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Game #64 – Let The Bottle Do The Work To Ease The Mind And Soothe The Hurt – Hawks 2, SHA-ARKS 7

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Like a Crave Crate, the Hawks were great through the first five. The rest was a blackout of shit, snot, and puke. There’s not much to learn from a drubbing like this, but let’s see what we can find. Sometimes there’s a penny in those sliders. To the bullets.

– J-F Berube, despite giving up six goals through two periods, didn’t look terrible. The only goal that was really on him was Vlasic’s “fuck you” at the end of the second, but at that point, his confidence is shot. No use keeping him out there. He managed to look good when he wasn’t getting hung out to dry, but those moments were few and far between.

– Carl Dahlstrom looked like a guy who’s played fewer than 10 games in his career tonight. He was directly responsible for the Sharks’s first three goals. On the first, he made a questionable pinch with Schmaltz near the puck after Highmore Salvador Dali’ed a shot off the far boards, running into Schmaltz and kicking the puck straight to Pavelski, who started an unbelievably pretty passing cycle with Donskoi and Burns.

The second was a complete circus. Gustafsson passed into Vinnie’s skates, and while Gustafsson tried to recover, Dahlstrom got caught starting to leave the zone early. He then set a pick on Toews, allowing the puck to squirt past a falling Gustafsson for a 2-on-0 that Berube had no chance on. It was Dahlstrom’s bad positioning that set that goal up.

On the third, Dahlstrom took a shot from the blue line that Labanc blocked, then got out raced by Labanc. After the initial rush failed, Dahlstrom floated to his off side to cover after Gustafsson hit the ice to block Labanc’s original attempt, then seemed to fall asleep, letting Tierney behind him and Gustafsson, who slid a quick pass past a confused Gustafsson to a wide open Labanc.

I’m willing to write this off as simply a bad game from a young player, and I hope that Dahlstrom can grow into positional awareness. But tonight was not one for his reel.

– Dahlstrom was noticeably awful, but the Hawks’s D-corps looked bad as a whole. Keith took a retaliatory penalty late in the second after Sorensen overpowered him with a semi-slash. Connor Murphy fell down a few times and was embarrassed by Timo Meier’s speed in the first. Jordan Oesterle tipped a puck into his own net after a Goodrow pass attempt from behind the net. While Oesterle had some bad luck on that tip, no one on the backend stood out, and for a team that relies as heavily on plays coming from the backend as the Hawks do, this is about the result you’d expect out of the effort.

– On the plus side, Duclair looked spry, even though he couldn’t finish a 1-on-0 in the second or his penalty shot in the third. He had the worst 5v5 CF% of all Hawks though, for what that’s worth on a complete blowout.

– Alex DeBrincat continues to impress. He had a few prime opportunities that Jones stuffed him on, but it’s still a joy to watch him get to all the right spots. At some point, he’s going to play with Schmaltz and Kane regularly, which ought to start tapping into his potential more directly. You’d like to see it now, but Q’s line choices continue to be a mystery.

– Matthew Highmore debuted tonight and did about as much as you could expect. His far-too-wide shot in the first triggered the Sharks’s first goal following Dahlstrom’s misguided pinch, but he was also in decent position for a tip off a DeBrincat wrister from the high slot in the second. He didn’t make the tip, but he had the right idea. Not much to take away from him tonight, but he wasn’t a complete zoo.

Games like these make it hard to say “everything will be better next year when Crawford comes back.” While Corey definitely is the difference maker, the Hawks have some huge questions to answer on defense going forward. It’s frustrating to watch this team have no answers, but that’s the kind of year it’s been. Take it on the chin and move forward is the plan.

At this point, all you can do is look for development and improvement from the younger guys. Tonight saw DeBrincat look great, Schmaltz look good, and Duclair look outstanding at times. The rest may have been garbage, but there are positives strewn among this shit.

We’ve got 17 more games to see what we’re doing going into the off-season. Onward.

Beer du Jour: Jefferson’s Whiskey with a High Life back.

Line of the Night: “Quite a debut for Matthew Highmore. He won’t forget his first NHL game.” – Chris Cuthbert, with the Hawks down 7–1.

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