Hockey

Apologies for waiting two days to get a wrap up here, but all things considered, this was a relatively uneventful week with only two games, and only minimal off-ice unpleasantness. Even on top of that, the Hawks actually won both of those games, and even one in regulation- it truly us a wonderous new frontier around here.

 


11/9 – Hawks 2, Penguins 2 (Hawks Win “Best Hog” At The Hog Shit Snarfing Contest)

Box Score
Natural Stat Trick

Last Tuesday Marc-Andre Fleury was given another chance to face his former mates, after a disastrous turn of affairs a couple weeks ago in Pittsburgh wherein he was yanked in the first period and melted down in the tunnel. Even if Sid and Geno still weren’t playing the Penguins threw everything they had at the Hawks in the third period after falling behind 2-0 in the second on the first goals with the team from both Jhujar Khaira on a vintage Toews power move around the net, and Amy’s oldest son Seth nicely picking a corner through traffic at the top of the right circle. Derek King tried to get this group to collapse and sit on a lead in the third, and he was probably quickly shown that this team is not constructed to do that from a personnel standpoint at forward, even if the likes of Jones, Jake McCabe, and Calvin deHaan have been asked to trap at previous stops in their career. All it led to was the Penguins out-attempting the Hawks THIRTY THREE TO SIX in the final period before escaping with a point and getting things to the skills competition. If nothing else though, this looks like it would be a fun rollercoaster:

 

11/12 – Hawks 2, Coyotes 1

Box Score
Natural Stat Trick

Look, the less said about this one, the better off the hockey world at large is going to be. This game was banished to an online-only audience, and it lived up to every bit of that billing between a team that is still playing like it’s half-concussed and its foot fell asleep from sitting on the toilet too long and another that is basically the restaurant that Ray Liotta convinces Paulie to buy and then hollow out and burn down in the beginning of Goodfellas. And the actual in game production was right in line with the quality of play. It’s clear ESPN doesn’t give a fuck about hockey (and why would they), because they’re just transposing all of their usual production methods and it’s not working. First off, the mix of the sound is unbearable. It’s been like this for Sunday night baseball for a while too, which is why the Ohtani bomb in April against the Sox on SNB sounded like a firecracker – things are way too tinny and hollow sounding, nothing sounds like it has any weight to it as far as ambient hockey sounds are concerned. Secondly, the brightness and contrast on their cameras is cranked way the fuck up, presumably because they’re used to filming things on primarily green and brown surfaces. But on a solid white backdrop, all it does is blind people and completely wash out many of the lines on the rink, especially the tops of the circles. They were also employing a camera “method” where when they went to a secondary camera behind the end boards for something like a defenseman wheeling around to make a breakout pass, when they went BACK to the main sideline camera, it was seemingly back in time a half-second to where the viewer saw the pass occur again from the side view. It’s a very tweak-inducing feeling, particularly when you’re watching these two bags of wet dirt collide into one another (and knock Kirby Dach’s teeth out) for an hour. Given that it’s ESPN and they don’t have to change anything to keep cashing checks, don’t expect any of these things to change any time soon. But at least Dylan Strome scored.

 

Up next is Pacific Northwest swing on this year’s version of the Circus Trip even though there’s no circus anymore. The Hawks will have winnable games in Seattle and Vancouver sandwiched around an inevitable torching by McJesus and Leon in Edmonton in the Duncan Keith Revenge Game (or something). Enjoy staying up late.

Hockey

At last the long national nightmare is over. Coach Kelvin Gemstone/Vinny Del Colliton/Jeremy Bevington/Jeremy Trestman/Alpo Colliton/Jeremy Prinze, Jr./Cool Youth Pastor and his throbbing brain filled with defensive schemes so elaborate he forgets to even bother thinking about in game deployment are gone. It was about 18 months overdue, but the important thing is that it’s over, and with all of the other shit that happened two weeks ago in a cleansing fire, there’s actually finally a new prism to view this team through rather than utter nihilism. Interim GM Kyle Davidson was as forthcoming as anyone with an interim label could possibly be in his remarks after Colliton’s dismissal, saying that the message simply wasn’t getting through and correctable things weren’t being corrected, both of which are tremendous understatements but accurate nonetheless. Basically it only took him a week and a half of watching this disorganized and disinterested horse shit to see enough to get Stan’s golden child the hell up out of here and bring in Pigs bench boss Derek King.

King’s coaching resume is limited but had a pretty lengthy NHL career in the mid 80s and 90s (plenty will remember him being not a bum on Sega), but he at least had enough common damn sense to understand to tell these guys to just go out and play and not worry about adhering to some galaxy brained man-on-man high pressure SYSTEM. It’s well worn territory here, but the dirty secret in hockey is that it’s not exactly like they need to run elaborate blitz packages and disguise coverages on defenses in hockey. Puck side defenseman pursues and goes into the corner, weak side stays in front of the net, wingers on points, help if it comes up the wall, and ass on the boards at the hash for a breakout pass. This is what everyone who’s played hockey for any length of time just instinctively knows in their bone marrow and is what is just a default even when at an 11:45 on a Tuesday night rat hockey. Which is why having the D chase and stay with their checks everywhere in the zone was so counter-intuitive and the results clearly bore that out. Furthermore, in his post game comments, King remarked that he wanted to prioritize matching up Carpenter against Sissons on Sunday, and also had Erik Gustafsson barely play at all. So while he might end up ultimately proving himself A Moron, he’s at least got a baseline of common hockey sense that seemed to so elude his handsome predecessor, and all of the sudden the Hawks find themselves with actual winnable games on the docket.

11/9 vs Pittsburgh

Game Time  – 7:30PM CST
TV/Radio – NBC Sports Chicago, TVA-S, WGN-AM 720
Ben Roethlisberger Retire Bitch – Pensburgh

So after missing the first 7 games of the season with a wrist injury, Sidney Crosby came back for one game against the POWERHOUSE New Jersey Devils, was a -3 with no points, and promptly returned to Sick Bay with a mildly symptomatic case of Covid. With him being out and Evgeni Malkin out for a few more months still, things have gone about as well as could be expected with this last-gasp Penguins group, which is to say it’s barely .500-ish with a 4-3-3 record in 10 games, which is good for 11 points and the ass-end of the Metro division. When Danton Heinen is leading the team in goals and points at any juncture of a season, it’s probably safe to say that things aren’t particularly optimal. Most recently the Pens to the first place Wild (huh?) to a shootout on the road and ultimately ended up losing the Hog Shit Snarfing Contest, but Mike Sullivan still has the team playing relatively hard even if they’re pretty outgunned most nights without their franchise pillars. Tristan Jarry has at least been pulling his weight in a starter’s workload even after every Yinzer wanted to toss him into a variety of rivers last spring, with a .945 save percentage 5v5 and .925 overall. This is a team that has to play with structure and discipline because it can’t get away with skill right now, and one game with Derek King isn’t magically going to have the Hawks be able to counter that, even if on paper the Hawks’ current lineup does have more spice than the Penguins right now.

11/12 vs Arizona

Game Time – 7:30PM CST
TV/Radio – ESPN+, Hulu, WGN-AM 720
Kyrsten Sinema Is A Goblin: Five For Howling

The Coyotes are the only team in the league worse than the Hawks right now, and really it could be argued that they shouldn’t even count because not only are they willfully trying to be bad on the ice, but the entire franchise is basically a money laundering front/shell corporation for the league right now, and they’re going to get evicted out of their building at the end of the season anyway. It’s tough to say whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing that this game is an online exclusive- on one hand if this was a game ESPN/Hulu earmarked as being a selling point for the platform and ad dollars, they were catastrophically mistaken. On the other hand, it’s almost a public service that no one can accidentally find their way to this imminent disaster, one would have to be a true sicko to go out of their way to find and watch this game. But it will at least be the first time it’s been Hawks red vs white Kachina in like 15 years.