RECORDS: Hawks 27-26-8 Stars 35-20-6
PUCK DROP: 2pm
TV: NBCSN Chicago
LET THE CHILDREN BOOGIE: Defending Big D
Well this is an interesting one. The Hawks will play their last game looking like this. How much they will change by the time they play again in St. Louis on Tuesday night, well that’s something of a mystery.
We know Erik Gustafsson is a goner, as he wasn’t even brought on the trip. The Hawks will probably only get a 3rd or 4th rounder for him, making the refusal to move him at last year’s deadline when he would have been worth a first even more frustrating. Corey Crawford is starting, which makes you think that Robin Lehner could be on the move as well, if not Crawford himself. But someone has to play in goal. If the Hawks keep both, you’ll know they either have no vision or plan whatsoever or the balls to execute one.
Is this Brandon Saad’s last game here? Dylan Strome’s? Drake Caggiula’s? There are more options beyond Gus and Lehner, but how many will the Hawks take? You’re not wrong to bet on the low end, but anything is possible.
That’s the intrigue off the ice. On the ice the Hawks will have a new piece to look at, which is Lucas Carlsson. Carlsson has been Rockford’s best d-man, and arguably best player, for a while now, and the Hawks have no reason not to spend the rest of the season seeing what they have here. They should do that with other players as well. Carlsson is definitely the type of player the Hawks should be looking at more often, i.e. one with skill and mobility that can move the puck and himself quickly. Instead we’ve gotten the Dennis Gilberts and Matthew Highmores of the world, which is how the Hawks have ended up here. Maybe Carlsson isn’t anything, but with nothing more to play for it’s an evaluation time. In fact, this is how the Hawks ended up with Gustafsson as a regular, though they’ve clearly botched maximizing his value.
As for the rest of it, the Hawks played a spirited game at home on Friday, which was at least entertaining. Can they keep that going on the road for four games against teams who have real stakes? Much harder to do, and while the Hawks will claim they’ve been better on the road this year, the last road trip that left their season in ashes makes its own testimony. And these games on either side of the deadline could see some killed spirits.
To the Stars, who have won five of their last seven and are still very much in the discussion for winning the division even though they’ve had to lose a coach and surf some injury problems this year.
How are the Stars here? THE BISHOP! and The Khudes, the lates emo band to storm Dallas. Has an emo band ever stormed Dallas? We’ll save that discussion for later. Anyway, the Stars are back to being the same boring-as-all-fuck outfit they were last year that locked up their playoff spot and saw them upset the Preds in the first round and nearly do the same to the Blues (sigh). They don’t limit attempts all that well but they collapse around their net and limit chances, and Bishop and Khudobin are rocking SV%’s over .920, leading the Stars to have the second-best ES SV% at evens.
Because they certainly don’t score much. The Stars don’t have anyone with 20 goals or averaging anywhere near a point per game. They’re 24th in goals per game, but you can get away with that when you’re third in goals-against. There is some spreading out of threats here, with Seguin, Benn, and Radulov now on three different lines, but it also tamps down their threat when not together. Benn particularly seems to be on the spiral down, and we know how he feels about going down.
It’s still a stout defense, which has been buffeted by the return of Stephen Johns after he missed a season and a half with concussion problems. He and Heiskanen have dovetailed well which makes for a hell of a second pairing behind Klingberg and Lindell.
This is the first time the Hawks and Stars have seen each other since right before Thanksgiving, when the Hawks played well enough to win twice but only gathered one point. Penetrating the middle of the Stars zone will be the order of the day for the Hawks, but that’s much easier said than done.
It’ll be a stripped down Hawks team soon. They’re only playing for the future. But hey, maybe that’s when you find something.