RECORDS: Hawks 30-33-8 Sabres 22-36-12
PUCK DROP: High Noon
TV: WGN, NHL Network outside the 606
FIGHTING ON ARRIVAL: Die By The Blade
I’ll start this one with a story about what this one feels like. Many years ago, I was sitting in an OTB with my father and Freddie The Beard, something of a Chicago pool room legend now. Both avid horseplayers, as was I. Arlington ran a race with four horses, apprentice jockeys, on the turf. Freddie, never one for subtlety, turned to Tribune Horse Racing columnist Dave Feldman (at the time probably something like 138 years old) who happened to be sitting in the same room, and yelled, “Hey Feldman! Use your connections to get us more of ‘dis! We like ‘dis! Four horse race with the apprentice jockeys…on the turf!”
That’s how I feel about this one. This is a game going on because the schedule says it has to. No one particularly wants to watch it (and I’d be surprised if more than a few didn’t want to play it), and yet here we are because this is where we are. Hawks-Sabres. Saturday afternoon. March 17th. This is what we chose.
Both of these teams have dreams of Rasmus Dahlin, though the Sabres’s is much more likely. They are marooned to the bottom of the NHL standings, and really only the Coyotes are keeping them company down there. It has been nothing short of a disaster in a season when they were supposed to start to at least maybe think about considering taking a step forward in their rebuild.
It’s hard to know where to start. The goaltending has sucked, as it will tend to do when leaning on Chad Johnson and Robin Lehner. The defense has sucked because it was based on Rasmus Ristolainen playing like a top pairing d-man and quite frankly he’s never nor will he ever be that, despite some early season flashes. It had Zach Bogosian and Justin Falk and Jake McCabe as well at times, so you can guess what kind of smell that created night after night. The forwards lacked punch, as Eichel and Okposo have missed time and there’s just not much else. Sam Reinhart is still finding his feet, and also trying to figure out which Reinhart he is. Benoit Pouliot and Jason Pominville are either old, simply plugs, or both. It is not an inspiring bunch.
Because of that, and the moves at the deadline that saw Fuck Head Kane The Younger amongst others moved along, the Sabres are turning more and more over to the kids. Bailey, Baptiste, Eichel, Reinhart, Rodrigues, Guhle, and Ristolainen are all players that are under 25 that will kick into the lineup when healthy. The Sabres are going to find out what they have, because it’ll be good info and also will give them the best chance to end up with another Rasmus. You can never have too many Rasmuses (Rasmi?)
For today, both Eichel and Okposo look like they won’t make the bell coming off an ankle sprain and brown brain, respectively. Which means the outfit the Hawks will see today is decidedly punchless. Ryan O’Reilly is simply doing miraculous work as the only forward who’s been above water in his underlying numbers, and he also murders the Hawks. But he can only do so much. Then again, things seem to always go stupid at HSBC Arena. The Hawks never have it easy there.
For the Hawks, JF Berube will get his turn at the wheel after Forsberg’s wheel kept on turning in net on Thursday. And then we’ll cycle back through this again and again for another three weeks. We’re almost there, people. There really aren’t any other lineup changes to be made with Duclair injured. Q shuffled up the lines during practice yesterday and below the top one they’re a real piece of work. But who knows how long he’ll stick with them because that’s his thing.
Let’s just get through it.
Game #72 Preview