Game Time: 7:30PM Central
TV/Radio: CSN, WGN-AM 720
I Hope Joe Arpaio Is Tortured To Death: Five For Howling
It took until game 80 on April 5th for the schedule to finally roll around to a game of actual consequence that the Blackhawks on paper should give a shit about. Sitting at 99 points with three games to play, they can max out at 105, which is the current total for both the Stars and Blues. If the Hawks win tonight as they should, and can beat the Blues on Thursday, that at least puts home ice still seriously on the table on Saturday, as the Blues face the Caps in the closer, and the Hawks would hold the definitive edge in ROWs. There’s still barely a chance at the division as well, but on top of needing help from the Caps, the Stars get what could be an already eliminated Avs team on Thursday and then a locked-into-seventh Preds club for the finale. But failure to accumulate all six of the remaining points available makes all of this moot, and it begins tonight at home against the Coyotes.
The Coyotes were always going to be bad this year, and that was kind of the point. But they were to be bad with a purpose, to get their young guys some burn while hopefully putting themselves in the running for surefire #1 overall pick Auston Matthews, who is a local product and a direct result of the Jets moving there many moons ago. It’s a great plan if you can enact it, but the problem is that Dave Tippett is too good of a coach to ever pull it off, and the Yotes hung around too long in the middle of the Pacific to give themselves decent enough odds of winning the lottery. They currently have the 8th worst record in the league, but given Uncle Gary’s propensity for mashing cookie dough through a keyhole in Glendale trying to force the public to like them, it’s as safe a bet as any that he’ll massage the Coyotes’ (lottery) balls for Matthews.
Not that the Coyotes are hurting for dynamic young forwards already. Max Domi will probably eclipse his old man’s career scoring totals by about the middle of next year, and Anthony Duclair has been an excellent return for Keith Yandle. They also have Dylan Strome still in junior at Erie, and was picked third overall last year with his combination of height (6’3″) and scoring ability (two straight 110+ point seasons in The O) to presumably join the mix next year. Tossing Matthews into that would make for quite a formidable group once they reach their primes at the same time. Even Tobias Reider has shown a bit of upside this year after being a 4th round pick in 2011. There are some vets here taking up space, with Shane Doan and his elbows still hanging around through this expiring contract and being content with not chasing a Cup. Somehow Alex Tanguay is here now. Martin Hanzal and Antoine Vermette have occupied center spots to give their young mates an apprenticeship on the wings, but past that, there is a lot of trash here. Of all regular forwards, only Duclair is above 50% in 5v5 Corsi share, and even then it’s only barely with heavily sheltered zone stars.
On the blue line, things still begin and end with Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who like Duclair, is the only defenseman above water, nearly 6% better than the team rate, though he is not sheltered in the least and plays in any and every situation. He’s also the team’s leading scorer with 53 points and has over 21 goals, 12 of them coming on the power play, in case the two clowns grabassing in the Hawks’ broadcast booth wanted a look at what a real “Norris Dark Horse” looks like. Connor Murphy will be coming up on the elusive “200 games as a pro” threshhold early next year, and has the size and skillset to really take a leap and is only turning 23 later this month. Kevin Connauton has some nice offensive instincts but is probably just a guy, and he and Klas Dahlbeck would probably make a decent third pairing when the team matters. Jarred Tinordi has failed to impress since coming over from Montreal. Nicklas Grossmann and Zbynek Michalek are old, slow, bad, and rich.
With Best Supporting Actor Mike Smith barfing up 5 to the Blues last night after the Yotes had a 2-0 lead in the second, it would stand to reason that King Louis Domingue XIV would get the go tonight. Domingue has been decent as the de facto #1 while Smith was out injured, with a .914 save percentage, and .932 at evens. However Domingue has given up 8 goals on 62 shots against the Hawks this year in two appearances at home (one in relief).
As for the Men of Four Feathers, as stated above, tonight is the first game of the season with serious implications on the playoff picture, and they’ll have to do so tonight without Andrew Shaw and Marian Hossa on top of the already missing Duncan Keith and Corey Crawford. The absences at forward somehow have MANSHITTER on Teuvo’s wing, as if Our Special Boy has done anything to deserve being punished like that, particularly after that fucking tomato can’s ghastly giveaway that led directly to a Bruins goal on Sunday.
Speaking of players who cannot seem to find their way into the press box no matter how egregious and continual the errors, Teflon Van Riemsdyk will continue to man the “top” pairing with Niklas Hjalmarsson, while Darko Svedberg and Marlon Brando in The Score will be behind them. Fortunately this game will be at home, and Quenneville should be able to keep the latter pairing away from the speed of Duclair and Domi. Scott Darling once again gets the start in net.
Joel Quenneville and Dave Tippett are old buddies dating back to their Hartford days, and that’s one of the reasons that the games have been so tempestuous between these two teams this year. It gives the Coyotes extra motivation to drop a turd in the Blackhawks’ home ice punchbowl, as if they didn’t do that themselves repeatedly in games against Minnesota. Given that, it will be important for the Hawks to stay out of the box, as OEL is a real weapon who is allowed to roam as he pleases on the advantage, and the Yotes have twice power-played their way back into games against the Hawks after falling behind early. Two points tonight makes Thursday count, and the Blues do so well with games that count.