For a brief moment, it looked like the Hawks would rise to the occasion. They roared back from a deficit to take a two-goal lead over a team within sniffing distance of them for a playoff spot, then proceeded to cower and hope that their porous defense—which at no point during this season has shown capable of holding any kind of lead whatsoever—would hold the lead. After 53 minutes of burying his two most effective players in ice time, the Hawks’s hopefully soon-to-be former coach finally put Kane with them, and the Hawks teased another comeback, only to watch a depth forward get beat, fall out of position, and give Adam Gaudette a wide-open look for the game winner. A tale as old as time. Let’s clean it.
– Connor Murphy had himself a game and continues to impress as the Hawks’s only consistently useful defenseman. He led all Hawks defensemen in possession with a 55+ CF% (10+ CF% Rel) despite having to drag Erik Gustafsson’s cratering trade value on his back for most of the night. And he scored his fourth goal of the year after Toews and Kubalik (much more on them later) dug the puck out of the end boards and slot, respectively. Murphy’s been a paragon of consistency this year when he’s been healthy.
– Duncan Keith also had a good game. He was a bit underwater in possession (47+%) and xGF% (48+), but he made two outstanding plays to make up for it. After shooting the puck too hard to the far side, Keith hurried back to snuff out a 2-on-1. Then, in the third, Keith made a gorgeous steal on the near boards at neutral ice and chipped the puck to Kubalik, who danced around a defender at the blue line and left the puck for Kane, who buried his wrister. Keith’s looked spry lately, and that’s never a bad thing.
– Jonathan Toews had himself a hell of a game tonight. Aside from doing yeoman’s work behind the net while setting up Murphy’s goal, Toews managed to bank a puck off Quinn Hughes for a goal after juking Alex Edler out of his elbows along the far boards. Toews led all Blackhawks with an astounding 70+ CF% and was second only to Kubalik in xGF% (60.45 vs. 60.75).
– Dominik Kubalik will likely carry the torch of least respected contributor once Corey Crawford leaves town. Despite three primary assists, leading the team in xGF%, and the second-best CF% (68+), Kubalik managed merely 10:42 TOI at 5v5 and 12:19 total. Only David Kampf (expected), Matthew Highmore (who blows), and John Quenneville (who sucks and blows) had fewer minutes at 5v5. I would love to know exactly what it is that Hopefully Soon-to-Be Former Coach Bevington doesn’t like about Kubalik, but whatever it is, it’s inexcusable.
In fact, through two periods, Toews and Kubalik, who dominated in possession and expected goals all night, were among some of the lowest ice-time receivers among all Blackhawks. Sure, Toews has special teams time, but it’s as if rather than promoting Quenneville to the first line, Colliton actually demoted his two best players throughout the game to the fourth line. This kind of galaxy brain shit isn’t cute. I get wanting to play Dach, Strome, and DeBrincat more—which is something Colliton did try to do through two—but that shouldn’t mean that your two best fucking players are getting the short shaft on ice time. To the surprise of perhaps only Jeremy Colliton, once Kubalik and Toews got to play with Kane, it turned into an almost immediate goal. When playing a game you’ve got to have, you can’t wait 53 fucking minutes to do this. Dylan Sikura and Ryan Carpenter may be fine players, but they should not be on a line with Patrick Kane on purpose for a majority of a must-win game.
On top of this horseshit, nary a compliment did Eddie have for Kubalik at any point. I don’t understand why no one seems to like him, but he was a top performer tonight.
– Speaking of Ryan Carpenter, it was a tough one for him tonight. Though it’s not his fault that his coach needed to flex his throbbing genious brain and have Carpenter take a defensive-zone faceoff in a 4–3 game following a TV timeout . . . actually, let’s stay there for a second. Carpenter has a 47+ FO% this year. Toews is at 56+%, and Kampf is at 52%. Following a TV timeout, after the Canucks have seized momentum, Hopefully Soon-to-Be Former Coach Gemstone throws his second-worst faceoff guy out there with Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome, and Erik Gustafsson. Let that marinate for a second, because you can taste the fucking stupidity.
Anyway, Carpenter lost the faceoff then completely lost his man in Pettersson, who launched a set-play rocket past Lehner for the tying goal. Then, he got pantsed by Adam Gaudette along the near boards for the game winner in the third. Carpenter is a fine player, but tonight wasn’t his night.
– I’m just as tired of talking about him as you are of hearing about him, and there’s no real alternative, but Dennis Gilbert fucking blows. Four of the Canucks’s five goals resulted from Gilbert’s positioning. On the first, Gilbert had the inside track on Vesser with the puck ringing around the boards behind the Hawks’s net. And Gilbert just let him go by. Then, he went chasing a hit after Vesser passed the puck out, leaving J.T. Miller untouched for a tip.
On the second goal, Gilbert turned the puck over behind his own net and went chasing a hit again, giving Virtanen time to pass out to Edler. On the third goal, which was a PK, Gilbert inexplicably ended up at the top of the circles to pressure J.T. Miller, leaving a wide-open lane for Quinn Hughes. And on the fifth goal, the puck redirected off Gilbert’s skate, which you can’t really blame him for, but fuck him I’m going to.
– Friendly reminder that the Hawks could have traded Erik Gustafsson at any time last year or during the off-season and gotten probably at least a second rounder for him. So it goes.
– Adam Boqvist’s assist on Kane’s first goal was excellent, but aside from that, he’s a kid playing scared. Whether that’s just jitters or by design, each game we see him hug the blue line on the power play makes us that much antsier. By no means have or should we give up on him so, so early, but something is off about the way he’s playing, based on what they told us he was.
Of course, all of this can and should be pinned on Hopefully Soon-to-Be Former Coach Jeremy Colliton. From yet another too-many-men penalty that led to a technically even-strength goal, to his abysmal use of his two best players, to his cowardice with a lead, to coaching scared against a team he had to beat, he continues to find ways to Lucy the football.
This supposed soft schedule doesn’t mean shit if the Hawks continue to piss in their shoes. A loss to Detroit on Sunday should be a fireable offense for all involved.
Beer du Jour: Gumballhead
Line of the Night: “Now, he’s got some people coming on him.” –Konroyd describing a play by Sikura in the pregame show.