RECORDS: Sabres 30-28-8 Hawks 27-30-9
PUCK DROP: 7:30
TV: NBCSN Chicago
IN A BARREL: Die By The Blade
I’ll give you the perspective as a season ticket holder. Normally, the Sabres game is one you can count on unloading for a profit. It usually doesn’t matter what state the Sabres are in, because Buffalo fans travel (or they’re already here and just come out of whatever abandoned factory they live in). Tonight’s game, I couldn’t sell for a song. Even Sabres fans couldn’t find a fuck to give about this one. That’s partly due to their own team’s slide ever since they won 10 in a row, and the Hawks not being able to be much of a draw to anyone else. The combination of the two renders this one a “non-happening.”
So let’s start with the Hawks, who return from a frankly embarrassing California trip. They needed a buzzer-beater to get past the Ducks, who have been a burned-up clown car for two months or more. They were flattened by the Kings, who had lost 10 in a row before that. Then they were simply outclassed by the Sharks, which isn’t a crime, but not something you can just shrug off when everyone didn’t care against the worst team in the conference the day before.
So now it becomes the watch to see how they respond. The season is lost, and they can say whatever they want. So can Coach Cool Youth Pastor keep his charges interested and motivated? Because he’s coming off a trip where pretty much everyone couldn’t be bothered in Los Angeles. He then had his assistant captain essentially air him out, in a way, to the press. So he’s not in the best spot here, with a team closer to giving him the Bolo Yeung wave-off than anyone in the organ-i-zation should be comfortable with.
So if the Hawks mail it in here for the last 15 games, yes that would probably be better long-term due to the draft position, but it will put Jeremy Colliton in an awfully weird position. Once a team quits on you, it’s nearly impossible to reel them back in. Whatever they may want, Keith is going to be here next year. So will Kane and Toews. You can probably count on motivation from the latter two, either due to sociopathy or professional pride, but even Toews has had his nights off this year. What if he checks out? Then you’re basically lost, and you have a lot of young players in what is becoming a more and more toxic atmosphere.
However, if Colliton can get them to recover and at least spasm one more death rattle, at least there’s hope that those who are gong to take this team forward in the future are listening. Which isn’t much, but it’s at least what I’m paying attention to.
As for on the ice matters, David Kampf returns, in for Dylan Sikura. That’s kind of annoying, but I can’t really defend Sikura too much more when he hasn’t scored. Kampf is actually more important than most realize, as his Baby Kruger ’13 act has been missed. So that’s cool. Corey Crawford gets the chance to recover from his technicolor yawn in Los Angeles.
To the Sabres, who have sunk like a stone since briefly being the talk of the league in the fall. Since that 10-gamer that was all OT and one-goal wins, they’ve gone 13-22-6, which is unsightly to say the least. And there’s not a lot to build on at the moment. They don’t score a bunch, they give up too many goals, but they’re not that close to the bottom in any category. Their summer hinges on whether they can keep Jeff Skinner, as he’s been the only winger to really dovetail with Jack Eichel.
Their big move at the deadline was to move along Brendan Guhle for Brandon Montour–the hallowed Brendan-to-Brandon upgrade–in a bid to get anything on their blue line other than Rasmus The Younger. The rest of the season will also be an evaluation of Phil Housley as coach. If the Sabres continue to break up like a too-steep reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere, he’s going to be out of a job come May. If he can pull them out of this stall, he may get one more chance.
Like a lot of not-quite teams, the Sabres are one line. There’s Skinner-Eichel-Reinhart, and then whatever you find at the bottom of your trash can when you take the bag out. Evan Rodrigues is centering the second line, for god’s sake. Casey Middlestadt carries a lot of hope but not a lot of production yet. Kyle Okposo went back to his home planet. There’s nothing else really worth talking about.
This is one of a few games left on the schedule that will take place merely because they have to. There’s nothing riding on it, so just try and enjoy the spectacle of a hockey game. There’s not much else I can say about it.
Game #67 Preview Suite