Game Times: 7:00PM (2/27), 6:00PM (2/28)
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, NHL Network (2/28), WGN-AM 720
Big Money Rustlas: Winging It In Motown
As the Hawks and Jackets showed earlier in the week, even in an abbreviated, intra-division only schedule thanks to the interminable pestilence still keeping the world in its grip, it is still in fact possible to have a completely disinterested late-February snoozefest. It’s all about maintaining a sense of normalcy out there, and those two teams’ efforts were appreciated. And the drudgery continues this weekend with another two games against the visiting Red Wings, whom the Hawks played in Detroit just last week, and against whom the Hawks have half of their six (6) regulation wins in 21 games.
Since these two teams last met, the Wings managed splits at home against the otherwise surging Panthers, and most recent against the Predators, thanks on Thursday’s hat trick by Feather’s guy Sam Ganger. Jonathan Bernier has started 3 of those 4 games, as white supremacist Thomas Greiss’ .891 just simply isn’t going to cut it even for a team that is basically intentionally trying to be bad. Bernier’s .936 at evens and .918 overall are nicely backstopping the fact that the Red Wings actually do a decent job of shot and attempt suppression given how awful their roster, being squarely in the middle of the pack for both. The Wings’ problem doesn’t seem to be structure, just a complete lack of talent, which is why it feels like Jeff Blashill is now in his 78th season steering this rudderless ship.
As expected, Dylan Larkin paces the Wings in scoring, with 11 points in 22 games, and a 41 point pace for a top center in this league just simply isn’t enough. He’s flanked by Robby “Milli Vanilli” Fabbri and Anthony Mantha, who makes Jimmy Hayes look like Jarome Iginla with how dynamic he isn’t given his size/skill combination. The perpetually aggrieved Bobby “Ryan” Stephenson also has 11 points and leads the Wings in goals with 5 from the second line, though he’s only had one goal since January 19th, which gives an indication of what an offensive juggernaut this team is. That line is centered by Vlad Namestnikov with the any-time-he’s-ready Filip Zadina on the opposite side, who at this point in his career should be playing the pivot he was drafted to be instead of still having a wing apprenticeship. Darren Helm is somehow still alive and playing for this team, as he will until the season after the environmental apocalypse. Ganger is firmly planted on the fourth line opposite Mathias Brome, who apparently owes his entire NHL career to the visionary leadership of one Coach Jeremy Prinze Jr.
Speaking of accursed eternal Red Wings, enough players have left that Danny DeKeyser has finally found himself on the top pairing with Filip Hronek, who could probably actually be a useful offensive contributor on a team that was going anywhere. Marc Staal is playing centerfield for Jon Merrill’s wanderings, and Washington castoff Christian Djoos and Patrik Nemeth are doing dueling banjos at both ends of the ice, taking turns shotgunning.
As for the Men of Four Feathers, reports out of this morning’s skate are that the lineup will remain the same, and that Malcolm Subban will get his second consecutive start after his first shutout in a Hawks uniform on Thursday, wherein apparently the Hawks have developed a KILLER INSTINCT. Even if this were true of Thursday, which it isn’t as the Hawks were once again pounded in attempts against even before the go-ahead goal, this is some complete horse shit to write, let alone think, coming from someone who covered this team during the Cup era, and should know what a actual KILLER INSTINCT looks like. This was a team that went something like 968-2 in elimination games and never once got pushed to a game 7 in any series they had the opportunity to close out a series in 6. Not against a team at the end of February that clearly hates its coach and hates itself and still managed to keep this entire operation to the outside until one of two fucking forwards who can actually pick a spot found the slightest bit of daylight. It’s complete and utter bullshit, and it remains baffling that the mandate seems to be that this team is anything more than it is – a decidedly bad one by any metric available with some fun players to keep an eye on in hopes that this imbecile coach doesn’t stunt their development too much. This is a team like the Avs, or Wild, or whoever the fuck back in The Window that you could read about here and be reassured that they were a complete fraud and they were in no way to be taken seriously, because the results didn’t align with the process. The Hawks are that team now. And they’ll have five of their eight regulation wins against the fetid corpse of the Red Wings by the end of the weekend. Let’s go Hawks.