For a must-win game with the season on the line, the Hawks managed an “Is it in yet?” effort. Despite dominating possession (62%+) and the shot share (42 vs. 20), they only managed six high-danger chances for against the Avs’s five. With another empty-calorie win, they’ll keep the embers of this “playoff run” just hot enough to justify watching on Tuesday, but if you were looking for a definitive reason to believe that this team can squeak into the playoffs, tonight wasn’t it. Let’s rake this muck.
– Colliton’s BIG IDEA over the past two games has been to test his nuclear option of Cat–Cap’n–Kane. It’s done everything it was supposed to do except score goals. They were ruthless in possession, pushing the pace at a 65% pace throughout the entire game. Granted, it was against a team that was happy to collapse on the only line that has even a whiff of a real scoring threat, knowing that if they could shut down that line, they’d probably get the one point they needed to manufacture a more comfortable lead over the last wild card spot.
While this idea isn’t bad on its own, it’s obviously not worked over the past three or four games. When you’re loading up the top line with your only real shot creators, all your opponents have to do is shut that one line down. And it’s a lot easier to shut that line down when there’s no real puck retriever on the line. That’s what made Caggiula look as good as he did with Kane and Toews: He was willing and able to retrieve shots and rebounds that DeBrincat can’t and Kane won’t. Toews just isn’t that guy anymore, especially not this year, a year in which we’ve watched him rightfully shirk some of his defensive responsibilities to try to outscore the Hawks’s overall defensive woes.
It’s a tough spot that Colliton finds himself in, trying to turn canned clams into caviar. But it’s obvious that you can’t expect Toews to be the guy who goes and gets the puck on that line. Make it Saad, make it Kahun, or fuck, make it Kampf. The 12–19–88 line makes sense in theory, but it’s probably a bit too light in the ass to make a difference against teams willing to pack it in, like the Avs did tonight.
– Corey Crawford continues to impress. And for once, he wasn’t having his innards pulled out of his ass with a pair of hot pincers doing it, facing a mere 20 shots on the game and tossing a 15-15 at even strength. At 34, he still looks like he’s got a few more years in him as long as he can stay out of the dark room.
– Fitting that Duncan Keith would score the game winner in overtime in a game the Hawks absolutely needed in regulation, given how often he’s let us down in bigger spots this year. There’s a nostalgia in watching Keith go coast to coast and flex a shot through the five hole, but it’s tapered by the fact that the extra point will likely be meaningless and that he did it in the farcical urinal race that is 3-on-3 OT.
– Strome and Perlini look lost without DeBrincat. Dominik Kahun is a nice complementary player, but Perlini isn’t consistent enough a scorer to put Kahun there as the puck retriever. Looks like Colliton realized that too, as Kahun found himself stapled to the bench late. There’s still a lot to hope for from Perlini’s game, but he just doesn’t have the finish or vision to carry a line on his own, at least not yet. If Colliton isn’t going to bump Saad up to the first line, he can probably get away with putting Kahun with Daydream Nation and slotting DeBrincat down to the second line again.
– The ASS line of Saad–Anisimov–Sikura was outstanding in possession, and they did so playing mostly against the MacKinnon line. This could be a good shutdown line in theory, but it’s hard to buy into Anisimov as a shutdown guy. There’s a lot to like with Saad and Sikura, and you can almost see Sikura playing the role of Saad Lite as he gets more comfortable in the NHL. I’m not sure what this line is supposed to do, but they possessed the puck a lot, so that’s cool.
– While Gustav Forsling continues to shit his diaper upward with unforced turnovers and a complete lack of vision, our own Henri “Frank Grimes” Jokiharju has to be looking for the nearest stack of live wires to hug. In a year in which Brandon Fucking Manning played actual minutes for the Blackhawks, Forsling might still come out as the worst D-man the Hawks have dressed. He’s a cold sore on top of a split lip, and his only talent is a booming shot that requires a windup that makes Pedro Baez impatient.
Tonight is a short stay of execution, nothing more. The Hawks must win out in regulation going forward, because every game is a BIG GAME now. Given that they have not won a single BIG GAME in regulation this year, it’s hard to like the odds.
That’s why we get high.
Booze du Jour: High Life and Coricidin
Line of the Night: You better believe this was a Mute Lounge game.