RECORDS: Avs 20-47-3 Hawks 46-20-5
PUCK DROP: 6pm Central
TV: WGN Locally, NHL Network outside the walls
THEY ACTUALLY WATCH THIS: Mile High Hockey
ADJUSTED TEAM CORSI%: Avs – 45.8 (29th) Hawks – 50.7 (13th)
ADJUSTED TEAM xGF%: Avs – 45.3 (29th) Hawks – 49.0 (18th)
POWER PLAY %: Avs – 12.9 (Dead Ass Last) Hawks – 18.8 (16th)
PENALTY KILL %: Avs – 77.8 (25th) Hawks – 78.0 (24th)
Sometimes a team comes into the United Center and they need no introduction. Tonight is not one of those nights. Then again, the Avs have been singularly bad this season, and maybe that makes them unique. They have 43 points. 43. The Hawks had 43 points on December 15th. That was three months ago.
Generally, when a team is this bad, there has to be something about the future you’d look forward to. But the Avalanche have even managed to bork that, as both MacKinnon and LaxativeLog have taken steps back. Sure, MacKinnon has had to wade through top pairings and checking lines with barely any help at the age of 21, but in his fourth NHL season we’re talking about a player who has capped out at 63 points and 24 goals. Both in his first year. You wouldn’t be remiss in asking yourself if he’s just a really good #2 center. ThreeYaksAndADog had his head turned so backwards by Patrick Roy, who apparently wanted him to be late-stage Steve Ott, that his game has completely fallen apart.
The one chip the Avs have to cash in is Matt Duchene, and they probably wisely (we’ll have to see what the deal ends up being) held onto him until draft night when they can get more teams in the bidding and less cap restrictions in the summer. Duchene could be a game-breaking winger, or be a more than serviceable second line center with some team, and you can see where a team that falls just short of the Cup this spring might want to use him as one last desperate lunge.
What the Avs need has been obvious for years. They have no blue line. If you squint you could see where a Barrie-EJ second pairing would be a really nice thing to have. Only problem being you then have to fill in both spots on the top pairing. There isn’t much in the pipeline for them, and just like last night’s opponents they’re going to have to get creative to solve that little conundrum.
None of that helps the outhouse residue that takes the ice on a nightly basis this season. When Rene Bourque in on your top six, you’re essentially an affront to the Lord. This team really can’t do anything well, and bottoming out isn’t the worst strategy but when there isn’t a generational talent in the draft it loses some of its charm.
Still, the Avs have jumped up and bit the Hawks once this season, right before Christmas when the Hawks were certainly on auto-pilot, if not outright already at the bar. It’s hard to envision that happening again, especially with the Hawks playing so well right now, but that’s why they take the ice and all that.
For the Hawks, you’d have to think that Scott Darling will take the start tonight, the last back-to-back of the season. He’ll probably get one of the starts in the home of Florida Man next week, too. There would be no reason at all to put Marian Hossa in the lineup if he’s sporting so much as a paper cut, so wouldn’t expect him to be in either. Which means basically the same lineup as last night. Maybe Kempny comes in to save Oduya’s legs a bit, but that’s the only other change I could envision.
I’ll just sit back and bask in the fact that someone actually bought my tickets for this one.