Because no road trips make any sense anymore, the Hawks will head to Western Canada for a return engagement starting tonight in Vancouver with whatever the fuck the Canucks are these days, complete with NHL ALL STAR 3 ON 3 CHALLENGE MVP Brock Boeser.
Despite GM and human prat-fall Jim Benning’s best efforts to say all the wrong things and sign all the wrong people, the Canucks are still one of the clear sellers in this market, no matter how much bluster Benning gives to the media about trying to remain competitive. They’re well outside a playoff spot with 46 points in 50 games played, and should have a legitimate shot at a top 3 pick in the draft. Of course, if it’s Benning making the pick, who knows what he’ll end up grabbing, but he has seemingly been able to identify at least reasonably thought of prospects over the last year in trading for Jonathan Dahlen and Nikolay Goldobin, and drafting Elias Petterson, none of whom are anywhere close to playing at the NHL level yet, but all have upside.
As far as what’s actually on the ice here, Shooty and Passy are just punching the clock at this point, and while they could probably help a team with depth scoring, they won’t go any where apart and have full no trade clauses, and there aren’t many teams that can afford to take on that combined cap hit. So it appears that they’ll be playing out their days in Vancouver with whatever crop of new kids they end up with. The two of them aren’t tilting the ice or scoring like they used to, but at 37 and not much to play for these days, they’re still mostly serviceable. Their current linemate is the aforementioned Boeser, who is basically Brandon Saad with Nathan MacKinnon’s release. Boeser appears to be the real deal, and can get his own shot rather than just being a stationary marksman. Retread wingers Tomas Vanek and Loui Eriksson flank the returned Bo Horvat on the second line, where Vanek will once again flatter to deceive and sucker some dumb ass GM into giving up anything for him at the deadline. Brandon Sutter is still busy being the checking center everyone seems to love because of his lineage, but consistently gets his brains beat in territorially. And Fifth Feather’s Special Boy Sam Ganger gives the fourth line a bit of dash, even if he’s being tremendously overpaid for that particular role and not really doing much to justify the check he got after last year’s prove-it campaign.
On the back end, Alex Edler is still throwing elbows with the best of them, his most recent victim being the previously mentioned MacKinnon on Tuesday night. He’s paried with Troy Stetcher who scouts out to be a puck mover on a lower pairing, but instead is being asked to cover for Edler overskating looking for big hits. Chris Tanev is still somewhat useful, but he’s now having to mask all of the wanderings of the very lazily horny Michael Del Zotto, who has always been a tire fire in two-thirds of the rink. Some combination of Ben Hutton, Alex Biega, and the very large and immobile and injured Erik Gudbrandson will form the Nucks’ third pairing.
Speaking of former projects of Dale Tallon, Jacob Markstrom looks to get the crease tonight, with his glistening .908 overall save percentage. His mark at evens isn’t terrible with a .924, but the Canucks’ PK seriously blows (77.6%, 25th), and part of that reason is Markstrom’s .804 when shorthanded. Markstrom is a big athletic guy, but his angles can get a little wonky, so just like every goalie ever, if a team gets him moving laterally there are holes to be found, but he can have the agility to make some spectacular saves.
As for the Men of Four Feathers, while much of the attention on Tuesday went to Anton Forsberg’s 42 save, one goal allowed performance, a healthy portion of that came during the Preds’ final push during the back half of the third period. For most of the game, the Hawks were every so slightly on the plus side of the shot attempts ledger, which is no small feat when playing in Nashville. Given the way things have looked the past two games on either side of the break, it’s assumed that the lineups will remain the same. At least that’s what the FFUD offices have been convincing ourselves of while clutching rosary beads and sacrificing goats, because the general consensus is that both the top line of ADB-Toews-Duclair, and the middle pairing of Michal Kempny and Our Large Irish Son Connor Murphy warrant more time together, and not just for we-told-you-so reasons. Additionally, Anton Forsberg has also earned more time after his performance on Tuesday, and Jeff Glass should only be broken open in case of emergencies going forward (GET IT?).
The last time the Hawks were in Vancouver they got pecker slapped by this ragtag bunch. That simply cannot happen again if this team has any reasonable expectations of playing into April. Two points in regulation is the only acceptable outcome. Let’s go Hawks.
Game #51 Preview