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Game #23 – Hawks vs. Lightning Preview – Walking Is Still Honest


Game Time: 6:30PM CST
TV/Radio: NBCSN, NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720
The Business Of Pleasure: Raw Charge

In a manner befitting of their relative age as far as the hockey world is concerned, rather than spend Black Friday in California as they have done in years past, the Hawks have opted to go the snow bird route and kick off the holiday season in Florida, starting tonight in Tampa against the lecherous Jon Cooper and his Lightning.

When the Hawks last encountered the Lightning, the game featured the Bolts throwing up roughly 786 shots in the second period on a Sunday evening on West Madison. Not much has changed in that month-plus with Tampa still sitting at the head of the class in the eastern conference, though starting goalie and Vezina finalist Andrei Vasilevskiy has missed the last couple weeks with a broken foot. In his stead Louis Domingue (whomst the Hawks saw in October) has filled in mostly ably, going 3-2 in his last five starts, with one loss understandably coming to the Preds in Nashville, and the other to Buffalo, where Domingue only gave up 2 goals, a feat for him considering that in 9 appearances he’s only allowed fewer than 3 twice. Overall Domingue is sporting an .898, which isn’t even backup caliber, but his save percentage at evens is a fairly respectable .918. The real problems have come on the kill, where an .833 and 11 goals on 66 shots just isn’t going to cut it even if the team in front of him can hide a multitude of sins.

On the Bolts’ blue line, defending Norris trophy winner Victor Hedman has seen no drop in his play considering that he’s been partnered with meatbag Dan Girardi, and as a pairing they’re still walking away with a 54% share of attempts when on the ice together. With Anton Stralman out, Ryan McDonagh has been paired with the young Erik Cernak to middling results thus far. And Russian tank Mikhail Sergechev is still bum slaying from the third pairing even despite being paired with burn victim Braydon Coburn.

Of course at forward is where the real problems lie. The Lightning have so many centers that they can afford to play a few at wing, such as having J.T. Miller clear space for Steven Stamkos on the top line, or move Tyler Johnson to a wing so Brayden Point can center he and Nikita Kucherov. Anthony Cirelli and Mathieu Joseph’s speed on the third line more than make up for Alex Killorn’s lackthereof, and Cedric Pauquette and Ryan Callahan make up 2/3rds of a pretty annoying fourth line. There is skating ability and dynamism with the puck even in the bottom six, and that’s even with Ondrej Palat hurt. Again, there’s a reason this team blew the Hawks doors off, set them on fire, and then pissed on them the last time they met.

As for the Men of Four Feathers, if there’s one thing that they for certain want to do tonight against this Lightning squad, it’s get slower, dumber, and have the hands and playmaking ability of the turkey carcass currently in the garbage can in the alleyway. So clearly swapping in Brandon Manning for Herni Jokiharju is a move that new head coach Ron LaFlamme has to make. Of course, being the cool youth pastor that he is, Jeremy Colliton offered all of the usual platitudes about how everyone still loves Jokiharju but this is a part of the development process and blah blah blah wank wank wank. While Colliton wasn’t at the helm the night the Hawks were ragdolled at the UC, it doesn’t take a brain genious to look across the bench and see that Brandon Manning might be a little slow to keep up with even Anthony Cirelli on the third line, and that’s if the preternaturally horny Jon Cooper isn’t chasing matchups at home. Elsewhere the lineup looks about the same, but how much that actually matters is up for serious debate.

Last time these two met it was a serious education in just how far away the Hawks are from competing with any seriousness for anything meaningful. And while strange things happen within the context of individual games over the course of a six month long regular season, it’s not something that should be relied on. It’s basically all the Hawks have tonight. Let’s go Hawks?

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