RECORDS: Ducks 26-31-8 Hawks 29-28-8
PUCK DROP: 7:30
TV: NBCSN Chicago
MUSKETEERS? ON GUARD?: Anaheim Calling
Whenever the Hawks were mapping out a road back to the playoffs–be it before the season, or in the depths of the fall, or when they looked barely competent around the new year and trying to place a final charge–they must have looked at March and thought this was where it would happen. Because looking at this month’s slate, even in their current state the Hawks could pile up some points here.
It starts tonight with the Ducks, who blow. The Wings are on Friday, and they blow. The Sharks and Sentators at home next week. They blow chunks, too. Minnesota in a home-and-home and then Buffalo, and both of those teams blow a fair amount as well. The Kings and Canadiens at the end of the month, and yep, there’s some definite blowage there as well. That’s nine games that you’d expect the Hawks to win, no matter their makeup. Which means if the Hawks were to goof a couple of results out of the Oilers, Blues, Caps, Penguins, or Stars…they could have 86 or 88 points, or even more at denouement of the season.
Except that probably only worsens their draft position. And makes you wonder what if. And that’s if you think the Hawks will take all 18 points from the games they should. Which they won’t. There’ll be no shelter here.
Either way, it kicks off tonight with the visit of the Ducks, who have backed up all season themselves after backing up all last season and have never really recovered since a playoff loss to the Predators in 2017. Boy, that sounds familiar. The Ducks might still be in Step 1 of turning from the Getzlaf-Perry generation to the next that will be led by…well, they don’t really know who yet and that’s the problem.
Getzlaf is still here of course, but his can’t-be-bothered, I’ll-float-out-here style has now aged into a I-can’t-get-there-if-I-wanted-to-but-still-don’t morass. Getz is headed for his lowest point-total since 2012 or worse, and he’s still the #1 center around these parts. What kids he’s turning the torch over to, I can’t tell you. The Ducks seemed to have missed a generation, just like the Hawks have. Rickard Rakell is 27 soon. Jakob Silfverberg is 29. Adam Henrique is 30. Cam Fowler is 28. Josh Manson too. That’s not really anyone in their prime or approaching it who’s ready to be the centerpiece of this team. When your important players are either over 30 or under 24, you get this.
The younger ducklings (so clever) like Sam Steel or Max Jones or Max Comtois (Larry Horse say Ducks too Max-y) or Jacob Larsson haven’t seized the greater opportunities. There’s still time of course, but Ducks observers would probably like to see a little more flash and less talk. The Ducks have taken on a couple projects in the hopes of finding plutonium by accident like Danton Heinen or Sonny Milano or Christian Djoos. Something’s got to work soon, right?
There’s still a few kids who haven’t even gotten a full go yet, and that’s where the hope lies. But this being a Bob Murray team, they’re going to struggle to find room for them thanks to contracts like Ryan Kesler’s if he doesn’t want to retire, or Erik Gudbranson’s, or David Backes’s for one more year. It’s a project in Anaheim, that’s for sure. The hockey team matches the area around it. There’s a lot of trash just lying around with nothing to stand out from the background.
To the Hawks, it’s basically the same again as it was in Florida. Corey Crawford will start, and the rest of the lineup will remain the same. And really, why would you change anything at this point? How would you? It kind of picks itself.
Toews, Keith, Kane, and Crow have been sounding the bell about making a serious run this month, and they’ll probably be doing the same in the room. They have to. Players want to win, and there are wins here to be had. And hey, maybe it’ll be fun. Who knows what it would tell the front office though. Look, we’ve got to come up with some reason to electively watch the Hawks play teams like this, right?