Everything Else

There isn’t much left to say about Alex DeBrincat that we haven’t already said a few hundred times in this space or the podcast. If you’ve missed it, I will catch you up – he’s really damn good. I never ever ever want to forget that the Blackhawks got him with the pick that they acquired from Montreal in exchange for Andrew Shaw, which is the most Montreal shit of all time. After a good rookie season in 2017-18, he followed it up with an elite 2018-19. Let’s dig in:

82 GP – 41 G – 35 A – 76 P

49.68 CF% – 46.47 xGF% (5v5)

It Comes With A Free Frogurt!

DeBrincat quickly cemented himself as the third best forward on the team this season, proving that he doesn’t need to be just Patrick Kane‘s running mate to produce. That’s not to say that he didn’t spend a good amount of time with Kane or didn’t play well when with Kane, but he also spent enough time playing at a high level away from ol’ Garbage Dick to prove that he’s capable of essentially carrying a line’s offense on his own. It certainly helped that he got paired up his OHL running mate back in Dylan Strome not long into the season, but I would argue that Top Cat did more to elevate Strome’s game than the other way around.

One of the most important non-linemate developments for Top Cat this season was his development as a power play assassin. Obviously the improved power play was a huge credit to Jeremy Colliton, and there are very few players who both helped cause that PP boom and benefited from it as Top Cat. He scored 13 of his goals on the PP, and added 11 assists on that unit as well. That equates to nearly one third of his goals, assists, and points coming when on the ice with the extra man, which will certainly help inflate the numbers, but is also just what offensive dynamos like DeBrincat are supposed to do on the powerplay. For context, Nikita Kucherov had 15 of his 41 goals, 33 of his 87 assists, and 48 of his 128 points on the PP, and all of those numbers are more than a third of the total production. So not that anyone was really doing so, but don’t let the heavy amount of PP production make you think his production numbers are any less impressive.

Top Cat is proving to be far and away Stan Bowman’s best draft pick and may even be a large reason that Stan still has a job. Despite being picked 39th overall in the the 2016 draft, Top Cat has the fourth most total points of any player picked in that draft, and has a better PPG at 0.78 than two of the players above him in Patrik Laine and Matthew Tkachuk, who both sit at 0.76. Granted, that’s pretty minimal difference, but it’s still better and I am a homer so we’re counting it as a win. Thanks.

The Frogurt is Also Cursed

Yet again I find myself in a position where trying to find anything negative to say about Top Cat is a bit of a stretch. However, as I thought more about it I realized that there was one thing that kinda bothered me as I thought more about it, though I usually think of it as entertaining and fun. And that is his desire to throw his body around a bit and play a bit of a tough guy when the opportunity is presented.

It’s not that he is a stupid player when it happens – he only took 15 total PIM this year, which is more than fine. But he sometimes works his way into scrums and did get involved in one fight this year, which is one more than I want to see him have. I know hockey has “The Code” and everybody us out there wanting to stick up for their team, but Top Cat should leave that to his less technically gifted and more ham-brained teammates. It’s not a major issue, and usually in the moment I find it cool, but I quickly switch to dread over the thought of him getting some bullshit injury from off a cheapshot from some dipshit in a scrum. Let’s just avoid the possibility all together, okay?

Anyway, Top Cat is great and I love him. Pay the man.

Previous Player Reviews

Corey Crawford

Cam Ward

Collin Delia

Duncan Keith

Connor Murphy

Henri Jokiharju

Gustav Forsling

Erik Gustafsson

Carl Dahlstrom

Brendan Perlini

Everything Else

This was a poorly played game for the most part, which I guess comes as no surprise given who the teams involved were. And yet, the contrast between the dull first period when both teams ended up with a handful of themselves and the excitement of basically every other televised sporting event in the nation tonight was striking. What was worse, however, was the ending, where the Hawks took one meager point and lost in OT on a power play thanks to a terribly poetic penalty by Jonathan Toews. We knew the season was over but this is a harsh exclamation point on it. Let’s get to the bullets:

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

– As mentioned, the first period was mostly a back-and-forth affair between mediocre opponents, and although the Hawks ended up on the wrong side of the ledger in terms of both shots and possession (9-14 and 48 CF%, respectively), it wasn’t a painfully noticeable difference in play quality. The only part that was certifiably painful was Keith shattering his stick on a shot near the end of a late-period power play. Not only was that the personification of a sad trombone sound, but Kyle Clifford jumped out of the box just as it happened and the Kings had numbers going the other way. But fear not—Seabrook took a dumb penalty and the Kings were too useless to score on it…that time.

– Not useless was Alex DeBrincat, who scored a relatively soft goal by curling it just underneath Campbell early in the second. Top Cat is now tied with Patrick Kane as the team’s leading goal scorer, with 41, and his career total is…wait for it…69 (NICE). And yes, you’d make that joke too so shut up. Having DeBrincat and Garbage Dick on the third line is still some galaxy brain bullshit as far as I’m concerned, but I’d rather see Top Cat produce anywhere and any way that he can, rather than flail in the stupidity of bad coaching decisions. Remember, a 25-goal scorer tops, this guy.

Erik Gustafsson‘s magic carpet ride continued with another goal, his 17th. Campbell likely was screened because he didn’t seem to see the shot coming from three miles away. However, Gus giveth and he taketh away, as his habit of doing confused pirouettes away from forwards left Michael Amadio alone in the slot to tie the game in the third. If you can’t stop a fourth-fucking-liner on one of the league’s worst teams you seriously need to re-evaluate what you’re doing and how you understand your job description.

– But wait! Before we pile on the crappy defenseman, at least he scored. Kane and Toews both point-blank fucked up multiple times in overtime. The fact this game went to OT is stupid on its own, but they had nearly a third of the 3-on-3 with control of the puck and couldn’t finish any of their shots. Toews followed that up with a penalty on Anze Kopitar, which is frustrating for its timing since that led to the winning goal by LA, and sad in its relevance for an aging, slowing legend trying to slow down nearly his mirror image. And it backfired in a pretty dramatic way, really putting the final nail in the coffin where the Hawks playoff hopes now lay. But had either he or Kane converted on any of their opportunities earlier, that penalty wouldn’t have happened. Maybe they’re tired after the amount of ice time (would be fair enough at the end of the season although tonight’s wasn’t too egregious), maybe they just don’t have it or don’t give a shit, but it did not inspire hope for the future.

David Kampf broke some part of his face (or severely messed it up), and not that it matters now but still, not the way to end the season.

– I can’t say that Austin Wagner is any good, but I can say that he is fast. He absolutely scorched Carl Dahlstrom in the second for the tying goal (the first time), and he did it to Connor Murphy in the third but our Large Irish Son was bailed out by a Crawford poke check.

Drake Caggiula seemed awfully excited to be back in the lineup, and yet I can’t help but wonder if he should try to avoid getting into fights rather than seeking them out, seeing as he just missed a month with a head injury. I dunno, just doesn’t seem like the best strategy. He had four shots, so that’s something, and he didn’t get into a full-on fisticuffs, but boy was he trying to.

I know I sound like a broken record but this has to be the end of the playoff delusion, even if the math doesn’t say it’s for certain yet. We all know it is, and really, if you can’t beat this lowly-ass Kings team any of the times you play them, do you really even deserve to be in the playoffs? The answer is no. Onward and upward?

Beer de jour: Sun Catcher by Revolution Brewing

Line of the Night: “Halfway through an almost scintillating first period.” —Foley, sarcastically saying what we were thinking.

Photo credit: NHL.com

Everything Else

Box Score

Corsica

Natural Stat Trick

Vegas pulls a Kano on the Hawks, throwing knives and ripping hearts out. It’s gonna be a long, cold winter.  To the bullets.

– Certainly not one for Carl Dahlstrom’s highlight reel. You can easily blame him for all of Vegas’s last three goals, including the one where Shea Theodore pissed his entire name, including his fucking Confirmation name, in Dahlstrom’s snow. On Vegas’s goal at the end of the second, Dahlstrom confusingly backed off of Carpenter coming down the boards, giving Carpenter just enough room past the near-side dot to snipe the gloveside corner. On the game-tying goal, Dahlstrom was on the completely wrong side, forcing Murphy to try to over everything. Then on the OT goal, Dahlstrom was either flatfooted for simply too slow to keep up with Theodore, and the puck went off Dahlstrom’s stick through Delia’s five hole.

Dahlstrom and Murphy haven’t looked great together lately, and the reason is clear: Dahlstrom had his flash in the pan, and now he’s going back to the milquetoast Jared Dunn lookalike we always knew and were indifferent toward.

– On the plus side, Connor Murphy did look good for most of the game. Aside from a weak holding call in the second, he gummed up several chances from Vegas, especially in the third. Wouldn’t be surprised to see him line up next to Davidson or Koekkoek on Monday.

Collin Delia once again did the best he could with what he was given. Vegas’s first goal is partially on him though. After stopping Nate Schmidt’s shot from the blue line, Delia failed to cover the puck even though he had his glove hovering over it like someone who has “Hooters photo op” circled on his calendar. Combined with Jokiharju getting pushed aside like the 19-year-old he is by Alex Tuch, it gave Tuch all the time he needed to post his 16th of the year. Hard to be mad about his performance otherwise.

– As Fels keeps saying, the Brain Trust and Coach Cool Youth Pastor are eventually going to have to tell Seabrook “It’s not us, it’s you.” Putting Jokiharju on his off side to accommodate Porkins isn’t going to help Harju’s development in any way, shape, or form, and it should not be considered again after tonight. Jokiharju had a 36+ CF% next to Seabrook and was often overmatched in his own zone. Asking him to cover for Fatso while on his off side is simply asking too much. If they’re going to fluff Seabrook for everything he’s done for them in the past, they should do it with someone like Murphy, who’s proven he’s up to the task. Having Harju with Seabrook is doing to destroy his development.

– On the plus side, Alex DeBrincat is now the one doing the fucking. His game-opening goal was an absolute masterpiece, and if you don’t believe me, just look:

He managed to tip Kahun’s shot out of mid-air and disrupt Flower’s timing on the stick sweep, then reached out as far as his 5’6” frame would let him and backhanded the puck in. You could hang that in the Louvre and it wouldn’t be out of place.

Then, he and Garbage Dick did what they’ve been doing on the power play. Kane drew everyone to him, leaving DeBrincat so embarrassingly open that Foley made the call before the shot came off his stick. The next time someone says RE-SIGN PANARIN, after you’re finished telling them to fuck off, show them the clip of that goal and ask “Why?” The Hawks have a younger, cheaper, more defensively responsible version of Panarin on the team right this second. As I am wont to say, thank fuck he’s 5’6”.

– Even though Kane’s original goal got called off because of Saad’s offside, there was a lot to like about everything that led up to that. First, Gustafsson made a crisp pass to Saad at the Hawks blue line, and then Saad kicked it out to Kane. Kane made just one too many hesitation moves for Saad to stay onside, which is something that wouldn’t happen if, you know, Saad were playing next to Kane regularly instead of the gigantic, useless obelisk that is Artem Anisimov. There was a nice fluidity to everything outside of the offside, and it’s something Colliton should look into.

– Because seriously, Artem Anisimov sucks. I challenge anyone to show me what he brings to this Blackhawks squad aside from the mental vision of a comically and barbarically large dick swinging like the pendulum of a clock that makes too much noise and can’t keep time. He makes plate tectonics look like something a premature ejaculator would critique as too fast. He took a hooking penalty late in the first, forcing the Hawks’s completely horseshit penalty kill to do what it has proven time and again it can’t do (they did kill the penalty, so hooray?). He contributed absolutely nothing. Dylan Strome does all the things he’s supposed to do, except better and for less money. If you can trade Manning and Rutta, you can trade Anisimov.

– If Erik Gustafsson ever decides to even feign defensive responsibility, he can be something special. His assist on Kane’s goal gave him an assist in eight straight games, something that hasn’t been done since Keith in 2013. He’s catching up to Chelios and Pilote in that little stat race, and while no one will ever mistake him for Chelios or Pilote, there is something there.

– Colliton opted to go with Kruger over Strome in the last seven minutes. Colliton is obviously a bright dude, but sometimes, you can’t help but wonder how much smarter he’d look if he’d stop trying to show us how big his galaxy brain is. You can argue that Strome had a team worst 25 CF%, but no one on the Hawks managed to crack 44% on the night. In that context, you can’t tell me Kruger centering Kane over Strome is a good idea.

The Hawks would have been lucky to win this one because they were so thoroughly thrashed throughout the night. But hey, it wouldn’t be Vegas if they let you come out with your shoes.

Onward.

Booze du Jour: Tin Cup & High Life: The Christmas gifts that keep on giving.

Line of the Night: “Was that John Scott?” – Eddie O., because John Scott is a gigantic joke whose presence you have to question at all times.

Everything Else

The Hawks had no business keeping this game as close as they did. The Predators should be wondering what witch doctor they crossed who kept them from closing this out way earlier and robbing them of both points. Let’s get to it:

Box Score

Corsica

Natural Stat Trick

– For about the first three minutes the Hawks were outshooting the Predators and looked in control. Nashville quickly righted that situation and within what felt like a nanosecond, Colton Sissons (who sounds like some asshole high school quarterback from Texas) scored to take a 1-0 lead. The Hawks did score a power play goal in the first but then gave the lead back in what actually was a nanosecond (OK, it was like eight seconds later). A four-minute penalty was thrown in there, and with the exception of a solid power play the Hawks got domed in the first—behind in shots (17-13), goals (2-1), and possession (56-44 CF%).

– The Hawks managed to pull their shit together in the second and killed off the remainder of the four-minute penalty. They kept taking dumb penalties through the period, but Jonathan Toews scored a short-handed goal on Kampf’s tripping of Viktor Arvidsson right at the end. The PK looked very shaky at times but not at that moment. In fact, the pass from Kruger was perfectly placed as Toews was streaking into the slot, and his precision getting it past Rinne while moving at top speed was a thing of beauty.

– We’ve been saying for basically the entire season that Alex DeBrincat is not a fucking third liner, and apparently Coach Cool Youth Pastor came around to that notion today, because Top Cat was finally back on the top line. And what did he do? Scored a goal and had seven shots on the night. The goal was on the power play off a pass from Kane, and the entire play showed once again that Kane and DeBrincat work extremely well together, and every day that they’re not permanently on a line together is a crime against basic common sense. No, playing with Kane wouldn’t put him on the top line but the point is that DeBrincat should be in the top six. Don’t bother with tonight’s experiment with Saad on the stupid third line that is already pretty useless with Kampf and Caligula. Put Saad back with Toews and Kahun, and play DeBrincat-Strome-Kane. That’s a solid top six. I feel like I keep saying some iteration of this into the ether and you know doing the same thing repeatedly while expecting a different outcome is the definition of insanity. Thanks a lot, fucking Hawks.

– Anyway, they didn’t have many power play chances but the one they scored on had the movement we’ve been braying about over here, along with Toews in the high slot drawing defenders, which left Top Cat open for Kane’s pass. So maybe all that repetition isn’t totally insane.

– By the third it was pure luck that kept the Hawks in it. Nashville had a 58 CF% in the period and it was a whiffed shot and an untimely post that kept them from taking a two-goal lead. And they managed to let Wide Dick Arty score, so you know there was some combination of bad breaks and foolish mistakes. It only took about a minute into OT for Filip Forsberg to put it away with his second of the night.

Henri Jokiharju had a solid return tonight, with a 63 CF% and a team-leading 23 CF% Rel. It’ll be interesting to see how Colliton maneuvers the defense when Seabrook returns from his bout of acute suck-itis that kept him out tonight.

– On a bit of a side note, the intermission segments on the broadcast tonight really epitomized how this league has no fucking clue who or what it is, or what it wants to be. The first intermission had a (very staged) segment with PK Subban handing out sweaters to a couple teammates, and they were made from recycled plastic supposedly taken out of the ocean. I’m skeptical of some greenwashing here, but nevertheless it featured timely themes, a black player, and was generally forward-thinking/feeling. Then, in the second intermission, we got Mike Milbury and Keith Jones showing grainy, shitty footage of themselves fighting fellow oafs back in the day and guffawing about how hilarious those days were. It couldn’t have been more backwards-looking or contradictory if someone had set out to make these segments as jarring as possible. Clearly there are multiple voices trying to direct these broadcasts, but the old guard has not lost that battle yet.

Back to the Hawks, they were fortunate to get one point since it was really Collin Delia bailing their asses out with a couple big saves in the third that even allowed them to get to OT. It won’t mean much in the end, but we’ll take it, right? Onward and upward.

Everything Else

OK, so it wasn’t exactly like their performance against the Avalanche last week but it was enough. The Hawks have five wins in their last six games, and even more shocking, they have seven power play goals in that time. What a world. To the bullets:

Box Score

Corsica

Natural Stat Trick

– The Hawks started strong yet again, and if there is anything that makes watching them bearable, it’s them NOT finding themselves in a 2-0 hole by the five-minute mark. In fact, the Hawks were the ones up 2-0 relatively early, thanks to the functional power play and overall good puck movement in the first 10 minutes. Alex DeBrincat scored the PPG, which brings his scoring streak to five games, and as a whole, the power play continued to be a legitimate offensive weapon for the Hawks. Not long afterwards, Kane added a goal, putting him on a seven-game scoring streak as well. Things were looking up.

– Then, Gustav Forsling went all Gustav Forsling all over everything. He took a dumbass penalty late in the first which led to Rantanen’s goal. And while Foreskin’s tripping penalty set things up, his was not the only defensive failure at this point. Keith and Seabrook were on the PK and I swear to you they stood still and watched as Gabriel ThisLandIsYourLand walked up to the net and scored. It was patently absurd.

– But he wasn’t done yet! Forsling managed to do the exact same thing at the end of the second period, although Nathan MacKinnon had already scored on…wait for it…a delayed penalty just seconds prior. Forsling repeatedly passed to no one and went around tripping people and yet, he had a 72 CF%. Hockey is weird.

– Speaking of weird, the Hawks’ power play has been, as we’ve mentioned, downright functional as of late. But in the third when they had a 5-on-3 the Hawks completely shat the bed. They went right back to everyone standing around waiting for Patrick Kane to do something. When Kane did get a shot, it was a crazy deflection off the post and into the crowd on the other side of the ice. It was impressive in its own way. But that didn’t make up for the fact that with a 2-man advantage and one defender with a broken stick—so basically a 2.5-man advantage—the Hawks receded to their bad habits of not moving themselves or the puck.

– They made up for it by scoring on a power play right at the start of OT, thanks to Connor Murphy once again getting his face demolished, this time by Landeskog. He ain’t pretty no more (he was never pretty anyway), but who cares, we’ll take whatever help we can get. Toews batted down the puck with a suspiciously high stick and fed it to Kane, exactly the quick puck movement that they needed. Luckily the refs were as done with the game as anyone, so no one bothered to review if Toews’ stick really was over the crossbar. Again, we’ll take whatever we can get.

– In other news, Collin Delia looked really good once again. Neither goal can be pinned on any mistake of his; the first one, his defenders sat on their asses and watched, and the second was in the midst of a defensive breakdown and scramble. In fact, he was the sole reason the Hawks didn’t get brained late in the first and through most of the second. His positioning and composure were both exactly what the Hawks needed, particularly with the Avs top line having their way with whoever was on the ice at the time. Delia ended the night with a .938 SV% and had better get the god damn start on New Year’s Day.

– Alex DeBrincat is not a fucking third liner. Why can’t Coach Cool Youth Pastor see this? What more must this guy do?! FUCKING SHIT

Dylan Strome had two assists and continues to be eminently useful. Meanwhile Artem Anisimov is still 10 steps slower than Strome and Kane on their line, and it’s beyond frustrating to imagine how many goals a DeBrincat-Strome-Kane line would have. Anisimov stumbled over or lost the puck in his feet at least three chances tonight. It seems so obvious.

Another win so we’ll have to just shut up and deal with our line combination complaints, and hope that Forsling can benched or traded or teleported to the land of wind and ghosts ANYTHING JUST MAKE IT STOP. But there’s no better way to go into the Winter Classic, such as it is. Onward and upward.

Everything Else

It’s time once more to take a look at the good, the bad, and mildly acceptable in all things Blackhawks. And in the spirit of the holidays, let me give you one more gift: Dear Santa Claus, Go Fuck Yourself will be the best thing you watch this week; this is just one clip but go find the whole thing. You’re welcome.

The Dizzying Highs

Dylan Strome: We are officially fans of Dylan Strome around here. In addition to a three-point game last night against the Panthers (in what was otherwise a full body dry heave thanks to Cam Ward), Strome has been part of a power play that is resembling something functional and playing like the actual 2C that the Hawks so desperately need. And he’s doing this while saddled with Wide Dick Arty who has no business being anywhere other than the pressbox, much less on the second line. Strome has looked good with DeBrincat when they’ve had chances to play together (duh of course) so it’s extra annoying that Coach Cool Youth Pastor still feels the need to play Anisimov with Strome and Kane, but Strome is making it work and we’re here for it.

Alex DeBrincat. On a related note, Definitely-Not-A-Third-Liner Alex DeBrincat has six points in his last five games, including a three-point performance against the Stars. He’s also a part of the sort-of functioning power play, and he and Dylan Sikura seem to have something going. His possession numbers aren’t bad either—a 51.5 CF% although admittedly with sheltered starts (nearly 59% in the offensive zone). We may bitch and moan about where he’s at but point is we need him scoring, wherever he plays. And that’s happening as of late and we’re here for it.

The Terrifying Lows

Gustav Forsling. This guy sucks, there’s not much else to say about it. He was pretty much solely responsible for the Avs only goal last Friday when he just stood there watching Compher score. In fact Forsling excels at standing around sort of near the goal watching guys score when he should be pressuring them. His CF% is underwater at 48.4 right now, and don’t be fooled by the goal he scored against the Predators last week—that was a pure Fels Motherfuck and the rest of the night he was awful and looked lost. I’m not suggesting Forsling should sit and be replaced by Brandon Manning, who is actually even worse if that can be believed. But I really want the Hawks to find some moron GM on whom to dump this pile of crap because I am done waiting for him to be something. He will not be anything.

The Creamy Middles

Erik Gustafsson. Cowboy Gus is quarterbacking the first unit of the aforementioned power play and even got a goal on the man advantage against Dallas, which alone qualifies him to be on this list. Perhaps even more impressive is that he’s a defenseman generally playing competent defense (we see you, Connor Murphy, but let Gus have his day). He saved a goal in that same Dallas game and his CF% stands at 51.7% (again, sheltered starts but whatever). He did stop giving a shit when the Panthers game really got out of hand, so he’s not THAT great. But at this point we’ll take generally competent.

Dylan Sikura. OK, he’s only got two points in seven games but he’s looking like a decent third-liner. Playing with Alex DeBrincat definitely helps that, but Sikura doesn’t look lost or useless, and really that’s where we’re at in terms of requirements right now. He even had four shots last night against the Panthers. Merry fucking Christmas.

 

Everything Else

Box Score

Corsica

Natural Stat Trick

One of the worst shows I have ever seen live was Beirut at the Aragon in, like, 2011–12. I showed up for the first half hour, got bored, and left. It’s no wonder this game felt so familiar, because that’s the exact tack the Hawks took with this eminently winnable game tonight. After a hot start, the Hawks got buried by their own incompetence, which is just another way of saying business as usual. Let’s do this quickly: We’ve all got Feats of Strength to finish, I’m sure.

– Coming into this game on a three-game winning streak and fresh off Collin Delia’s stoning of the most dangerous line in hockey, Jeremy Colliton decided to ride the Cam Ward wave. This is some true Galaxy Brain shit. On the one hand, complaining about Ward getting the start tonight probably has a bit of looking a gift horse in the mouth to it. Coming into this game, he had a .949 SV%. On the other, those two games came against a floundering and hurt Preds and an even more hurt Dallas team. Also, in case Ward spasming a couple good games had made you forget, Cam Ward is really a used-car-lot wavy-arm guy who moonlights as a goaltender.

Ward should have been pulled after the first goal. For reasons that can only be deciphered by true Brain Geniouses, Cam Ward came out to challenge Hawryluk after Hawryluk overpowered Dahlstrom/Dahlstrom lost his edge. Except after getting about halfway out, Ward flinched and tried to go back, leaving Hawryluk—a guy who has never scored an NHL goal—a yawning net to shoot at. I don’t have adequate words to describe what a shitshow this goal was because there’s no excuse for a 1,000-year veteran to do what Ward did. You wouldn’t see that in a fucking beer league—as Scott Foster once showed us—and yet, here we are.

Then, as if to retroactively adjust to completely losing his ass and crease on the first goal, Cam Ward turtled into the net on Hawryluk’s second goal. Huberdeau’s stretch pass between Keith and Gustafsson was art, and those two probably share part of the blame, but at no point did Ward look like an NHL goaltender on this attempt.

The third goal was more on Forsling than anyone—as Forsling totally froze as Hoffman stepped up after Toews pressured Weegar up top, giving Hoffman too much time to pick his spot, which happened to be the back of the net via Forsling’s groin—but that fourth goal was the result of a rebound that would have made Dennis Rodman blush. And the fifth goal, because fifth goals are things we talk about when Cam Ward starts, was a simple short-side snipe that an NHL-caliber goalie probably puts some leather on. But alas, Cam Ward is not an NHL-caliber goalie.

Jeremy Colliton has done a lot right lately. Starting Cam Ward tonight is decidedly not one of them. Fucking ride Delia until he gives you a reason not to. Starting Cam Ward doesn’t do anything for this team.

Dylan Strome is officially good. You can mark it down. His assist on Our Large Irish Son’s first goal of the year was a clinic in vision and patience. After stealing the puck at the offensive blue line, Strome set up behind the net off a Perlini pass, waiting for help. Murphy crashed, Strome fed him, and the rest is history. But the patience and nerve Strome showed behind the net was otherworldly. Strome had another steal around the same spot in the second, which led to two high-quality chances from Kane. He capped his night off with a goal off a Kane pass. Strome was the most impressive forward of the night, and it looks like the Hawks really have their #2 center in him.

– Our Sweet Boy Connor Murphy also had himself a night. You saw the goal he scored, which was a testament to his positioning and sneaky good wrister. Murphy played a big role in the Hawks’s third goal, leading the rush off a good Forsling outlet pass and grabbing the secondary assist on Strome’s goal. He also led the Hawks in even-strength TOI, led all Hawks D-men with a 51+ CF% at 5v5, and did it mostly against the Huberdeau–Barkov–Dadonov line. On top of all that, Murphy looked much more comfortable with the puck in his exits, which was a weak point in his game last year. Between Strome and Murphy, there’s a lot to hope for regarding the future.

– Here’s your gamely “Alex DeBrincat is not a third liner” alert. His goal was a bit flukey, as he was trying to pass to Kane through the slot and had the good fortune of sweeping in a pinballing puck, but a goal’s a goal. As much as we’d like to see him flip with Anisimov, he’s still making shit work where he’s at.

– Regardless of what Colliton ends up being, it looks like he might go down as the guy who fixed the power play. The top unit of Gus at QB; Strome in front; and Top Cat, Toews, Kane across has looked legitimately dangerous when it’s out there and Gus and Kane can be bothered to give a shit. It scored again due to Toews’s roving and retrieval and the movement Kane, Gus, and Top Cat show up top. It’s probably way too early to pronounce the PP truly fixed, but when’s the last time you looked forward to the PP?

– Just a quick reminder that Cam Ward sucks and we could have had Delia in net, who likely stops at least three of the five Ward allowed tonight.

Dylan Sikura and Brendan Perlini led all Hawks in CF% tonight, with shares above 70. Perlini is going to be frustrating, as he’s big, fast, and has no finish, as evidenced again tonight with his janking of a shot toward a wide-open net early in the Hawks’s first PP. Sikura’s no savior, but he’s good on the third line.

Carl Dahlstrom ended up in Coach Cool Youth Pastor’s doghouse tonight, spending the latter part of the game with Seabrook. You can maybe partially blame him for the first goal. But other than that, I’m not sure what else he did noticeably poorly. He and Murphy didn’t have the best game together, as Murphy’s peripherals spiked away from Dahlstrom, but I’m not sure what triggered Colliton to switch them up.

– Saad and Toews looked good in the first, then got completely horsed for the rest of the game. Erik Gustafsson also flashed evidence that he has a Give-a-Shit meter, and it was hovering around zero for the last two periods.  You can trace much of the loss to these facts, along with the fact that Cam Ward blows.

It wasn’t all bad, but it certainly wasn’t good. The Hawks will get a few days off before welcoming the Minnesota Mild to the UC on Thursday. Until then, stay toasty and toasted. Merry Whatever You Celebrate.

Beer du Jour: Miller High Life and Death Wish Coffee

Line of the Night: “It’s tough waking up and seeing how ugly I am now. I knew I didn’t have the looks before, but this doesn’t help.” –Connor Murphy explaining to Steve Konroyd how he felt after the Tyler Pitlick elbow.

Everything Else

Box Score

Corsica

Natural Stat Trick

Don’t look now, but the Hawks have put together two quality games. It sure is nice to watch the Hawks plunge the knife every once in a while. Let’s do the bullets.

– This may have been the best game Erik Gustafsson has played as a Blackhawk. He started 15 seconds in, keeping a puck that squeaked by Ward from farting across the goal line. That’s the kind of goal that’s been typical of the Hawks of late (and Ward when he’s gotten his chances in the crease), so having Gustafsson tidy it up early was absolutely necessary.

From there, Gustafsson was a force, plowing home a PP goal, setting up Kane’s empty-net backbreaker with a stretch pass from his own zone, and looking downright responsible in his own end. Though his CF% was 44+, when adjusting for score and venue, it sat just north of 50%. Given that he and Keith were on the ice for 24 minutes apiece and played primarily against the Klingberg–Benn–Seguin trifecta, you’ll take that every day. If this is the kind of game Gustafsson can play with any regularity, he could be a second-pairing guy with fringe first-pairing potential. There’s still a long way to go, but you love to see games like this. The offensive potential is there, and it throbs when it wants to.

– Let’s talk about that PP goal. Fifth Feather often says that it’s movement rather than Annette Frontpresence that leads to the best scoring opportunities, and the PP was a perfect example.

The Hawks were set in a 1–3–1, with Strome in front of the net; Gustafsson at the point; and Top Cat, Toews, and Kane going left to right. Rather than handing the puck off to Kane and having all four guys watch him stick handle, the Hawks elected to let Gus take the lead. With Toews roaming around in the mid-slot and acting as a dual retriever/safety valve, Gus, Top Cat, and Kane had more room to play a triangle passing scheme. Kane also had the freedom to skate on either side, with Top Cat and Gus rotating to fill, and that strategy is what led to the goal. With Faska missing his stick, Kane broke the script and skated around him to DeBrincat’s spot on the far-board circle. DeBrincat cycled to the point and Gus dropped lower toward the circle on the near boards as the Stars defense sagged, leaving DeBrincat and Gus all the space in the world to play catch and open a lane. Once Gus got the return pass, he had all the time and space in the world, and it was because the Stars had to keep an eye on Toews in the middle and Kane wherever Kane decided to be.

Sure, Strome was in front screening, but the movement on that PP was something I haven’t seen from the Hawks in a long, long time. It was simply gorgeous.

Patrick Kane was spry tonight. His backhander in the second was special, and his skating and vision set up the PP goal. That creep can roll.

Cam Ward had himself a nice game. Sure, he did something you don’t often see—whiffing on covering the puck with his glove, leading to the Stars’s second goal—and he looked stabby and gooey at times, but he made several high-danger saves too. The defense wasn’t nearly as bad as it has been in front of him tonight, which certainly helps.

– I’m not going to be too hard on Carl Dahlstrom, given that he’s been thrown into the deep end. But he probably could have done more to prevent the Stars’s first goal. He got beaten both to and off the puck by a streaking Gurianov, even though it looked like Dahlstrom had a better angle as the play was developing. He then overcommitted trying to stop Benn’s pass after Benn cut back behind the net, leaving Seguin all the room in the world. Although the real culprit on this goal is the Fels Motherfuck, because saying Seguin couldn’t throw a grape in the ocean in the preview was just begging for him to score.

– It mostly worked out tonight, but I’m still baffled that Artem Anisimov gets to play with Strome and Kane. Granted, his pass from the near boards to set up Kane’s goal early in the second was nice. But after that? In the lead up to Seguin’s goal, Strome and Anisimov had a 2-on-1 developing. Watching Anisimov and Strome try to execute a 2-on-1 is like watching slugs fuck. Strome just kept waiting for Anisimov to beat his man, and he may as well have tried to light water on fire. Strome probably should have taken that shot, but you know who would have made it to the spot he needed to be at? Alex DeBrincat, who continues to prove he isn’t a third liner.

– Which means that of course DeBrincat scored on the third line. Credit to Kampf for getting enough of the puck on the faceoff to give Sikura a chance to complete the set play, dropping the puck onto a waiting DeBrincat’s stick and past THE BISHOP! Though the fancy stats don’t do DeBrincat justice, he had a few good takeaways to go with a few bad giveaways. All in all, a definitely-not-a-third-liner performance.

– I’m not sure what Dominik Kahun is, but it doesn’t look like he’s bad. He led the Hawks with a 56 CF% on the night. He, Toews, and Saad clicked well tonight. Brandon Saad was a force in the first and good throughout as well. And of course, Toews’s renaissance continues. The Hawks may not have a ton going for them right now, but the top line looks legit.

– Our sweet Irish son was having himself an alright game before Tyler “I completely deserve my last name” Pitlick took a page out of the Tom Wilson Being a Horse’s Ass for Dummies book and drove his elbow directly into his mush. With all the blood spilling on the ice, it looked to be a broken nose, and in a best-case scenario, that’s all it will be. Like Gustafsson, Murphy’s raw CF% wasn’t great (44+), but adjusted for score and venue, it was a robust 51+ despite facing mostly Benn, Seguin, and Klingberg. Small sample sizes be damned: Murphy has been the best Hawks D-man overall, and they can’t afford for him to miss more time.

What’s baffling is that Pitlick didn’t get a call on his cheap shot. He had more than enough time to adjust to the play, which happened smack dab in the middle of the ice as the Stars were starting a breakaway. That the refs missed the call was nearly as egregious as Pitlick’s outright assclownery. Pitlick saw Murphy over his shoulder and drove his elbow into his head anyway. What a dickhead. I hope he has a bad Christmas.

Brendan Perlini continued his tour de force of being really fast and having no finish. Still, you like his straight-ahead speed, which is obscene at times. THE BISHOP! did a fine job of stuffing him twice on a breakaway midway through the first, but Perlini got his, potting the final empty netter and icing the game.

Gustav Forsling looked fine tonight. If he can continue to look fine, that would be OK with us.

Two wins in a row feels nice, especially since the Hawks haven’t looked overmatched for the most part. Tomorrow will be a true test against the nightmare that is the Avalanche. Collin Delia would do well to smoke ‘em if he’s got ‘em, because it’s not going to get much tougher than what he’s going to see tomorrow.

But tonight, we said we were hungry and they gave us meat. Get down, make love.

Beer du Jour: Miller High Life

Line of the Night: “Hawks Win!” – Pat Foley with a minute left

Everything Else

This game was Laura Powers ripping Bart’s heart out and kicking it into the trash. After taking the lead for the first time in nine games, the Hawks gave up two goals in 12 fucking seconds. Up until that point, the Hawks were playing well! Aside from spotting the Knights their requisite two goals early, the Hawks dominated possession until the third. Whatever, let’s fucking do this already.

Box Score

Corsica

Natural Stat Trick

– Let’s just get the shit out of the way. Brent Seabrook can retire now and have a wonderful legacy. He’s done so very, very much for this team, and the greatest thing he can do now is just stop. Just hang them up, take the assistant coach position from actual goblin Barry Smith, and go down in history.

Seabrook’s turnover on the game-winning goal for Vegas was one thing. But watching Alex Tuch bowl through him and jam the dagger into everyone’s fucking skull is utterly embarrassing. We can complain that Patches interfered, and I don’t think we’d be wrong. But regardless, Tuch manhandling Seabrook was the perfect microcosm of what this team has become: bloated, behind, and thrashing in a sea of shit.

As much as I want to get completely red and nude about what Brent Seabrook is now, I just can’t. It’s like watching your 16-year-old dog, your lifelong companion, shit in the middle of the floor, only to hang his head in shame. He knows he shouldn’t do that, but he’s just so old. The anger melts into grief, which only makes you madder and sadder. What’s worse is you know no one else will take him in, and you just can’t bear putting him out to pasture. So you let him shit on the floor, over and over, just wishing the nightmare would end.

– Certainly not one of Crawford’s best either. It’s a given that he’s going to have to make outrageous saves every night, because this fucking team is an unwashed armpit crawling with impetigo. But the game-tying goal from Marchessault in the third is inexcusable. The dying emu off Engelland’s stick in the first was another one Crow probably should have had. Konroyd, who manages to be both an idiot and a Milhouse, kept saying it bounced off Toews, which is proof positive that it didn’t and Crow just missed it. Even the first goal he gave up was a result of poor rebound control, which gave Reilly Smith a chance to Baryshnikov his way to the game opener.

– I don’t know how many times we are going to have to say it, but Alex DeBrincat still isn’t a third liner. When you had Top Cat–Strome–Kane on the ice toward the end of the second, they were dominant. DeBrincat and Strome were toward the bottom in TOI in the first, which is inconceivable. I want to know what the grand conspiracy against DeBrincat is, because there’s no logical explanation for why Dominik Kahun or David Kampf get plush spots over him. You’d think the GREAT COMMUNICATOR would have this explanation front and center, and yet we wait and wonder.

Brendan Perlini sucks. He’s Kris Versteeg with a pedigree.

– I tried being nice, but Brandon Manning can go right back to eating my toenails after a long, hot run. It’s one thing if, like, Erik Karlsson storms the blue line on the PK to try to force a turnover. But there was Brandon Manning, doing just that prior to Vegas’s first goal. In case anyone’s forgotten, Brandon Manning sucks so much he blows, and you could see Marchessault giggling as he shuffled a pass right past him, leaving Seabrook all alone to defend. I’d take Connor Murphy eight weeks ago over him.

– On the plus side, Jonathan Toews was a force. He scored his goal from behind the goal line. He won faceoff after faceoff late in the third in the offensive zone, giving the Hawks hope. He took everything and then some, and it still wasn’t enough.

Dylan Strome could be something. For all the worrying we did about his supposed lack of speed, he’s almost always in the right place. You don’t expect him to pot shots like the bad angle one he did in the second with any regularity, but it’s nice to know that he’s got it in his bag of tricks. Imagine what he and DeBrincat could do with Kane on the wing.

Patrick Kane was also dominant tonight, and he did it while playing more minutes than anyone on the Hawks. Though he spent most of his time with Kahun and Wide Dick, which is such a goddamn waste.

– Credit to Artie though. Forcing a turnover and giving the Hawks their first goddamn lead in nine motherfucking games was nice, even if it was fleeting.

– I want to know whose idea it’s been to continue doing the neutral zone/own zone drop pass, because I’m going to pull my brain out from my asshole and piss on it until it dissolves like a skidmark if it keeps happening. This skullfuck of a strategy led to sustained pressure for the Knights WHILE THE HAWKS HAD A MAN ADVANTAGE during the second PP in the second period. I know I shouldn’t yell about that, since the PP is worse than a Truth commercial, but did you ever think it could possibly get worse? Fire whoever is in charge of making that decision out of a cannon into the motherfucking sun.

It was right there for the Hawks, and they threw up in their shoes. With the insufferable game at Notre Dame against Boston coming up and the Hawks falling farther and farther down in the standings, don’t be surprised if the next few weeks are the swan song for Bowman and maybe even Colliton.

Eat Arby’s.

Booze du Jour: Four Roses straight from the bottle

Line of the Night: Artem Anisimov puts the Hawks ahead for the first time in nine games!” – Pat Foley

Everything Else

Box Score

Corsica

Natural Stat Trick

Call the Blackhawks what you want, but you have to admit they’re consistent. They once again found themselves down early, spasmed an effort in the second (which ironically saw them post a 35+ CF% against the second-worst possession team in the league), and got buried in the third. Swiss watches don’t keep better time than this script at this point. Watching the Hawks now has all the feel of finding a mole in your taint and deciding “Yes, I’m going to pick this out with my fingernails.” It’s gross and awful, and we’re not sure how we really got to this point, but we’re an inch and a half deep, so there’s no turning back. Let’s try to clean up the blood.

– We’ll start with some good, because there’s so little to be found. Erik Gustafsson’s goal was the beautiful result of vintage Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith. If you only just started watching Blackhawks hockey and saw that play, you’d wonder how this team’s record is such piss. Kane’s preternatural ice awareness let him swing a no-look pass through the slot to a wide-open Keith, and Keith’s shot fake led to a month-long ban on all jock strap sales to John Gibson at sporting goods stores nationwide.

– Gustafsson’s goal and later post are what make him such a nightmare to watch. You can see that there’s offensive potential, but you have to dig through an awfully deep pile of shit to get there. If the Hawks ever decide to admit that this isn’t a playoff team (which they should have done after firing Q), don’t be surprised to see Gus on the move. He can certainly find a spot on someone’s (read: Toronto’s) third pairing and bum slay. As much as I hate to admit it, he—like many of the Hawks’s peripheral players—is a toy.

– Don’t look now, but Brandon Manning has spasmed a Jordan Oesterle over the last few games. If you ignore the fact that he had a 27+ CF% (and you should, because I sure as shit am), you can probably argue that he was at least fine last night. Or at least in the first period. He created the mad scramble in front of the ice that led to Brandon Saad’s crossbar, then managed to follow up with a shot off Pontus Aberg after Aberg cleared the paint. He then drew a roughing penalty late in the first. These are the straws we are grasping at here, but if Manning can look at least competent for a stretch, some throbbing sack of toxic masculinity will trade a pick for him.

Alex DeBrincat’s goal was a clinic in puck handling. After Jonathan Toews settled a turnover down, he delivered a pass almost directly into DeBrincat’s chest. DeBrincat not only settled that down but also flicked a shot past Gibson to tie the game. As is the refrain: Thank God he’s 5’7”.

– I have two fun facts for you. First, here’s a sampling of forwards who played more 5v5 time than DeBrincat last night: John Hayden, Dominik Kahun, Dylan Strome, David Kampf, Brendan Perlini, and Artem Anisimov. Second, and this fact is really fun, NONE OF THOSE FORWARDS SHOULD BE PLAYING MORE 5V5 TIME THAN ALEX DEBRINCAT. You can talk to me about how DeBrincat played four minutes on the PP and I will tell you to run headfirst up my asshole. There is simply no excuse for this no matter how you slice it.

If you are a massive brain genious who thinks that this team is still playoff hopeful, then you have to have your best pure shooter on the ice as much as possible, especially since the Hawks have scored exactly two goals per game over the last three games. If you think that it’s time to Lose for Hughes, then you want to see what your young crop can do, and wouldn’t you fucking know it, Alex DeBrincat still isn’t old enough to legally buy a drink.

I don’t know whether this is a Colliton decision (when approached by, I think it was Lazarus, about the fact that DeBrincat played only 46 seconds at 5v5 in the first, Colliton said “that’s not right,” as in he was refuting a fact) or Barry Smith and the front office telling Colliton what they want, but neither gives me the warm and fuzzies. And when you add the rumbling about bringing Artemi Panarin back to this weirdness, it gets even more frustrating, because DeBrincat does more than Panarin does, is younger, and doesn’t cost $10 million.

If you want to make a case for Top Cat playing with Strome, fine. But make those two, plus whichever unpainted sad clown you want to shove with them, your second line and be done with it. Alex DeBrincat is not and has never been a third fucking liner, and when even Coach Mr. Turner is treating him as such, you have to wonder if this is a decision being made by the HOCKEY MEN in the front office.

– And what the fuck is this new “drop pass behind center ice off the boards” horseshit? It happened two or three times last night, which indicates that this is no accident. I don’t know whether this is Colliton drawing it up or THE CORE just doing shit they’re comfortable with, but it’s got to stop. I never thought I’d yearn to see a drop pass at the opponent’s blue line, but here we fucking are.

– Be happy Duncan Keith had that incredible shot fake, because outside of that, he got horsed all night. On the ice for six high-danger chances for the Ducks at 5v5. Several turnovers in his own zone leading to sustained pressure. An interference penalty in the second because he couldn’t keep up. He will go down as the best Hawks D-man in history, but with each passing day it gets harder and harder to remember that.

– We all said that if Corey Crawford came back and was Corey Crawford, we might have a fringe playoff team. Last night was another instance of forcing ourselves to ask “What if this is what we’re getting now?” Crow probably should have had both the second and third goals Anaheim scored. On the second, Seabrook forced Daniel Sprong to almost below the goal line, and Sprong still managed to shelf it over Crow’s glove-side shoulder. In the third, Ondrej Kase did much of the same, albeit with a slightly better angle. This isn’t to put the blame for the loss on Crawford—given how many incredible saves he made on the night—but if you’re waiting for a Crawford miracle, it might be too late for you.

– Even if you count the four posts as shots on goal, the Hawks still got outshot by the Ducks. Even for the Hawks in their current state, that’s simply unacceptable.

Jeremy Colliton is in a really tough spot, with young guys who mostly suck and a Core that either can’t or won’t do the things it’s expected to do. You and I both know what this team is, and all we can hope is that Coach Mr. Turner starts focusing on getting Strome and DeBrincat more time on the ice. Because what else is there, other than another late game tonight?

Just cut my head off and kick it into the lake.

Booze du Jour: Four Roses and High Life

Line of the Night: After the inane Hayden fight, the national broadcast made a comment about how “He probably didn’t have to do that at Yale,” then proceeded to namedrop Yale a few more times. It was a great moment in Mute Lounge History.