TV/RADIO For Sox Fans: WGN for both
FOR THOSE ABOUT TO ROCK: Jackets Cannon
Ah yes, the return of General Saad to the United Center after a distinguished three year… well, two and a half year stay in Chicago. No one does pomp like the Hawks. Even Dan Fucking Carcillo got one, so Saad can expect an over the top scoreboard treatment and ovation at the first TV timeout, while somewhere Brian Campbell, who was a Hawk just as long and his salute consisted of Pat Foley scoffing at him on air, wonders why he never got the same treatment. While there will be stories about what a shame it is that Saad is no longer a Hawk, essentially in the end everyone won in the summer. The Hawks made what very well might turn out to be a good hockey trade, getting two useful pieces for one, while Saad got very very rich. But never let that get in the way of emotions. The juxtaposition of a team hailing a player they were never quite sold on is certainly delicious.
However, what Brandon Saad is traveling with is traveling in with is worth emotion, and that emotion would be pity. The Jackets Super-Dave-Osborne-crash into the UC with an 0-6-0 mark that’s seen them outscored 26-12. They played last night and not only lost to the cardboard cutouts that comprise the Leafs these days but got pretty well outplayed to boot as well. That was not a fluky 6-3 loss. They have six even-strength goals all season, and only their power play has kept them from one of the most embarrassing starts in NHL history. If it isn’t anyway, that is.
It’s no secret why the Jackets have started the year in the fashion of a dead skunk. Their blue line might be worst in the league. The only thing that comes close to resembling a top pairing man is Ryan Murray who has 84 games of experience in the NHL over two years, and still looks very well lost. He’s on the third pair at the moment with some concoction they’re calling “Cody Goloubef.” Jack Johnson and David Savard are your nominal top pairing, if by nominal you mean, “Best bad idea we have.” Fedor Tyutin is only playing because no one’s come around to identify his remains yet, and Dalton Prout is definitely named “Dalton Prout.”
This unit of greatness has been turning the puck over or getting beat to the outside or getting caught out of position pretty much a few times per period. And what’s not helping is that Sergei Bobrovsky’s legs apparently don’t work, as he’s rocking a .835 SV% at the moment. He was terrible again last night, so the Hawks can expect to see street performer Curtis McElhinney in the gear tonight. The only reason Todd Richards hasn’t been fired yet is they probably haven’t had the time between last night’s loss and tonight’s game. Unless the Jackets can find a point against the Hawks, you should probably expect Richards to be cashiered by the time you get to the Fruit Loops on Sunday.
As for the Hawks, the new story tonight will be the NHL debut of Vincent Hinostroza, who’s a local boy don’t you know? He looks to be slotted on a line with Teuvo and CatButt, though whether he’ll play center or not remains to be seen. It would be disappointing if he were, as Teuvo really needs the reps in the middle and the Hawks need to ride the ups and downs with him there to see if he can stick. But as we know, everyone will play everywhere. Hinostroza could find himself alongside Toews and Hossa before the night is out, because that’s how it goes. Viktor Tikhonov has followed CatButt down “Stalberg Avenue,” which is the road that takes you from the top line one game to the pressbox the very next game. Hinostroza displayed a fair pair of hands and smarts in the preseason, and is certainly worth a look in this grouping.
The defensive pairs are the same, and the Jackets shouldn’t be able to have their top line keep Keith and Hammer pinned the way Giroux and Ovechkin have the past two games, despite Saad’s and Johansen’s considerable talents. At least you’d hope. Even if they do, the Jackets forward line is filled with stone-handed grunts who simply have no East-West to their game and if you put a boulder in front of them, they’ll spend most of the game staring at it.
The only threat to the Hawks tonight is if they take too many penalties, as the Columbus power play is on fire (Saad already has three markers on that unit). This is a team that’s basically looking for a way to quit on their coach if they haven’t when they walked off the plane. There will be a desperate, frantic lunge from them to open but if the Hawks survive that and take the lead, you’d imagine it’ll be a self-pity party for the Jackets afterwards.
Let’s Go Cubs.
If you’re going to tonight’s game, pick up a copy of our gameday program outside the arena. If you’re not, you can get the digital version right here.