Hockey

With the calendar soon to turn to April, the NHL lumberingly rounds its corner into the true home stretch, with this Blackhawks season mercifully coming to an end in just 16 more games. As a general rule, the post-deadline undead period for those teams who have stripped the roster for parts such as the Hawks should in theory offer a look at some of the youth that has been toiling in the AHL for 6 months now. But as has been apparently for years now, the Hawks don’t necessarily follow conventional wisdom. The only forward worth giving a shit about, Lukas Reichel, is being artificially held back for contract purposes, as exceeding 9 games in the show will allow his first pro year to slide til next year, and if this team were going to be competitive, it could sort of be understood. But there is a very real chance that we are all also observing the final games of the franchise pillars in Hawks uniforms, and Alex DeBrincat certainly has no reason to stick around beyond next season if they don’t. Add to the fact that none of the defensemen that had ARRIVED last season under Coach Jeremy Bevington can seem to break the lineup here even beyond the trade deadline and with Connor Murphy hurt, and things are beyond desolate. There is literally no reason for Connor Murphy not to be shut down after being knocked out cold, or for pending UFAs Calvin de Haan and Erik Gustafsson to be on the ice anymore, yet the general public is subjected to them on a nightly basis because Derek King and his Sith Master Marc Crawford are laboring under the delusion that they could be brought back for next season. Which is to say that this is an entertaining product and can’t-miss television.

3/28 – vs Buffalo

Game Time: 7:30PM CDT
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago+, WGN-AM 720
The Pegulas Are Vile – Die By The Blade

Given the slow-motion Armageddon that has been the past two calendar years and the commensurate scheduling considerations, this will be the Sabres first visit to the UC since 2019. And for them, not much has changed other than sending their malcontent captain Jack Eichel to Vegas for Alex Tuch and some magic beans. To be fair, the Hawks are probably about the same level of bad as they were at that time two, but it’s been a far more eventful and circuitous path getting there. To their credit, LOCAL GUY Don Granato at least has this team playing hard even if they don’t do anything particularly well, and will occasionally jump up and bit a contending team in the dick as they did outdoors against Toronto, or just this past week against both Calgary and Pittsburgh while needing extra time to do so. The Sabres are finally getting something out of the lumbering and unfortunately named Tage Thompson, who originally came over in the Ryan O’Reilly deal and is likely to hit 30 goals while currently sitting on 27. It of course remains to be seen if this is something he can sustain at the NHL level or this is merely a function of SOMEONE having to score on a bad team. Former #1 overall pick Rasmus Dahlin is still here and doing well enough to apparently make the all star game, but again, it was mandatory the Sabres be represented. LOCAL GUY Craig Anderson will be 41 in May and somehow he has the most starts for the Sabres at 22 (along with Dustin Tokarksi), and has 12 of the Sabres 23 wins. He played yesterday afternoon against the Rangers so who knows if he’ll get one last hometown start or not, but it’s no guarantee he’ll be done after this year either.  These are two evenly matched bad teams, so it’s likely they pull off an improbably entertaining game this even as has been the case with the Hawks all year, but it means nothing to either team.

3/31 – at Panthers

Game Time: 6:00PM CDT
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, TVA-S, WGN-AM 720
Bienvenidos A Miami – Litter Box Cats

The Cats probably spent the most capital to fortify themselves for a long cup run in acquiring both Ben Chiarot from the Habs (for what reasons is anyone’s guess, he’s never been anything more than A GUY), and landing the prize of the deadline in prying Claude Giroux away from the Cold Ones about 10 seconds after his 1000th game with the club ended. Since the trades they’ve gone 2-1, most recently losing in Tronna to the Leafs 5-2, but beating the woeful Habs and Sens. While obtaining both of Chiarot and Giroux are nice additions to an already potent offense, they do nothing to address the two biggest issues that would preclude a deep Cats run – 1) how healthy is Aaron Ekblad going to be, and 2) will Sergei Bobrovsky shit himself again in the spring or not?

4/1 – at Tampa

Game Time: 6:00PM CDT
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, TVA-S, WGN-AM 720
Feel The Void: Raw Charge

Will Jonathan Toews give Brandon Hagel a tearful, emotional embrace at any point during the game, similar to any of the 45 times Frodo and Sam are reunited throughout the course of the Lord of The Rings? Tune in and find out! Do not tune in to find out if the Blackhawks will win or not, however, because they are not going to.

4/3 – vs Arizona

Game Time: 6:00PM CDT
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720
Evicted Dogs: Five For Howling

So the Arizona Coyotes are basically a Ponzi scheme organization who have been evicted from their current arena in Glendale come season’s end and will have to rent time out of Arizona State’s new arena, which seats approximately 4-5K. They have been a Troubled Asset Relief Program for years where teams send millstone contracts of elderly players who are effectively retired but only exist as basically a no show job on their roster, like so many retiree “residents” of the state. They have been willfully trying to lose for years on a minimal payroll in order to maximize the profitability of league revenue sharing and taking advantage of Gary Bettman’s seemingly pathological need to keep this franchise afloat and in Arizona despite every shred of evidence they need to be relocated. As of the time of this writing they have the exact same number of regulation wins (15) as the Chicago Blackhawks, whose previous GM made moves last off season thinking they were going to be in the playoff picture.

Hockey

Since about 30 seconds into Game 1 of the season where it became glaringly obvious that this year’s Hawks team would not be competing for jack shit, this week arguably became the most important stretch of games of the year in the leadup to the trade deadline. Particularly now with a new GM steering the ship, it might have ended up being an indicator of GM Kyle’s mid and long term vision for the club. But overall, with a few wrinkles here and there, things shook out about how they could have been predicted, with the Hawks recouping some assets and also looking like shit on the ice.

3/15 – Bruins 2, Hawks 1 (OT)

Box Score
Event Summary
Natural Stat Trick

The Hawks were pretty well fucked from Jump St. in this one with the Bruins being the best team defensive team in the league by a lot of metrics while having almost no finish to speak of aside from two guys on the roster. Marc-Andre Fleury was at his acrobatic best throughout the game and was literally the only reason this game was not a complete dong-whipping. He made every kind of vintage save you could as of anyone, let alone a 36 year old with the mileage he has on him. In an ideal world he would have been traded at the second intermission when his value was at its absolute peak, but there were clearly other factors at play. The Hawks managed to get this one to OT, where the fun predictably ended quickly.

3/19 – Wild 3, Hawks 1

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Event Summary
Natural Stat Trick

A matinee played in St. Paul in the immediate aftermath of the Brandon Hagel trade saw the Hawks put forth a half assed effort at best, even by day hockey standards which this outlet is on record many times over as being an affront to the lord. Kevin Lankinen got the start on the front end of a back to back and is still somehow struggling with rebound control somehow, but made enough saves to keep it close until the very end, where the erstwhile LOCAL GUY Ryan Hartman put the Wild ahead. Toews’ comments after the trade were frankly those of a crybaby, complaining about someone being traded. As a long time captain in this league having seen guys get moved over and over and over again for cap purposes, having Brandon goddamn Hagel of all people be the one where he opines openly about his GM’s choices is certainly curious, especially without having done a goddamn thing in the post season in going on 7 years now. Sorry Jon, but you don’t have a leg to stand on whatsoever with regard to who stays and who goes. And clearly the team let this pouty piss pants attitude cascade down through the roster from their captain.

3/20 – Jets 6, Hawks 4

Box Score
Event Summary
Natural Stat Trick

Regardless of who had the final say in it between Kyle Davidson or Derek King, the decision to start Marc Andre Fleury in a game less than 24 hours before the trade deadline was curious at best, and professionally negligent at worst. On top of it being a back and forth game where neither team was interested in playing much defense and Fleury and fellow Vezina winner Connor Hellebucyk were hung out to dry early and often, the situation became that much more harrowing during a sequence wherein Fluery lost is glove, and still instinctually tried to make a save with that hand during a scramble in front of the Hawk net. Mercifully the result was merely a goal against and not a hand shattered into dust rendering the netminder untradeable, or worse at the end of his career. The Hawks would claw their way back with the help of a solid game from newcomer Taylor Raddysh (with a Y), and at least there was a little bit more jump to their game after going down after apparently getting their tantrum game out of the way the previous afternoon. But after all of that, the result was still the same, and the Hawks are now left to play out the string in what will surely be outstanding performances from Kevin Lankinen, Colin Delia, and Arvid Soderblom.

TRADE REACTIONS

  • First on the docket is arguably the most valuable chip the Hawks had in Brandon Hagel, with his cost controlled $1.5 million against the cap for two years following the end of this season, and will likely flirt with 30 goals by this year’s end. While yes, Hagel has been a fun middle six forward who plays with physicality and has a bit of a goal scorer’s touch, given the distance between what the Hawks are against teams with actual aspirations like the Bruins (where Hagel played and scored the Hawks’ lone goal), even the most optimistic projections would have the Hawks ready to take a step right as Hagel would be due a substantial increase in pay. Not to mention, with no disrespect to Hagel or any players of his ilk, but there should be at least two guys with the potential to be this in every team’s system. Andrew Shaw was this until it was time to pay him significantly, when the Hawks correctly identified that Ryan Hartman could fill that role. So the Hawks got about as good a return as one could have been asked for Hagel in two middle-to-bottom six forwards who can play right now as well as two first rounders, albeit delated and will assuredly be late in the round because they’re Tampa’s. And the fact that the trade pissed off some aforementioned players on the roster only reaffirmed that it was the right thing to do.
  • While the Marc-Andre Fleury trade seemed inevitable from the moment he actually decided he wanted to play for this calamity of an organization, it took til basically the last minute to get there for a variety of reasons. With having a full no move on top of uprooting his family here mere months ago, it extremely hamstrung Davidson’s options, and having a shit defense in front of him deflating his Vezina numbers from last year certainly didn’t help things. The Hawks eating half the salary for the remainder of the year is immaterial, but one can’t help but wonder if they could have gotten a true first round pick instead of just a condititional one had they pulled the trigger sooner and not exposed Fleury to a potent forward group and potential injury one last time before getting shipped out.
  • Ryan Carpenter was moved along to Calgary for a 5th rounder, and if there was ever a match made in hockey shot suppression hell, it’s Ryan Carpenter and Darryl Sutter. With Brad Treveling taking one of Sutter’s toys away in waiving Brad Richardson, he promptly gave him a younger version in the form of Carpetner who is a reliable worker who won’t let anyone down on the PK or the dot, and should never, ever be asked to be on the first PP unit ever again. Having a a solid bottom 6 versatile forward is a complete luxury that bad teams don’t need, like a closer on a shit baseball team, or a huge LCD infotainment screen in a run down 1988 powder blue Ford Taurus. So getting a fifth round pick is just fine for moving Carpenter along.
  • Calvin de Haan stayed put, because that’s just generally what he does these days, and there more than likely wasn’t a market for him even if it would have been at half price. Erik Gustafsson also had no takers, which just makes the fact that he was ever brought in here to take minutes away from any of the kids on the blue line even more short sightedly stupid from the previous regime.
Hockey

In what was a very entertaining 3 games for the Hawks this week, they took 4 of a possible 6 points available to them, and if it weren’t for a very unlucky bounce and some shitty officiating in Boston it very easily could’ve been at least 5. Alas, when you’re at the level the Hawks are it always seems that the puck bounces the other way and it’s in you net. Such is life and hockey.

In other news, thoughts for a speedy recovery for our Large Irish Son after he was boarded by Parker Kelly early in the 1st period on Saturday night. Murph went down in a heap and appeared to be out cold when his face hit the ice. The hit itself, while not great, wasn’t particularly preadatory and appeared to be just bad luck with the way his head contacted the boards. You never wanna see the stretcher come out for anyone, and at this point you just hope Murph is ok. Apparently he traveled back with the team, so that is at least some small measure of good news.

Anyways, here’s the shakedown:

 

Tuesday 3/8

Ducks 3 – Hawks 8

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

 

Poor John Gibson. All he had to do is look at the Hawks giveaway calendar to know he was fucked from the jump, as it was Shitty Green Hat Giveaway Night at the UC, which automatically means a hat trick for at least one Hawk skater. Tonight was no different, as Dylan Strome continued to be scorchingly hot with the puck, netting his 2nd career hat trick while Patrick Kane continued is inevitable rise to the top of the Hawks all-time scoring list with 6 points.

Tuesday night marked the 2nd game in a row where Gibson had given up 5 goals, and has now allowed 20 goals in his last 5 games. He actually seemed like he might survive the night after only Strome scored when the Hawks jumped right into the Ducks shit off the bat. Barely 5 minutes into the period and the Hawks already had 9 shots. The dam eventually broke, and before the period was over it was a 5-0 for the Blackhawks and Gibson’s night was done.

His backup didn’t fare much better, as Brandon Hagel scored on the first shot of the 2nd period 16 seconds in. After that, the Ducks tried climbing back into the game as the Hawks suddenly couldn’t stay out of the penalty box. They cut the lead to 6-3 before Strome fired home his second of the night to put the kibosh on that comeback. He added one more in the trailing minutes of the 3rd to complete the hatty, and down came the Shitty Irish Jig hats. While it’s always cool to see that, it’ll never come close to Hard Hat Giveaway night and the chaos that ensued after Towes’ hat trick.

 

Thursday 3/10

Hawks 3 – Bruins 4

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

 

This one was a bummer, as the Hawks played more than well enough to come away from this game with at least a point. Yet a shitty icing call and terrible bounce in the Hawks zone with :18 left on the clock and they come away with a big ole zip in the points column. Yet that’s what happens when you have two different teams with vastly different skill levels meeting in a mid-march game. The Bruins, comfortably ensconced in the Eastern wild card spot 16 points ahead of the Jackets, seemed to be doing just enough to keep themselves in the game while the Hawks were throwing everything they had at Boston. In a scenario like that all it takes is one bad bounce and it’s all over.

On the plus side, Alex DeBrincat continues to tear holes in space and time all over the ice while Brandon Hagel hit 20 goals for the first time in his career. Hagel appears to be doing everything to make sure that the Hawks ask for the absolute moon for his services at the deadline, and I’m starting to come around to that way of thinking. If Hagel truly is the diamond in the rough some think him to be, then maybe it really isn’t insane to ask for a 1st rounder and a top prospect in return for him. While nobody on the Hawks roster should be considered untouchable (everybody’s got a price!), the ask in return continues to climb with every goal. Good on him.

 

Saturday 3/12

Hawks 6 – Senators 3

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

 

If you take out the terrifying image (which, admittedly is very hard to do) of Connor Murphy being stretchered off the ice, this game was actually pretty entertaining in a way that only a game between two bottom feeding teams can be. Once the Hawks got over the shock of seeing their teammate being wheeled across the ice strapped to a back board, things picked up in a way that gave the Sens defense windburn.

Falling behind 2-0 to this overturned clown car of an NHL franchise seemed to wake something in Jonathan Toews that we haven’t seen since the bubble series against Vegas back in 2020. He was all over the ice, scoring the first two goals for the Hawks, and even launching himself stupidly into a fight with Zach Sanford after a questionable hit on Kirby Dach. While I never want to see a guy with a history of multiple concussions and a laundry list of current medical issues leaping face first into a fight with the dregs of the Eastern Conference, it was nice to see a fire in Toews’ eyes.

Also if I haven’t hammered this point home enough of how bad Ottawa is, if Caleb Jones scores two goals against your team…you fucking suck. More of note is that Jones the Younger now has tied his brother in goals on the season despite playing waaaay less minutes. While quite a bit of Seth’s goal drought can be tied directly to puck luck, you still can’t have your highest paid D-man being outscored by his League Minimum younger brother.

Patrick Kane passed Bobby Hull’s Tony LaRussa-looking ass for 2nd place on the Hawks all time leading scorer list with 3 assists tonight, giving him 10 in his last 3 games. The dude is on a tear right now, which bodes well for the entertainment level for the rest of the games this March.

 

 

Hockey

A successful, if unspectacular stretch of games for the Hawks this Valentines’ week as they were able to bookend two wins in Canada with an absolute turd of an effort down in The Lou for the middle frame. During all of this actual hockey being played (how many people were actually playing attention with the Olympics going on and the Bulls being awesome is anyone’s guess), news leaked out that the Hawks were looking to get an insane return from teams inquiring about the services and availability of one Brandon Hagel. The return in question (according to Frank Seravalli in the Daily Faceoff Rundown podcast) is apparently a first round pick and a top prospect, which to me is absolutely mind boggling.

Look, don’t get me wrong. Brandon Hagel is a very solid young player on a Very Not Good team. Were he to be traded to Colorado or Vegas at the deadline he would be a very solid 3rd or 4th line player. Teams don’t trade first round picks and/or top prospects to fill out their 3rd line, no matter how young and cap friendly he may be. At 23 years old (24 when next season rolls around), is he the kind of player you build around for the future? His 27 points in 46 games is a nice addition, but if the Hawks are turning down 2nd and 3rd round picks for a guy they essentially picked up off waivers when the cupboard is completely bare is asinine to me. Not having a permanent GM at the trade deadline is also extremely asinine, but the Hawks aren’t one to be told what is dumb and what isn’t.

Anyways, TO THE RECAP:

 

2/9

Hawks 4 – Oilers 1

BOX SCORE

Natural Stat Trick

 

Guess signing Evander Kane wasn’t the kick in the pants the Oilers thought it would be, eh?

The Hawks jumped right into the Oil’s shit from the get go, with Patrick Kane firing a nifty cross ice feed to DeBrincat, who ripped it right past Professional Crybaby Mike Smith giving the Hawks their first of two power play goals on the night. It was all set up by the hard work of Sam Lafferty, who drew the tripping penalty after outworking Nugent-Hopkins. A minute later the aforementioned Brandon Hagel doubled up the Hawks lead when DeBrincat saucered a cross ice pass of his own during a 3 on 2 rush.

The 2nd period was all about Marc-Andre Fleury, as the Oil emptied everything in the chamber at him. Edmonton dropped 20 shots on MAF in the 2nd, with only Leon “Why So Pissy” Draisaitl’s power play tally sneaking past him. As expected, the Hawks got absolutely annihilated in CORSI in the second period to the tune of 75% to 25%. They supposedly had 6 shots in the period but I can’t honestly remember any of them. Predictably, Edmonton folded like a cheap tent after Strome put one past Smith in the first minute of the 3rd, with Fleury in no serious danger the rest of the way. Shit, even Kirby Dach scored a goal, which tells you everything you need to know about the state of hockey in Edmonton right now. Good win.

 

2/12

Hawks 1- Blues 5

BOX SCORE

Natural Stat Trick

 

This game fucking sucked. The team clearly didn’t give a shit from word go, and they got smoked in every facet of the game up and down the ice. Even Marc-Andre Fleury had the “Not Interested” sign hanging from his helmet. The Blues exposed the Hawks every weakness as a team, and capitalized on every mistake. When the Hawks needed a push in the 3rd to try and get back in the game, the Blues dominated CORSI 82%-18%. It pains me to say it, but they’re just better than the Hawks at everything, and it’s gonna be that way for a long while.

 

2/14

Hawks 3 – Jets 1

BOX SCORE

Natural Stat Trick

 

They can’t all be edge of your seat thrillers. Sometimes during an 82 game marathon, there are just going to be games that are flat out boring. Through the first half of this one, that’s exactly what happened. Just ask Ben Pope:

Really, nothing of note happened until Patrick Kane used a screen by Kirby Dach to rifle one 5 hole on Connor HellBuick. After that brief moment of excitement, things went quiet again until Mark Scheifele tapped in a puck that hit approximately 32 people on the way to the cage off the stick of Nate Schmidt six minutes into the final period. Then Alex DeBrincat decided he’d had enough of this bullshit and gave the Hawks a lead they wouldn’t give up with this absolutely disgusting snipe:

Stan Bowman did a lot of dumbass shit while he was here, but drafting Top Cat was definitely not one of those things. Anyways, shortly thereafter, Fleury helped himself out by shooting an outlet pass to Kane who tapped it up to Hagel for the ENG, thus bringing the game to a close. You really can’t complain about the win, but this game was exactly what you’d expect with two bottom of the table teams dry humping their way through 60 minutes of hockey. The Jets won the possession battle 54-46%, but they don’t have DeBrincat or Marc-Andre Fleury, so fuck em. Moving on.

Hockey

The new-coach glisten has begun to dull a bit as the Hawks won only one game this past week. Though the Hawks still seem to be a bit less lost than when Coach Cool Youth Pastor was at the helm, the Sharks game was tedious at best and the Flames game was not pretty. Though this team is getting better at resetting after a bad period, the elusive 60-minute game still seems just a bit out of their reach. At least the defense looked better than under Colliton—better, or at least adequately positioned enough to save Fleury’s ass from a goal on Sunday, see above.

Goals for this team also seem to be few and far between, at even-strength and on the advantage. Even when King pulls the goalie late in games to try and get something going, the Hawks just can’t seem to score. And now that Brett Connolly and Lukas Reichel have both gotten injured over the weekend on the IceHogs, the pool of players they can bring up to score goals has just gotten much shallower. Anyone want to ride the Alex Nylander train? Didn’t think so.

Hawks 2, Flames 5
Box | Natural Stat Trick

The tone for this game was very quickly set with Kirby Dach getting in a fight just a minute into the game despite having an injury history with his wrist, and then a Flames goal shortly after. Then Jake McCabe and Brandon Hagel seemed to get hurt within minutes of each other, and though they both returned to the game the narrative was set.

Though the Hawks would come back from their deficit to tie things back up thanks to Hagel returning to play, the Flames always seemed to be able to answer with another goal. Before the period ended, the gargantuan Milan Lucic was able to score on a Richardson assist that left Connor Murphy floundering to take back the lead. The Flames were able to out-shoot and out-attempt the Hawks for all three periods, not to mention the Hawks powerplay being in the deep freezer lately.

The Hawks were able to tie the game again in the 2nd period with Reese Johnson’s first NHL goal—he had two points this game and made a good argument for staying in the lineup. And yet the Flames scored three in the 3rd period, two of them being empty-netters at the end of the game when Derek King decided to pull Fleury a few times because fuck it. The good news is at least Nikita Zadorov is floundering defensively for someone else’s team now.

Hawks 3, Blues 2 (Hawks Win Drunken Three-Legged Race)
Box | Natural Stat Trick

Instead of losing a game they should’ve lost like the previous night, the Hawks won this game that they still should’ve lost. In true 2021 Blackhawks fashion, they immediately gave up a goal to start the game, this time not even a minute in on a three-on-one as the Blues simply outskated the Hawks to score. The Hawks seemed to tie it up a few minutes later as Toews appeared to score thanks to a flounder behind the net by Jordan Binnington, but it was ruled offside after a coach’s challenge, leading to some frustration that culminated in another late-period goal by St. Louis that just bounced around in front of the net before going in.

The 1st period ended up being the only period the Hawks didn’t have the higher CF%, as they were able to effectively reset, I guess, and were able to scrape together the two goals to tie the game and got Kevin Lankinen essentially taking care of the rest. First it was Khaira and the 4th line who put the Hawks on the board, and Brandon Hagel was able to score a beautiful goal with five minutes left in the game to force overtime—when you get to the net, good things happen, of course.

Everyone saw the OT-winning goal by DeBrincat and set up by Kane. Seth Jones should get credit, too, for getting the puck to Kane in the neutral zone by spin-o-rama-ing the puck away from two St. Louis defenders. It was about as greasy as a win gets, but at this point we’ll take all the wins we can get.

Hawks 0, Sharks 2
Box | Natural Stat Trick

The Hawks, who surprisingly had the better possession numbers in two of the three periods at play this game, just didn’t have the offense to back it up. It just so happens that when Hagel and the Cat have an off night of any kind the amount of goals this team can score absolutely plummets.

You’ve probably read online about the 5-on-5 goal numbers, and they really are that ugly. Currently tied with the Islanders for the least amount of 5-on-5 goals in the league certainly isn’t a stat you want to attribute to your team, and yet this is where we sit. And then there’s the powerplay…dear God. Although they are technically only the 11th-worst powerplay in the league, that number would probably be even lower had that unit NOT been the only thing working under Coach Jeremy Bevington’s regime.

The Hawks had their chances (and two powerplay opportunities) but weren’t ever able to capitalize on any of them. And despite playing better defensively—Marc-Andre Fleury only saw 22 shots, amazing by this team’s standards—the lack of offense ended up killing them. Timo Meier scored in the 2nd and 3rd periods for the Sharks, and by that time players like Kane and DeBrincat were visibly showing their frustration for not being able to get one past James Reimer. Meier’s first goal just bounced off his body and in and the second was an empty netter, so feel about that what you will.

This week’s opponents for the Hawks are almost entirely crammed into the weekend, with games against the Capitals, Rangers and Islanders on the docket for Thursday, Saturday and Sunday respectively. The Islanders could be a soft cushion for the Hawks to get an easy win (or the world’s dullest 1-0 shootout loss), but the Capitals and Rangers sit in the top half of the league in goals per game—the Capitals in the top 5. Perhaps some more line blending by King will get someone to score—otherwise, Lanks and Fleury had better be lights out if we want to win even two out of three.

Hockey

Since we last wrote, the Reckoning finally happened, and the Hawks won their first two games of the season. As we are all aware of now, Jeremy Colliton finally got ousted as Blackhawks head coach, and hopefully his galaxy-brained “Systems” are gone with him. After a 5-1 win against the paltry Senators, the Hawks went back to their usual play under Colliton this season, coughing up a two-goal lead to the Hurricanes and getting trounced by the Jets before the interim general manager decided after only a week on the job that it was time for a new coach.

Although many speculated it would be Marc Crawford who would get the interim job, it was instead given to Derek King, who had been head coach of the IceHogs and already has a strong relationship with a lot of the younger guys who came up through Rockford. Though he mentioned before last night’s game that he didn’t have time to be changing the Systems the team is currently playing with, I saw marked improvement on the defensive front last night and hope to see that continue. There’s nowhere else to go but up.

11/1/21
Hawks 5 – Senators 1
Box Score |
Natural Stat Trick

The Hawks finally get a win on the season, and all it took was for Patrick Kane to go off after returning from COVID protocol—no, the irony is not lost on us. He had a hat trick and an assist, being part of all but one of the goals scored by the Hawks. Brandon Hagel scored the other two goals, giving me a slight bit of hope that he’s learning how to finish. He also tends to be incredibly streaky with his points production going back to last year—if he can figure out how to score consistently, I think he’ll be productive in this league for years to come.

Seth Jones also had a pretty good game, stealing pucks away from opponents, making good plays, keeping pucks in the offensive zone, and getting another assist on the night. (He leads the team in assists and led in points until this game when Kane went off.)

Defensively, it’s still same-old, same-old. The Hawks got domed possession-wise in the first period, yet thankfully didn’t throw their hands in the air and give up midway through the game. Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 29 shots and put on a stellar performance despite this entire organization not being deserving of any save he makes. This came after he made 39 saves in the previous game and continues to get trotted out and asked to provide nearly all of the team’s defense via saves against the league’s best teams.

Finally, I’m not sure who’s big-brained idea it was to put Dylan Strome on a line with the likes of Reese Johnson and MacKenzie Entwistle, but I didn’t wonder for a second why he wasn’t producing this game. Surround him with likeminded players who can help him score if you actually want to capitalize on his offensive talents? Or don’t, I guess. It’s all a wash anyway.

11/3/21
Hawks 3, Hurricanes 4
Box Score | Natural Stat Trick

I don’t think anyone genuinely believed the Hawks would win this one, but the way they completely collapsed to start the 3rd period after sending the Hurricanes into their first two-goal deficit of their season was a sight to behold. Perhaps it has something to do with people like Reese Johnson getting playing time ahead of Dylan Strome and Ryan Carpenter on the PP1 instead of Dylan Strome. But obviously what do I know?

This loss was no fault of the Cat, who scored two of the Hawks’ three goals and had a quality chance during the four-minute powerplay to end the game that didn’t end up going in. He and Kane are the only reliable scorers on this team, as everyone else seems desperately unable to finish. Kubalik seemed especially snakebitten tonight despite his fine performance against Ottawa. He had only two shots tonight and was on the ice for Carolina’s first goal in which he was unable to defend Tony DeAngelo of all people from tipping the puck to Derek Stepan, who knocked it in past Fleury.

Speaking of, this loss can also be partially blamed on Fleury, though that doesn’t keep me from pitying every second he has to stand on this ice behind this team. The 3-2 Hawks lead going into the 3rd period was blown by a bad goal on his part. He got five-holed by Jesper Fast, a goal Fleury absolutely has to have especially when your defenseman Jake McCabe becomes a turnstile before everyone’s eyes. The Canes’ fourth goal could be entirely blamed on Fleury, as he got a piece of the puck but was unable to keep it from dribbling behind him and into the goal. Tough loss, and yet there’s more to come before the weekend winds down.

11/5/21
Hawks 1, Jets 5
Box Score | Natural Stat Trick

The game that finally got Colliton canned was a pretty horrific one, with the Hawks essentially mailing it in after giving up a quick goal to the Jets just 47 seconds into the game. It featured Seth Jones getting caught in the neutral zone, leaving Paul Stastny completely alone in the slot. About two minutes later, the Jets converted on a powerplay opportunity thanks to Marc-Andre Fleury being screened by like three people, two of them Hawks. It doesn’t get much worse than this.

The underlying numbers were horrific; the Hawks had only 18 shots on goal the entire game and were crushed possession-wise in both the second and third periods. An offside powerplay goal for the Hawks early in the 2nd period continued to frustrate the entire team. The lone Hawks goal was thanks to Entwistle on yet another powerplay opportunity because expecting 5-on-5 goals with a Jeremy Colliton team is not a realistic expectation. I turned this one off early, if I’m going to be honest, and opted instead for my yearly re-watch of Slap Shot to fill my time.

11/7/21
Hawks 2, Predators 1 (OT)
Box Score | Natural Stat Trick

For the first time this season, which already feels so long because of all the horrible things that have happened thus far, there was cause for excitement as the Hawks took the ice. Both Derek King and interim GM Kyle Davidson had said the right things earlier that day in their introductory press conference, and the fact that the Hawks were playing against the fodder that is the Nashville Predators made it seem like a win was entirely possible.

It almost seemed like night and day for this Hawks team, becoming reinvigorated with a new voice in the room and a fresh start. It was pretty even possession-wise for most of the game with both Kevin Lankinen and Juuse Saros making big stops to keep the game close through the end. This is progress.

Brandon Hagel scored the lone goal of regulation for the Hawks; he was able to deflect a Seth Jones shot from the blueline into the net. Unfortunately Hagel later left the game with a shoulder injury and did not participate in this afternoon’s practice either, because this team can never have nice things happen for too long. Entwistle also hurt his ankle this game after a spectacular collision with Mike Hardman in the neutral zone, meaning by the end of this one the Hawks were playing with only 10 forwards.

The Hawks allowed the Predators to tie things up a few minutes after that Hagel goal thanks to some wacky defense from both de Haan and Stillman. However, the D looked a bit better this game, perhaps thanks to King limiting Erik Gustafsson’s minutes as much as humanly possible down the stretch. For a 12-minute stretch, the Hawks allowed the Predators without a shot on goal, though that can also be chalked up to their offense being quite bad.

The winning OT goal was DeBrincat to Kane to DeBrincat just seconds into overtime—just another beautiful play to add to both players’ highlight reels. Ryan Johansen and Saros didn’t stand a chance.

The Hawks only have two games this week, seeing the Penguins tomorrow who are still without Crosby and the even more abysmal Arizona Coyotes on Friday. This gives King time to tinker with lines, systems, and whatever else before focusing on winning some theoretically winnable games. And with Hagel and Entwistle out we might see some other players get a chance in the lineup as well. We’ll see how things shake out tomorrow.

I leave you with footage of all three goals Lukas Reichel scored last night for the IceHogs; go check out Jon Fromi’s extended coverage of that game and the Hogs here.

 

Hockey

Box Scores

Game 1 / Game 2

Natural Stat Trick

Game 1 / Game 2

 

Sometimes hockey is dumb. Really, that’s the biggest takeaway from this series right now. All season long we’ve been harping on the fact that the Hawks can’t continue to get pantsed night in and night out in the possession department and expect to end up in the playoffs. So in game one of the set with the Red Wings, they went out and controlled the play at a 54% clip and got skulled 4-1. Then in game 2 they went back to a 44% share for the evening and shut the Scum out 4-nil.

Whatever.

 

 

Numbers Don’t Lie

-Kevin Lankinen has looked increasingly human as the season has progressed, which really isn’t a surprise considering he’s already surpassed the normal season length in the Finnish Elite League. One nice side effect of the shortened COVID-19 season is that it’s almost like Lankinen is on an innings limit like pitchers in baseball. It’s a good way to break him into the slog that is the normal NHL season. That being said, it’s not great right now when the Hawks need him for the stretch run.

-That being said, Malcom Subban had one of his better starts last night, making some higher difficulty saves in the 2nd when the Scum real started to press the attack. If Lankinen is gassed, it will be interesting to see how Coach Galaxy Brain handles the starts next week against the Preds.

-Patrick Kane is back to looking like a world killer again. After stalling out post-400 goal, he’s netted 2 in 2 games. Needless to say he’s gonna need to take the reins offensively if the team is gonna score against Smashville.

-Ian Mitchell has looked much better the past few starts, and is picking his spots to jump in the play much better. He still needs a center fielder for him to cowboy with, and pairing him with Zadorov is not the fucking answer.

-Brandon Hagel getting an assist off his nuggets is a highlight of the season for me.

-Wyatt Kalynuk is looking more and more like “a thing.” He’s made some mistakes in his own end, but I’m willing to overlook them if it means the kind of production we saw last night.

-Next up is the 3 game series against Smashville that will pretty much determine whether or not the Hawks move onto the playoffs this season. Thus far this year they’re 0-4-2 against the Preds, and have only looked decent in one of those losses. They’re also sub-.500 in games that matter with Colliton as coach. The stats aren’t in their favor, and I’m not holding my breath. The Hawks need at least 2 of the 3, and they pretty much have to be in regulation. Hope springs eternal.

Let’s Go Hawks

Hockey

Box Score: Game 33 | Game 34
Game Logs: Game 33 | Game 34
Natural Stat Trick: Game 33 | Game 34

 

Yes, I am covering my ears and refusing to hear anything you’re saying about Alex Barkov being out, rendering these wins meaningless. The Blackhawks HAD to get points this weekend and they did. Let’s celebrate that and hope that this series gives the Hawks the confidence to continue playing good…ish down the stretch.

We all recognized the things the Blackhawks needed to do to succeed against the Panthers this series: solid defense, good goaltending, Patrick Kane back on the offensive, getting the powerplay going again and not taking dumb penalties. They were able to do a solid 2½ of these things. Let’s take a look at what went down. To the bullets!

  • As we are all aware of by now, Kubalik has not been getting the minutes he deserves. But I like his play on the second line with Brandon Hagel. They had a really nice goal on Tuesday, with Hagel able to make a pass through a defender to Kubalik in front of the net, who was able to slip it past Driedger. If you enjoy statistics, the Hagel-Kampf-Kubalik line leads the team in expected goals percentage by a bit of a margin at 68.4%. More please.
  • With the Blackhawks’ solid win on Tuesday, it was no surprise they won the possession battle there. They dominated in the 1st period with a 60 CF%, and then stayed slightly under 50% possession in the 2nd and 3rd periods to end the game just edging out the Panthers in this metric. Tonight, however, the Blackhawks went back to their loveable old selves, getting completely skulled in possession throughout the entire game. The Panthers are a top-10 possession team in the league, so I’m just glad we got out of this series without too much damage.
  • Numbers-wise, theoretically, Chris Driedger is one of the better goalies in the league. Of active goalies who have started 10+ games in the NHL this season, he’s 10th in the league in goals against average and 6th in save percentage. Bobrovsky’s numbers push him much further down the list. Neither goaltenders looked spectacular this series against the Hawks, exposing this team that obviously finds success in outscoring their goaltending woes. With their top scorer in Barkov out and Lankinen playing on his head, it just seemed to be a little too much for Florida. They have a playoff spot all but locked up anyway and Barkov should be back soon, so this will probably just be a series they will quickly forget.
  • As long as Nikita Zadorov is on this team, you can subtract as many months off my life expectancy. I have truly had it with this oaf. He had an assist Tuesday but at this point I do not care. He took two penalties tonight, the second one a truly magical hit that laid out Patric Hornqvist and gave the Panthers a critical powerplay chance in the 3rd. Oh, and Zadorov skated completely out of position to take this hit, because WHAT IS DEFENSE.
  • One of the things the Blackhawks needed to do in order to get back into the win column was getting Patrick Kane to show some life. He had two points total in the four games prior to this series (though he was trying his best to get something going with 16 total shots on goal during that time). Kane boasted 4 points in the series and has continued to create chances for others, becoming the assist king as of recent. Thanks for sharing the wealth, Kaner.
  • The Hawks did a good job limiting their penalty kill time in Tuesday night’s game, and it definitely paid off. They only took two penalties and only allowed one powerplay goal from the Panthers. (To compare, in the series from hell against Tampa last week they took six total penalties and allowed two powerplay goals.) Progress? I guess. Thursday’s game was certainly another story, however, as stupid penalties (and calls) were had by all. However, the Blackhawks were able to kill the whopping six penalties thanks to Kevin Lankinen playing at an elite status.
  • Speaking of Lanks, he did a good job of keeping the Blackhawks in it Thursday after a Duclair crossbar reignited the Panthers’ offense for a time. He also made some big saves towards the end of the second after getting clunked in the head. And he also saved a three-on-none chance because again, WHAT IS DEFENSE. The takeaway here is that Kevin Lankinen saved the day, stopping 41 shots. His rebound control still occasionally makes me cringe, but hopefully that will…improve with time?

The Blackhawks get to face off against the Nashville Predators this weekend, who just crushed the Detroit Red Wings and had some guy named Rocco Grimaldi score a hat trick in the 1st period of the game. The Predators are vying for the fourth playoff spot and dropping this series against them would tie us in the standings. Even splitting the series would bring the Predators too close for comfort to the fourth-place spot. It’s going to be another sweep-or-bust situation. Let’s go Hawks.