Hockey

VS 

 

Records: Predators 19-18-1 (39) Hawks 17-16-5 (39)

Puck Drops: 2:00 pm

TV/Radio: NBCSN and WGN 720

Why Don’t You Have A Seat Over There: On The Forecheck 

 

As if things weren’t bad enough, the Hawks reward for pissing away points against the Hurricanes in the last 30 seconds in game two on Thursday night is another game against the team that owns them up and down the ice, the Nashville Predators. The last meeting against Smashville went about as poorly as you could think, and if it wasn’t for the impressive effort of Alex DeBrincat most likely would’ve resulted in the Hawks only netting a single goal.

Nashville just plays the type of game that completely pulls apart whatever you would call the breakout “system” employed by Jerry Manuel-Colliton. The forecheck of the Preds completely exposes the inability of the Hawks D  to move the puck out of their own zone. A large majority of the goals scored by Nashville in the last series came off of panicked turnovers by Hawks players in front of their goalie as they tried to fire the puck up and out of the zone by going right up the middle of the ice. This resulted in interceptions by fuckwaddles like Rocco Grimaldi, and were usually deposited right behind Kevin Lankinen.

So what can the Hawks do to flip the script on the Preds? By trading Brad Morrison to the Panthers and bringing back Vinny Hinostroza, duh! On the surface, this is pretty much a nothing trade for the Hawks, as Morrison hasn’t been anything of note. That being said, it’s the most Stan Bowman thing ever to bring back yet another former player. There’s definitely a spot for Hinostroza right now, since everyone’s favorite 3rd liner Brandon Hagel was thrown into the league’s COVID-19 protocol on Friday. Hinostroza plays a very similar North/South style game to Hagel, and the fact that Stan jumped on the phone to replace him this quickly makes me think that Hagel may be out for an extended period. This should not, however, be taken as a sign that the Hawks are going to be buyers at the deadline. The price for Vinny was essentially zero, so Stan can still try and keep the Hawks in the mix and yet gain assets next week by trading players that aren’t going to be part of the plan (whatever that may be) going forward.

As it stands right now, both the Hawks and Preds have the same amount of points, but Nashville has the tiebreaker thanks to the fact that they have the stunning ability to earn points during regulation, a feat that continues to elude the Hawks. After their single game this weekend, the Preds schedule (other than 3 more against the Hawks and two against the Scum) turns more difficult with matches against Florida, Carolina and Tampa all on the docket. It will be very interesting to see what the Preds do a week from Monday when the trade deadline rolls around. Both teams have to know what awaits them even if they make the postseason, so I can’t imagine Nashville being buyers, as hilarious as it would be.

Regardless of what they decide to do at the deadline, if either team has deigns of making the dance they’ll have to stake their claim over the next few weeks against each other. Based on what’s transpired thus far, I don’t like the Hawks’ chances. We’ve yet to see any adjustment by Jeremy Colliton to alleviate the pressure created by the Preds forecheck. As the guys mentioned in the podcast this week, even doing something simple like chipping the puck up and out of the zone off the boards and allowing the faster skaters like DeBrincat to roll with it could help. Really, I’d just like to see ANYTHING different than the piss poor shenanigans that define the defensive breakouts thus far. It’s not a super high bar to clear, but I’m also not holding my breath.

Two very important points sit out there for the taking this weekend, hoping they can get it done but also not gonna place any bets on it.

Let’s Go Hawks

Hockey

vs

Game Time: 6:00PM CDT
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720
Keep Pretending Drew Doughty Isn’t A Rapist: Jewels From The Crown

One thing about hockey’s often asinine scheduling that can be construed as a positive is that teams rarely have to marinate longer than 48 hours on bad losses, even if it comes at the expense of both sides playing their third in 4 nights having both played on the road yesterday, as is the case tonight on West Madison with the visiting Kings. And it’s a pretty clear sign that both teams suck when they are each looking across the bench and seeing an opportunity to get on track.

Hockey

Do you ever catch yourself? Maybe you’re sitting at dinner with a friend your significant other, talking about the news or whatever, and you have to stop a moment. A wide, ill-intentioned grin spreads across your face. You must look crazy. You start cackling like a maniac. You can’t stop laughing like you’re the fucking Joker. Your friend looks at you with deep concern in their eyes. People around you are staring. It’s uncomfortable for everyone. But you can’t help it. It’s just too hilarious to believe (You signed up for that look when you decided to write here – ED).

You just remembered that the Blackhawks got Alex DeBrincat in the second round.

Does that ever happen to you? Cuz, same. Now please come tell these cops I’m normal and bail me out of jail.

2018-19 stats

82 GP – 41 G – 35 A – 76 P

49.68CF% (0.48 CF% Rel), 59.75 oZS%

53.66 GF% (5.71 GF% Rel), 46.47 xGF% (0.93 xGF% Rel)

17:42 Avg. TOI

A Brief History: DeBrincat showed that his 2017-18 season was no fluke last year, building upon that and then going above and beyond the production. He became a nightmare for opposing penalty killers under Coach Cool Youth Pastor, posting 24 points (13G, 11A) with the extra man. You may be thinking that kind of PP success is artificially inflating his overall numbers, but as I detailed back in April during player reviews, that’s a pretty normal rate for elite scorers. Believe it or not, good offensive players score on the power play. This is news to Joel Quenneville.

DeBrincat also got something of a personal and personnel favor (folks, you get this kinda wordsmithing for just $3.99 a month, and that’s less than half it’s true value) in the form of the Dylan Strome trade. I don’t need to rehash it all, but obviously for Top Cat it must’ve been nice to get a linemate in Strome that A) he was familiar with and B) was not allergic to shooting the puck like Nick Schmaltz was. All of this resulted in Top Cat cementing himself as this team’s third best forward and likely has him positioned for a healthy contract extension this coming season.

It Was The Best of Times: DeBrincat continues to ascend with his offensive abilities, and being able to play with Strome for more of this season helps both of them elevate their games. It’s hard to ask too much more of a guy fresh off a 41-goal season, but DeBrincat is probably capable of pushing that number closer to 45, especially now that the Hawks will have a full season of the Colliton PP system. On top of that, his scoring ability becomes such a threat that defenses have no choice but to focus in on him, opening up the ice for him to use his vision and passing to find others, and he gets his assist total over 40 as well. He ends the seaon with 90+ points and leads the team in scoring, but not until after the Hawks lock him up at 6x$8.5M which will end up feeling like a huge discount.

It Was The BLURST of Times: The Colliton power play turns out to be a mirage, and even Top Cat can’t save it. Even with all the offensive talent the Hawks have, they return to the dark days of the early 2010’s (power play frustration wise, of course) and his production there drops to a meesly 10 points. Meanwhile, his linemates turn out to be huge duds, and he gets dragged down with them. He ends up with a paltry 55 points (oh, the horror!) and that 6x$8.5M extension feels a little expensive suddenly.

Preiction: It’s hard to ask much more from Top Cat than what we’ve gotten from him. He’s already done more than many scouts believed he would in the NHL, but that’s because hockey scouts are egg-brained. I’m somewhat inclined to believe that the Top Cat we saw last year is the Top Cat we will continue to see moving forward, though he’s certainly capable of giving or taking 10 more points. I predict he finishes the year with 43 goals and 40 assists, with something around 30 of the total points coming on the power play. Oh year, and he signs a 6x$8.5M extension. That feels fair, right?

Stats from NHL.com and Natural Stat Trick

Previous Previews

Robin Lehner

Corey Crawford

Adam Boqvist

Carl Dahlstrom

Calvin de Haan

Erik Gustafsson

Duncan Keith

Slater Koekkoek

Olli Maatta

Connor Murphy

Drake Caggiula

Ryan Carpenter

Hockey

The Hawks have been conspicuously quiet for the past few days, despite the facts that their blue line still sucks to high heaven and they never really filled the open spot in the top six (and if you think Andrew Shaw is that, please mail me whichever substances you’re using). So, the official signing of Kirby Dach is what we’ll hold onto for now, since he ought to be a top-six solution someday.

Dach signed a three-year entry-level deal ($925,000 per) today. The signing doesn’t mean too much new, other than the Hawks can now get their hands directly in the dirt of molding him into the Center of the Future™. Of course, Dach gave platitudes about how he wants to make the team out of camp and make management make tough decisions, which is something they’ve never been particularly good at (see Teravainen, Teuvo; Seabrook, Brent post-2015 Cup; Jokiharju, Henri), so tread lightly, Kirby.

As usual, the Hawks will have nine free games to look at Dach before he burns a year off his contract, if they choose. And unless he’s a complete mess throughout camp and the preseason, we’re hoping that the Hawks will play him over the first nine games. Remember that after the season opener against the Flyera in Czech Republic, eight of the nine games they play are at home, which is about as easy a landing as you can imagine getting, provided Beto O’Colliton plays the matchups (something he hasn’t proven to us just yet).

If he does turn out to be a mess, or if/when we start hearing about how versatile Artem Anisimov is on a wing and boy oh boy are we excited for THAT justification, Dach will go back to the WHL because of a weird rule wherein if you’re under 20 and not American, you can’t play in the AHL until either your junior season ends or you turn 20. Based on some of the signings/trades so far (Shaw, Carpenter, Kampf), you have to imagine Dach will need to blow it out of the water to even sniff the nine-game threshold, let alone playing beyond that.

We’re all sitting and hoping the see Dach in the first nine games of the season, but we aren’t holding our breath for it. The Hawks have played around the fringes the last couple of years, so it’ll be surprising if they stray from that conservativeness with Dach. If you see Artem Anisimov in another sweater before camp, things’ll get a little bit more interesting, but until then, it’s hard to see how Dach carves out any spot on the team this year, even if he does look good in camp.

They’ve got contracts and experience to play, after all.

Everything Else

With unrestricted free agency opening in just four days, let’s get a little weird. The Hawks have allegedly begun addressing the skidmark on the salad fork that is the blue line with de Haan (fine) and Maatta (barf), which means we should probably look at who can fill out the top six on the forward front. If there’s one guy who might be that guy, it’s Joe Pavelski.

Physical Stats

Height: 5’11”; Weight: 190 lbs.

Age: 35; Shot: Right

On-Ice Stats (2018–19)

Team: SHA-ARKS Position: Center/Wing

75 GP, 38 G, 26 A, 64 P, 22 PIM

54.7 CF% (0.7 CF% Rel), 56.99 xGF% (3.41 xGF% Rel), 53.3 oZS%

Why the Hawks Should Sign Him

Pavelski is an outstanding possession player who’s capable of slotting as a center or a wing. If the Hawks are going to commit to the idea that large, not-fleet-of-foot defensemen are the way to go (it isn’t), then they’re going to need forwards who can bury the puck in their opponents’ ends (PHRASING) more consistently. The Hawks were slightly below middling in the possession department last year with a 49.34 CF%, which, despite StanBo’s shameless gaslighting, isn’t great for a team with no actual top-pairing D-men. Pavelski’s career is a seminar in consistently good possession.

Pavelski also gives the Hawks DAT GREASY GOAL SCORER Stan wants. And unlike the stale beer farts that are Corey Perry or Wide Dick Arty, Pavelski still has the skating and hands to do more than simply stand in the crease. As much as we scoff at the notion of Annette Frontpresence, Pavelski is the best version of that theory, though the prospect of having to experience Eddie O’s vinegar strokes for each crease goal Pavelski pots is off-putting enough to disqualify him as an option.

His versatility is another plus. You can see him as a winger with Toews and Saad. You can see him centering DeBrincat and Kane. As a righty, you can see him just about anywhere on the PP. This versatility, combined with Pavelski’s offense and possession, would be undeniable enhancements over anything the Hawks had last year.

Why the Hawks Shouldn’t Sign Him

Cap hit and term are going to be the biggest bugaboos in considering Pavelski. He’s coming off a $6 million per contract and a 38-goal season. Thirty-eight goals are impressive per se, but the fact that he did it at 34 is even more impressive. You can see him trying to squeeze in one more decent contract, and that should give the Hawks pause with DeBrincat due for his Fuck You Pay Me contract next year.

You also need to be concerned about Pavelski’s age and brain booboo from this year’s playoff run. At 35, it becomes more and more likely that the production will fall off a cliff. Though Pavelski’s never shown signs of slowing down (excluding the 2013 season-in-a-can, Pavelski’s scored at least 20 goals a year since 2008–2009), nothing gold can stay, Ponyboy.

And for as good as Pavelski’s possession is, when he’s caught in his own zone, he tends to get buried. This might limit his versatility a bit: God forbid you find him, Top Cat, and Kane stuck in their own zone with any regularity, which is a possibility given Kane’s do-more-with-less style of possession and play.

Verdict

If you can get Pavelski on a one-to-two-year term, the Hawks should take a run at him. He solves a ton of problems, especially in the Annette Frontpresence category. He’s a proven, genuine top-six skater, which would let Beto O’Colliton slot Dominik Kubalik in the bottom six, which is probably the kind of soft landing you’d want to see him get. But if he’s looking for more than two years, it’s a little bit more tenuous. The Hawks would absolutely need to win a Cup to justify more than two years, because at that point, most of the Core would be approaching or past the twilight of their careers.

All of this assumes that Pavelski even wants to leave San Jose. For as good as he’d look in red, black, and white, it’s hard to picture him in anything but teal.

Everything Else

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

Now that the Hawks games mean nothing, it’s hard to imagine getting worked up about these games in any way, and yet seeing them play their asses off and outplaying the Blues, I found myself sitting on my couch feeling like this guy. As a wrestling fan myself, I can empathize with feeling emotionally invested in something you know isn’t what it’s presented as, and tonight that was me, constantly battling this desire for the Hawks to not drop themselves farther down the draft lottery (which, they can’t climb much higher anyway, so that’s dumb too) and rooting like hell for them to beat the Blues. Some things are bigger than logic. Fuck you St. Louis. Let’s do this:

– Just about everyone at this here site was unavailable to some extent tonight, so I took up the sword but still missed the first period. When I got the game on with about 17 left in the second, I was pretty surprised by how competitive and hard the Hawks were playing in this game despite the games now being meaningless as I said before. It was clear from the quotes from Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane today that these guys are pissed off about missing the playoffs again, and they definitely channeled that into a desire to fuck over the Blues and their playoff seeding hopes. There were still plenty of gaffes in here on the Hawks end, and we will talk about a few of them, but seeing them respond was at least notable, I think. If only they had cared about this season a few months ago. Maybe they can actually carry this piss and vinegar into next year.

– It’s still hilarious to me that the Hawks got Dylan Strome for Nick Schmaltz. Not that Schmaltz wasn’t and isn’t a fine player (though now one that is WAY overpaid), but we definitely knew what he was by the time the Hawks sent him to the desert for Strome, who had barely gotten enough of a sniff of the NHL to have any conclusion that he couldn’t hit the ceiling that was once considered very high. And yeah, his shortcomings are there, and have been all year. But dammit if he doesn’t make up for it enough with the vision and hands, and the pass he made to Kane tonight on the third Hawks goal was just another example of that. The Hawks are definitely coming out on top of this one.

– Let’s talk about some gaffes. Firstly, Seabrook and Forsling were out there together again tonight. Not for long, but any shifts of those two together is too many. That’s the whole gaffe. Please stop that. EDIT– Forsling didn’t play tonight, I just stink at paying attention to who’s out there. I guess I’ve just been traumatized by 7-42 so often that I just expect it even when it isn’t happening.

– Now the elephant in the room, which at this point has now sat on and destroyed your couch, coffee table, recliner, and television: Duncan Keith could not give less of a fuck about playing hockey for Jeremy Colliton. Truthfully, I wish I could show the level of contempt and disinterest in my job that this guy does and still have the level of job security he does. We know the give a shit meter was already on zero, but he just about sent it negative tonight, particularly on the Blues third goal. To have little interest in playing well at this point can be understood, given that the Hawks are fucked, but to just have no intent to even feign effort at this point is almost impressive.

– And that brings us to an important thought – the Hawks might have to pick between the wife and the dog this summer. It’s clear that the wife (Keith, because he’s made our lives better for years and we never appreciate him enough) does not want the dog (Colliton, because he’s smelly and keeps shitting himself everywhere) around any longer. But as can happen, we may see this summer that the Hawks have overcommitted themselves to the dog. Perhaps these two will come to an agreement over the summer. Maybe an addition of a real defenseman that can partner with him will turn Keith’s give-a-shit meter back up. Maybe Colliton really will get motherfucked into becoming a good coach by this blog. Maybe neither happen and we’re stuck in a bad marriage with a stupid dog (I don’t hate dogs, I love them, but this one is stupid) and we will be miserable again for another year. Who knows! Eat at Arby’s.

– We almost made it, folks. Two more.

Everything Else

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

Sometimes there is just very little you can say about a hockey game to accurately describe what occurred, and tonight is one of those nights. I don’t wanna waste what I do have on the intro so let’s dive in to the bullets:

– The first period was something of a roller coaster of emotions, as the Hawks played well on the offensive side of the ice, but truly horribly on the other end. There was a stretch of play during a Philly PP where the Hawks had two or three better scoring chances than the Flyers were able to generate the rest of the man advantage, but in not cashing in the feeling went from “damn what a chance” to “oh shit, it’s one of those nights then” really fast, at least for me. They were getting shots on net and moving the puck well, but on the other side they were basically letting up a shot every minute and getting run around the zone. It was a difficult contrast to settle with, and made what was ultimately a good period (54.04 CF%) feel “just okay.”

– Adding to that feeling of the first being just okay was how incredible the scoring chances the Hawks were giving up were. There were multiple open net chances blown by the Flyers – all night, not just in the first period – that should’ve ended up behind Crawford. And when Philly ultimately did beat Crow, they did so by having a guy come off the bench and skate his way all the way into the slot without being even breathed on, and he still had three feet of clearance from the closest defenseman when he let the shot go. Having good possession numbers is mad far less valuable if you can’t play competent defense and are giving away nothing but A+ chances.

– To add to that last point, if the Hawks had played that way against a more competent team, they would’ve lost 6-1 rather than 3-1. Even with a 65.31 CF% for the whole game, they had just 44.44% of the High Danger Chances. You can’t be doing that and expect to win a game, especially in a must-win scenario like they were facing tonight.

– Corey Crawford deserves better than the defense in front of him giving away those chances, but he also can’t be giving up goals like the Flyers’ second and ultimate game-winning score. There was some traffic out front, but a 40-foot backhand floater from the boards beating you blocker side is just embarrassing shit. Crow played well tonight, but given the lack of overall finish in the Hawks game tonight, you can’t get your team behind the 8-Ball like that.

– Writing off the Hawks lack of scoring as lack of finish also might be a bit generous. Even with 41 shots on goal overall tonight, it felt a lot like the Hawks were just being trigger-shy at times when they shouldn’t have been, especially early on in the game.

– This was a blown chance at gaining serious ground in the playoff hunt, and in the end they ended up falling even further down the standings because of the Avs’ winning. Personally I still think that the lower they finish the better, but I’m also into the idea of playoff hockey and games that matter. At this point they need to pick a lane – let’s bottom this shit out, or figure out shit out and get to the damn playoffs.