Hockey

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Records: Hawks 22-23-6 (50) Canes 34-10-7 (75)

Puck Drops: 6:00 Mon/Tues/Thurs

TV/Radio: NBCSN and WGN 720

Teuvo Time: Canes Country

 

The second to last stop on the Train to Vacationtime for the Hawks makes it’s final appearance down in Carolina this week for a threesome against the Canes. After dropping both games to the Panth last week, the Hawks have fallen down to sixth in the division sitting a mere 5 points ahead of the Scum who managed to pass the Jackets this weekend. The fact that the Wings are as bad as they are and might not get the lottery pick they so desperately need warms my cold, dark soul. I digress, however.

The Hurricanes currently reign atop whatever they call this division right now, sitting 2 points ahead of Tampa with a game in hand. They’ve been on fire lately, currently rocking a 10 game point streak (7-0-3) in that span. Nothing really has changed for them since the last time the Hawks clashed with them, as they pretty much stood pat at the trade deadline. It really didn’t matter, as even though they could’ve used another scorer the Canes continue to be top 3 in the league in CORSI for. They push the play at a more than solid 54% average, while at the same time have allowed the least amount of goals in the entire league. They’re top 10 in shot suppression and 2nd in the league in shots for behind the Panthers.

They’ve managed all of this with having James Reimer and Alex Nedeljkovic in net for the majority of the season, and credit where it’s due they’ve done a solid job of keeping the puck out of their own net. Having one of the better shot suppression defenses in front of them certainly doesn’t hurt, and now reinforcements have arrived in the form of Petr Mrazek who returned from the injured list earlier in April from surgery on his right thumb. He’s looked good in his return, only having one speedbump 3 starts ago against the Wings when they had one of their games when 80% of their shots go in. It will be interesting to see how Rod Brind’Amour handles the goalie workload going into the postseason. Nedeljkovic has been the better of the two between him and Reimer, and Mrazek has had plenty of time to knock off the ring rust by now.

On the scoring end of the sheet, the Canes do it from all directions. They have 7 players with 30 or more points, and Sebastian Aho has 52 of them. None of those 7 players is Our Sweet Boy Teuvo, as he’s missed over a month with a concussion served up to him by (sigh) Nikita Zadorov back in the February 19th tilt between the Canes and Hawks. If he’s back at full strength, odds are the Canes have a top tier scoring weapon on every line they roll out. Sounds a lot like the Hawks teams in 2010-2016, and it makes my eyes misty just watching them.

As for the Hawks, offensively everything looked pretty good in their last series against the Panthers. New toy Adam Gaudette has acclimated well to whatever offensive “system” it is that the Hawks run under Coach Smoothbrain, with 4 points in his first 3 games. Both Alex DeBrincat and Domanik Kubalik have the hot hand right now, with DeBrincat’s goal in the 2nd period against the Panthers standing out as a particularly good sign. Even Kirby Dach has looked less lost in the last few games.

On the defensive side, everything continues to be a dumpster fire floating down a river comprised of sewage and toxic waste. The man to man system the Hawks run simply does not work with the personnel back there. Multiple times in the Panthers series Zadorov chose not only the wrong forward to cover, but sometimes picked a player that wasn’t even on the ice or technically in the building.

Riley Stillman, fresh off signing that new paper, was directly responsible for at least 2 goals against with one terrible pass, and then giving up on the play completely when Gusev scored his second goal of the night in game 2. Why Bowman decided NOW that Stillman needed to be extended before the Hawks had seen him play a week’s worth of games is a mystery to all of us here at FFUD. The only potential positive might be that his extension pushes Zadorov off the bus, so…yay?

In net, both Kevin Lankinen and Malcom Subban continue to have a rough go of it thanks to the clown rodeo in front of them. Neither of them has been particularly offensive, but also neither has been able to steal the games that the Hawks would need them to steal to remain ahead of Detroit. Still no word if Colin Delia will get any of these final starts, but if he’s not up now I don’t realistically see that happening, when it absolutely should.

With 5 games left in the season, the Hawks should have dual goals in mind: to play the kids as much as possible and have nobody get hurt. To this end, giving DeBrincat and Kane shifts off should be considered a good idea as well as Gaudette taking more shifts in their stead. While it may seem like nothing matters anymore, it’s experience like this that will help the young players show that they’re ready to contribute next year and that they can handle the rigors of an NHL season. It’s not nearly as fun as winning games, but at this point it’s probably more important for the team as a whole.

Let’s Go Hawks

 

 

 

Hockey

Box Scores Game 50 Game 51
Event Summaries Game 50 Game 51
Natural Stat Trick Game 50 Game 51

As if the previous week and a half wasn’t enough to seal it from an intellectual and emotional standpoint, the Hawks losing both games to the Panthers this weekend has them on the brink of mathematical elimination as well, and are only spared by having scraped their way into OT on Thursday with the net empty. But if nothing else, these two games were ideal outcomes – some kids put more on tape (for both good and bad), and the glaring flaws both behind the bench and with the roster are also put on a display in a competitive game against an obviously better team that they lose. Obviously wins are more fun, but when the process matches the results. This team cannot afford to risk learning the wrong lessons with the complete dope behind the bench they’ve got currently.

Hockey

Antoine Roussel: Honestly, we kind of miss having him out of the division. While the marriage of him and Vancouver is perfect, and even more so as they grossly overpaid him, now that he’s on the West Coast, never on our TV, and has got his money his antics don’t even really exist. And this dude tried so hard to be considered annoying. Like he tried harder than Springstreen tries to convince you just how hard it is to play his shit-ass songs. That’s so hard! Ah well, nothing lasts forever, especially the truly wonderful.

Alex Edler: The elbows still work.

Adam Gaudette: Isn’t it weird that given a chance, Dylan Sikura’s running buddy at Northeastern has carved himself out a role on a third line for a team basically running a 3+1 model? Isn’t that strange? Wonder where else that could happen?

Everything Else

If every sport wishes to be more like the NFL, or at least come anywhere near the stratosphere of their profits, then the NHL got at least one thing right. The winner of its most prestigious, individual college award tends to go on to do dick in the NHL, much like the NFL.

Adam Gaudette won the Hobey Baker last year, NCAA hockey’s answer to the Heisman. Hawks will nod in the knowledge that Dylan Sikura‘s running buddy from Northeastern has looked useful, full of hustle, but can’t seem to score all that much. Gaudette has 12 points in 45 games, which is slightly behind the past of Sikura’s seven points in 25. Though Gaudette has actually found the net, so there’s that.

Hawks fans will remember former Hobey winner Drew LeBlahhhhhh’s thrashing attempts to play NHL hockey, and that’s generally been the trend of winners of the award. Of the past 10 winners, only Johnny Gaudreau and Jack Eichel have gone on to star in the league. And the key is that both won it as underclassmen. Eichel was a freshman and Gadreau a sophomore, and both quickly bounced to the pros. If you show up and immediately dominate the NCAA, you’re probably a thing. If you have to wait until you’re older than everyone, well…it’s kind of like punk rock, we guess.

Beyond that, Will Butcher and Jimmy Vesey have gone on to be at least contributors to an NHL team, if nothing resembling stars. Hell, if you go through the past 20 years, you’d only add Ryan Miller and Chris Drury to the list that Gaudreau and Eichel reside, and maybe Matt Carle to the other one. It’s not something you want to hang around college for all that badly. Because if you’re hanging around college that long, chances are you’re not going to do much after. Actually, that’s true with all of college, isn’t it? Remember, Otto nearly got tenure at Brown.

It hasn’t been that different than the football award. The last winner to truly dominate in the NFL is Cam Newton, and the debates over him aren’t finished yet (for legitimate and non-legitimate reasons). Baker Mayfield looks like he might have a chance to be something, but Johnny Manziel is a coked-up punchline, Marcus Mariotta just got replaced Ryan Tannehill, Jameis Winston should be thrown in a hole with no bottom. Derrick Henry at least looks serviceable, Sam Bradford is close to the same joke that Manziel is, and let’s not get into Tim Tebow. Strange how these things go.

To be fair to hockey, rarely is anyone drafted because of their award, as generally they’ve already been. However, Vesey, Butcher, LeBlahhhhh were signed after winning, and well, you get what you pay for.

As for Gaudette, he isn’t needed to be that much. With Pettersson and Bo Horvat taking the top two center spots, he can be something of an annoyance as a third center while hopefully providing more scoring than a normal checking center would.

It’s the checking part that Gaudette is going to have to work on. At the moment, Gaudette has the worst xGA/60 on the Canucks, and the worst xGF%. And that’s with starting two-thirds of his shifts in the offensive zone, so he’s got some work to do before he establishes himself as a piece they have to have going forward. To be fair to him, he’s been dragging around Antoine Roussel and especially Jake Virtanen most of the year. Roussel has use. Virtanen does not.

Anyway, beware the Ides Of Hobey…

 

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Stefan Heck is @HockeyDipshit. We don’t need to tell you much else. 

The Canucks have Brock Boeser and Elias Pattersson and Adam Gaudette, so they do know how to find young players. And yet Antoine Roussel, Loui Eriksson, Brandon Sutter, Jay Beagle, and a host of other bewildering contracts and decisions are here as well. Do they have a direction or is this a mass shit-flinging at a wall?
I’ll admit it – this regime is much better at drafting than the Gillis regime. Unfortunately, they’re still much worse at trading, free agency, and a host of other things. I think the players Jim Benning has drafted will eventually form the core of a solid team, but I don’t think he’ll be GM whenever that eventually happens. Also, I was right about Elias Pettersson. Just wanted to mention that.
Let’s stick with Gaudette. His running buddy at Northeastern, Dylan Sikura, was sent down by the Hawks and we’ve always had a raised eyebrow when it comes to him. We chalked his production up to getting to play with Gaudette at the college level. What are the first impressions over there?
Gaudette is way faster than I imagined he’d be. He works his ass off, and if he had a bit more puck luck, he’d definitely have his first goal by now. The points will start to come in the second half of the season, I’d imagine. He’ll either stay on the team because of his play or because “Canucks” and “injuries” are like peanut butter and chocolate. Hey, I’ll give Gaudette this: he’s about six billion times more watchable than Jayson Megna.
Is this finally the Bo Horvat awakening?
Horvat continues to surprise even the most loyal of Canucks fans. I honestly thought he might peak at, like, a Daymond-Langkow-in-Calgary 77 point season, but now I don’t know. I think a large part of his goal explosion this year is that his toe-drag bull-rush to the net move seems to be working way more often. He’s definitely been a lot of fun so far, and seems to be that classic player that gets better the more you underestimate him.
Is Thatcher Demko taking over in net when he’s healthy?
Demko’s concussion issues are worrisome, and Markstrom/Nilsson have been solid so far – although given everything we know about those two, that could change in a minute. I am genuinely concerned that his concussion will keep him out for a really long time, but I’d say even when he’s 100% healthy this year, he’ll only see playing time on the Canucks if one of the two Swedes gets hurt or traded.

 

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