RECORDS: Hawks 18-14-6 Rangers 21-13-5
PUCK DROP: 7pm
TV: NBCSN – It’s Rivalry Night, don’t ya know?
It’s not officially cold until it gets cold in New York, which it has been now, and you can hear their bitching about it from Oregon. Meanwhile this is par for the course for us, but who gives a shit when we’re here in the middle, busy sending all of our creative talent there to do the work they take credit for? Exactly. Anyway, it’s rivalry night apparently and I guess this counts because it’s two Original Six teams, though you’re forgiven if you forgot that the Rangers were an O6 teams because really… what’s Rangers tradition?
BUT THAT’S NOT WHY YOU CALLED.
The Hawks wrap up this weird six-game trip that’s bounced from Texas to the East Coast, to Western Canada, back to the East Coast, rippin’ and rompin’, North Cak-a-laka and Compton (not actually Compton). It wrapped around Christmas so the Hawks didn’t have to do it all in one, but it also makes it seem like it’s gone on forever. The fact that the Hawks piled up only one win during it, three terrible losses and one credible point I guess in Cal And Gary only made it seem longer. Which leaves us in this state of ennui we currently find ourselves.
As far as on the ice. there will be more changes. Because of course there will. Once again, Richard Panik goes from top line to pressbox in Q’s Rotation Of Confusion, with Vinnie Smalls getting a chance to do whatever it is he does with Toews and Saad. Patrick Sharp comes back from exile (handsome exile!) to be on the other side of David Kampf from Top Cat, forcing Top Cat back to the right side because whatever Baby Sharp wants Baby Sharp gets, I guess.
It spreads to the defense as well, where Gustav Forsling will slot back in to pair with Cody Franson, which won’t have the Rangers forwards giggling until they foam up at the mouth or anything. Personally, I can’t wait for Forsling to get horsed in the corner, the puck making its way to the slot and Franson kind of staring at it with a bemused expression as one might a squirrel dragging a too big piece of food up a tree. After starting the shift in their own end, of course.
Jeff Glass gets his third straight start, as horse-player Q thinks this is finally the Pick 3 he’s going to hit. This is simply asking for trouble, as the “spark” Q was looking for by starting this good story has not materialized, and has in fact has had his skaters playing terrified and panicked in their own zone as Glass spits up another rebound. It has the double effect of fucking with Anton Forsberg’s head, and with Corey Crawford nowhere on the horizon that seems a real problem. Glass is going to give up a touchdown somewhere around here, because he’s not Tim Thomas, and it’s going to be in a game the Hawks can’t really afford to just punt. Forsberg has had his spotty games for sure, but also has the better chance of holding a team below two which he’s done as well. But Q gets to play his hunches because fuck you.
To the Rangers, who are one of the weirder statistical teams you can find. They’ve fallen six points behind the division leading Caps, but have two games in hand. What’s bewildering about the Rangers is that they’re one of the worst possession teams in the league, and yet they create the best chances out of the limited attempts they take. They’re #1 in expected goals at evens per 60 minutes, even though you’d be hard pressed to find a genuine first-liner anywhere on this team. They give up a lot of attempts as well, but not that many great chances.
It also helps that Henrik Lundqvist went a bit bonkers in December, with a .936 SV%. So that talk of him being finished in October seems to have dried up a bit. That helped the Rags to a 7-3-3 record in the month, and they’ll be coming off a truly inspiring OT win in the Winter Classic against the modern day irresistible force that is the Buffalo Sabres.
The Rangers are a little beat up at the moment, as Chris “I Still Give Guys Swirlies” Kreider is out indefinitely with a blood clot in his arm, and so is Jesper Fast. The Rangers weren’t blessed with a huge amount of depth, so it’s kind of stripped their second line. Unless a troika of Buchnevich-Desharnais-Vesey scares you. The top unit of Alleged Wiener Tucker and The Two Z’s has been dynamite possession-wise but not a whole lot of end product yet. It’s the bottom six where the real threat lies, with Michael Grabner and 18 goals, Captain Stairwell, and J.T. Miller always possible to pop up with a goal. There are no big names–Nash really isn’t a top line player any more–but the foot soldiers have gotten enough done.
They’ve had problems getting Kirk ShattenKevin to fit in all season, and he’s currently on a third-pairing with worst player in the world Brendan Smith. Most of their push comes from Chance-Made-Me-Famous Brady Skjei (and the funny thing about that sketch is that Skjei is American). McDonagh and Holden take the human shield assignments, and expect Schmaltz and Kane to see them every shift.
Feels like every time I show up here and say the Hawks need to kick it into gear and blah blah blah, Kesha. Perhaps it’s just not going to happen and this is what they are. The Hawks are going to pack in the games now before their bye week, with seven games in the next 12 days. It is likely that when we get to the end of that stretch, we’ll know if the rest of the season is worth any give-a-shit or not.
Game #39 Preview