RECORDS: Canucks 24-24-6 Hawks 21-24-9
PUCK DROP: 7:30
TV: NBCSN Chicago
THE BENNING WARRIORS: Canucks Army
First off, I realize it probably doesn’t square up to keep using the train-wreck picture when they’ve won five in a row, but I also don’t want to mess with what’s working. So there.
So this is stupid, and with pretty much everyone playing tonight it could shake out any number of ways, but the Canucks currently hold the last playoff spot. And with a regulation win over them, the Hawks will honest-to-god be one point behind them. In fact, should the Blues not win tonight–and they’re in Tampa so you wouldn’t count on it–a regulation win would see the Hawks no more than a point out no matter how the other results go. Sure, they might still have to climb over five goddamn teams, but it’s all a fucking mess so let’s do our best to enjoy it.
And getting one over on this Canucks team at home shouldn’t be that big of an ask, but the Hawks have whiffed on easier exams. Vancouver is at the end of a four-game Eastern swing, so they could have the bus running. Since the turn of the year they’re a middling, at best, 5-5-2. They’re coming off two-straight losses, where they scored three goals total. They have five division games after this, which they’ll consider more important. This is the donut-hole, as it were.
What the Canucks are doing here at all is another question. This is not a team that should even think about a playoff spot, and should really be more concerned with another top-five pick to line up next to Quinn Hughes next year. Sure, it has Elias Pettersson (I SAID WWE STANDS FOR…), who is the runaway Rookie Of The Year and the main reason anyone is paying any attention to the tears-blue and puke-green these days. He’s made Bo Horvat somewhat useful, which is a real trick, and Brock Boeser is still scoring at a decent rate when he’s upright. Jacob Markstrom has been good enough in net to not get them killed.
But much like the Hawks, this isn’t a good team and there’s no number to suggest they are. They’re fifth-worst in possession, third-worst in expected-goals percentage. They’ve shot an ok percentage, but even their special teams are nothing to notice. In fact, since a barely-hot start that had them at 10-6-2, they’re 14-18-4. Much like the Hawks, they’ve profited from a middle and bottom of the conference that can’t separate or distinguish itself in anyway, and hence everyone gets to be a hanger-on like a late night at a casino (believe me, I know).
The Canucks offer a decent top-six through Pettersson (with a record), Horvat, Boeser. Nikolay Goldobin and Jake Virtanen have not lived up to any expectation, and in Virtanen’s case it feels like the 17th straight year we’ve said that. The top pairing of Ben Hutton and Troy Stecher has been under-the-radar good, but the rest blows and you know that because it has Erik Gudbranson on it. Alex Edler is out because he tried to bob for apples on an ice surface, and he’s past his sell-by date anyway. So might be Chris Tanev, who the Canucks have refused to trade for what seems like a decade and now no one would want him. This is Canucks management at its best.
Surrounding the admittedly promising talent are some of the most hilarious contracts in the league. Go to their CapFriendly.com page and just marvel at Eriksson, Gagner, Beagle, Sutter, and a few others. It’s like something out of the modernist wing of your local museum. It has shapes and colors but no discernible statement or plan other than “I put this shit on a wall.
For the Hawks, they’ll be without David Kampf for the next month, and that’s a bigger deal than it might first appear. Kampf had become Kruger II, and you could start him against top lines in his own zone and he’d find a way to come out on top. He and Brandon Saad had combined to form a pretty hellacious combo on the third line, and the Hawks will miss that. Maybe the original Marcus Kruger can roll back the clock for a couple weeks, but you wouldn’t be the house on it. He’ll slide to center and Brendan Perlini will come in at wing there.
This is a matchup game for CCYP. The Canucks bottom-six is a toxic waste dump covered in dogshit and seasoned with squirrel carcass. He should try and get his top lines out against them as often as possible and watch the havoc ensue. See if Kruger can deal with Pettersson like old times, and if not you can always change the plan. For once the Hawks won’t have the worse bottom lines, and should try and maximize that.
It doesn’t make any sense, and it’s probably worse for the organization that it is this way now, but let’s see how far this dumb, silly, but fun ride goes. Six is better than five.
Game #55 Preview Suite