t be possible but hey, L.A. is the land of fantasy and dreams!

Quick isn’t around to bail this out, which he’s only capable of once every four or five years. He’s out for a while. So is his backup Jack Campbell, which means they’ve brought Statler and Waldorf in to play goalie.

Robb Lake the GM seemingly has recognized all he’s built here is kindling (too soon?), and the sell-off might already be under way. This week he sent Tanner Pearson to Pittsburgh for Carl Hagelin, with Hagelin a free agent after the season. Whatever isn’t battened down should probably be sold at auction, so Muzzin, Martinez, Forbort, and Toffoli could and should be on notice. They’re the only ones whose contracts aren’t an atrocity.

For the Hawks, Marcus Kruger returns to the lineup after Brandon Davidson was informed that he’s hurt, replacing Dream Warrior on IR. SuckBag Johnson will sit. Alex Fortin remains out in favor of John Hayden. Sure. Corey Crawford will attempt to ride the momentum of Wednesday’s shutout, and against this decidedly broken squirt-gun of an offense you’d think that wouldn’t be too hard.

I don’t want to put too much on the Hawks, but there’s really no excuse to not get a regulation win tonight. The Kings are already getting the white flag out of the closet if not waving it already. They’re on their third-string goalie, maybe fourth. They’re slow and dumb, and the Hawks have done all right with the rare slow and dumb opponent you see in the NHL these days. As long as you don’t do anything too stupid, the Kings can’t really find a way to score enough to beat you. Don’t make this any harder than it has to be.


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