It wasn’t so long ago where the Hawks were on the flip side of the story with what transpired in Tampa over the weekend; where they’d be able to keep a team at arm’s length and hold them by their own forehead as they impotently flailed and swung away, never landing a single punch. The Bolts did exactly that to the Hawks over the weekend, leaning on them when it was necessary and never having to exert even the slightest bit more effort than was necessary, and walking away with two regulation wins in the process. March was always going to be a reality check for the West Side Hockey Club, and with their season series against Tampa nearly complete with a 1-5-1 record (compared to Tampa’s 6-0-1, leaving only a single shootout point on the table), the results are now lining up with the process.
- Dylan Strome returned to the lineup this weekend after an extended stretch in the dark room under the concussion protocol, and had a wonky, slap-dick power play goal to show for it on Thursday night, and not much else. It was Strome’s first point of any kind in 10 games dating back through his absence, and has still not scored at even strength since February 2nd. This was supposed to be a showcase year for Strome after getting a bridge contract and having Dach and Toews go down giving him priority minutes one way or the other, and even prior to his concussion, he hasn’t done a ton with it, and it certainly looks like he won’t be a part of whatever mid-to-long term process (there isn’t a plan) the organ-I-zation braintrust might have.
- With both Lankinen and Subban getting a game this weekend, neither really had a standout performance, as they weren’t particularly under constant assault by the Tampa forwards. But with the goalie play normalizing a bit in playing real teams duing this portion of the schedule, the margin for error goes down tremendously, even when the team falls ass backwards two power play goals in one period as they did on Thursday. Overall, month by month, Lankinen has save percentages of .936 in January, .917 in February, and now .886 in March. That is not a good trend, and it’s driving home the point of just how propped up by goaltending this whole operation was.
- That being said, the Bolts got several prime opportunities that they converted on, notably Colton’s game winnner on Thursday and Cirelli getting the second goal this afternoon, where one pass just absolutely rips whatever structure this defense has wide open. Hockey defensive zone coverage is never man-on-man like this for explicitly this reason, it’s designed to make the offense have to complete multiple passes to get even a resonable attempt, not just one to get a prime one. And with a team as fast and smart as Tampa, all they had to do was wait for (designed) over-pursuit to make themselves dangerous out there.
- On top of continuing to adhere to a moronic structure, the Jeremy Trestman Stirring Motivation Speech must clearly still be working, as time after time, this team enters a third period at least within striking distance, and always ends up getting outshot and out attempted in the final frame even when teams defending leads traditionally hang back and play a little bit more conservatively. The Hawks cannot seem to ever find any rhythm offensively or be able to keep the puck out of their own end defensively if even the slightest bit of lead-protecting strategy is deployed by the opposing coach, and it speaks to just how out of his depth Alpo Colliton has been for going on three seasons now. And obviously there are jokes to be made about Leisure Suit Larry behind Tampa’s bench, but that motherfucker is anything but a moron back there, and might be the best coach in the league. Whatever this is can’t hold leads against teams and it can’t claw its way back into games either, so what the fuck are they even doing? It again is all 100% reliant of a power play and goaltending, and when one of those two things fails, it looks like this dreck.
- Speaking of dreck, someone burn the Bolts’ black on black on black alternates. Fuck that shit. They’re awful. Their reverse retros however? Solid B.
- It’s not going to get any easier at the start of this week, as the Cats come to West Madison having just put 90 shots in two games on the Preds, who themselves are a) actually a decent possession team with no finish or goaltending at the moment, and b) will be in town next weekend and their speed is still a bad matchup for the Hawks. And then Carolina after that. Woof.