Much like baseball, the NHL has installed its All-Star break after the middle of the season. You get why, as you wouldn’t schedule the All-Star game on Super Bowl weekend or during the NFL playoffs (though the NHL All-Star game probably makes for a better pregame show to The Big Tilt than the actual pregame show. I guess the Canadiens wouldn’t want to give up that slot thought). Much like baseball doesn’t want to put it’s All-Star game anywhere near the 4th of July. So whatever. It’s a nice marker either way.
So where are the Hawks? Well, in some ways this is the earliest the Hawks have been entrenched in their spot, aside from when they didn’t lose for half a season in 2013. The Hawks only sit four points behind the Wild, but have played three games more, and if the Wild win even one of those they’re going to be awfully hard to catch with how things work. Even if they fell off a bit, Dubnyk is going to get them into overtime just enough to prevent complete collapse. On the other side, the Predators are nine points behind, and even with their two games in hand that’s a massive gap. They’re not getting caught.
You know what’s weird? In the Q era, the Hawks have only finished second in the division once. And that was Q’s first year, when it was a conference system and that really meant being fourth in the conference. Since then it’s been 1st, 3rd, 4th, 1st, 3rd, 3rd, and 3rd last year. Just a note for all of you there.
So, what’s going on with the Hawks? Let’s rumble through.
-All season, we’ve been trying to send up some warning flares–we like to play with fire–that though the record for the most part was gleaming, there were problems. And most of those problems have centered around the two most important pillars of the Hawks’ success, Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith. While both have had a scoring spike of late, are they improving overall?
Keith is trending the right way over the last week, Toews not so much when it comes to possession. As for shot-quality or whatever you want to call it and however much stock you want to put in it:
At least headed the right way of late, but not where it needs to get to. Let’s see what this looks like after the stretch where the Hawks get the Wild twice, the Oilers twice, the Jets again, and the Blues to close out February.
-Dennis Rasmussen has been the more impressive contributor than Vinnie Hinostroza. That sounds ridiculous at first. It’s so easy to notice Hinostroza given his world-class speed, and he does have finish. But Rasmussen’s peripherals are significantly better than Stroh’s, and Rasmussen has started half of his shifts in the defensive zone where as Stroh has only started a third there. Rasmussen might be being groomed to take over the role of dungeon master (uh…?) from Kruger, in case the latter is going diamonds, and dust, he’s going in… to Sin City over the summer.
-Overall, the team is trending in the right direction, though very slowly.
Again, neither of these marks are where we’re used to seeing them but they’re at least climbing to where they were.
-One of the stranger aspects of this season is that the Hawks are amongst the worst in giving up scoring chances in the league. Their scoring-chance-against per 60 is 28th in the league, with only the Isles and Yotes giving up chances more than the Hawks do. Yet, the two teams immediately ahead of the Hawks are the Penguins, Leafs, Oilers, and the Rangers are two spots ahead of that. All of them are playoff teams or close to it. The difference is all four of those teams create far more good chances than the Hawks. All of them are at or above 8.45 scoring chances for per 60. The Hawks are at 7.13, which is 20th in the league. Essentially, the Hawks have been shooting lights out from three point range all season, but at some point you gotta get yo’ ass to the bucket. This is the task ahead for them the rest of the year.
Anyway, we’re taking the weekend off. So should you. We’ll be back Monday with Hogs and other shit.