RECORDS: Hawks 11-19-6 Stars 17-14-3
PUCK DROP: 7:30
TV: NBCSN Chicago
SOME WERE SHOUTIN’ “TEXAS #1!”: Defending Big D
I don’t know if a team rooted to the bottom of the standings, with the worst goal-difference in the league by open lengths, can have anything resembling “momentum.” Especially when it was only two games ago it gave up a touchdown and PAT while their goalie sank back into the abyss. But hey, the Hawks played what may have been their most solid game all season against the (admittedly beat-up) Predators. And though there isn’t much to make out of the rest of the season, they won’t feel that way. So hence, they will try to build on it in North Texas, facing the same confounding Stars team they always find there.
If you thought the Predators were injury-filled, wait until you get a load of these guys. The Stars have used 12 d-men so far this season. Now you may think, “Wait a minute, the Hawks have used 10! So is 12 really that much!” Well, the Stars have had to go through their entire organizational depth on the blue line because of injuries, not because they’ve populated it with a collection of fuckwits and jackwagons.
John Klingberg has been out for weeks, but he returns tonight, so that’s great for the Hawks. So has Marc Methot and Connor Carrick, though I leave it to you to decide if that means anything, or should. Stephen Johns hasn’t played a game due to concussion problems. Klingberg has obviously been the big miss, as he’s one of the best puck-movers and passers in the league. The Stars base most of their offense on what he can do, and he can’t do anything from the trainer’s room.
And yet, with all that the Stars have been a top-10 team in goals-against at evens and overall. A lot of that is THE BISHOP! having an excellent season. Some of that is Jim Montgomery being able to keep whatever defensive unit he has on a given night playing a tight system. Or maybe it’s still the frame of Hitchcock lingering around. Either way, the Starts have survived.
Up front, it’s basically Colorado-Lite. There’s a great top line here of Jamie Benn–Tyler Seguin-Alex Radulov. While Seguin couldn’t throw a grape in the ocean right now, compared to his career shooting-percentage, these are three players over 25 points. The next forward on the list is Jason Spezza at 18, and he’s sick anyway and might not play tonight either, aside from being three days older than water. This has been the issue for the Stars for years, that they can’t seem to produce a second line, much less a third, that can support the top one. We go into this heavier in the Spotlight, but all the kids the Stars were depending on have basically gone flaccid.
Still, it’s not all doom and gloom, or meh and feh as has been the Stars case. Rookie Miro Heiskanen is making everyone go weak in the knees, and will dovetail nicely with Klingberg as a support, second-pairing player. Taylor Fedun has been an analytic revelation filling in for the depleted defense. Which is a good thing, because when you’re rolling out Roman Polak with a straight face, you’re supposed to be in trouble. And we mean literally “rolling,” because Polak can’t skate. He’s basically what Donkey Kong throws on the ice now.
All that said, the Stars are still aimed for another 88-92 points season without a jolt somewhere here soon, the same kind of season that no on remembers when it’s over. It’s also the kind of season that doesn’t push a team forward. This is not a rebuilding team blooding a lot of new kids. They won’t be bad enough to get a real piece in the draft that can help in the next couple years. They’re not contending for banners. They’re just scenery right now, and that’s the absolute worst place to be.
As for the Hawks, you would think changes would be on the minimum. Cam Ward looks to start, which means Collin Delia gets to deal with Galactus’s playthings tomorrow night in Denver in the form of MacKinnon and Rantanen, which seems a tad harsh for a second NHL start. Given the defensive effort on Tuesday, one would imagine there would be no changes there. So Brandon Manning can continue to blame everyone else while munching popcorn. Marcus Kruger didn’t make the mini-trip, and SuckBag was called up yesterday and he’ll probably slot in ahead of Chris Kunitz, because no one wants to watch Chris Kunitz ever again.
This is where we usually try and include some sort of higher meaning to the game and streak the Hawks are on. There isn’t any. They were enjoyable to watch on Tuesday. Let’s hope they are enjoyable tonight.
Game #37 Preview Suite