RECORDS: Coyotes 34-29-5 Hawks 29-30-9
PUCK DROP: 7:30
TV: NBCSN Chicago
THEY CALL THEM THE DESERT DOGS: Five For Howling
The Hawks are going to tell you they’re not done yet. They are, but we’ll excuse them if it makes doing their jobs easier if they believe it’s for something. So with the Yotes on the schedule twice, the Avs on the schedule twice, and the Canucks on their once in the next two weeks, the Hawks can at least make things passably interesting by winning all of those games, as well as finding a way to steal two points out of either Montreal or Toronto. Then we’ll just where they are, but that’s that kind of run it’s going to take. And no overtime bullshit, in the words of Cuervo Jones.
It starts tonight with the second visit of the Arizona Coyotes, who are sitting right on the shoulder of the Minnesota Wild in the last playoff spot, one point with one game in hand. If results go their way tonight they will wake up in the morning in the playoffs. It’s certainly not what you were expecting.
So how did they get here, with this beautiful house and beautiful wife? The headline is Darcy Kuemper, who is the latest goalie to find himself in the desert. Since the turn of the calendar he’s been unconscious, with a .925 SV% and having won nine of his last 10 starts. When you’re getting that goaltending, you don’t have to do too much else. Which is good, because the Coyotes don’t really.
They’re a middling possession team, and still have been since Kuemper went supernova. Even in the last month their in the bottom half of the league in Corsi and scoring chances and shooting-percentage. It’s Kuemper pulling an Atlas act for the most part. What they do have is just enough pieces to get just enough goals and just enough speed to make things uncomfortable for teams, especially ones as slow as the Hawks are. There’s Keller on the first line, Crouse and Archibald on the second, Galchenyuk on the third, and Vinnie Bag O’ Donuts on the 4th. All have 10 goals or more, along with Brad Richardson‘s 16, and though none are stars (there’s still hope for Keller) there’s competence everywhere. No black holes, as it were.
The only true star is on the back end in Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who has combined wonderfully with Niklas Hjalmarsson. They take the hardest shifts in terms of place and opponent, and they still turn the ice over. It’s infuriating. Alex Goligoski has apparently gotten over just a rotten start to his Yotes career the past two years, with the help of possible-stalwart Jakob Chychrun and his missing vowels. Having Jason Demers on your third-pairing is a real treat, and this is the understated strength of the team. They’re not the Hurricanes or anything, but they’re a hell of a way ahead of the Hawks in that category.
For the Hawks, they’ll basically aim to keep things as they’ve been. Corey Crawford will get a chance to build on what was his easiest start of the year, as will the Hawks on that defensive effort. The only other change you might see is Slater Koekkoek in for either Dahlstrom or Forsling, but even that isn’t all that likely.
As strange as it may sound, the Yotes are a tougher match up for the Hawks than the Stars. Whereas Dallas has really nothing below the top two lines, the Coyotes at least have more speed than that. Galchenyuk, Richardson, Hinostroza, Fischer are all lurking in the bottom six, and the thought of Michael Grabner bearing down on Seabrook’s side at any point is one that will start to bend the dimensions in your mind. While they’re not lethal, they have potential, and with the way Kuemper is going they don’t need a lot. Then again, the Yotes are in St. Louis tomorrow night and may save Kuemper for that, and the Hawks could benefit from getting a look at a backup (Calvin Pickard) for the second straight game. The Blues one is clearly the harder one. We’ll see later on.
If they’re going to insist on doing something silly, then it started on Thursday. It’s going to be near impossible, but why should anything else make sense this season?
Game #69 Preview Suite