FACEOFF: 11:30am Central
TV/RADIO: NBC, WGN 720
NOT YET KILLED BY ROBOCOP: Winging It In Motown
If the Hawks are going to snap out of this midseason malaise (if indeed that’s what it is) in the next week or so, they’re going to have to do it against the Central Division. Seven of the next eight games — all in the next two weeks, mind — come against the Central residents (and it’s a whole lot of Predators, but we’ll worry about that on Monday). It kicks off with a return brunch engagement against the somewhat resurgent Red Wings. It’s as resurgent as an elderly squad can be, like that half-pep your dad gets in his step for a couple minutes after a big shit. Or is that just mine?
Scum just completed a four-game trip out West, where they kneecapped the Ducks twice (it just can’t be as hard as the Hawks seem to make it), beat the Yotes, and were shut out by Antti Niemi. This is the first game back after that trip, and we all know how difficult the first game home after a roadtrip is because everyone says it must be.
Again, this isn’t a full-blown surge from the Wings, as they’re 5-3 in their last 8. And most of this “surge” can be attributed to Jimmy Howard getting hot in the last few games. He’s been better but he’s still getting peppered most nights, seeing over 30 shots in four of his last six starts and six of his last 10.
Why? Because — even though most won’t admit it — this blue line is mediocre, and that’s if we’re being kind. Yes, it held the Hawks to only one goal last time these two met before church was out, but that was mostly thanks to Howard as the Hawks regurgitated food on the Wings for most of the first 40 minutes. It is likely the Hawks will get a fair few chances again.
Up front, Pavel Datsyuk is going through a streak where he’s dominant one night, and kind of just not there the next. Sadly, he didn’t have much of a game against the Sha-arks last out, so you can guess what’s probably coming tomorrow. Damien Brunner has gone from sensation to being a healthy scratch recently. What a novel concept, sitting players who aren’t performing. How long do you think Babcock would put up with Bolland’s shit right now? Mikael Samuelsson and Johan Franzen both could return from minor injuries, though it’s up to you to decide if that really matters or not. Wings fans and media keep telling the world that things will be different when Darren Helm reconnects whatever fell off of him this time. But if you’re waiting breathlessly for Darren Helm, what have you really got?
As for the Hawks, Marian Hossa nor Patrick Sharp made the trip, though both have an outside shot at playing the next night at home (more likely Thursday against St. Louis, because there’s no better spot to return from injury than a night full of cheapshots and bullshit from he residents of Dummard-ville). Jeremy Morin finally got a call-up, and may replace one of the two Goofus Twins on the 4th line. That is if Viktor Stalberg goes, though Q says that’s likely.
What would make the most sense and you could see is Morin replace Hayes on the 2nd line, as his game — and more to the point his skating — would line up better with Kane. But either way, as long as Morin is out there able to give you 8-10 minutes.
While both games between these two have exceeded 60 minutes, the Hawks have carried the play for very long stretches in both games. While their game is slightly off at the moment, the Wings could be something of a tonic. While they’re still skilled and quicker than a lot, they’re not more skilled or quicker than the Hawks, even at beat up as they are at forward. More importantly, they’re not going to dry-hump and maul the Hawks D behind the goal line, which has given the Hawks problems recently. This kind of game is what the defense was built to play.
There’s always danger when Dats and Z are slithering around, and I suppose Franzen could actually be useful for the rare occasion. But other than Jakub Kindl, the Wings defense can be got at and scorched.
Nothing like sweeping the season series in Detroit to make you feel a little better about things at the moment. So do that.