Well with the Hawks season all but mathematically over, we discuss the possibilities moving into the future, and of course brace ourselves from the assured hilarity of The Beloved making a draft pick tomorrow. Listen and rate and such.
Look, the Tampa Bay Lightning are a far superior team to the Chicago Blackhawks. There is little debate about that. And looking at the box score, it would appear that the Hawks put up a valiant fight despite being hopelessly outgunned even if Kucherov and Stamkos didn’t play. But that would be the incorrect conclusion to draw, and once again a pants shitting was on display from top to bottom given how the game actually played out and the circumstances in the standings surrounding it. In the end, however, water finds its own level and this was yet another shining example of just how far away from being actually competitive the Hawks are, no matter how FUN they were for 10 minutes two months ago.
Game Times: 6:30PM (4/15, 4/17)
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago (4/15), NBC Sports Chicago+, NHLN (4/17), WGN-AM 720
White Boy Rick: Winging It In Motown
With the trade deadline having now passed, both the Hawks and whatever is left of the Wings right now are hoping to get a look at what is on their roster that could possibly be useful in the future, with the added bonus of the visiting Hawks desperately needing both of the games this weekend in regulation in order for next week’s three game set with Nashville to mean a damn thing as far as any playoff aspirations are concerned.
Though the game on the ice was ultimately incidental to what was going on off of it for both teams as far as any of the near, mid and long term outlook is concerned, the Hawks managed to take both games from a Jackets team that could very well be appointment implosion television to close out the season. With the Preds winning on OT against the Stars last night and the Hawks OT winner tonight, the Hawks are two points out and 2 regulation wins still back of the Preds with a three game series coming up next week that’s likely to put a bow on this season. But they did what they needed to do and got contributions from kids, which is all that anyone here has been looking for this season.
In this episode, the four of us Collaborate and Communicate on the trajectory of this team after an objectively terrible road trip but a reasonably solid effort against Florida. Also the Bears because we hate ourselves and life in general.
The Blackhawks blew another lead? Again? This team? Are you sure? Is this déjà vu?
It’s not déjà vu, friends. The Blackhawks have blown 7 of 9 total multi-goal leads since the beginning of February, which is a staggering, incomprehensible statistic. I’m trying to be positive down here because there are still some individual efforts by players to like. Alex DeBrincat’s third-year renaissance is relieving and exciting to watch. Kane is still scoring goals, or at least being an integral part of setting up the goals. Lankinen is making highlight-reel saves (and let’s be honest, he can’t save all of them). The young kids are simultaneously fun-yet-terrifying to watch. But there’s also obviously some not great going on here that you can’t just ignore. Let’s take a look at the bullets, shall we?
- Everyone’s adopted son Brandon Hagel showed up to this series, getting a goal in both games. Tonight’s goal kind of fell into his lap, but he was positioned well in front of the net to give the Hawks the 3-1 lead-that-once-was. Hagel is finally seeing production come out of his offensive flashes, and that should be good for his development. Screw it, keep throwing him out there.
- Speaking of development, one day Boqvist will be a defenseman who will be crushing it every night. But right now we have to take the good with the bad. He had one of the Hawks’ two goals on Saturday and did a great job breaking up a 2-on-1 Verhaeghe chance in the 1st on Saturday. He was also not looking good during the first Panthers goal on Saturday and had some dicey plays tonight, so he definitely has room for improvement. Overall, I like watching him and I know he will continue in that positive trajectory.
- The Hawks were able to be the first ones on the board on Saturday night with a beautiful Hagel/Kubalik passing play, where both were able to out-speed the speedy Panthers. However, the fun didn’t last long as the Panthers were able to score three goals in that same period. The first goal went off a Lankinen rebound, the second goal was a one-timer from beyond the circles, and the third was shot right in front of the net because Nikita Zadorov didn’t feel like playing defense, I guess. A valiant effort, everyone!
- Penaltypalooza Night Two happened tonight with a ridiculous 9 penalties all game. Once again, just like the last Tampa game, the opponents were able to capitalize on these powerplay opportunities (and one shorthanded opportunity) and the Hawks were not. Taking irredeemably stupid penalties over and over again and not being able to kill them is not a winning formula. It’s costing us games and points. Every time I mention the penalties I say, “please end it, thank you.” And they never do. So I give up here.
- The revolving door of centers for Kane and the Cat continued tonight, as it seems like every active center on this team now has tried out with them this series and nobody has really stuck. It shows our lack of depth at center with Toews and Dach still out. Hopefully Dach will be back soon and will be able to slot back in there for a dynamite line, if our playoff hopes are still alive by then.
The Blackhawks’ hellacious schedule doesn’t let up, as we are back to face the Tampa Bay Lightning through the weekend. Last series was incredibly entertaining, the definition of FUN hockey. Hopefully the Hawks’ confidence isn’t shot after this series and they will come in ready to play, and more of that FUN will ensue. Onward.
Natural Stat Trick
This series was a perfect microcosm of the Blackhawks season thus far, showing exactly what happens when the team:
A) Does or does not get excellent goaltending and
B) Is or is not able to create offense via the power play
Game one showed us very clearly what happens when the Hawks get mediocre or below goaltending (much like the last Detroit series) and is not able to cash in on powerplay chances, and game 2 was the exact inverse of it. Watching game 1, it was pretty clear the Hawks “Give A Shit” level was next to zero, as they were dominated by Dallas almost as soon as they stepped out of the team hotel. While in a 82 game season you’re always going to get games like that (especially in February and March), the wonkiness of this year doesn’t provide much cover for stinkers like those. It’s magnified by the fact that the Hawks are attempting to put as much distance between themselves and the Stars as Dallas attempts to climb out of it’s own grave.
Game 2 continued the season long trend of the Hawks thumbing their noses at advanced stats, getting dongwhipped in CORSI up and down the scoresheet. Yet as he has done most of the season Kevin Lankinen stood tall and kept the Stars off the board until the 3rd period, allowing the Hawks offense to build up an almost insurmountable 4 goal lead (not that they didn’t try and allow the Stars back in the game, more on that later). While not in the area of a “Must Win Game” for the Hawks just yet, it might have been for Dallas. Keeping the Stars exactly where they were before the series started was the bare minimum for our Men of the Four Feathers, so in this aspect game 2 (and the series, I suppose) was a success.
TO THE BULLETS!
NUMBERS DON’T LIE
-I really might need to come up with a new subtitle and image there, as the Hawks have changed their season motto from “One Goal” to “Advanced Stats Can Eat Shit.” More often than not the Hawks are getting nuked in the possession metrics, yet rolling on to victory. Game 2 was the penultimate example of this, as in the first two periods Dallas had an even strength CORSI of 75% and 70%, and a shot advantage of 22 to 8 and yet the Hawks led 4-0. Anton Khudobin had a cool .500 save percentage before he got yanked in favor of Jake Oettinger, which I’m being told is not very good for a goalie to have, but great for a team to have shooting percentage wise.
-Seriously, just look at the Gameflow chart from last night. If you had no idea of the score and saw that, you’d assume that the Hawks were the team down 4-0 and not the other way around. It boggles the mind. If the Hawks were a baseball team, they’d have a BABIP of about .654.
-As long as Kevin Lankinen continues to keep the Hawks in games like he did, the Hawks have enough weapons offensively to continue to get points. If that well dries up anytime soon, things are going to get itchy as far as the playoff race is concerned. Honestly, the Hawks entire postseason hopes rest on his shoulders because the team is a clown rodeo in it’s own end. On the first Stars goal last night there were not 1 but 3 different Hawks below the goal line. I don’t know if that happens due to a lack of communication, lack of defensive structure, or some other deadly combination but it cannot continue.
-Speaking of things that need to stop, Dominik Kubalik got a whopping 12:30 of ice time last night despite scoring a goal 2 minutes into the fucking game. What exactly does he need to do to get on the ice more? He’s 3rd on the team in both goals and points behind Kane and Top Cat, and yet he plays on average 40% less than those two. Meanwhile Kampf, Soderberg, Janmark and Carpenter all played at least 3 more minutes than Kubalik. Those four guys are nice players, but none of them can even come close to doing what Kubalik can do with the puck. THIS HAS TO STOP, but we all know it won’t.
-Adam Boqvist is going to be a world killer someday, but these last few games he’s shown just how unrefined he still is on the defensive end. His ill-timed jump into the play and subsequent confusion as to which man was his after Duncan Keith played the puck carrier lead directly to the Stars first goal in game 1. He was also one of the 3 Hawks defenders below the goal line leading to Roope Hintz (who’s name can be rearranged to spell Zither Poon) being all alone in front of Lankinen. Once he can fortify this part of his game he’s going to be pretty unstoppable, because his offensive abilities are otherworldy.
-Carl Soderberg might not be the second coming of Thomas Holmstrom, but as long as he continues to park his ass directly in the opposing goalie’s line of sight on the power play I’ll take it. His screen of Khudobin on DeBrincat’s power play goal in the 2nd was picture perfect, and it’s probably the most underrated part of his game.
-Game 1 was a mess, and the less said about it the better. Kane’s 1,000th game was only memorable for all of the video tributes shown throughout, highlighted by a message from The Captain himself, Jonathan Toews. I’m not going to speculate on what he’s fighting with, but I was very glad to see and hear from him again. The Hawks could definitely use his experience at the dot, as they got smoked at the faceoff circle 61-39 and 54-46 in the series. Get well, Cap.
-The split in the series puts the Hawks at 14-9-5 (33 points), putting them 7 up on Columbus after they farted away a 2 goal lead to the Panthers last night. They’re also 12 points up on Dallas, which burned through 2 of their games in hand.
-Next up for the Hawks in their stretch of difficult March games is Coach Q’s Panthers, the team 5 points ahead of the Hawks in the standings. If the Hawks can take half the possible points in each series for the rest of the month, it’ll be hard for anyone behind them in the rankings to catch up. Let’s hope Lankinen’s joints are up to the task. No pressure.
Let’s Go Hawks.
Game Times: 7:30 PM
TV/Radio: NBCSN (3/9), SportsNet (3/9), NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720
Dammit Pantera, This Beer Is Warm: Defending Big D
As hard as it is to believe, this series in Dallas will mark the halfway point of this abbreviated campaign for the Hawks, as it’s both zipped right by and felt interminable somehow simultaneously. They’ll face a Stars team that itself is adrift and had better get things straightened out in a hurry given the onslaught of makeup games they now face after both covid and Texan disasters in the past two months.