All the robots are in the garage.
We talk existential crises and what any of this Hawks stuff all means long term. Get the audio after the jump.
Well that looks more in line with what’s to be expected. The Hawks play an obviously better team, keep it close for long enough through a couple of highly skilled plays including a flash from a kid, while the deeper truths about how far this team has to go are ultimately revealed. It’s not that losses are good, except when they are. It’s about the results matching the output, and the Hawks have been mauled for three straight games at times, and only once by a team with any kind of hope whatsoever. To the bullets.
Game Times: 7:00PM (1/26), 6:30PM (1/27)
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago (1/26), NBCSN (1/27), WGN-AM 720
Beat Reporters Crying About Not Being Able To Visit Tootsie’s: On The Forecheck
Despite two wins against the terrible and depleted Red Wings over the weekend, this season still figures to be a long one for the Hawks, whose travels now take them to Nashville for a back to back against the Predators. And while the Hawks may be a punchline now with many gleefully kicking dirt on the grave of the team, it’s a far better fate than what’s befallen the Predators, who have a single Final appearance to their name despite being darlings of the hockey cognoscenti for just about as long.
While this series was different in form and function from the other Florida series, the end result is the same: the Hawks got broomed out of the building (and the state) without a win to their name. The offense was less offensive to the eye this series, but the defense and goaltending continued to be eye-meltingly bad, with Nikita Zadorov impressively the worst of the bunch. Colin Delia and Kevin Lankinen did nothing to settle the argument over who should be the poor soul forced to take the reigns and handle the majority of the starts going forward, and honestly if I was one of them I’d probably already have PTSD from the amount of rubber thrown their way. On the plus side, the Hawks now have 1 out of a possible 8 points. Yay?
To the bullets:
-Let’s get this out of the way at the start: If the purpose of this season is to fail, but in a way that the supposed future core of this team is learning from it, then they should probably BE ON THE FUCKING ICE to fail and learn from it. Kubalik, Kurashev, Mitchell and Boqvist being on the ice for less than 15 minutes each while Patrick Kane gets as many minutes as Duncan Keith (20) accomplishes less than nothing. Ian Mitchell and Boqvist not even seeing the ice in the 3 on 3 OT is borderline criminal. Then trying to throw the scoreboard operators of the COVID Coliseum under the bus as to why everyone’s ice time looked kinda low is almost stunningly ballsy. McClure had it summed up perfectly:
Way to develop your two puck moving defensemen when neither get a 3 on 3 shift and you lose anyway you hollow skulled himbo.
— Matt McClure (@Matt_McClure_) January 20, 2021
-This team is not built to win games, but it’s also not built to lose them in a way that creates future winning opportunities. It’s just…there. None of the signings that StanBow acquired this off-season are going to be anything the Hawks want on their team long term, nor are they the kind of players that teams are going to be clamoring to trade said young talent for at the deadline. It’s like he just walked into IKEA and asked for the “Mark” collection of forwards because, ya know, they practically build themselves. Trading Brandon Saad to the Avs for the hockey equivalent of an Easter Island statue on skates and not getting anything else AND having to retain salary is mind boggling. The absence of a plan is what’s most frustrating about all of this. Say what you want about the White Sox and Rick Hahn, but you could always see what the end goal was and it made the suffering a little easier to take. Looking to the horizon now, all you see is the volcanic mountains of Mordor.
-Speaking of the human obelisk, Zadorov’s play in these first 4 games shows clearly why the Avs were more than willing to rid themselves of his services. Night one featured the following from him:
That’s Zadorov at the middle of the left circle after he plowed through the crease from right to left, taking out his goaltender and Adam Boqvist. This is after he followed Boqvist’s man (along with Boqvist) into the corner. His lack of positional awareness is bordering on performance art, and I really need someone to explain to me how he not only has a spot on this roster, but is worthy of the 2nd highest ice time on the team. GALAXY BRAIN.
-On the positive side, the Hawks have finally discovered what the Caps and Ovechkin figured out a decade ago: creating a shot lane for your best snipers (Kubalik and DeBrincat) by moving the puck laterally and letting them bomb away actually is a successful proposition. Not having Duncan Keith firing rubber into the shinpads of the point defenders or holding the puck on the half boards with Kane seems to be working. More of this please.
-Despite not cracking 15 minutes of ice time with Coach Smoothbrain, Dominik Kubalik is already proving that last season was not a fluke. His shot is filthy, and he has the speed and hands to create the space that makes him dangerous. But hey, gotta find those minutes for Ryan Carpenter to do whatever it is he does.
-Kevin Lankinen showed some flashes last night, most notably whenhe was left to deal with a 3 on 1 in overtime and he stoned Weegar after a nifty passing sequence. I don’t know if he’s the answer going forward, but with Colin Delia and Malcom Subban pretty much known entities at this point, you may as well throw him to the wolves night after night.
-Next up is the rekindling of the old rivalry against the Red Wings, which might actually provide the Hawks the opportunity to get into the win column. The Hawks and Wings should be battling it out for a lottery pick this season, though none of us should feel comfortable about how Stan Bowman would use such a boon. Moving on.
Well this started out about as generously as could be expected given the how wide the gulf between these two teams currently is. There were extended stretches of both games where the Bolts were seemingly just playing with their food, rope-a-doping the Hawks into tiring themselves out and then immediately capitalizing on the slightest miscue and creating odd-man rushes going the other way with a single stride. This team is still favored to win this makeshift, slapdash division without Nikita Kucherov for a reason, as Andrei Vasilivskiy in particular barely broke a sweat in these two games, looking as locked in as he ever has. Of course, when Brandon Pirri and Ryan Carpenter are the ones just tossing prayers in your direction, it’s certainly easy to look that way.
That’s about it for now, the Hawks visit old friend Joel and his Cats tomorrow night for their season opener as their first two games against Dallas got banged due to PESTILENCE. Maybe these games will be closer or the Hawks might win one, but don’t bet the stimulus check on it.
Game Times: 7:00PM (1/13) & 6:00PM (1/15)
TV/Radio: NBCSN (1/15), NBC Sports Chicago (1/15), WGN-AM 720
Tonight We’re Gonna Give It 35%: Raw Charge
Despite every indication that this shouldn’t be happening from both the world at large given that pestilence still ravaging this country, and the fact that the league itself has said that they’d probably be better off simply NOT playing, the NHL regular season (such as it is) begins tonight. And the Tampa Bay Lightning will raise their championship banner in front of no one while an already decimated Hawks team looks on at a vague reminder of what once was and now seems so desperately far away.
Now that the calendar has turned over from 2020, training camps across the league are now open, and the Men Of Four Feathers hit this ice this morning for their first practice of what will surely be many over the next week-plus where they will finally hone their man-to-man defensive zone coverage skills under the tutelage of Coach Kelvin Gemstone. Here are a few takeaways from what transpired on the West Side this morning and early afternoon.
They got farther than they should have. Some of the kids showed flashes of brilliance. Others looked everything from odious to unusable. We got a couple more classic games from one of our favorite guys. And all the while a coach. My oh my, a coach.
– Jeremy Colliton is so revolutionary and paradigm shifting that even the things he does right he does wrong. Waiting until Game 5 of a Quarterfinal you didn’t belong in to scratch Alex Nylander had all urgency and foresight of cleaning out a toilet full of shit only after you’ve begun suffering from ambient sepsis. But given how exceedingly low he has set the bar for himself, that he scratched him at all is praiseworthy.
But then, he didn’t stop at dressing John Quenneville, oh no. He started him on the first line with Toews and Kubalik in an elimination game. Yeah, alright, make your point, whatever it is. But then he kept putting Quenneville out there. On purpose. In an elimination game. That line ended up with a 30 CF%. And a goal against. And Jeremy Colliton kept running it out there. On purpose. In an elimination game.
Fucking check THIS shit out. At the end of the second period, Brandon Saad shared the ice with Jonathan Toews for 16 seconds. In that time, they had a 3 CF, 0 CA, and a goal. In seven seconds—7 fucking seconds, dear reader—with Dominik Kubalik, they had a 2 CF, 0 CA, and a goal.
In what incomprehensible galaxy is it acceptable to skate John Quenneville over Brandon Saad on the first line? In an elimination game. If the very point of this experience was to get younger guys playoff experience, how does skating John Quenneville over Sikura, Hagel, Kurashev, or even Mackenzie THE OX Entwistle accomplish this? Please note that I cannot possibly care fucking less that John Quenneville is 24. He is a nice fourth liner if you are being generous. Fuck, Sikura can at least possess the puck at a better than 30+% rate. What has Sikura done to deserve such a ratfucking?
They aren’t going to fire Jeremy Colliton, but they should. He’s not the coach this team needs, and given their overall performance this year, he’s not the coach this team wants, either.
– The Saad–Strome–DeBrincat line was strong tonight. They dominated possession to the tune of a 61+ CF%. They also played the least of any of the four lines. Goddamn it, can’t you just feel the MINDBRAINS pulsing through your fucking skull? In an elimination game. This fuckin guy.
– We will miss Corey Crawford most of all. We will have tons to say, and it’ll all be a roundabout way of getting at thank you. If this was it, it was a wonderful ride.
– Watching Connor Murphy pull off a spin-o-rama and have an all-around good game was nice. Probably worth more to me than Alexis Lafreniere.
– Kirby Dach said hello several times these playoffs. We like what we saw all year. Could stand to shoot more. But we’ll have thoughts on that later.
– Adam Boqvist was bad these playoffs. Yeah, he’s barely 20, coached by some guy, and had no reliable backstop to build his puck moving around. And yeah, he went up against an overpowering Vegas team right after two of hockey’s best forwards. But even so, he was totally helpless on defense. Overpowered, outskated, and constantly out of position. You bet your ass we’re putting a lot of that on the clown’s funeral that is this coaching staff. But you get a sense that Boqvist was fundamentally lost out there these playoffs. We didn’t even get a flash of offensive prowess worth writing about. This is our concern dude.
The Hawks would be foolish to give up on him. Still too young, still needs to grow, and any number of excuses. They traded Henri Jokiharju in part because of how much they believed in him. To give up now would be absurd, albeit in Boqvist’s best interest. And yet, you worry.
I think that’s enough of that for now.
Thank you for reading and sticking with us in these unprecedented times. It was fun to have a taste of meaningful hockey, if only for a few weeks and entirely undeserved. We’ll keep doing this shit as long as you all keep reading it, because you’re all alright as a lot.
We’ll probably have some podcasts coming up. Hockey might take a little time off, but we’ll get you your player and coaching reviews. We may have a stray thought or two about the goings on in the bubble. Follow our Sox stuff and our football stuff. And we’ll always be at the forefront of arriving late, drinking all the wine, and throwing up in the misused bidet that is Blackhawks breaking news.
Until then, stay safe and do what you can.
Coranon silaria ozoo mahoke.
While at face value, Game 4’s preview could qualify as a textbook motherfuck with the fates aligning to subject the general public to another game in this series, it has also been reiterated numerous times that it was going to take something truly weird for the Hawks to even push it to this point, and this indeed what happened. So, as usual, once again we are right in our analysis.
Or 3 to 1, whatever. What a perfect microcosm of what you could only loosely call any of the Hawks’s success this year. The team gets its doors blown entirely off the hinges, only to win on the back of their rafter-worthy best goaltender in team history. We are all vile, disgusting creatures who do not deserve the radiance that is Corey Crawford. And yet, he giveth for at least one more game.
– Corey Crawford is the only reason this team avoids two consecutive first-round sweeps. The Hawks were completely overwhelmed from the get-go and if not for Crawford may have given up 10. He’s the best this franchise has ever seen, and we have the privilege to see it in real time. Getting to watch him could be your only reason for wanting this iteration of the Hawks to keep winning. You’d be completely justified.
He stopped 48 of 49 tonight. The Knights had the puck for more than 70% of the game. Their team xGF% was 71+. And Crawford held them to a single goal. According to NaturalStatTrick, Crawford stopped all nine high-danger shots, although it felt like each and every one was of the high-danger variety. The Hawks had no business winning this game, and yet, Corey Crawford willed them to it.
The Hawks might not be so lucky if Crawford chooses not to stay, or worse, they don’t offer him a contract. Without him, the Hawks will be lucky to win 15 games total next year. He deserves his number in the rafters and anyone who disagrees can kiss my ass and call it a love story.
– Adam Boqvist is getting swallowed whole, and it fucking sucks to watch. Granted, throwing him in the deep end against Vegas was never going to flesh out. But it’s clear he’s overwhelmed and in his own head. The concern isn’t so much how he does in this series but whether this truly awful experience sours the team on him. I am extremely excited for Bowman to trade him for Kris Russell and point to tonight as justification.
– Top Cat finally bagged one. Even if it’s of the empty-net variety, we’ll take it. He’s been much more noticeable and aggressive over the last two games, and managed to be a rare instance of sweeping the puck out of a danger zone and into the corner late in the third. DeBrincat will always make his money scoring goals, but he’s got a sneaky ability to cause more turnovers than you’d expect. Just before his empty netter, he popped a puck loose at neutral ice and created a partial breakaway for himself.
– After the first period, Alex Nylander had more time on ice than Toews, Saad, Kubalik, and Dach. It wasn’t much more, but it was still more. He proceeded to post a goddamn motherfucking 6.25 CF% in four fucking minutes and 25 fucking seconds. One shot for versus 15 fucking shots against. That’s fucking profound. The very fact that this happened during an elimination game WITH THE LAST CHANGE should be enough to get Jeremy Colliton fired. It doesn’t matter how it happened, or why it happened, or that it may have happened because of an extra-long shift (guess how those extra-long shifts happen when he’s on the ice). That it happened at all is the problem.
The act of dressing Alex Nylander at all is lineup management malfeasance. Each and every time he is on the ice, the Hawks turn it over and the Knights end up with extended pressure. Every single time. He may have the individual tools to impress in non-game situations. But he is certainly not an NHL-caliber forward on this Blackhawks team, and likely isn’t one period the end.
Dress Sikura. Dress Hagel. Fuck, dress SAM’S GUY Philipp Kurashev. It may seem like pointless griping, since Nylander didn’t end up affecting much nor did he play much after the first, but it’s not. It’s the purest and most obvious example of Jeremy Colliton not knowing how to manage a lineup whatsoever. And if the next argument is “Well Bowman must be having a say in it,” that could be even worse.
There is nothing we learned tonight other than what we already knew. Corey Crawford is the most important player on this team by a country mile and the best goaltender in franchise history. We get to hold onto that and see him at least one more time. That’s enough for me.
Booze du Jour: Coffee
Unspoken Line of the Night: I don’t think anyone Eddie and Pat knew died, which is good.