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The outcome may not have gone the Hawks’s way, but that was the most exciting game I’ve watched since the first two. There’s more than enough to take away from this one, so let’s get to it.

– We’ll start with Victor Ejdsell. For a guy whose first game saw him on the top line between Saad and Kane against a team still fighting for home ice advantage, he looked utterly pristine. We were worried about his skating, but Ejdsell assuaged our fears with a long albeit syrupy stride. He had a quick one-on-one with Jones early in the first that he got nervous on, forgoing a wrister to try to get closer and finish with a weak backhand. But outside of that hiccup, his first period was close to flawless.

He finished the first with a stunning 61+ CF% (26.05 CF% Rel) and a couple of good passes and set ups. He ended the game with a strong 51+ CF (12.59 CF% Rel) and didn’t have any huge diaper shittings. It’s only one game, but Ejdsell impressed me, especially with his passing. The only time I saw him plop in front of the net was during the first period PP, but otherwise, he maneuvered around in the high slot most of the time, looking to make plays. He’s someone to watch over the next five games, as he has the look of something useful.

– Speaking of useful, wouldn’t it be useful if fourth liner Alex DeBrincat would forgo his gritty bodychecking ways and just commit to scoring? The fact that he’s on the fourth line is a continuous personal affront, but hey, he set up the game tying goal there. I sometimes worry that Q putting him on the third and fourth lines will sour DeBrincat down the line, but I’m probably just projecting. Top Cat was outstanding with his passing and positioning as usual, but perhaps most impressive was a sequence late in the third.

After losing his stick, DeBrincat was bothersome until he read the puck as just unplayable enough in his own zone. He streaked to the bench, got a new stick, started a rush up the ice, and nearly scored on the play. And he’s only 20. Once he eats a few more sandwiches with Dylan Sikura, he’s going to be a force.

– I’m always going to be a curmudgeon about people who say that the Hawks miss Hjalmarsson and that Connor Murphy just isn’t up to snuff. Tonight was strictly a peep show for me, as Murphy was outright ruthless in all aspects of play. His CF% was a robust 52+ (15.12 CF% Rel), he scored a goal with a UNITY slapper, and he was far and away the most positively noticeable Hawks D-man on the ice. Don’t let Pat “Let Me Sound Out My O-Face Over Hits Unless Connor Murphy Does It” Foley fool you: Hertl’s goal ought to be laid at the feet of Gustafsson—who both misread the pass out of his oZ then couldn’t read Murphy covering for him—and Forsberg, who was wedgied by Hertl all alone.

And Murphy found himself playing with Gustafsson most of the game, which makes sense to me. Gustafsson—despite all the shit we give him—DOES have offensive instincts, and with Murphy’s burgeoning confidence, I can see this pairing working in the long term, provided Gustafsson makes at least some effort at defensive responsibility. It’s not perfect, but it makes sense on paper. And hey, Gustafsson led the team with a 57+ CF% tonight against a team rate of 43+, so you’ll take it.

– Aside from the Hertl goal, Forsberg looked decent. As always, he looked behind himself more often than a professional goalie should, but I’m always going to have a hard time being mad at him. The first goal was the result of Rutta playing “don’t touch the lava” in the blue paint, trying to cheat toward the far side of the net to cut off Hansen, who was covered pretty well by Oesterle, leaving Sorensen a gaping goal mouth on the near side. The second was off a faceoff win by the Hawks in the oZ, which then saw Seabrook turn the win over to Boedker, who passed to Shitty Kane #2, who then made Seabrook look like John Daly stumbling down a bunker to look for either his ball or a cigarette butt with a pull left on it, whichever requires less effort.

– Ragging on Seabrook these days is like shouting at the wind, but holy shit did he look like a bag of chewed cuticles tonight. He finished with a 28+ CF% at 5v5, and that’s WITH Keith. Keith himself had a 27+ CF%. I get the temptation to put the band back together, but Seabrook sucks and Keith isn’t the “America Runs on Duncan” Keith that’s a surefire first-ballot Hall of Famer anymore. If you’ve ever lamented the fact that you’ll be long dead before the sun burns out, just watch these two play together. It’s the same fucking thing. These two simply cannot play together next year if the Hawks want anything to do with a playoff run.

– Brandon Saad seems to be in the throes of a relative Renaissance. Paired with Ejdsell and Kane, he was aggressive and his passing was crisp. He fed Ejdsell a couple of prime chances, and finished with a Hawks-forward-leading 55+ CF%.

– Vinnie’s confidence continues to grow as well. He finished with a 53+ CF% and put on a one-man show in the third period, juking and jiving through defenders for a clean shot that Jones managed to stop. Fels said it earlier this month: We might have a Top 6 forward on our hands here.

Yes, the Hawks lost, but the younger guys looked good doing it. If Ejdsell can keep up what he did tonight, I would love to see him anchoring the third or fourth line next year, depending on what Kampf and/or Sikura end up being. Call me romantic, but I think there’s hope yet for this team.

Beer du Jour: Boulder Beer – Shake Chocolate Porter.  One of the best porters I’ve had in a while.

Line of the Night: “The Blackhawks won the first period, no question. That should have been a 3, 4–1 period for the Blackhawks.” –Burish during the second intermission, despite the Hawks posting a 43+ CF% and a 2/7 high-danger Corsi For percentage (i.e., the Hawks had two high-danger shots to the Sharks’s five)

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We’ll talk about how the numbers say the Hawks should have won this game. We’ll look at three goals that Forsberg had no shot on and wonder. We’ll take long-term solace in the fact that most of the younger assets looked good again tonight. But at the end of it all, the Canucks were a $100 gift card that the Hawks carelessly threw in the trash. To the bullets.

– Let’s start with the positives. Toews played an inspiring game for most of the night. He was everywhere in the first and assisted on Top Cat’s teaser in the third period. He drew two penalties, one on a good read followed by some much missed speed, and the second by dancing then brute forcing his way past Troy Stecher. We may have to come to terms with the fact that his 10% shooting percentage might be what he is now, but at least he was positively noticeable tonight.

–Even more comforting was that when Q decided to hit the blender in the third, he kept the Top Cat–Toews–Duclair line together, as he should.

– When the Jurco–Kampf–Vinnie line was together, they were by far the Hawks’s most effective line. Whether that’s because they’re so fast or because the underbelly of the Canucks is so soft is grounds for debate, but they dominated all night. Jurco and Kampf finished with respective CF%s of 75 and 78+(!) at 5v5, while Vinnie, with his bouncing around at the end, ended up with a healthy 60. Kampf looked to double shift a bit in the third too. It’s hard to shake the idea that Kampf could quietly develop into a strong bottom six defensive center, and aside from maybe Toews, he was the best Hawk out there tonight.

– The PP didn’t score again, because by this point it’s obvious what whoever is in charge of it simply slams six Steel Reserve Tall Boys, drops five tabs of acid, shoves the ass-end of a paintbrush as far up his urethra as he can, then humps a wall until he crashes. That said, the triangle of Seabrook, Kane, and Vinnie created a few good chances during the second PP in the second period. But chances aren’t good enough at this point.

– The Saad–Schmaltz–Kane line got completely domed in possession. At some point, we’re going to have to talk about what’s eating Brandon Saad. To this point, the underlying numbers have been good, which has been a fallback defense for the lack of scoring. But tonight’s effort was wanting.

– Seabrook–Gustafsson was on the ice for two goals, and Seabrook looked egregiously bad on Gaunce’s second goal. Seabrook had a 0 CF% through the first and managed to settle at a team low 35% at 5v5. What’s most frustrating is that Gustafsson might be a really good passer and a passable third-pairing guy. His CF% WITH Seabrook at 5v5 was a paltry 40, but away from him, it was 63+. But we’ve been here time and time again. It’s no use shouting for Seabrook to sit, because really, what else do they have? Forsling? Franson? Slava fucking Voynov? Six more years.

– Ryan Hartman didn’t see many, if any, shifts after his tripping penalty on whichever Sedin submitted his Oscar clip in the second. It hasn’t been a good few weeks for the former first rounder. But then again, what exactly is it that his line, with Anisimov and Wingels tonight, is supposed to do?

– Tough break for Forsberg, who looked good early. The first goal was on him, with Oesterle deferring to the passing lane. You’ll usually take even a backup goalie one on one against Gaunce, but Forsberg let it slip by. But from then on, it was the same old shit, with an unfortunate redirect, a tip, and Brent Seabrook dropping his pants and pissing in the crease doing him in.

– Off the ice, I loved listening to Eddie during the intermissions. He was no bullshit about not letting this game get away, and it was nice to hear.

– At the beginning of the second, Foley practically fell victim to the vapors as he tripped over himself to say how much he liked Bettman’s stance on goalie interference. For those who missed it, Bettman commented about how referees need to trust their instincts and “watch the replay at full speed” instead of slow motion. If that’s really what Bettman thinks, then what’s the fucking point of the goalie-interference replay in the first place? Isn’t watching at full speed and trusting your instincts precisely what referees do for a living? Fuck off, Gary, you no-responsibility-taking wet fart.

This was a game the Hawks had to have, and they filled their diapers. But DeBrincat and Schmaltz scored pretty goals, Kampf led all players in possession at 5v5, Kempný and Murphy led the possession share for Hawks D-men at 5v5, and away from Seabrook, Gustafsson was good. If the Hawks make the playoffs, it will be on a wing and a prayer, but the future isn’t as terribly bleak as the present looks.

Onward.

Beer du Jour: Tommyknocker Imperial Nut Brown, then High Life.

Line of the Night: “Unlucky break halfway up the guy’s shaft.” –Steve Konroyd, describing a shot in the second period, I assume.

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And with that, the preseason is finally over, with the Hawks closing the festivities out with an unconvincing 1–0 victory against a collection of strokes and scabs that probably won’t find themselves near the ice in the near future. To the bullets.

-Let’s get it out of the way early: Brent Seabrook looked like a soiled diaper that had been left out in the sun. When he wasn’t getting blown past by AHLers, he was futzing around with janky passes in his own zone. Throughout the game, Crawford got a better look at his face than his ass, which is neigh on impossible to do these days. Yet here we are. He ended the game with a 27.91 CF%, which was positively immaculate compared to his 1st period CF% of 15.38, which I didn’t know was a real thing. He was also on the ice for 7 of Boston’s 13 high-danger chances. The only player who was on the ice for more high-danger changes was Forsling, with 9. Would you like to guess whom he was paired with most of the game?

-At least we got to see Crow do what Crow does. He looked a little like Bizzaro Brodeur behind the net early on with a few fumbles, but when the Bruins put the heat on in the 2nd, he stood tall with 16 saves. He ended 38/38, and while the shutout is somewhat expected given the quality of the opponent, that he had to make 33 saves at evens doesn’t induce any swelling in the loins.

-It took a while, but Kempný settled in after a less-than-impressive 1st period. One thing I noticed in the 1st and 2nd was that Kempný liked to skate the puck into the zone with power, but when he got halfway through the circle, he’d sort of freeze, as if to say, “What am I doing here?” A bit more time and a positive outcome or two should shake what looks like tentativeness out of his system.

-It figures that the Hawks would win it on a PP after spending most of the game not doing much on it. On cue, Kane hit Sharp with a cross-ice pass, but when you really look at it, it was a much harder play than it seemed. Kane saucered the pass through the “royal road,” which is the area between the circles from the goal line to the top of the circles. The idea is that passes through the royal road force goalies to move laterally, opening up a lot of holes to shoot at. But what was truly impressive was that Sharp was on his off side, meaning he had to pull the shot back to flick it over Khudobin’s shoulder. All around, really impressive.

-If they want to make Bouma–Kero–Hayden a thing, I’d be OK with that. Aside from a stupid run that led to a near odd-man rush, Bouma was decently responsible in his own zone. Kero seems to rove a bit much for my liking in his own zone.

-The PK looked good. I primarily saw Kempný–Rutta and Keith–Murphy. The forward pairings were consistent, with Schmaltz–Kero, Hartman–Artie the One-Man Party, Saad–Toews, and even Bouma–Hayden.

-Speaking of The Brain, Hayden might have played himself onto the roster. He was aggressive without being stupid, and I really, really like how well he’s skated.

-I kept looking for the hinge on Toews’s stick, because he had some trouble corralling the puck early on. But he and Saad jelled more and more as the game went on, with several high-quality chances.

-Panik, on the other hand, looked lost out there, going so far as to take a temper-tantrum cross-checking penalty after something called Rob O’Gara, whose name I’m certain is nothing more than a fat-fingered registrar’s typo, horsed him on a one-on-one.

-Rutta looked decent. He had one egregious turnover in his own zone late in the 3rd, but was fine otherwise. Murphy looked a touch worse than him before coming down with a case of “this is boring” or whatever it was that happened to him.

-Alex DeBrincat didn’t put any numbers up tonight, but looked good for the most part. He had a good block in the 1st, looked confident in the neutral zone throughout, and had a good sequence in the 3rd, nearly tipping a shot in and then drawing a penalty. He had a bad turnover on that PP, but it ended up not mattering. He ought to make the team out of the preseason.

-I never want to see Forsling–Seabrook behind Sharp–Schmaltz–Kane on purpose again. Every time it happened, it was a personal affront to proper theology and geometry.

Beer du jour: Zombie Dust

Line of the night: “Sharp looks absolutely fantastic.” –Steve “Stars in My Eyes” Konroyd.

Onward. . .

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20232_king-of-hearts vs evil empire

Game Time: 7:00PM Central
TV/Radio: CSN+, NBCSN, SportsNet, WGN-AM 720
Hollywood Bowl: JFTC, Royal Half

On paper, it’s surprising that what’s become very clear as the vocal majority of Hawks fans aren’t more nakedly jealous of Kings fans. With basically an equal amount of success as the Hawks, Kings fans have been able to enjoy the organization from management to players being unrepentant pieces of since the summer of 2012 (when Drew Doughty was also accused of sexual assault and no one even to this day still seems to give a shit about) without having to mansplain themselves to Social Justice Warriors out to ruin the good times of white men everywhere.

Whether that’s a function of no one giving a fuck about the Kings on a national level even after winning two of the last four cups and leading their division for most of this year, or that Kings fans as a whole merely think it’s funny when it happens to other people without the slightest bit of self-reflection, their loyalty remains largely unquestioned to this point. The option of being able to enjoy their shit SPORTS franchise in uninterrupted complacency without being made to ask larger questions is certainly an option most would take.