RECORDS: Rangers 30-24-4   Hawks 26-25-9


TV: NBCSN (but with us on commentary!)


The Hawks return home for just two games this week, before heading back out for what looks to be an absolute Unblinking Eye of a road trip through Dallas, St. Louis, and then Florida. Which makes these home games an absolute must, and even that probably won’t save the Hawks from having their season come to an end on that trip.

Which of course, is far too late. The deadline is Monday, and the Hawks can pivot toward the future, and successfully, if they just give in and start cashing in on Gustafsson and Lehner and maybe one or two others. Perhaps losing these two home games will finally make up management’s mind. Two games shouldn’t do that, but we know how this works. And we know how this team works, where they could for absolutely no reason other than hockey weirdness take these two games on Madison, and then at least split that trip coming up and justify the front office doing absolutely nothing come Monday. They’ll say it’s in service to their vets, but the vets will be just as pissed off come April when they’re still five points out of a playoff spot.

Perhaps that’s for another time, but tonight’s opponent should make for sobering viewing for the Hawks. The New York Rangers are in the middle of a rebuild, and yet have more points than the Hawks playing in the tougher conference. The Rags tried to soup up their arc by signing Artemi Panarin in the summer and having Kaapo Kakko fall into their lap.

While the former has performed as you’d expect, Kakko has been a disappointment. Eight goals and 19 points for a player that looked like he could belch up 30 goals per season at least. More worryingly, Kakko has been getting utterly crushed metrically, and his game clearly is going to need more work than the Rangers would have anticipated for a #2 overall pick. He isn’t even getting into scoring areas and chances as much as you would have expected, and has played himself onto the third line for the moment.

But this is New York, so that’s not the only drama going on with the team. Alex Georgiev might finally, along with Henrik Lundqvist’s age (though you wouldn’t know it to look at him, asshole), make the Rangers face the hockey mortality of their stalwart in net. Georgiev has been the superior goalie, this is Hank’s second straight subpar year, and at 38 and with only one year left on his contract after this one both Hank and the Rangers finally can see what life without each other is going to look like.

Up front, the Rangers can’t seem to decide if they want to trade guided missile Chris Kreider or make him part of the future. The package the Devils just got for Blake Coleman surely is giving them pause though, because Kreider likely gets the Rangers more than that. He’s also just about the last chip the Rangers have to play, as the rotting corpse of Marc Staal isn’t going to fetch much more than sympathetic looks and the loose change found in jacket pockets.

None of that has kept the Rangers from putting up more points than anyone would have guessed, and some of that is to do with their high octane defense. Tony DeAngelo (who really couldn’t be more perfectly named for a New York hockey player), Adam Fox, and Brady Skjei (Chance’s buddy) can all make things happen from the back, which keeps the Rangers playing at a pretty high pace.

They might not have star power up front beyond Panarin, but they do have a collection of fast forwards (including one named “Fast”) that can be hell to play against. They had won four in a row and five of six before getting kneecapped by the Bruins on Sunday. This is also their Mom’s trip, and it’s nice to see a team bring their moms to a true destination like Chicago instead of whatever backwaters the Hawks dragged their matriarchs through this year.

All that said, and even with the speed they have, the Rangers are a woeful defensive team. Even worse than the Hawks, if you can believe it. They’re last in xGA/60 and among the worst in Corsi against. So this game has a chance to be utterly hilarious in that fashion. Skjei, Fox, and DeAngelo (HEY! HE’S HOCKEYIN’ OVAH HERE!) can get up and go they can also get up and fall over in their own end. None of the Rangers young forwards have any idea what they’re doing in their own end, so the Hawks will get chances.

Does it matter? I have no idea. I think they’re toast. I don’t think they think they are, and maybe this is the death rattle week for them.

But what you should do is download the Hot Mic app on your phone, and listen to us do our inaugural broadcast on there for this one! Also use code “SAM376” when you do. We’ll be doing a whole MST3K thing with the game tonight, and it should be fun. Hope to have you along.


The Rangers attempted to hit warp-speed on their rebuild with a couple big signings and one big draft pick. That’s all it takes in the NHL. And thanks to a mediocre division, the Rangers could be poised to make a big move. They’re not there yet, as far as being in the glitterati, but they are suddenly worth watching again. Where the lights shine bright and all that.


32-36-14  78 points (7th in Metro Division)

2.70 GF/G (24th)  3.26 GA/G (23rd)

46.0 CF% (30th)  47.1 xGF% (24th)

19.4 PP% (17th)  78.2 PK% (27th)

Goalies: Whatever excitement is surrounding the Rangers has to be tempered by questions about how much Henrik Lundqvist has left. He will turn 38 at the end of the season, and his .907 SV% last year was the worst mark of his career. The year before he was at .915, which would probably be good enough for the Rangers team to take a step forward. His Vezina-contending days are almost certainly over, so the Rangers have to calibrate if he can just be league average or a tick above. This was not a good team in front of him, and he saw a ton of rubber, but Lundqvist is going to have to be better if the Rangers are going to turn things around.

If he doesn’t, it’s going to back David Quinn into a corner, as he’ll be the first coach to have to deal with whether or not to cede some of King Henrik’s starts to a kid. Alexander Georgiev was pretty good last year at .914. There is some hope that he can take over when Lundqvist decides to move on, but the Rangers and Quinn in particular do not want the headache of expediting that process. Henrik isn’t the type to cause a stir, but his position has also never been under question.

Defense: The big splash was trading for Jacob Trouba in the offseason. Trouba seemed to shrink from a top pairing role on a genuine Cup contender in Winnipeg, though some of that could be attributed to hating the city and coach he played for. This is where Trouba wants to be, and he certainly has the capability of being a top-pairing guy, certainly more than anyone else here.

The Rangers blue line is starting to skew pretty young, with Adam Fox, Libor Hajek, and Brady Skjei all poised for roles on this team. The hope would be they can start to steal minutes from Marc Staal, who is absolute toast these days, and Brendan Smith, who remains the worst player in the league. Anthony DeAngelo still needs re-signing, but he would be more youthful zest on this team, and would make the Rangers pretty dynamic going forward along the blue line. The question is if any of these guys can play defense, and no one has the answer for that one.

Forwards: It’s not often you can add two-thirds of a real top line in the NHL, but that was the summer for the Rangers. They signed Artemi Panarin and got to draft (Boers voice) Kaapo Kakko. There are your wingers on the top of the roster for years. Do they have a center to play between them? Mika Zibanejad is going to get a shot, and there have been times in the past when he’s flashed that capability. He had 74 points last year playing with nothing like Kakko and Panarin. That bumps Chris Kreider and Pavel Buchnevich to the second line, where they almost certainly belong. That is until Kreider is traded, which most in the know on Broadway seem to think is an inevitability. It’s after that where things get icky.

Ryan Strome is the wrong Strome. Vladimir Namestnikov has yet to prove to be much of anything other than a guy in both New York and Tampa. Filip Chytil has a lot of growing to do. Matt Beleskey is here, which is always an indication that your forwards have been hauled out of the back of the storage room. One line and two thirds of another one is not really enough to be a playoff team. They will hope Lias Andersson helps out with this, but is that enough?

Prediction: There is enough here to be way better than 78 points. But way better can be 88 points, which won’t be close to a playoff team. Even with the additions of Panarin and Kakko, there doesn’t feel like there’s enough scoring here, especially if Kreider is going in midseason (depending on return). The defense has a chance to be really exciting, in both senses of the word. They can’t say the goalie is a sure thing either, given Henrik’s age and creakiness. There is a lot of hope and anticipation here, but that doesn’t mean it translates into an avalanche of points. They’ll make a run at a playoff spot, but probably run out of gas in March and come up comfortably short. But with another move or two after that, they’re set up to be a real thing quite soon.

Everything Else

We turn now to the most confounding Blackhawk, Brandon Saad. Since coming back to Chicago in the Panarin trade, no Blackhawk has managed to do so much and not do enough. Of all the “get the band back together” trades/signings StanBo has done in his tenure, this one stands out as one that worked. And yet, there’s a feeling that he’s never quite lived up to his potential and never will. Let’s try this.


80 GP, 23 G, 24 A, 47 P

52.69 CF%, 47.27 xGF% [5v5]

It Comes With a Free Frogurt!

Per usual, Saad logged an excellent year in terms of possession. He led all Hawks regulars with a 52+ CF% and a 5.1 CF% Rel. On the year, the only two Hawks who eclipsed him in both categories were Dylan Sikura (33 GP) and Henri Jokiharju (38 GP). Even better is that this was the first year that Saad played a higher percentage of his time in the defensive zone (50.1%). I’ll go to my grave babbling about how much more weight strong possession numbers have when you’re (a) spending more time in the defensive zone and (b) on a team whose defense is the personification of putting your dog down, mostly because this Hawks campaign made me want to fucking die. I digress.

Compared to last year, Saad had an offensive Renaissance. His 23 goals were his third-best yearly mark in his career. His 24 assists were his fourth-best mark. His shooting percentage bumped up to 11.8%, just above his career average of 11.1%. (This was the first year since 13–14 in which he took fewer than 200 shots, though.) His 0.59 points-per-game ratio matched his career average precisely. Everything about his offensive output was exactly where a normal, not insane person would expect them to be.

Saad also moonlighted (moonlit? This fucking language . . .) on both sides of special teams play. On the power play, his five goals were fourth behind the unholy chimera of Kane, Toews, and DeBrincat. On the penalty kill, Saad was by far the best among a bunch of bad in isolation. Of the Hawks who played at least 100 minutes on the PK, only David Kampf was on the ice for fewer goals against (17 vs. 16). Saad was also the best regular penalty killer in terms of suppressing high-danger shots (21.33 HDCF%) and goals (13.33 HDGF%) on the PK.

All in all, Saad was dinner at a sensibly priced restaurant followed by a night of efficient German sex.

The Frogurt Is Also Cursed

The problem with Saad is that, if you’ll pardon me going Q on you, you always sort of feel like he could be doing more. Admittedly, some of that might be of our own creation, as few people have carried Saad’s water like I have. You see 47 points over 80 games and think, “Yeah, that’s pretty good.” You can look at his fancier stats and see that Saad is at worst a strong hockey player. He’s the Dean Malenko of the Blackhawks. But when the expectation is Marian Hossa II, which is what he flashed early in his career (or at least what we saw), there’s always a twinge of disappointment with Saad when the dust settles.

You’ll occasionally see him simply overpower everyone on the goal line, putting his shoulder down and stuffing the puck toward the net. You’ll see him turn on the afterburners through the neutral zone and make defenders look like drunks who didn’t wipe well enough looking for a car they never owned. You’ll see this and wonder, “Why can’t he do this all the time?”

My soft belligerence toward Saad is that you sometimes have to listen to the notes he ISN’T playing to justify the point totals. You have to dig into the analytics to get a full picture of what he brings. His contributions aren’t intuitive, and so explaining why he’s good and why he’s important can easily sound like bullshit, even if we really believe it isn’t.

You sort of expect a guy with Saad’s speed, power, and awareness to crack 60 points at least once, especially when given the chance to play with guys like Toews, Kane, and DeBrincat. And though he probably should be playing with those guys regularly, he spent a lot of time on the third line with guys like Kampf, Sikura, and Kruger. He looked good doing it, but it falls short of the expectation we had for him.

Can I Go Now?

Saad will turn 27 before the first month of hockey ends next year. He’s still a possession dynamo who can contribute 20+ goals a year. He’s a stalwart on a bad PK and can chip in on the power play. The Hawks have him for another two years at a $6 million per cap hit. Though it’d be surprising to see him traded, of all the Hawks forwards, Saad likely has the most value in terms of movability (before you can say DeBrincat, just don’t). He’s a rhythm guitarist in a band full of shredders, and we’ll always wonder if he’ll ever be anything more.

And if he isn’t, that’s probably OK, too.

Previous Player Reviews

Corey Crawford

Cam Ward

Collin Delia

Duncan Keith

Connor Murphy

Henri Jokiharju

Gustav Forsling

Erik Gustafsson

Carl Dahlstrom

Brendan Perlini

Alex DeBrincat

Chris Kunitz

Artem Anisimov

Marcus Kruger

Dylan Strome

Jonathan Toews

Everything Else

Well that was quite the party. And like any good party, everyone worth a shit now leaves before they stick around past the point that all the creatures of the night do. You know those people, the ones who a Saturday night turns into a Sunday afternoon with the curtains drawn. They where all black and love to tell you about the weird sex they have. That’s where the Columbus Blue Jackets find themselves…amongst the New Order records. No one wants to be the last to leave.

What a historic spring for the Jackets. Causing one of the biggest upsets in first-round history, they’ll join such luminaries like the ’91 North Stars, the ’93 Blues, the ’93 Islanders, and ’09 Ducks in the pantheon of…wait, you don’t remember any of these teams? Of course you fucking don’t, because they’re nothing more than quirky trivia. Something that helps you win the three free rounds at a pub quiz while you pretend you’re having fun. But hey, that’s more memorable than the Jackets have ever been.

We’ll spend the next day or two wading through various love letters and bouquets thrown at Jarmo Kekalainen, a man who has been allowed to be GM for six years with one playoff series win, no division titles, and never actually earning home-ice in a playoff series. What a record! Oh how he went for it! Oh what dash he showed! Why don’t more GMs show such gumption, they’ll cry!

Yes, selling out your future for six playoff wins so that your two most important players tell you to do one a couple weeks later than they were going to truly is foresight. It’s a wonder Jarmo isn’t a goddamn Vulcan. And when Duchene and Dzingel see Panarin and Bobrovsky fuck off, we’re sure they’ll be heavily tempted to commit their futures to a rest stop between known cultural centers of Cleveland and Cincinnati. Wonder how much longer Zach Werenski is going to want to commit to North Louisville after all that as well.

This is what you don’t get, Columbus. Once a college town, always a college town. Just because you’re strangely podunk and the home of an insurance company that keeps foisting Peyton Manning on the nation like a proud mother doesn’t mean you’re a destination. You go to Columbus, you stay for a few years, you get measurably dumber and then you move on to fix that. Those who stay around their college towns after graduation are always desperate and weird. If you’ve seen Buckeyes fans gather in Evanston or whatever Wrigleyville/Lincoln Park Date-Rape Palooza  bar they call home, you know of where we speak. It applies to the Jackets, too.

You needn’t sweat it. Your contemporaries the Minnesota Wild haven’t accomplished anymore than you. You two are what everyone thinks millennials are. Bad clothes, bad decisions, loud noises and few accomplishments. At least the Wild actually got a free agent or two to show up. And no, Nick Foligno wanting to stay doesn’t count. That’s more of a metaphor than you’re prepared to face right now.

Everything will be fine, you say. Cam Atkinson and his recent damn fine impression of Patrick Roy era Gabriel Landeskog  is still here. So’s Pierre-Luc Dubois. Josh Anderson and whatever brains didn’t leap out his ear thanks to McAvoy last night are too. Jones and Werenski. We’ve got a base. You sure do. Those 89 points that base will collect as they stare at whatever punter is in net wondering how that went in will be glorious. We’re sure you’re looking forward to it.

While the press lavish praise on Jarmo, because he gave them so much to write about, one has to ask if the truly brave call wouldn’t have been to cash in on Panarin and Bobrovsky for actual assets that will be around Ohio longer than until the keg goes dry. Perhaps something lasting instead of a cheap thrill and a parlor trick. These same writers will be doing “Was It All Worth It?” articles in March when the Jackets are five points out of a playoff spot. This will of course follow the “No One Believed In Us!” articles that come in November when the Jackets have the same five-game winning streak every team does.

No, the coach will still be a bullhorn, and his boring-ass style and hard-ass ways are going to get a lot more scrutiny when there are more losses than wins. And then one might wonder just how many more coaches Jarmo “Balls To The Walls” Kekalainen gets. And then won’t those make for some fun Athletic posts?

Face it Columbus, no one wants to be there. No matter what any player or team does it’ll be Page 2 behind which OSU running back showed up to spring practice in a Tesla. Oh wait, I think Urban Meyer is bending over again to show just how much this means to him. It doesn’t even matter that he’s not coaching anymore, he cares so damn much he’s killing himself out there!

You’re just a misplaced SEC town with the hillbillies to match, except you didn’t bother to include Nashville’s nightlife or music scene. You’re a jumping off point, and will always be leverage to get somewhere better. Which is just about everywhere. Rick Nash was only the first. He’ll hardly be the last. But hey, you’ve got a cannon, right?

Everything Else



Game 1 in Boston – Tonight, 6pm

Game 2 in Boston – Saturday, 7pm

Game 3 in Columbus – Tuesday, 6pm

Game 4  in Columbus – Thursday, 6:30

This wasn’t how it was supposed to go. And the Jackets aren’t even in this division! We’re not supposed to be here today! Hockey is weird and stupid but that’s kind of why we’re here. For the first time in their history, the Jackets will play games in May. Maybe just one, but it’ll happen. Can they keep the miracle run going? Let’s find out.

Goalies: Are four games enough to declare a former playoff-barfer suddenly a dynamo? That’s the question you’ll have to ask about Sergei Bobrovsky. He was very good against Tampa, after a so-so regular season, though thanks to the Jackets forecheck he didn’t have to do that much. Which probably should have been the plan all along. He never faced 35 shots in a game, and really in only Games 1 and 4 did he face what you would call anything close to an abundance of good chances. Those were the games he gave up three goals, so really this might depend more on what the Jackets make Bob do than what he does. The Bruins shouldn’t be that hard to hold to a reasonable amount of shots and chances, except for that one line. But that one line is an expert at moving the puck around quickly, which is where Bob’s athleticism kicks in. But he’ll have to toe that line of athleticism and losing his positioning. Basically, we don’t know shit here.

Amongst the Toronto wailing is that Tuukka Rask was marvelous against the Leafs, with a .928 over seven games. Rask’s playoff performance have become basically metronomic at this point, almost always in the mid-.920s if not better. He’s got a career .928 in the postseason. He may not steal a series, but he’s as sure a bet as there is left to not lose it, and the Jackets are going to have to work a hell of a lot harder here than they did against the very jumpy Vasilevskiy.

Defense: This comes down to how tinker-y and match-y up-y John Tortorella wants to get. The first round acted as a coming out party for Seth Jones and Zach Werenski, racking up nine points combined in four games. However, possession-wise, that pairing got kicked around a bit and not by the Lightning’s top line either. The natural inclination is to think that they’ll take on Bergeron’s line. Judging by what happened last round, that’s probably not the case. Strangely, it was David Savard and Scott Harrington who did the heavy lifting, and at least held their own. But if you trust those two against arguably the best line in hockey that is also playoff-proven, you go right ahead. I’ll be over here. Maybe it’s whether or not Jones and Werenski can do enough on the power play and against lesser and whether that cancels out Bergeron and Marchard against Savard and Harrington. I don’t know what a Dean Kukan is and I don’t care.

For Boston, they already know the plan here. The Jackets are going to do the same thing they did against Tampa, which is push their trap up the ice, try to get their forwards on the Bs defensemen as quickly as possible and bring da ruckus. The Lightning’s defense is pretty slow beyond Hedman, especially when Sergachev was having a nightmare. You’d think this would be a problem for Zdeno Chara and the tennis balls on the bottom of his skates, and maybe it will be. It just rarely seems to be. In theory this is why you have Moonface McAvoy and Torey Krug, as they can skate themselves out of trouble. But they also blow chunks in their own zone. Then again, they just survived a more skilled and better forward crop in the last round. Basically, we don’t know shit here.

Forwards: The Jackets forwards certainly were buzzing against Tampa, with that forecheck getting them the puck back below the circles and only requiring a pass or two for chances and goals. That’s clearly the plan here, and in transition and with things scramble-y that’s when Atkinson and Panarin and Anderson are lethal. You can’t catch back up to them and how quickly they can start moving the puck around. If the Bruins can keep things stable, the Jackets lack a little shot-creation, especially if Panarin isn’t in the mood to do it. There are grunts here who can scrum in a goal or two, but you can’t beat the Bruins if your top isn’t your top (not a sex joke).

The Bruins are one line and David Krejci. And yet that’s enough for 100+ point seasons and at least a round win. The Bs got contributions from Charlie Coyle and Joakim Nordstrom and the like, but those aren’t the things you can count on. Maybe they do, maybe they don’t, but it’s (Gorilla Monsoon voice) highly unlikely that Marchand and Bergeron and Pastrnak aren’t going to produce. And it’s hard to see a way that the Jackets stop them from doing that, even if they try and cut it off at the source by harassing the Boston D before they can get the puck up to them.

Prediction: This isn’t going to be easy for the Bruins, and the argument that the Jackets just dispatched a better team before we had time to fart into the couch is always lingering there. And as we’ve stressed a ton, it’s not like the Lightning didn’t have playoff pedigree. Their recent pedigree is actually better than the Bs. But I don’t trust Bob yet, and Rask is pretty much a rock. And that feels like it’ll be the biggest difference here. It’s just going to take a while.

Bruins in 6.

Everything Else


SCHEDULE: Game 1 Wednesday 6pm, Game 2 Friday 6pm, Game 3 Sunday 6pm, Game 4 April 16th 6pm

This is what happens when you’re the best—you get the first-round match-up that should be a breeze. There are of course reasons why it may not be a total incineration, but not only are the Lightning far and away the best team in the league, they’ve also been particularly adept at fucking with the Blue Jackets. I think we all know how this ends, but for the sake of argument, let’s take a closer look:

Goalies: It’s strange to start off saying Sergei Bobrovsky isn’t the better goalie in a match-up, but here we are. And in fact that’s not totally fair—Bob is still plenty good and is the most important player on the team (Panarin devotees, calm down). Aside from the loss to Boston a few days ago, he hasn’t had a game with a save percentage below .920 since mid-March, and he went 7-1 the last two weeks including throwing three shutouts. But those weren’t against the Ning. In fact, two came against non-playoff teams.

The issue isn’t just if Bobrovsky is talented enough to handle the Lightning’s obscene scoring ability—he could definitely make a run at that in a vacuum—but it’s whether he can do so despite getting rattled by this team this year and also if he can do so in the playoffs, where he’s typically struggled. Maybe if it were a more suspect goalie on the other side of the ice one would say yes, but Andrei Vasilevskiy is not suspect. Not only is his playoff record stronger (.919 SV%, 2.68 GAA vs. Bob’s .891 and 3.49), but he’s been outstanding his last couple games to boot (2-0, .944 SV% in April) without any of the drama that Bob & Co. have been dealing with to make it into the playoffs. Throw in the fact that getting pulled against Tampa back in January led to a tantrum from Bob and some resulting scratches, and it doesn’t bode well for Columbus. Yes, Bobrovsky can always steal a game and certainly gives you a chance on any given night, but with Vasilevskiy in goal there’s not much room for error.

Defense: The big news for the Lightning is that Victor Hedman is practicing, but if he’ll play or what level of brown brain he may have are still open questions. None of their other defensemen’s possession numbers are going to blow you away, and it’s been known all season that their defense isn’t otherworldly, but it doesn’t have to be thanks to the fact that their offense is. Remember, this team is actually playing Jan Rutta right now so that should tell you something.

But are the Jackets really any better? They give up fewer shots per game, and their PK is tied with the Lightning for best in the league (85%). So there’s certainly a case to be made, but it’s the quality of the offense they’re facing that’s going to make the difference. Can Zach Werenski and Seth Jones really handle either of the top two Tampa lines? You’d be forgiven for being skeptical. In their three games this season, no one could. The Jackets gave up 17 goals to the Lightning and it’s not like Tampa’s gotten worse over that time.

Forwards: Here’s where the Lightning are at their most ridiculous. You already know—the speed, the scoring ability, Kucherov with 128 points, Stamkos and Point with 98 and 92, respectively, yada yada yada. They’re fucking good. But what about so many Hawks fans’ wet dream, Artemi Panarin, with his 87 points? Sure, fine, whatever, but the Jackets just don’t have the scoring depth the Lightning have. No one does. The top line of Panarin, Cam Atkinson and Pierre-Luc Dubois are no bums or anything, and their numbers bear that out just fine (55 CF%, 57 GF%, 55.8 HDCF%), but there’s just not enough beyond them.

Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel have done basically jack shit since coming to Columbus, and sure, Oliver Bjorkstrand is on a streak right now with goals in nine of his last 10 games and a total of 23, but if that top line on the Jackets is shut down, they don’t have anyone to answer with. And once the record gets really lopsided and Panarin and Bob start thinking about that Florida sunshine and lack of income tax, their give-a-shit meters might just float away with their thoughts.

Prediction: I’m going to be very generous here and say that Bob steals one for the Jackets. Maybe Hedman can’t go, maybe the Lightning defense shits the bed a little too much, and maybe Panarin’s line has a big night. But they won’t get much more than one, so they better enjoy it. Lightning in 5.

Everything Else

It’s a phrase I’ve come to use a lot, because it sums up nicely when a person is doing all sorts of things to justify an opinion or sell something, as well as the fact I’m getting old and my brain basically has room for six phrases now. Anyway, this post isn’t to argue that the Hawks “won” the second Brandon Saad trade, just like I wouldn’t argue they “won” the first one either. Going back to “what you know” has cost the Hawks at various points over the last seven years or so, and while selling high on Artemi Panarin was not the worst idea (doing it to put your middle finger up to your coach probably isn’t the best justification though), the Hawks probably could have done better. Should have done better.

That doesn’t mean we don’t still love Brandon Saad, because we do. And that doesn’t mean Brandon Saad isn’t a very good player, because he is. It also might mean this trade isn’t quite as lopsided as you might think, at least for this year. Yes, we’re tossing Saad’s completely snake-bitten previous campaign, when he was good as well but just couldn’t get any puck into the net. We can do that because it’s our playground and we make the rules.

So anyway, on Twitter I’ve occasionally made the joke that Saad’s 23 goals are only two behind Panarin’s 25 because it’s fun to do so. Obviously, Saad is nowhere near Panarin’s 49 assists and at no point in his career will he be. He’s not a playmaker, nor was he brought here to be, and he’ll never get to 30 assists in a season, much less 45+. That’s just the way things are. The Hawks have playmakers, so whatever.

As you’ve probably guessed, we’ll look at this metrically. Even metrically, Panarin is beyond Saad. Overall, their Corsi% is 54.6 for Panarin and 53.9 for Saad. Their expected goals percentage is 55.0% for Panarin, and 46.8% for Saad, who clearly is suffering at least a little from the historically bad defense behind him.

But the curious thing here is that there isn’t a player in the league who starts more shifts in the offensive zone than Panarin. Which is weird, because when he was here one of the things Q loved about him was his attention to detail in the defensive zone. Either he has stopped caring, or John Tortorella is being unreasonable (unheard of, I know), but 81% of Panarin’s shifts start in the offensive zone. Now, most top line players will start a majority of shifts there, because that’s where you want them. But 81% is excessive. Meanwhile, Saad starts almost exactly half his shifts there at 51%.

Now, even amongst the most sheltered, Panarin’s relative-stats still are clearly above the rest. He’s +6 in relative Corsi per 60 and +8 in relative-scoring chances, and no one else in the top-10 in offensive zone starts is anywhere near that. Which stands to reason, because if you keep a player like Panarin exclusively in the offensive zone, he’s likely to stay there and make things happen.

Still, if you look around Saad’s neighborhood of zone starts (he’s 303rd, so the 10 spots ahead and the 10 spots below), there are only two players doing his level of work in relative-Corsi. And they’re Ryan Getzlaf (what?) and William Karlsson. In relative scoring chance percentage, only Jakub Voracek, Getzlaf, and Jonathan Huberdeau are outdoing Saad’s +2.48 per 60. Those are nice names for the most part, and suggest that Saad and his linemates are turning the ice over at a higher rate than most of those asked to do it as much. Whereas Panarin already has the ice tilted for him.

Now, I couldn’t begin to tell you what Saad’s numbers would look like if he started 70% of his shifts in the offensive zone. They wouldn’t be Panarin’s numbers, but they would be more than he’s put up. I also can’t tell you what his numbers would look like if he had more than one d-man behind him who was of a higher quality than NHL third-pairing, but why don’t we just steal Seth Jones and find out? For funsies?

Again, would never argue that the Hawks won this trade or all that close. It’s just closer than you might think, and also might look better when Panarin cashes in for $11M per year from the Rangers in the summer. I mean, if Mark Stone is making $9.5M…

Everything Else

Due to the Hawks’ schedule and personal, I haven’t gotten around to summing up what went on during the trade deadline. So we’ll get to it now. The trade deadline is always a weird portion of the schedule, especially when your team (rightly) sits it out altogether. There are only a few teams that should participate, but yet too many can’t help themselves. So we’ll just go through this team-by-team of those who are trying to make noise in the spring. As for the sellers, we honestly won’t know how they did until the picks are made and the prospects come up.


Boston – Boston’s problem is obvious to everyone. It’s that they suck when Patrice Bergeron is not on the ice. They haven’t had anyone top play with David Krejci in like three years. And yet, Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson aren’t it. These are third-line players, not second-line ones. Charlie Coyle spent what seemed like a decade tantalizing Wild fans with what he could be, but he remained a player where the idea of him is far greater than the reality. The only thing I remember him doing there is getting his face in the way of Duncan Keith‘s stick. Maybe he’s a winger, maybe he’s a center, but no one seems to know, including Coyle. Johansson is a great checking line player, which is probably a good thing to have when the first thing you’re going to see in the playoffs is the arsenal in blue, but you’ll also need to score a bit. And here’s a secret no one wants to mention…the Bruins’ blue line isn’t any good. Charlie McAvoy is always pointed the wrong way and Torrey Krug has always been a glorified Erik Gustafsson. Sure, it’s maybe enough to get past the Leafs again simply of the voodoo sign they hold over them. But it’s not enough to not get flattened by Tampa. So really, what was the point of all this?

Toronto – They made their move early, which was Jake Muzzin. And he’s fine. He’s mostly a product of playing with Drew Doughty, but he’s better than what they had. The Leafs will go as far as they score…until Freddy Andersen turns into cold urine again when it counts. Their ceiling is also being turned into goo by Tampa.

Pittsburgh – How do you top signing Jack Johnson to an actual free agent contract? You trade for Erik Gudbranson, who is Canadian Jack Johnson. They’re gonna miss the playoffs on the back of these two, and the comparisons to the Hawks will only get stronger.

Carolina – Again, they moved early, which was to get Nino Neiderreiter, who has only been a perfect Hurricane his entire career. Underrated, fast, skilled forward who is just short of top-line material. The league office should have engineered his move there like years ago just to have everything in its right place. His 15 points in 17 games prove this. I don’t know how much longer they’ll get goaltending from Curtis McElhinney, but this team can absolutely come out of the division if their metrics carry over and the goalie doesn’t keel over. In some ways the worst team they could play in the first round is the Islanders, who shrink everything down to a bounce or two. They’re going to take Columbus’s run that they so desperately need.

Columbus – The one worth talking about. I don’t really know what the Jackets’ place in Columbus is really like. They’ve never been whispered to be in trouble, they seem to sell enough tickets, and they’re the only professional game in town. So when they say they need to have a run for the fanbase, I wonder. Then again, they’ve never had one, so at some point you have to before you become the Cubs without any of the story or ballpark. And yet I kind of can’t wait for it to blow up.

Panarin and Bobrovsky have already checked out, though the former at least seems interested enough to keep his dollars up from the Panthers. Bob has been a shithead all season, and he just got lit up by the Penguins in a game the Jackets really needed. Doesn’t exactly bode well for the spring. Matt Duchene has benefitted his entire career from being on teams where someone has to do the scoring. You can have him. Ryan Dzingel is Ryan Hartman 2.0. They’re fine if you’re counting on them for depth, and if Panarin, Atkinson, Dubois, Anderson do most of the lifting, that’s what they’ll be. But does it matter if your goalie put up an .896 in the first round?


Nashville – I hate the Mikael Granlund move, because it’s a good one and I have a strong distaste for the Preds. Granlund wasn’t quite up to being the guy in St. Paul, especially when Koivu and Parise started putting tennis balls on the bottom of their skates. He doesn’t really have to be in Nashville where Filip Forsberg lives, though someone is going to have to pick up the ball when Ryan Johansen is stuck at the pregame spread during Game 5. Wayne Simmonds remains one of the dumber players in the league and now he’s slow and old, and he’ll take a wonderfully selfish penalty against the Jets at some point that will cost them a game. It doesn’t fix what their problems are enough.

Winnipeg – Something is in the water (or ice) in Manitoba, where the Jets can’t get right. It’s nothing that Connor Hellebuyck returning to form won’t fix, but without a fully functional Dustin Byfuglien they do lack a puck-mover (and even he’s iffy). It’s not Trouba’s or Morrissey’s game, and Tyler Myers is only one in his own head. This was something of their problem against Vegas last year, they couldn’t escape that forecheck at times. That still seems to be a problem, but it probably won’t keep them from winning the division and I don’t see either Nashville or St. Louis going in there and winning twice to move on.

Vegas – You’re going to pay Mark Stone $9.5M, huh? Mark Stone, who is about to cross 30 goals for the first time in his career when everyone is doing so? It’s amazing that George McPhee only needed two years to chew up a completely blank salary cap structure, but here we are. The Knights are still fast and annoying, but it matters less when MAF isn’t putting up a .930 to cover for a defense that just isn’t that good. Even with their goalie problems, the Sharks are putting this down in no more than six games and next year the Knights are going to start to slink to the land of wind and ghosts.

San Jose – Gustav Nyquist doesn’t play goalie. So that’s weird. Maybe Doug Wilson was worried about poisoning Martin Jones‘s stay beyond this year if he were to demote him by trading for a goalie. But the Sharks are all in on this year and this year only. Joe Thornton is going to retire. We don’t know if Erik Karlsson is staying, and he if he goes they’re just a fine team instead of a really good one. All this team needs is someone who doesn’t light his face on fire in net and they would basically waylay everyone in the West. And I’m on record as saying Jones comes alive in the playoffs, but I have nothing to lose if he doesn’t. The Sharks have everything to lose. And if the Sharks pull this off, we’ll get a flood of idiots saying you don’t need a goalie to win the Cup, a myth which the 2010 Hawks drilled into everyone’s head for far too many years (even when they won two more on the back of Crawford).

Everything Else

All stats from,, and

Since going 10-2-0 in the last 12, there’s been more swagger and flexing about the Hawks’s playoff prospects. If the Hawks win tonight against the Avs and Sunday against the Stars—two of four teams directly above them in the wild card race—they can more firmly entrench themselves in a wild card spot. If nothing else, this run has been fun.

But as we’ve talked about ad nauseum, none of the numbers flesh out a team that you would think should even be sniffing the playoffs. Their current-22 goal differential would be the worst among playoff teams by far, and it’s an improvement over what it was earlier. Since December 18, which is when the power play first started taking off, the Hawks have had a +13 goal differential, which is pretty good. Prior to that, it was -35. In four of their last five, they’ve allowed at least four goals, including four to Detroit and seven (fucking seven) to Ottawa.

Even if you only look at the stats beginning around the time when everything started getting hot (December 18; 16-7-3 since then), shit isn’t pretty.

  • They’re second worst in 5v5 CF% since that time, ahead of only New Jersey.
  • Their high-danger CF% of 39.70 is deadass last in the league, behind even the woeful Kings (42.36) and Ducks (43.97).
  • Their scoring chances for percentage (SCF%) is worst in the league at 43.33.
  • Their shots on goal for percentage (SF%) is second worst in the league at 46.31, ahead of only the Edmonton Oilers, who are less a hockey team and more a Big Brothers of America for adults that Connor McDavid is not allowed to opt out of.
  • In that time, Delia and Ward have posted a .920 SV% between the two of them at 5v5, which is excellent albeit unsustainable (given the horrid shot totals), and .908 overall, which is fine.

These are just a few of the stats that indicate that the Hawks should be a lottery team rather than in the thick of a playoff run.

So why the fuck is there a whisper from none other than Elliotte Friedman that the Hawks could go after Artemi Panarin as a rental?

At the top, let’s be clear: Friedman himself admits that that would make absolutely no sense whatsoever and it’s just what he heard. Anyone who’s watched this team since the middle of December can tell you that the Hawks aren’t hurting for offense. Since December 18, the Hawks have the best PP% by far and the second-most total goals (105 vs. the Sharks’s 111). They’ll have three 30-goal scorers (maybe four if Saad keeps his pace up) and likely two 40-goal scorers in Top Cat and Garbage Dick. If anything has worked, it’s been the offense.

This infatuation with Artemi Panarin, especially as the deadline approaches, is the most asinine thing I’ve seen since Stan Bowman signed Brandon Manning to a 2-year, $2.25 million per deal last summer.

Generally speaking, I get the desire. Panarin was awesome while he was with the Hawks. He was fun on the ice and in 2015–16 helped launch the Hawks to the best PP% they’ve ever had since The Core conglomerated. He’s currently on pace for 80–85 points, which would make an already dangerous Top 6 for the Hawks even more deadly. As Sam has said (and I’m starting to admit myself), the Hawks lost that Panarin–Saad trade, even if Saad is still good. But what can Panarin do for them on offense right now that Alex DeBrincat isn’t already doing? I get that you can never have enough scorers, but at what cost?

Assume Columbus is willing to send Panarin to Chicago for the right package. What does that look like? You have to figure DeBrincat is absolutely in there. They’ll likely want top-end prospects, like Strome, Boqvist, Beaudin, Harju, and (not or) Barratt. Maybe you can convince them to swap Boqvist or Harju for Gustafsson; the specifics aren’t terribly important. What is relevant is that if you want Panarin at the deadline, there’s no way you’re getting him and keeping DeBrincat and at least two of your top prospects.

That would be moving backward or, at best, standing still, because DeBrincat has been close to if not better than Panarin at scoring this year. DeBrincat has more goals than Panarin, both total (33 vs. 24) and on the power play (10 vs. 6), with just five more games played. He has more power play points total than Panarin (21 vs. 14). Panarin bests him in assists (43 vs. 28) and total points (67 vs. 61). Although Panarin’s possession numbers are pristine, if you think those would carry over in Chicago, then I’m the wallet inspector.

Panarin would be a fantastic piece on a team that isn’t allowing 35+ shots per game. As fun as this run is, it’s exceedingly unlikely that the Hawks can outscore their defensive woes against teams with real goaltenders and defensive schemes, as we’ve seen in the losses against Columbus and Boston. And that’s all Panarin would really provide: a hope that he can outscore the mistakes the blue line constantly makes. Are you willing to bet DeBrincat plus prospects, picks, and probably more on a run that, in any other year, would have the Hawks out of a playoff spot by 10 points or more? I’m not. This playoff run is fun, but you don’t go chasing Panarin for it, especially not for the price he’d likely command in top-line talent and prospects.

Once this Russian Roulette playoff farce ends, we’ll have all the time in the world to talk about signing Panarin as a free agent. I’ll preface those discussions with a hardline “No, thank you,” at least until the Hawks have exhausted all options at a top-4 D-man, whether that’s through a signing (EK65), a trade (Dougie, Hampus), or miracle development from Boqvist and Beaudin.

This team is still closer to bad than good, and Panarin doesn’t move the needle enough, especially not now. They need a top-4 D-man or two. They either need Delia to step back up, Crawford to step back in, or continue to get a .920+ from Ward. None of those things involve Panarin. So, ride this out with what you’ve got, try to trade guys like Artie and Hayden, and if the NHL’s blob of mediocrity pushes the Hawks above it all and into the playoffs like the overripe zit they are, that’s gravy.

The confidence is fun. The swagger is fun. This whole run is fun. But it’s all in the context of how awful October, November, and most of December were. When you look at the difference between then and now, it’s easy to mistake a cock ring for a 36-inch chain.

Everything Else

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

Corsica was broken tonight, probably by this game

The Hawks schedule in February was always favorable because while they are certainly not a good hockey team, they aren’t really close talent-wise to being one of the worst in the NHL. When you have Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews and Alex DeBrincat and Brandon Saad and Dylan Strome all having good seasons, you’re not gonna bottom out, even if I in particular thought doing so was the best route. The blue line is still garbage and the system that Colliton is running is getting them torched in their own zone nightly, but they still can’t be one of the worst teams.

That being said, nothing is in place to stop them from playing down to the competition, and while the scoreline might indicate a fun and exciting hockey game, I felt more like I was watching a horrific game that was trying to get me to love it. Hence, the title of this wrap. Let’s just get to the bullets.

– So, in the interest of full disclosure, I missed the first period live (lost track of time), but caught up on the highlights in the intermission. What I saw was a lot of capitalization by the goal scoring team on bad plays from the opponent or a lucky bounce on just about every play. The first Sens goal was just piss poor on Delia, another example of how he still isn’t quite in franchise goaler territory yet. Sure it was on the PP, but it was one he needed to have. The second Sens goal was just dumb luck as the Hawks were caught with the pants at their ankles on defensive transition. Just about every Hawks goal save for DeBrincats PP tally was the same. It was just ugly hockey and bad goaltending, and it got disguised by the puck finding the net. If most of those pucks stay out, we would’ve been talking about a truly boring, awful hockey game after 20 minutes.

– The rest of the game mad a bit more sense, but it was still not good on either side. Carl Dahlstrom got absolutely toasted by Thomas Chabot in the third period before Cam Ward gave up a pathetic short-side goal. Neither team’s blue line could fight their way out of their own defensive zone if it was a wet paper sack. It was just bad. At least the score made it kind of interesting, I guess.

– With all that being said, there was still some positivity to be found here too, but nothing really new. Top Cat is still really good at scoring goals. Dylan Strome continues to flash the tools that most scouts thought would compensate for his skating – his goal was such a perfect example of his instincts, “hockey IQ,” and soft hands. Those two specifically are really onto something, and it lets Colliton skull fuck the other team with Toews and Kane together.

– And boy, those two dudes can play together. I know that Q didn’t like relying on them together for the sake of balance and making it harder on the other teams, but it kind of looks like a feather in Colliton’s hat to be doing it so much. I don’t really think it’s much of a coincidence that they’re both having near-career years while spending so much time together. And it doesn’t even matter who is on the other wing, as long as they can stand up straight and hold their dick at a urinal, which Drake Caggiula is appearing to be capable of.

– So if I can stand on a soapbox here and use my conclusion on this wrap to make a point, here it is. You have two killer duos running your top two lines, with high skilled playmaking centers clearing the way for even higher skilled play making goal scorers who are usually the best player on the ice when they’re out there. Plus Saad’s had a resurgent year, and Kahun has been good, and you still might have something in Sikura, Kampf, Caggiula, and if you’re lucky one or two of the guys in Rockford. And people still want this team to re-sign Artemi Panarin to “shore up the top six” because there are “no good defensive options.” Motherfucker, if you went to liquor store for Zombie Dust and they didn’t have any, are you really gonna blow your money on Bud Light because you had a good time with it in college? No, you find another fucking way to get your Zombie Dust, bitch. So fuck off with this Panarin shit. Thanks.

– What a stupid win. What a stupid game. What a stupid month. What a stupid team. Stupid, all of it, but still intriguing. I guess that’s all we can really ask.