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

vs.

RECORDS: Hawks 20-20-6    Senators 16-22-7

PUCK DROP: 6:30

TV: NBCSN Chicago

BULWORTHS: Silver Seven Sens

The Hawks get to remain in the remedial class after their win against the Ducks tonight, and arguably tomorrow, as they’ll head for the Eastern Canada swing. They kick it off tonight against the equally-rebuilding-as-the-Ducks Senators, before decamping east into La Belle Province to face another floundering O6 team in Montreal on Wednesday. But first things first, a contest out in the middle of nowhere Ontario. Even though basically Ontario is nowhere, and deep down even Ontario knows that.

The Senators aren’t quite as bad as they were supposed to be. This was supposed to be a Wings-like outfit, with a sad little point total as they raced to the #1 pick in June. And the Senators certainly aren’t good, but they haven’t redefined stink as we know it like the Motor City cadre. Still, they’re tied for the second-fewest regulation wins in the league with the just-conquered Ducks and two ahead of the Wings. Perhaps they just couldn’t anticipate just how bad the Wings would be. Who could?

Not that the Sens do anything well. They’re bottom-five in both goals-for and goals-against in the league. Their metrics aren’t much better, though they’re a little weird. They give up a ton of attempts, and have one of the worst Corsi-shares around. But their expected-goals marks are basically middle fo the pack, in that they don’t give up a ton of great chances. They’re not a great defensive team by any sense of the word, and they don’t have nearly enough firepower to make any team capable of breathing sweat. But they do limit the kinds of things they give up, which is more than you can say for the Hawks. In fact, if they were getting any kind of goaltending, they might barely be on the fringes of they playoff picture.

But the thing is, Craig Anderson is now three days older than water and Anders Nilsson is the very definition of “replacement level goalie.” So this is what you get.

The Sens have gotten breakout seasons from Anthony Duclair (spotlighted earlier) and Jean-Gabriel Pageau, the latter of which figures to be a pretty valuable commodity around the deadline. He’s cheap now at $3M and will make a decent 2-3 center for some contender down the stretch. He also is an impending UFA, so he’s going to get a major raise which probably isn’t in the interest of the Senators.

The only pieces that figure to be around whenever this thing turns in Ottawa is whichever garbage Tkachuk son resides there and Thomas Chabot. You may have heard about Chabot playing 37 minutes in a game recently and averaging about 27 minutes per night the past couple months. I mean, why not play your future pieces into dust now while you suck raw sewage, eh? I suppose names like Filip Chlapik, or Rudolfs Balcers (which sounds like a gastrointestinal problem), or Drake Batherson (which definitely was a character in Knives Out) could make the list before the year is out but they have some work to do. The road is long for the Sens, let’s just say that.

For the Hawks, Robin Lehner gets his “revenge” game or whatever as a former Senator before Corey Crawford gets the hometown start in Montreal tomorrow, where he generally has flourished. Thanks to the demotion of  John Quenneville, which was done because the Hawks actually feared putting him on waivers, means that Dylan Sikura gets back in the lineup. Zack Smith also has this as a homecoming, having spent his entire career in Ottawa before moving south.

Neither the Senators or Canadiens are any damn good, so the Hawks might want to gobble up these points before seeing a rejuvenated, if not beat up, Leafs squad on Hockey Night. They’re getting close to the bye, which generally has seen them turn the motor off. And that’s fine if they’ve scratched this season. If they’re still planning on making something of it, these are games you have to have. Well, they have to have them all but we know how they do against other teams actually competing for playoff spots, but you know how this goes.

Hockey

You don’t need more ammo to hang the Hawks front office out to dry these days. We even feel slightly guilty about doing so. Piling on and all that. But we can’t help ourselves. Anthony Duclair might go down as another one they missed on. It’s getting to be a very long list.

It’s hard to believe Duclair is still only 24, as this is his sixth season in the NHL. And he’s having what anyone would call a breakout season, with 21 goals already and 32 points in 44 games. The former mark is already a career-high and the second is only 12 points short of another one. It’s all resulted in his first All-Star appearance.

Now, whenever you see a spike like this from a player that hadn’t before approached these kinds of numbers, you are tempted to dismiss it as a shooting-percentage binge and just the way of the things sometimes, and that the player will soon return to the herd safety of anonymity. And yes, Duclair is shooting 16.7%, a career-mark. But it’s not that far above his career-mark of 13.9%. To put it another way, if Duclair were potting goals at his normal rate amongst his shots, he’d still have 17 goals. It would be enough to make you notice.

There’s an old corollary in hockey, which is used to lower the accomplishments of players on bad teams, that “someone has to score the goals.” And surely Duclair is benefitting from getting top six minutes that never came to him in Arizona or Chicago or even Columbus. He’s getting 12 minutes per night at even-strength, the most he’s seen. And he’s seeing nearly three minutes of power play time, which is nearly double what’s gone on in previous seasons. So the five goals and 12 points on the man-advantage are boosting the totals a bit.

Still, Duclair is doing more than just puttering along with more time. His shots, chances, and expected goals per 60 are all way up, and you couldn’t argue he’s benefitting from better teammates. Unless Jean-Gabriel Pageau really does something for you. And hey, we’re not here to kink-shame. He’s just getting to better areas more often and firing more, which is a good way to score, and then to open up space for others. “Making yourself dangerous,” Hawk.

While you might not have projected this when he played 23 games for the Hawks two years ago, it also is easy to look back and wonder why he couldn’t have been given another season. You’ll recall his season was ended early after an ankle injury caused by Brad Marchand literally slingblading him in Boston. Duclair’s numbers with the Hawks weren’t very impressive at that point, just two goals and six assists.

Look deeper, though, and you get a little frustrated. Duclair couldn’t buy a bucket here, shooting below 7% for his stay. And his individual metrics–his shots, his chances, were amongst the lowest in his career. But his team-metrics when on the ice were decent enough. +2.2 in Corsi and at the team-rate in expected goals.

You can’t say he wasn’t given a big chances, as his most common linemates that year were Jonathan Toews and Alex DeBrincat. So the eight points in 23 games certainly were a disappointment,

Still, the following season, here is a sampling of forwards the Hawks gave time to instead of giving Duclair another season to see if his SH% could rebound: Chris Kunitz, Brendan Perlini, Drake Caggiula, a deceased Marcus Kruger, Alex Fortin, John Hayden, Andreas Martinsen. Out of all that muck, only Caggiula can claim to be helpful, and that’s really as nothing more than a fourth liner.

Perlini was certainly worth a look to see if you couldn’t get him to care given his skills, and Fortin was at least fast (nothing else though). But the rest, again, were grind-y fourth-line types who checked all the wrong boxes that the Hawks can’t seem to get past. Duclair flashed skill and speed, something they just don’t value nearly high enough beyond anyone in the top six. Duclair wouldn’t save them from the mess they’re in now, but he would have helped in both the past seasons. He was certainly worth a one-year deal more than Kunitz was, we know that for sure. But it still feels that the Hawks feel if you aren’t in the top six, you have to be a foaming shit-beast instead of just having more skill and scoring stocked in the lineup.

The Hawks aren’t alone, of course. The Coyotes aren’t getting anything out of him now, and even Richard Panik moved on (what they received for Duclair). The Jackets got their six weeks out of Ryan Dzingel and now have nothing either. But at some point it would be nice to write about the Hawks actually succeeding on a reclamation project and then keeping that player for long-term benefit. It’s been a while.

Hockey

Whichever Garbage Tkachuk Son Is On This Team – We can’t tell them apart and we don’t think there’s any need. This one hasn’t drummed up the same controversy as the other dreaded Laramie, but give him time and he will. As it is with all these Tkachuk’s, and really any son of a former player, it’s hard to take them seriously as some hardened badass when all they are is rich kids who never had to answer for anything given their dad’s status. One wonders what life must’ve been like in the Tkahuk house. Probably Keith making his kids fight in the backyard to see which one gets to eat dinner that night.

Anthony Duclair – Nothing to do with him of course, as he’s having a breakout season. But this was another young player the Hawks didn’t show enough patience with, especially as his short time here was ruined by Brad Marchand. He washed out of other places so the Hawks aren’t alone, but they certainly could have used another forward with speed and skill. Instead, we have Matthew Highmore.

Eugene Melnyk – They don’t come much worse in ownership than this. Crooked, cheap, and blaming the fans for all the problems. When he’s not complaining he’s crying poor. He’d fit perfectly with the Ricketts family.

Everything Else

Anthony Duclair’s career thus far has a slight “Over Promise, Under Deliver” to it. He was considered a pretty good prospect before got to the NHL, one with high offensive upside because of his speed and shot. And while he does still flash that speed and shot occasionally, he’s only scored 37 goals in 213 NHL games thus far, and 2o of those goals game in 2015-16. Let’s take a look at his most recent campaign.

Anthony Duclair

Total – 56 games, 11 goals, 12 assists, 23 points, -5, 16 PIM

With Hawks – 23 games, 2 goals, 6 assists, 8 points, Even, 6 PIM

50.51 CF%, 1.99 CF% rel, 45.97 xGF%, 0.42 xGF% rel, 53.12 ZSR

Duclair wasn’t exactly over-the-top impressive this season, in general nor when he came to Chicago in exchange for drunk trespasser Richard Panik, but he was certainly not bad. His speed is evident the moment you lay eyes on him on the ice, and he puts it to work well at both ends of the ice. He’s got a decent frame for being for 5’11”, 191 lbs, so he’s able to cause some issues with that speed and his body in transition offensively, as well as defensively on the forecheck and backcheck. One of the podcast guys mentioned a while back that he has some Hossa-esque qualities to his defensive style, and at times that 91 on his jersey might make you think it’s Hossa’s 81.

While Duclair hasn’t exactly lit up score sheets so far in his NHL career, it doesn’t take too much investigating to fine out why – he doesn’t shoot enough. In his 56 appearances last year, Duclair only got 97 shots on goal total. He shot 11.3% for the season, not far off his career mark of 12.5%, which is a more than acceptable conversion rate. But it still doesn’t tell the whole story, as that number is buoyed a bit by his 19% rate in 2015-16, his only full season so far and also the one in which he accounted for more than half of his career goals. He followed that up with a tough 2016-17 in which he scored just 5 goals on 6.6% shooting. And even this past year, he shot 13.2% in his 33 games in the desert and just 6.9% (nice) in his 23 games with the Hawks. All of that suggests that we still don’t know what kind of shooter Duclair is, but the only way to really figure that out is going to be him getting more pucks to the net.

Given the positive qualities he possesses, and the fact that he is still just 22 years old, I still think it’s reasonable to believe there is some high-ceiling upside left for Duclair to tap into, but with each passing day the likelihood of him reaching that ceiling shrinks. If he can somehow have a breakout year next year, you might have a 55-point player on your hands. But that’s if you wanna be really optimistic about his climbing the ladder to that ceiling. More likely, you have a 35-45 point third liner on your hands who can contribute defensively, which is perfectly fine.

Dylan Sikura

College – 35 games, 22 goals, 32 assists, 54 points, +18, 22 PIM

NHL – 5 games, 0 goals, 3 assists, 3 points, +2, 0 PIM

NHL – 42.34 CF%, -4.81 CF% rel, 49.32 xGF%, 7.07 xGF% rel, 64.29 ZSR

Just about any NHL production you get from Dylan Sikura is a net positive, because it’s extremely rare that 6th round draft picks become NHL players. Sikura developed into one of the best college hockey players over the past few years, and he certainly got the Hawks brass excited about him, enough so that they signed his brother to an NHL deal to butter him up and make sure he signed at the conclusion of his college season. We call that the reverse Hayes.

Sikura looked fine when he got to the NHL, I guess. I am not sure how much you can read into five appearances in a lost season on a team made up of a lot of patchwork. His offensive ability was evident in college, and he flashed some of hit when got to Chicago, so we know it’s there. The question is whether or not that will come to mean anything, because we have seen plenty of good college performers become nothing NHL players in the past. I think Sikura can stick, but he probably projects similarly to Duclair – if it all clicks, you maybe have a second liner who will give you 50 points or more, but more than likely you’re looking at a third liner who can create some mismatches and get you 40ish points a year. Next year will be the true barometer for him.

Everything Else

Box Score

Corsica

Natural Stat Trick

Each effort more useless than the last. To the bullets.

– Brad Marchand, acting on every instinct to be the biggest, wettest garbage bag of human shit possible, likely ended Anthony Duclair’s season today, and perhaps his career with the Blackhawks. Pat and Eddie went out of their way to say that it looked like an accident, but I don’t know how they came to that conclusion. Here it is in slow motion:

And full speed:

The full-speed shot makes it look even more intentional, with Marchand leaving his feet and slinging his arm at Duclair’s head. With Marchand’s pedigree as a pus-filled ass polyp, you have to assume that it was at least partially nefarious, as it looks like Duclair is in his sight the entire time. But with Marchand playing as well as he has and the Bruins on a playoff run, don’t be surprised to see him get maybe a game suspension.

As for Duclair, what a horrible way to end his year. He’d had a rough go of it lately, and now this. Season in a nutshell.

– Duncan Keith had one of the worst games I can remember since he came up all those years ago. His bad passing, poor positioning, and inability to strap in his jock led to the Bruins’s first three goals, respectively. He and Seabrook were on the ice for three of Boston’s four PP goals as well.

He’s obviously lost a full step, and without him, the Hawks have only Murphy who has any potential to play defense as a defenseman. We knew going in that the Hawks would need to rely on Keith, so if this is what he’s going to be, the next few years are going to be drudgery.

– Erik Gustafsson had a hot and cold game. The offense was on display early, as he set up Toews on a tip, buried a goal from the blue line, and set up Highmore with a gorgeous shimmy on the far boards followed by a slick pass through the Royal Road. But he also let Pastrnak behind him for Boston’s game-tying goal (and wasn’t helped by Brent Seabrook, who let human plantar wart Brad Marchand soft-shoe his way around him effortlessly) and looked generally lost in the defensive end.

Gustafsson is a fine player to have when you have four or five other guys who are obviously better than him on your team, and when you’re paying him $1.2 million over two years, not per year. But if this is one of the guys that the brain trust is going to lean on next year, this team is fucked.

– John Hayden looked good coming up to replace Vinnie. Other than his unnecessary fight in the first, he showed strength with the puck and seemed to fit decently with Schmaltz and DeBrincat. The Hawks are going to have to decide whether he’s going to be a scoring power forward—which was sort of the point of sending him down in the first place—or a big body who drags his dick around looking for fights. If it’s the latter, this team, again, is fucked.

– Credit to Kampf for setting up the Hayden goal. He had a nice strip and an even better pass off the far boards to spring Hayden.

– Congrats to Highmore on his first NHL goal. Like Hayden, I’m still not sure what he’s supposed to be, but he didn’t look particularly bad today.

– As is becoming more common, Berube got hung out to dry on most of his goals. The stat line is going to look horrible after being out there for six, but I’m not sure what he’s supposed to do with the defense that’s in front of him.

We’ve got 12 more. And if the Hawks decide that the defensive corps that they dressed tonight is what they’re going with next year, the next 94 games are going to be one gigantic Giordano’s fart.

Beer du Jour: Coffee and Eagle Rare.

Line of the Night: “They’re getting going north fast, and it’s coming down your throat.” –Adam Burish during the pre-game, describing the Bruins’s transition game.

Everything Else

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

Corsica

My all-time favorite movie turned 20 years old this week, and seeing as Our Special Boy was the one to score the game-winning goal tonight, it seemed appropriate to recall this piece of wisdom from the other Jeffrey Lebowski, the millionaire. To the bullets:

–The Hawks got killed in possession and shots tonight, so even those who played well (more to come on that) seemed like they had a dismal night if you just look at those stats (so don’t bother). We’re used to the Hawks dominating in those numbers while still managing to lose, but tonight they had a 37.5, 22.2, and 36.7 CF% in each period. Added to that, for most of the game the Canes had double or more than the number of shots that the Hawks did. The Hawks barely got to over half the amount of Canes’ shots, finishing with 24 to 40. Now, given the Canes’ consistency in giving up so few chances, I can’t say I’m exactly shocked by this. The fact that the Hawks only managed 24 shots but scored twice really drives home the point that Scott Darling has been quite bad.

–On that note, J-F Berube stole the show, and except for the one number that matters most, he led in every metric both qualitative and quantitative. I should point out that the first respective goals for each team couldn’t really be pinned on either goalie. Jurco tipped in a monstrous, classic Seabrook shot from the point, and a few minutes later Lindholm did exactly the same off Slavin’s own very Seabrookian shot. Redirects are tough to deal with. However, the second Hawks goal demonstrated what second-rate goaltending will get you. Sharp’s goal was all thanks to Duclair wresting the puck from under Darling’s pads, who then proceeded to completely lose his positioning which allowed a clumsily falling Sharp to put it in the open net.

Berube, on the other hand, finished the night with a .925 SV% after facing 40 shots. Williams just beat him one-on-one in the second, when today’s spotlight Justin Faulk sprung him the perfect pass as he left the box, and there also wasn’t much Berube could do on Aho’s power play goal off Finnish Jesus’ shot. All of this is to say that Berube’s positioning was far superior to Darling’s all night, and he had pretty saves throughout the game, with both the pads and the glove, which kept this from being an embarrassment. Notable among those were his stops in the third on Staal at point-blank range, and Skinner who, every time they said his name I just heard “Skinner, Skinner, faster than liiiiiightning…”

–Anthony Duclair had a strong performance, and I honestly was confused whether having Foley and Eddie say complimentary things about him during the broadcast was some kind of reverse-motherfuck, or if they were genuinely praising him and not following a script. This is how many strands are in old Duder’s head. But the point is, Duclair’s persistence in the crease led to the second goal, and he and Sharp had moments of chemistry. Granted, Duclair fumbled a pass at his feet when he had Darling one-on-one, and he botched a pass to Kampf in the same sequence. But, for being on the fourth line he was on the puck consistently, had a few shots and an assist. If you’re trying to work your way back up after a demotion, making Patrick Sharp look serviceable is a pretty nice feat.

–Of course Teuvo’s shot was the one that won the game. I know Aho is credited with the goal but it was yet another redirect. And it seemed destined to happen, but it still hurts.

The Hurricanes are fighting for a playoff spot, and with the exception of TVR, I can’t really root against any of the Parade of Former Hawks. So good for them, good for Our Special Boy, and good for Berube who still comes out looking decent from all this. Onward and upward.

Everything Else

Box Score

Hockey Stats

Natural Stat Trick

Like a Crave Crate, the Hawks were great through the first five. The rest was a blackout of shit, snot, and puke. There’s not much to learn from a drubbing like this, but let’s see what we can find. Sometimes there’s a penny in those sliders. To the bullets.

– J-F Berube, despite giving up six goals through two periods, didn’t look terrible. The only goal that was really on him was Vlasic’s “fuck you” at the end of the second, but at that point, his confidence is shot. No use keeping him out there. He managed to look good when he wasn’t getting hung out to dry, but those moments were few and far between.

– Carl Dahlstrom looked like a guy who’s played fewer than 10 games in his career tonight. He was directly responsible for the Sharks’s first three goals. On the first, he made a questionable pinch with Schmaltz near the puck after Highmore Salvador Dali’ed a shot off the far boards, running into Schmaltz and kicking the puck straight to Pavelski, who started an unbelievably pretty passing cycle with Donskoi and Burns.

The second was a complete circus. Gustafsson passed into Vinnie’s skates, and while Gustafsson tried to recover, Dahlstrom got caught starting to leave the zone early. He then set a pick on Toews, allowing the puck to squirt past a falling Gustafsson for a 2-on-0 that Berube had no chance on. It was Dahlstrom’s bad positioning that set that goal up.

On the third, Dahlstrom took a shot from the blue line that Labanc blocked, then got out raced by Labanc. After the initial rush failed, Dahlstrom floated to his off side to cover after Gustafsson hit the ice to block Labanc’s original attempt, then seemed to fall asleep, letting Tierney behind him and Gustafsson, who slid a quick pass past a confused Gustafsson to a wide open Labanc.

I’m willing to write this off as simply a bad game from a young player, and I hope that Dahlstrom can grow into positional awareness. But tonight was not one for his reel.

– Dahlstrom was noticeably awful, but the Hawks’s D-corps looked bad as a whole. Keith took a retaliatory penalty late in the second after Sorensen overpowered him with a semi-slash. Connor Murphy fell down a few times and was embarrassed by Timo Meier’s speed in the first. Jordan Oesterle tipped a puck into his own net after a Goodrow pass attempt from behind the net. While Oesterle had some bad luck on that tip, no one on the backend stood out, and for a team that relies as heavily on plays coming from the backend as the Hawks do, this is about the result you’d expect out of the effort.

– On the plus side, Duclair looked spry, even though he couldn’t finish a 1-on-0 in the second or his penalty shot in the third. He had the worst 5v5 CF% of all Hawks though, for what that’s worth on a complete blowout.

– Alex DeBrincat continues to impress. He had a few prime opportunities that Jones stuffed him on, but it’s still a joy to watch him get to all the right spots. At some point, he’s going to play with Schmaltz and Kane regularly, which ought to start tapping into his potential more directly. You’d like to see it now, but Q’s line choices continue to be a mystery.

– Matthew Highmore debuted tonight and did about as much as you could expect. His far-too-wide shot in the first triggered the Sharks’s first goal following Dahlstrom’s misguided pinch, but he was also in decent position for a tip off a DeBrincat wrister from the high slot in the second. He didn’t make the tip, but he had the right idea. Not much to take away from him tonight, but he wasn’t a complete zoo.

Games like these make it hard to say “everything will be better next year when Crawford comes back.” While Corey definitely is the difference maker, the Hawks have some huge questions to answer on defense going forward. It’s frustrating to watch this team have no answers, but that’s the kind of year it’s been. Take it on the chin and move forward is the plan.

At this point, all you can do is look for development and improvement from the younger guys. Tonight saw DeBrincat look great, Schmaltz look good, and Duclair look outstanding at times. The rest may have been garbage, but there are positives strewn among this shit.

We’ve got 17 more games to see what we’re doing going into the off-season. Onward.

Beer du Jour: Jefferson’s Whiskey with a High Life back.

Line of the Night: “Quite a debut for Matthew Highmore. He won’t forget his first NHL game.” – Chris Cuthbert, with the Hawks down 7–1.

Everything Else

 at 

Game Time: 6:00PM CST
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720
Maurice Clarett’s Tattoo Shop: The Cannon

As this Wannstedt-esque death march of a season trudges onward, the Hawks turn right around from last night’s win against the Sharks and head to Columbus tonight, where Torts and the Jackets hang on to the last wild card spot in the east by the slimmest of margins.

Everything Else

Box Score

Hockey Stats

Natural Stat Trick

The game flow may have had all the appeal of a freshly shot snot rocket hanging menacingly from a necessary hand rail, but there were quite a few things to get excited about in this Friday night affair. To the bullets:

– If not for the Fels Motherfuck, which apparently is airborne now, J-F Berube would have had a 43-save shutout. But 42 out of 43 ain’t bad either, especially given the circumstances. This was his first start as a Blackhawk in front of a team that doesn’t have much to play for. He went up against a team that got wedgied so hard against Nashville that all the testosterone in their bodies should have been stuffed into their brains, and yet the Sharks, who still have quite a bit to play for, couldn’t solve him. And it wasn’t terribly flukey either. Berube rarely looked lost out there and even made a few outstanding saves in the third, none more obvious than his highway robbery of Jannik “Don’t Call Me Isaac” Hansen after a brilliant saucer pass from Tomas Hertl. It’s a little early to start the “WHY DON’T DEY TRADE CRAWFERD N LET DAT BER-YUBE GUY START” bus, but he sure looked good tonight.

– Anthony Duclair sure played like he wanted an extension tonight, and if the Hawks’s brass is smart, they should be giving it to him. He was all over the place tonight, assisting on both Rutta’s and Schmaltz’s goals. The Rutta assist was a thing of beauty, as he danced from behind the goal line to feed Rutta, who had to regroup his own backfire to plant the goal. And his steal on a flubbed reception from Mikkel “Not Clarence” Boedker was topped only by his gorgeous backhanded pass through the Royal Road to birthday boy Nick Schmaltz. He topped it all off with an even 50 CF% and a 1.55 CF% Rel. All in all, a solid night for the young man.

– In fact, most of the Hawks contributors were on the young side. Vinnie was all over the ice, even though he didn’t show up on the score sheet. Saad was similar, with a 63+ CF% and an utterly gorgeous power move toward the net right before Schmaltz’s goal. Erik Gustafsson looked decent out there as well, and though the possession numbers are damning, DeBrincat looked poised to score all night. While this season may be shot, there is hope for the future.

– Jan Rutta had himself a decent game off the IR. He’ll never be more than a bottom pairing guy, but when he’s on and not entirely out of gas, he’s a serviceable defenseman. He was persistent on his goal, and he now leads all Hawks D-men with six goals, which is less surprising than it seems, given he was scouted as an offensive defenseman.

– Our Special Irish Boy Connor Murphy was the odd man out among the youngins. Tonight was by far one of his worst performances since October. Between his poor outlet pass in the first, his sloppy interference penalty in the third, and his team-second-worst 40+ CF% (behind only Arty the One Man Party’s 32+), it was simply not one to write home about. Though it is tempting to pin it on Seabrook—whom the Sharks targeted any time he was on the ice—it’s not acceptable to transfer blame if we expect Murphy to be what we want him to be, especially when Seabs isn’t doing anything egregious, as was the case tonight. It’s just one game, but it sure was disappointing.

– I’m ready for one of the moron GMs to throw a 3rd round pick at the Hawks for Tommy Wingels. I get why he’s skating on the top line with Saad and Toews, and I get why he’s on the power play, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it. He puked all over his skates on two prime passes to Saad in the first, schlepping it into Saad’s skates on the first and air mailing him on the second. With Saad’s luck this year, neither were likely to go in, but give the man a chance.

–Watching Duncan Keith lose half a step is still weird. His CF% was a 48+ on the night, and one of his most noticeable plays was a botched drop pass at his own blue line in the first that led to a turnover. Yes, he’s getting older, yes, he has to learn to adjust, and yes, he’s playing with Jordan Oesterle, but it’s strange to admit that he’s gone from a for-sure #1 to somewhere closer to a #2/#3 this year.

– The power play is still a fart you shouldn’t have given the benefit of the doubt. It’s a fucking totem for the year.

It sure wasn’t pretty, but it’s two points. I’m far too stubborn and proud to talk about tanking, so two points against a playoff contender is a good night cap.

Onward to Columbus.

Beer du Jour: I went sober for the first, and made up for it with Steel Reserve and Miller High Light tall boys, followed by a glass of the Sacrament on this Lenten Friday.

Line of the Night: “The Blackhawks will put together a win streak for the first time in February.” – Foley