RECORDS: Hawks 20-15-6 Senators 14-17-9
PUCK DROP: 6:30
TV: NBCSN Chicago
BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT: Brian 5or6
Well this seems like a momentous day for really weird reasons. We’ll get to that in a second. After getting to recalibrate their weapons by firing on the stationary target that is the Edmonton Oilers, the Hawks can double that up by doing so against the Eastern Conference version, the Ottawa Senators. And they may get to do it against a severely hampered Senators team, and believe me when I tell you this team didn’t have a lot to hamp. With the 2nd half of the season kicking off tonight, this would be a good way to get it started the right way. Then again, the Hawks couldn’t have started the first half off any better (TEN! TEN! TEN!), and look where that got them.
No reason to not start off with the biggest piece of news, and that is Brent Seabrook will be a healthy scratch tonight for the first time…well, ever. I don’t recall this happening in his rookie year, though it might have and we’ve just blocked most of that season from our memories. In fact, Seabrook has been something of a rock of durability, missing only 11 games in the ensuing 11 years since. But you can’t say that Seabrook hasn’t earned this, and the Hawks pairings would make a lot more sense if they looked something like:
Of course, that’s not what they’ll look like tonight as Oesterle will stay with Keith, the two kids together, and Kempny and Murphy returning to their natural sides on the second pairing. This way Q doesn’t have to rearrange three pairings. While Murphy took the blame for Friday’s loss unfairly, Seabrook has been this all season and now can’t even get the space to do the things he does well, i.e. shoot and pass. He’s been either slow or uncaring or both down low in his own zone, and that’s just not good enough. At the moment, he’s not one of the best six d-men the Hawks can send out there.
The hope is that this shows Seabrook that he’s not untouchable and has no guarantees. At almost 33, he’s never going to be what he was but he can certainly be more than he is. At that age he really should be able to handle third pairing or even sheltered second pairing minutes ok, and he hasn’t done that all season without Connor Murphy (CONNOR MURPHY!) saving his ass. Seabrook will draw back in soon, perhaps as soon as tomorrow, and there better be a fire under his ass when he does.
As for the rest of the lineup it looks like Tomas Jurco will be the forward scratched as the suddenly spiky Patrick Sharp sticks around.
None of this should matter of course, because the Senators are the NHL’s little league right fielder with the glove on his head twirling in a cirlce. They’re second-bottom in the East and three points adrift of the team above them, the Canadiens. And while this isn’t much of a roster outside Karlsson, it’s not helped by SUPER GENIUS Guy Boucher running a system suited for 1999 and boring the shit out of everyone involved. And the system doesn’t work when it’s not getting lights-out goaltending, and Craig Anderson is 36. This a team that doesn’t really have a top-liner anywhere unless you count Matt Duchene, and he’s basically a top line wing playing center and a really good rhythm guitarist at center instead of a lead.
Mark Stone and Mike Hoffman are great second line scoring wingers too, but now that Bobby Ryan is turning colors in the sun they need them to be first line scorers and that’s just not who they are. Karlsson can only do so much.
Making it even better for the Hawks tonight is that several Sens are either sick or hurt and gametime decisions. Duchene (you’re holdin’ up the show!), Oduya, Ceci, Brassard all might not make the bell tonight, though all could play as well. This is not a juggernaut. This team is bottom 10 in goals per game, goals against per game, and shot for per game. They do limit shots against them ok thanks to Boucher’s strangulation of anything interesting that might happen, but Anderson just hasn’t been up to the challenge of stopping the ones they do see. Again, 36.
No excuses here. The Hawks have to get this one, and they really have to sweep the week before the bye hits and teams pass or get farther away from them simply because they’re not playing. They’ve missed enough hanging curves of late with losses to Vancouver, blowing a lead against Vegas when they had played the night before, and arguably missing the first 30 minutes against a wonky Calgary team. No more bullshit.
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