Everything Else

vs.

RECORDS: Hawks 28-30-9    Stars 35-27-5

PUCK DROP: 7pm

TV: NBCSN Chicago

WE ARE STARDUST: Defending Big D

I used to think that the elimination of the Circus Trip and Ice Show, and not having a road trip longer than three or four games, would be a boon to the Hawks. But looking over the recent schedule, you can see why the players are not exactly pleased with how things shake out. They just came back from a West swing, one they’ll have to do again in another week or two, were home for one game before bouncing down to Texas, then back home for just one before a Canadian swing, and then back home for just two before bouncing out again. Of course, this would matter more if the games did…which they don’t.

Anyway, the schedule says the Hawks have to provide the opposition for the Stars tonight. There they’ll find a Stars team that is starting to bunker into the playoff spots. They’re four up on the Coyotes and are only three points behind the Blues for the last automatic spot in the Central. They’ve done that by winning six of their last eight, five of them in regulation, including being the only ones to remember it’s still the St. Louis Blues after all and beating them twice in that stretch. They’ve shut out the Rangers and Avalanche back-to-back at home, so this isn’t exactly the time to catch them.

It’s not like the Stars have cracked some code or radically changed how they play. They’ve just benefitted from Ben Bishop (THE BISHOP!) shooting lightning bolts out of his arse. THE BISHOP! threw a .936 at the world in February, and is at .989 in March so far, having conceded one goal in three games. The injury layoff has done him some good, obviously.

The Stars have mimicked what the Wild have done the past couple seasons. They’re not a good possession team when it comes to attempts, but as you move up the charts in terms of quality of attempts the Stars get better and better. They’re just about even in scoring-chance share, and then just a tick under 52% in high danger chance share. They’ll let you have it to the outside, but you can’t quite get to the middle on them.

The Stars have moved wunderkind Miro Heiskanen with John Klingberg and they take all the offensive responsibility while the bottom two pairings take turns manning the bunker. While they tried to use the acquisition of Mats Zuccarello to spread out some scoring, he lasted a period and a half before something went CRACK! on him. So even though Seguin and Benn are on separate lines now, they still do the heavy lifting here with assistance from Alex Radulov.

For the Hawks, the chance of a real clunker feel tangible. They weren’t very good against the Sabres but got away with it, and now you have this one game trip in a season that’s lost. You could see where weariness would combine with carelessness and against a team with it all still to play for, it’s not hard to envision where it gets ugly. Corey Crawford will do his best to keep it from doing so. Would guess the lines look pretty much the same as Thursday, which means they’ll be a mishmash because John Hayden sucks and won’t skate with Toews and Saad for more than five minutes. Maybe Sikura slots back in for Kunitz or Hayden, but…whatever.

Keep on keepin’ on…

 

Game #68 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

 vs. 

RECORDS: Hawks 30-33-8   Sabres 22-36-12

PUCK DROP: High Noon

TV: WGN, NHL Network outside the 606

FIGHTING ON ARRIVAL: Die By The Blade

I’ll start this one with a story about what this one feels like. Many years ago, I was sitting in an OTB with my father and Freddie The Beard, something of a Chicago pool room legend now. Both avid horseplayers, as was I. Arlington ran a race with four horses, apprentice jockeys, on the turf. Freddie, never one for subtlety, turned to Tribune Horse Racing columnist Dave Feldman (at the time probably something like 138 years old) who happened to be sitting in the same room, and yelled, “Hey Feldman! Use your connections to get us more of ‘dis! We like ‘dis! Four horse race with the apprentice jockeys…on the turf!”

That’s how I feel about this one. This is a game going on because the schedule says it has to. No one particularly wants to watch it (and I’d be surprised if more than a few didn’t want to play it), and yet here we are because this is where we are. Hawks-Sabres. Saturday afternoon. March 17th. This is what we chose.

Both of these teams have dreams of Rasmus Dahlin, though the Sabres’s is much more likely. They are marooned to the bottom of the NHL standings, and really only the Coyotes are keeping them company down there. It has been nothing short of a disaster in a season when they were supposed to start to at least maybe think about considering taking a step forward in their rebuild.

It’s hard to know where to start. The goaltending has sucked, as it will tend to do when leaning on Chad Johnson and Robin Lehner. The defense has sucked because it was based on Rasmus Ristolainen playing like a top pairing d-man and quite frankly he’s never nor will he ever be that, despite some early season flashes. It had Zach Bogosian and Justin Falk and Jake McCabe as well at times, so you can guess what kind of smell that created night after night. The forwards lacked punch, as Eichel and Okposo have missed time and there’s just not much else. Sam Reinhart is still finding his feet, and also trying to figure out which Reinhart he is. Benoit Pouliot and Jason Pominville are either old, simply plugs, or both. It is not an inspiring bunch.

Because of that, and the moves at the deadline that saw Fuck Head Kane The Younger amongst others moved along, the Sabres are turning more and more over to the kids. Bailey, Baptiste, Eichel, Reinhart, Rodrigues, Guhle, and Ristolainen are all players that are under 25 that will kick into the lineup when healthy. The Sabres are going to find out what they have, because it’ll be good info and also will give them the best chance to end up with another Rasmus. You can never have too many Rasmuses (Rasmi?)

For today, both Eichel and Okposo look like they won’t make the bell coming off an ankle sprain and brown brain, respectively. Which means the outfit the Hawks will see today is decidedly punchless. Ryan O’Reilly is simply doing miraculous work as the only forward who’s been above water in his underlying numbers, and he also murders the Hawks. But he can only do so much. Then again, things seem to always go stupid at HSBC Arena. The Hawks never have it easy there.

For the Hawks, JF Berube will get his turn at the wheel after Forsberg’s wheel kept on turning in net on Thursday. And then we’ll cycle back through this again and again for another three weeks. We’re almost there, people. There really aren’t any other lineup changes to be made with Duclair injured. Q shuffled up the lines during practice yesterday and below the top one they’re a real piece of work. But who knows how long he’ll stick with them because that’s his thing.

Let’s just get through it.

 

Game #72 Preview

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

Ok, the title’s over the top and we won’t be sticking with it, but I thought it encapsulated where a lot of Hawks fans are at the moment (although in clearly heavy handed terms).

So over the next month or so, we’ll be going player by player to preview the upcoming season, which is just somehow 35 days away (and we’re sure they’ll go by in a smooth jiffy!).

There will be other posts to wrangle out what’s going on off the ice, but it’s impossible to discuss the Hawks right now on the ice without really considering two forms of them. While it’s hardly anywhere close to the most important part of the whole story, and no one should care all that much right now, the Hawks could look like just about anything depending on how things go.