RECORDS: Canucks 30-32-10 Hawks 32-30-9
Every season in every sport takes on a complexion of its own, for better or for worse. Water finds its own level, and certain truths are exposed over a large enough sample size whether they make sense or not, and they seem wholly confined to within the context of that league year. So it’s with that being said, that despite the two teams tonight being objectively horseshit, it is a critical, must-win, FOUR POINT game on West Madison for both the Hawks and Canucks.
For the visiting Canucks, this is precisely where any right-thinking fan of theirs (and there are about six of them, admittedly) does not want the team to be. Sure, they are bad, but they aren’t fully bad enough to put themselves in the best position possible to draft a transformational forward (whose brother just happens to be in the Canucks’ farm system), and they aren’t at the tail end of any window with any aging veterans who could realistically justify a go-for-it mentality, or at least not anymore, with the last remaining holdover from the “glory” years of nearly 10 years ago now being Alex Edler and his elbows. Sure, they have the likely Calder trophy winner in Elias Petterson, who has been sensational and leads all rookie scoring despite a) being hurt a significant portion of the year and b) basically doing it with zero help, as Brock Boeser has been hurt just as often as Petterson has.
At 60 points in 61 games, Petterson is the Canucks’ leading scorer in all three categories, and has all the tools one would ask of a true superstar in the making – he’s fast, he’s an elite stickhandler and passer, has a quick shot, and has great scorer’s instincts. He’s currently centering the aforementioned Boeser and his huge shot, along with fellow prospect Nikolay Goldobin, who has taken a slight step back in his first full season in the NHL with only seven goals in 62 games after eight in 38 last year. It could be a bout of bad luck as he’s only shooting 6.7% this year while getting more shots on net, but even still he’s good for 1.67 per game in all situations, as opposed to Boeser’s nearly three per game.
So at least with those three forming a top line, GM Jim Benning can get a good look at what the future might hold while deluding himself that his team is in a playoff chase. Behind them however, things are far less interesting. As of last night, Bo Horvat is centering whatever is left of Loui Eriksson and Leafs castoff Josh Leivo, and Adam Gaudette is getting another look at the show with bottom six minutes between the suddenly well-traveled Tanner Pearson and Zack-Kassian-Cosplayer Jake Virtanen. Big free agent acquisition Jay Beagle still patrols the fourth line, just more expensively now, and between the likes of the other Granlund no one cares about and Fifth Feather’s favorite guy Tyler Motte.
On defense the Canucks are even less conspicuous, with the aforementioned Edler being about as default a #1 defenseman as there is in the league. He’s paired with the potentially useful Troy Stetcher, but it’s difficult to say how useful he could end up being considering he’s only ever been on teams that’ve gotten their dicks kicked in. And when looking at the rest of this blue line its easy to see why Quin Hughes would want to take his time getting here, unless 21-year-old former 3rd round pick Guillame Brisebois getting his first taste in the league or the corpse of Luke Schenn excites you, which it shouldn’t.
In net tonight will be another prospect after Jakob Markstrom made 44 stops in a shootout win in Dallas last night, Thatcher Demko, who might have the worst name in the sport. After two years in Utica, Demko has spent most of the year hurt, with four appearances for the Canucks and 16 in The A. He hasn’t been particularly impressive to this point, with an .895 overall and an .892 at evens, which is always impressive when the EV mark is lower. But Demko has consistently put up solid numbers at every level when he’s been healthy, and given the far more protracted growth curve for goaltending, none of this should preclude him from future success.
As for the Men of Four Feathers, getting four points in regulation against Toronto and Montreal when they weren’t expected to get any kind of makes up for shitting their pants against the Kings and failing to capitalize on the Avs and Stars a few weeks back, but not fully. And Corey Crawford throwing up a shutout in his home town (where he always performs well) is certainly a bonus, but everyone involved would have preferred it not taken him 48 stops to do so. Granted, the dam didn’t break until the Hawks went up two early in the third, but 48 shots is still 48 shots. He’ll get the call again tonight, as all of the sudden Crawford’s posted a .929 overall in March.
In front of Crawford the Platoon of Ineptitude between Slater Koekkoek, Carl Dahlstrom, and Gustav Forsling is likely to continue, though Forsling has managed to stay in the lineup by some act of god. There’s nothing really that can be said about this unit, they’re historically bad and they’re not going to stop any time soon, so just duck and cover and try to get out of each 60 minutes alive.
Up front, the Brendan Perlini Debutante Cotillion continues (just as Fifth Feather sooth-said on the podcast), as on top of his insurance marker on Saturday he’s just today been named the NHL’s second star of the week with five points in three games. It’s all well and good, and certainly playing with the Otter Boys maximizes his obvious tools, but he’ll need to continue this output if the Hawks are going to keep this charade of playoff hopes alive.
Whether anyone likes it or not, this game has playoff implications for both teams, such is the fetid state of affairs in the Western Conference this year. Even that context aside, given the rosters of both teams and the fact that the Canucks were on the road last night and took the maximum time necessary to come away with two points, the tale of the tap says that the Hawks should walk away victorious. But this team has found new and exciting ways to trip over its own dick when encroaching on competence multiple times this year, so to assume this game is a gimme would be stupid. In any event, six is better than five. Let’s go Hawks.
Game #72 Preview Suite