Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

The urge is be disappointed that the Hawks couldn’t get this one in regulation. They worked through the rust pretty quickly, certainly created enough to win easily in regulation (though gave up enough to lose it too), had a two-goal lead, but still needed the carnival game to get the second point. But you can’t legislate for Antti Raanta playing like it was last year instead of this one. This is how the Hawks have to do it. Get it open, trade chances, and bank on their goalie outplaying the one at the other end. Most nights, pretty much every night, Crow’s performance would have been more than enough. He was matched tonight by Raanta, so you get a split decision win. It happens.

Considering where they stand and the tiebreaker being just regulation wins, the Hawks aren’t as bad as I thought so winning in extra time isn’t as disadvantageous as I thought, either. They’re within one or tied or up on reg. wins with just about everyone around them, which is a sad state of affairs in the West. Three points back of Arizona, with two games in hand. Can’t take their foot off the pedal, but at least it’s interesting.

Let’s get to it…

The Two Obs

-As you would expect, it took the Hawks five or 10 minutes to find their sea legs again, as they gave up way too many good chances and didn’t let Crawford breathe much. The xG for the period being .94 to .26 tells you pretty much everything. They were sloppy with the puck and couldn’t quite get that extra foot as they adjusted back to game pace. But hey, they survived it.

-The season isn’t totally about development, but there were big moments from both Dach and Boqvist tonight. The latter clowned Taylor Hall twice when one-on-one with him. He out the Hawks in trouble in the second by turning into trouble and just handing the puck over, but you take the good with the bad. On the power play just once I’d like to see him fake the drop pass and just steam into the zone and see what he can do with only three back there, but he’s probably under specific instructions. The important thing is the defensive game isn’t nearly as helpless as some would have you believe.

Dach created the second goal with more good work on the boards (which he’s been excellent at all season) and then the vision to find Kane who found Saad. That line was a threat all night and clearly Dach was relishing finally getting to play with some real talent. Let’s see a whole lot more of this.

-Drake Caggiula continues to be useful. You’ll know the Hawks are ready to do things that matter again when he’s on the third line permanently.

-On the flip side, it was something of a rough one for Toews. 40% Corsi, 41% xG, and haphazard with the puck all night. Capped it off with a lazy penalty late in the third which the Hawks can’t have.

-So, when we get down to 15 games left or so, or the end of the month, and if Crow continues to outplay Lehner as he has of late here, what will they do? We’ll save this question for later because we’re nowhere near there yet. Let’s just enjoy how good Crow has been of late.

-Maatta and Koekkoek were to blame for the second goal, as Fetch got absolutely done in by speed and then just kind of went out walkin’ after midnight somewhere else and Maatta wasn’t quick enough to come over. But then how could he be expecting Koekkoek to just wander off like Layne Staley used to do offstage? Anyway, they’ve been a solid enough third pairing, and sometimes your third pairing is going to fuck up. You live with it. It’s why they’re a third pairing. It was cute that it came right as Konroyd was extolling their play of late. That’s a motherfuck this whole blog can be proud of.

-God, Top Cat just can’t buy one right now, can he? He’ll binge soon, and you just have to hope the rest of the Hawks game doesn’t fall around it so it can result in more points.

-It’s fun to be in the race, but the Hawks have had to be this hot just to get within hailing distance. Which means they can’t stop.



For the 378th straight year, this is the time when the Arizona Coyotes will be relevant. Their oh-so-smart and oh-so-young and oh-so-handsome GM has finally broken the code, and now all the young talent they’ve been amassing since I had hair is finally going to gel, take a huge leap forward, and save hockey in the desert. You heard it here first, motherfuckers! Actually, you’ve heard it every goddamn year from everywhere, and then by December you’re genuinely shocked when the Yotes pop up on the schedule because once again you’ve forgotten they exist.

So I’m just going to go ahead and say this year will be no different. It’s the safe bet.


39-35-8  86 points (4th in the Pacific

2.55 GF/G (28th)  2.68 GA/G (6th)  -11 GD

48.7 CF% (20th)  49.2 xGF% (17th)

16.3 PP% (26th)  86.0 PK% (3rd)

Goalies: Once again, the Yotes will roll it back with the hopes that Anttie Raanta can keep the loose grip on all the gremlins that form his body and muscles, and not see them go spilling off in every direction again and miss a large chuck of the season. It happened…never.  So when he once again finds himself in the infirmary, the starter’s role will be taken up by Darcy Kuemper again. Strange things happen to goalies in AZ, which is they turn good. They have a system for it. So you may remember Kuemper as the middling place-holder in Minnesota, which is what he was. But last year in Glendale he threw up a .925, which followed a season of .920 in both LA and Arizona. That doesn’t mean he’s definitively turned a corner or anything, because this is still Darcy Kuemper we’re talking about. But the Yotes seem to just get representative goaltending at worst the past few years, which they probably will again through the combo of DK and the times Raanta maintains oxygen intake.

Defense: Of course, the main problem has always been assembling skaters for Arizona. This defense still contains Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Niklas Hjalmarsson, who were dominant last year (a single tear rolls down my cheek). Beyond that, I can’t help you. Jakob Chychrun has missed huge parts of the last two seasons through injury, so maybe this is the one where he really leaps into the main picture except I don’t know what it is he does that gets everyone with a breeze going between their legs. Even with that though, there is not much beyond this. Alex Goligoski is 34 now. Jordan Oesterle is…you know what? His name is enough. Jason Demers is solid but needs a dynamic partner, which may or may not be Chychrun. They basically need the latter to finally blossom for this to be a good unit, because they’ve had OEL for years now and all that’s gotten them is a handful of themselves and their face in the dirt.

Forwards: And here’s another issue. They hardly scored last year, and are hoping that an aging and cranky Phil Kessel will solve that problem on his lonesome. I guarantee he tries to murder Derek Stepan by Christmas when he’s not getting any passes on his tape. Nick Schmaltz is healthy after blowing out his knee, so Yotes fans can look for five great games followed by a month of him floating around the outside and avoiding contact and waiting for a breakaway pass. Clayton Keller is probably due for a step forward, and will certainly be tasked with feeding Kessel at least on the power play where the Yotes need all kinds of help. Nothing helps out a young player like having a moody sniper’s feelings weighing on him. Still, Keller’s second season was a step back, and he might not be a point-per-game player. Which the Coyotes have exactly none of.

Prediction: This team was able to goalie and defend its way to near a playoff spot last year. The hope is that Kessel and growth from Keller and one or two others will aid their scoring and power play problems, but I’m not convinced. Kessel will get you 25-30 goals until he can’t walk, but the Coyotes need more than that. He’s no longer a surefire top line winger, and there might not be another one on the roster. Keller has yet to prove that he is. Schmaltz most certainly isn’t. Everyone thought their pick of Barrett Haydon was a joke. And you’ll never convince any of us here that Rick Tocchet isn’t huffing paint and betting lines behind the bench. With the playoff bar certainly going to be higher this year than it was last year, it feels like the Yotes are still behind it. The top three spots in the Pacific are spoken for, which means scrapping for a wildcard spot. It could happen if either or both Kuemper and Raanta have great years, but that’s their most likely hope. Feels like they’re coming up short again. Which is their lot in life.

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New Jersey

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Tampa Bay



Everything Else

Oh right, the Arizona Coyotes.

That’s how I feel every time I hear their name. Like that cousin you’ve met once. You never think about them, and quite often you forget they exist. And then you’re reminded that yes, they are in some small way part of your life and there are distant memories of them. They are connected, somehow, to your life, if only by the thinnest of threads. You’re not sure why they are, you’re definitely sure you don’t give a rat’s ass, and yet that string-connection is still there.

We’ve been assured that their GM, John Chayka, is a computer boy genius, and in that way I want to root for him. For hockey to ever change out of its thinking that causes the Flintstones to tug their collars (if they had collars), it’s going to need some analytical front office to be a consistent winner. Maybe the obstacles in Arizona are just too large; given an internal budget, lack of fans, uncertain future, etc. But we’ve been promised there’s a plan for years now, and the Yotes have failed to come within warp drive capability of a playoff spot in six seasons.

And it’s going to be a seventh. Let’s hop to it.

2017-2018: 29-41-12 70 points  208 GF 256 GA  48 CF% 46.1 xGF%  7.2 SH% .921 SV%

Goalies: Here’s something weird: You know how we say that if you have a good goalie it’s really hard to suck? Well, the Yotes have figured it out! Antti Raanta was really good last year! Sure, he only played half of a season due to injury, but he went .930 and .936 at evens. And I guess the Coyotes were decent enough when Raanta was in net, as they went 21-17-6 when he started, which is about an 85-point pace. Which isn’t good enough for a playoff spot or anywhere close, but it’s at least like…not remedial class. So I guess that’s what we’re counting on here if you’re counting on the Yotes. Which says something about you.

Sadly for the Yotes, everyone who tries to fill-in for him turned into basically a hallucination and might not have actually been there to stop pucks. No other goalie managed a SV% over .900 for Arizona.

What’s strange is this might be what Raanta is. This is two straight years he’s been really good, and three he’s been above league-average. As he’s 29, and this run started when he’s 27, this is his peak and this is what he looks like. So the Yotes can count on him pretty much.

The Yotes are trying to be a little more stable behind Raanta with Darcy Kuemper. He was pretty bad with the Yotes last year though, after being pretty all right with the Kings. Maybe he couldn’t handle the defensive-weakling team in front of him. Whatever, he’s probably not a .899 goalie. If he can get back to his career .912 mark, the Yotes can give Raanta a night off or survive a minor injury without needing the anti-anxiety meds every time Kemps skates to the blue paint.

Defense: So we mentioned this when Oliver Ekman-Larsson re-signed there, but the buzz was that the Coyotes had locked down one of the league’s best and could be the base for their future assault out of anonymity. But OEL has been around now for eight seasons. And all the numbers look good, both on the surface and the underlying ones. But if he were that good, would the Yotes always blow? You have to have this guy when you’re always finishing last with him? It’s curious. He’s definitely not a tomato can, and he’s almost certainly good. But great? Transcendent? Wouldn’t we have evidence of that already if he were those things? He’s going to be getting $8 mildo from here on out, and you kind of have to ask yourself for what?

All the baying and crying and lashing of innocents over the departure of Niklas Hjalmarsson last year ignored the fact that he wasn’t much good in his last year in Chicago and he was straight-up bad last year in Arizona, depending on how you look at it. If you go by strictly Corsi, he wasn’t anywhere near what you were used to, below water and below the team rate. If you go by expected goals, he was pretty good, keeping those attempts to the outside and non-threatening for the most part. With the clueless set of forwards, surrendering more attempts than you get is hardly a surprise. Keeping that from the roof caving in is probably a decent job, though now at 31 and with that mileage one has to wonder how long he can keep it up.

Jakob Chychrun came up for air last year and didn’t do much. The Yotes will expect more. Alex Goligoski was underrated in Dallas. He’s been elephant cage leavings in Arizona and is now 33. Jason Demers deserves better than the third-pairing here, and Kevin Connauton has been scenery for as long as I can remember. Jordan Oesterle is here in case you care, and you don’t. It’s not the worst unit you’ll ever see, but a lot hinges on Chychrun living up to the promise.

Forwards: The new addition here is Alex Galchenyuk, which I think could be a great trade for the Yotes if they play him at center. Fuck, given Derek Stepan‘s age and “Yeah But Who Gives A Shit?” production for at least five years now, it may be time to move him to wing. Dylan Strome and Christian Dvorak occupy the other center spots, so you could see why they might want to acclimate The American With The Russian Name Who Used To Be A Canadien on a wing. Still, just because the Habs say he can’t play center is no reason to believe it. In fact, it’s a big reason you should try it.

Other than that, it’s Clayton Keller and a big bag of bums. They’ve been selling Dvorak for a while now, and he might be past his sell-by date. Michael Grabner is here to score 25 goals that you’ll see in March and go, “Wait that happened again?” It will and it won’t matter. If Nick Cousins and Brad Richardson are on your team your team isn’t any good. There are some more kids who could break through, and Yotes fans had better hope so if they want anything to watch. Again, they’re woefully short of scoring here.

Outlook: No matter what’s on the ice, it will be undone by the established moron Rick Tocchet behind the bench. I don’t know why the Coyotes haven’t taken more care of a coach to develop the young talent they keep claiming they have, but Tocchet doesn’t have to keep looking down the barrel of a 9mm wondering how it fires for us to know he doesn’t know what he’s doing. (Write in Tocchet for the Jack Adams Award now).

Even in this god-awful division, you can’t see a path for the Yotes out of it. They’re miles behind the Sharks and Knights, even with the expected regression of the latter. The Ducks are better, and they have no McDavid or Gaudreau to catch the Alberta Twins. The Kings will be boring and boorish enough to keep things tight and dry hump their way to more points.

The best the Yotes can hope for is that Keller, Dvorak, Strome, Chychrun take huge steps forward and provide hope for the near future. Maybe Barrett Hayton makes the team? Oh, and they can hope they don’t end up in Quebec, which at this point…


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Detroit Red Wings

Buffalo Sabres

Boston Bruins

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Montreal Canadiens

Ottawa Senators

Tampa Bay Lightning

Toronto Maple Leafs

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Columbus Blue Jackets

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Washington Capitals

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Everything Else

As the latest team to be run by a analytic wunderkind, every hockey fan who’d like to see the game move forward in any way, there is some investment in the success of the Arizona Coyotes. With some smart summer moves (not necessarily Hjalmarsson), the Yotes are going to be some people’s pick to surprise. They’re not there yet, or at least don’t look it, but they’re finally trending up. Whether they can get anyone to care in the desert is a question that’s gone on far too long and will never die.

Arizona Coyotes

’16-’17 Record: 30-42-10  70 points (6th in Pacific)

Team Stats 5v5: 45.0 CF% (30th)  44.9 SF% (30th)  42.6 SCF% (30th)  7.2 SH% (20th)  .924 SV% (12th)

Special Teams: 16.1 PP% (26th)  77.3 PK% (27th)

Everything Else


Game Time: 7:30PM CST
TV/Radio: CSN, NHLN (US), WGN-AM 720
Buggin Out: Blueshirt Banter

While this is supposed to a premiere matchup on the league’s calendar as far as regular season games in December go, and on paper it still is with one conference leader hosting the 2nd best of the other on a weekend night, the actual composition of the rosters on both sides still lacks the punch that it should have, no matter how many times the words “potential matchup in June” are uttered during the broadcast.

Everything Else

This first appeared in our gameday program’s From The Editor before Game 4. 

For the first time in the Quenneville era, the Hawks have a playoff goalie controversy. Hard to believe, given how some people think around here. But whatever goalie issues the Hawks have had in the past have always resolved themselves. In 2009, Nikolai HarveyBirdMan grabbed the job from Cristobal Huet well before the playoffs. In 2010 Huet basically spit up the job to Antti Niemi, as much as Niemi taking it. Corey Crawford was well established as the starter in 2011. As wonky as Crawford got in 2012, Ray Emery was much worse and thus never an option. We all know about 2013, when Crow should have won the Conn Smythe but didn’t thanks to a narrative Pierre McGuire and NBC decided to pound for reasons that still escape me. Last year, Crow was really good until faced with immense pressure by the Kings and Antti Raanta was never an option either.

That brings us to this year. But the seeds for this year were sown before, and I can’t really figure out why. The organization certainly hasn’t pushed Crawford out in front of its marketing like others, and the fans in this town have never really warmed up to him.

Why is that? Are people still scarred from 2012? Because fans are supposed to love a redemption arc, and the fact that Crow was able to recover from that playoff outing and back it up with a Cup run should be that redemption story. Shouldn’t that have won everyone over forever?