Everything Else

Drake Caggiula is a nice player to have in general. He’s a good combination of decent skill, board-crashing puck retrieval, and missing teeth that each and every rockhead broadcaster pollutes his britches over year in and year out. What makes Caggiula even better is that StanBo got him for Brandon Motherfucking Manning. Sane people may argue that the Strome trade was tops on the year, but we all know that this was truly the feather in StanBo’s stupid fucking cap.

Hawks Stats

26 GP, 5 G, 7 A, 12 P

49.71 CF%, 45.48 xGF% [5v5]

It Comes With a Free Frogurt!

This one’s easy. Drake Caggiula isn’t Brandon Manning. In case you’ve forgotten, Brandon Manning managed to get sent down to the AHL while playing defense on the Edmonton Oilers. There is no better metaphor that can accurately capture how fucking bad he is at his chosen profession. What an asshole.

On top of not being Brandon Manning—the PETA of hockey players—Caggiula looked serviceable if not good in his 26 games here. He spent most of his time on the first line with Daydream Nation and wasn’t a total clusterfuck up there. Granted, if your first line consists of Drake Caggiula, either your coach is an idiot or you suck, but since we know that the latter is certain and the former is a distinct possibility, you live with it. On the first line, he came close to scratching even in possession, and was above board in the relative Corsi share (+1.8). He was the guy doing what everyone wishes John Hayden would do, which is retrieve pucks and set up his more skilled linemates.

The Frogurt Is Also Cursed

Caggiula is a bonafide bonehead. Two games after spending a month in the dark room with a concussion, ya boy went out and got his skull caved in by Dustin Byfuglien, a man with hardly enough motivation to elbow his way to the front of the buffet anymore. It’s hard to have a consistently positive impact for your hockey team if you’re too concussed to play.

By virtue of being on the first line, Caggiula had plush starts, starting nearly 60% of his time in the offensive zone. This makes those possession and expected goals percentages look pretty shitty. But that’s also a function of playing with Garbage Dick, who tends to make a lot out of very little.

Can I Go Now?

Caggiula is still pretty young (24) and is on a decently cheap contract for next year ($1.5 million cap hit). Having him available to play top line minutes is a plus, but it shouldn’t be what we expect from him going forward. He looks like a much better fit as a puck retriever in the bottom six, but I’m not sure I’d trust him with the kind of defensive responsibilities you’d give to the Kampf line.

If the Hawks are going to stick with Saad on the third line, that could be a safe spot for Caggiula, especially if we’re looking at Caggiula as a center, which seems to be where StanBo and Beto O’Colliton want to slot him. Something like Saad–Caggiula–Sikura/Kahun could make for some decent depth scoring and responsible possession. With no history of defensive responsibility, you’re sort of forced to put him in a role where he can take advantage of softer zone starts. But he’s shown he can handle that in a small sample size last year.

Overall, Caggiula is a fine if not good puck retriever with OK speed and a bit more touch than the average grinder. Certainly better to have that than whatever it was the Brain Trust thought they were getting with Manning.

Previous Player Reviews

Corey Crawford

Cam Ward

Collin Delia

Duncan Keith

Connor Murphy

Henri Jokiharju

Gustav Forsling

Erik Gustafsson

Carl Dahlstrom

Brendan Perlini

Alex DeBrincat

Chris Kunitz

Artem Anisimov

Marcus Kruger

Dylan Strome

Jonathan Toews

Brandon Saad

Dominik Kahun

John Hayden

David Kampf

Patrick Kane

Everything Else

This game was Laura Powers ripping Bart’s heart out and kicking it into the trash. After taking the lead for the first time in nine games, the Hawks gave up two goals in 12 fucking seconds. Up until that point, the Hawks were playing well! Aside from spotting the Knights their requisite two goals early, the Hawks dominated possession until the third. Whatever, let’s fucking do this already.

Box Score

Corsica

Natural Stat Trick

– Let’s just get the shit out of the way. Brent Seabrook can retire now and have a wonderful legacy. He’s done so very, very much for this team, and the greatest thing he can do now is just stop. Just hang them up, take the assistant coach position from actual goblin Barry Smith, and go down in history.

Seabrook’s turnover on the game-winning goal for Vegas was one thing. But watching Alex Tuch bowl through him and jam the dagger into everyone’s fucking skull is utterly embarrassing. We can complain that Patches interfered, and I don’t think we’d be wrong. But regardless, Tuch manhandling Seabrook was the perfect microcosm of what this team has become: bloated, behind, and thrashing in a sea of shit.

As much as I want to get completely red and nude about what Brent Seabrook is now, I just can’t. It’s like watching your 16-year-old dog, your lifelong companion, shit in the middle of the floor, only to hang his head in shame. He knows he shouldn’t do that, but he’s just so old. The anger melts into grief, which only makes you madder and sadder. What’s worse is you know no one else will take him in, and you just can’t bear putting him out to pasture. So you let him shit on the floor, over and over, just wishing the nightmare would end.

– Certainly not one of Crawford’s best either. It’s a given that he’s going to have to make outrageous saves every night, because this fucking team is an unwashed armpit crawling with impetigo. But the game-tying goal from Marchessault in the third is inexcusable. The dying emu off Engelland’s stick in the first was another one Crow probably should have had. Konroyd, who manages to be both an idiot and a Milhouse, kept saying it bounced off Toews, which is proof positive that it didn’t and Crow just missed it. Even the first goal he gave up was a result of poor rebound control, which gave Reilly Smith a chance to Baryshnikov his way to the game opener.

– I don’t know how many times we are going to have to say it, but Alex DeBrincat still isn’t a third liner. When you had Top Cat–Strome–Kane on the ice toward the end of the second, they were dominant. DeBrincat and Strome were toward the bottom in TOI in the first, which is inconceivable. I want to know what the grand conspiracy against DeBrincat is, because there’s no logical explanation for why Dominik Kahun or David Kampf get plush spots over him. You’d think the GREAT COMMUNICATOR would have this explanation front and center, and yet we wait and wonder.

Brendan Perlini sucks. He’s Kris Versteeg with a pedigree.

– I tried being nice, but Brandon Manning can go right back to eating my toenails after a long, hot run. It’s one thing if, like, Erik Karlsson storms the blue line on the PK to try to force a turnover. But there was Brandon Manning, doing just that prior to Vegas’s first goal. In case anyone’s forgotten, Brandon Manning sucks so much he blows, and you could see Marchessault giggling as he shuffled a pass right past him, leaving Seabrook all alone to defend. I’d take Connor Murphy eight weeks ago over him.

– On the plus side, Jonathan Toews was a force. He scored his goal from behind the goal line. He won faceoff after faceoff late in the third in the offensive zone, giving the Hawks hope. He took everything and then some, and it still wasn’t enough.

Dylan Strome could be something. For all the worrying we did about his supposed lack of speed, he’s almost always in the right place. You don’t expect him to pot shots like the bad angle one he did in the second with any regularity, but it’s nice to know that he’s got it in his bag of tricks. Imagine what he and DeBrincat could do with Kane on the wing.

Patrick Kane was also dominant tonight, and he did it while playing more minutes than anyone on the Hawks. Though he spent most of his time with Kahun and Wide Dick, which is such a goddamn waste.

– Credit to Artie though. Forcing a turnover and giving the Hawks their first goddamn lead in nine motherfucking games was nice, even if it was fleeting.

– I want to know whose idea it’s been to continue doing the neutral zone/own zone drop pass, because I’m going to pull my brain out from my asshole and piss on it until it dissolves like a skidmark if it keeps happening. This skullfuck of a strategy led to sustained pressure for the Knights WHILE THE HAWKS HAD A MAN ADVANTAGE during the second PP in the second period. I know I shouldn’t yell about that, since the PP is worse than a Truth commercial, but did you ever think it could possibly get worse? Fire whoever is in charge of making that decision out of a cannon into the motherfucking sun.

It was right there for the Hawks, and they threw up in their shoes. With the insufferable game at Notre Dame against Boston coming up and the Hawks falling farther and farther down in the standings, don’t be surprised if the next few weeks are the swan song for Bowman and maybe even Colliton.

Eat Arby’s.

Booze du Jour: Four Roses straight from the bottle

Line of the Night: Artem Anisimov puts the Hawks ahead for the first time in nine games!” – Pat Foley

Everything Else

The Hawks are in a weird spot right now, and that’s being downright generous. They’ve lost seven in a row and perhaps you heard something about a recent coaching change? Oh, you haven’t? Well, let me assure that everyone around Chicago took it very well and no one is overreacting or furious or aghast in any way. Yet in the midst of these chaotic times we still need to parse who’s doing what and how (we’re self-hating masochists to do this but you knew that already). So let’s take a look:

The Dizzying Highs

Patrick Kane: Kane’s give-a-shit level was down around -50 for much of the early part of the season, but whether he wants to or not, he’s had to shoulder more of a load (literally) and is one of the few bright spots on this team right now. Colliton has been leaning on Kane for minutes—his TOI jumped up nearly 10 minutes from Quenneville’s last game in Calgary to Colliton’s first at the UC against Carolina. Kane had a goal and as assist in that game, and if you ignore the fact that neither he nor anyone else did jack shit against Philly yesterday, Garbage Dick has four points in his last five games. He’s also been kept on the ice for the entire power play a few times in this brave new Colliton era. Again, this hasn’t resulted in an offensive explosion quite yet but he belongs out there…and so much the better with some right-handed shots finally. Kane’s shooting percentage is a robust 16.9 right now, so you’d have to think that if Colliton keeps him out there as he’s been doing—both on the power play and at the even-strength minutes—then Kane’s points total, which is already leading the team at 21, will only go up. At least that’s what we can hope.

The Terrifying Lows

The Entire Defense: You know what, at this point I almost feel bad for Brandon Manning. Almost. He’s admitted publicly that he sucks, acknowledged that he was struggling with Q ignoring him, and said that he’s looking for a fresh start. And then he gets a fucking own goal in Philly. I mean, you can’t make this shit up. He’s exhausted my loathing for him (and we’re not even 20 games in!), and now it’s verging on pity.

I’m feeling something close to pity because it’s not like Manning is the one fucking things up defensively and everyone else is just peachy. Duncan Keith has had bad turnovers lately. Erik Gustafsson has joined in on the fun, with some of his own in the Carolina game. Brent Seabrook seems like he’s trying but he’s still slow, even if his nacho belly is a little smaller these days. Brandon Davidson, Jan Rutta…what can you even say?

The Hawks are second-worst in goals against right now (64) and goals against per 60 (3.72), with only Ottawa coming in worse in these stats. And you know it’s not all Crawford’s fault—it’s because they’re giving up an average of 33 shots per game. But here’s the real kick in the ass: they’re averaging that same number of shots per game themselves (33.1), yet they’re giving up more high-danger chances than they’re getting (13.66 HDCA/60 versus 11.56 HDCF/60). So while you’d think that at least based on shots they’d be closer to equal in terms of goals for/goals against, they’re giving up a shitload of the types of chances you can’t allow and hanging Crawford (and Ward, to a lesser extent) out to dry. It’s a mess.

The Creamy Middles

Jeremy Colliton: It’s the smallest of sample sizes, I know. But the pace is accelerating, they’re being more creative (or trying to), the power play is at least seeing some needed personnel changes, and by all accounts he’s trying to address neutral zone issues and many of the myriad problems this team has. The crappy results in these last two games can’t be directly attributed to coaching miscues. Colliton is still trying to figure out what the hell he’s going to do with these guys. He hasn’t been a train wreck and has appeared calm and collected despite the vitriol and dumbshit performances surrounding him this week. And that’s about all we can ask for at this point.

Everything Else

Some combination of last year’s horrible season and all of the insane optimism I have about the Bears has resulted in an all-time low level of expectations about the Blackhawks this year, and with that it’s been difficult for me to get worked up about bad losses. So it should tell you something when I say that this loss was really aggravating. Let’s just get this over with:

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

– At a certain point Brandon Saad is going to have a breakthrough on offense this year. I feel this is a certainty. His performances have been too dominant in almost all other aspects besides actually finding the back of the net, and even tonight he managed to that, albeit in a really weird way. He almost had a second but he Maradonna’d it into the net with the kind of backheel touch I’d like to see in Man City’s midfield (yes I am a Citizen. No I don’t know why Sam still lets me write here). Overall he was probably the Hawks best player tonight, and his 70% shot share at 5v5 bears that out (though it was actually third on the team to Wide Dick and Kunitz, his linemates). It’s either gonna come together for him or continue to be the most frustrating season imaginable. Hopefully the former.

– I don’t know what kind of galaxy brain shit led Joel Quennville to a defensive pairing of the Brandons Davidson and Manning, but the results of that pair being on the ice is what Q and his team deserve for not just putting that pair together, but sticking with it all night. Manning continues to be unarguably the worst player on the ice, and his presence on this team is an affront to humanity and the sport of hockey. He almost murdered one of the Canucks players tonight (it’s too late for me to go back and try to figure out who it was) and in my opinion the only just result is that he gets banned from the NHL forever. It’s only right.

– Meanwhile, Manning was a land of contrasts tonight. There was a 30 second stretch before the Canucks second goal where he did an excellent job closing Elias Petterson out in the defensive zone, basically completely shutting the rookie down on the rush. Then 30 seconds later he seemed like he had no clue what to do with Jake fucking Virtanen as he rushed, and Manning ended up leaving Virtanen way too much room to shoot, and he burned Crow high. And then probably about two minutes later he boxed out Louis Eriksson extremely well to shut down a rush. So what the fuck? Pick a lane my dude.

– This was a really bad loss, mostly because the Hawks played so much better in the first two periods than the Canucks. But when you get brained so badly you only manage 28% of the shots in the third period, you deserve to lose. Let’s agree to never speak of this again.

Everything Else

Tonight felt like a bunch of coked-up ferrets were let loose on the ice and we got to watch the bizarre yet entertaining spectacle. At times it was hilarious, at times it was maddening, but it definitely wasn’t as dull as you might think for a mediocre-at-best and mostly-really-crappy team matching up for the evening. To the bullets!

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

Corsica

–To that point, neither team was really dominant. Yes I know the Hawks scored four goals, but one was an empty-netter and it wasn’t until late in the third that the Hawks put this away. Jonathan Toews scored early in the first after McQuaid and Skjei went full-on Three Stooges and fell over both the blue line and one another, leaving Toews alone on Lundqvist. But then Brandon fucking Manning being Brandon fucking Manning allowed the Rangers to tie it up moments later. Each team would get momentum and a bunch of chances, yet frantic goaltending by goalies vastly better than their respective defenses would fight off the onslaught. In total both teams gave up 6 penalties, so frequent power plays kept the coked-up pace I mentioned. Possession ricocheted as well—the Hawks had over a 60 CF% in the first, then down to 48% in the second, then back to 61% in the third. It was, as they say, a back-and-forth affair, despite the broadcast singing the team’s praises.

–So it’s admittedly annoying that the Hawks didn’t dominate this entire game because, as we’ve said, losing to truly good teams is acceptable, but stretches like this one are where the Hawks can actually pretend to be contenders. Now before I sound unappreciative, they had a goal in the third get waved off prior to the other weird one later in the third by Kane. So had that gone another way it would have been 5-1. But the fact that these two “goals” were so strange and close to non-goals (or in the case of the former, truly not a goal), didn’t exactly inspire a lot of confidence. The core did well, don’t get me wrong–Kane, Toews, Top Cat, and most importantly Crawford, but I want to see the Hawks be GOOD against shitty teams, not just passable.

–OK, we’re already sick of bitching about Brandon Manning so I’m not going to spend too much time here. But, I’ve got to say, as much as I hate him, I can’t even imagine how much Corey Crawford hates him. That aforementioned goal was a direct result of Manning making a pathetic turnover at the offensive blue line and standing there mouth agape at the side of Crawford’s crease while Buchnevich scored. In the second period on one of their penalty kills (which, really, can we make this stop?) the puck bounced off his dumb ass and right on goal, and Crawford had to make the save. I would seriously not blame Crawford if he pulled some retaliatory, underhanded shit on Manning. Key his car? Leave a bag of flaming dog shit at his door? Sleep with his wife? Pretty sure all of this would be forgivable. And Crawford’s only been back for a matter of days at this point.

–Fortin had himself a night. Only one goal but he was just trying EVER SO HARD the entire game. From his first shift trying to split two defenders (and he almost made it, oh he was trying), to rabidly flying around the ice to being in the perfect position for Schmaltz’s beautiful pass in the second (sidebar: not complaining about Schmaltz passing it for once), Alexandre Fortin was a man possessed (OK, boy possessed, but you know what I mean). Some of that rabidity led to dumb turnovers, which will happen in those situations. But the Hawks need speed and I’m also not going to complain about the scoring or effort.

–I realize this is going to sound stupid and I can’t back it up with numbers, but Brandon Saad had a fire still lit under his ass. The stats won’t necessarily show it—one shot, no points and crappy possession at 48 CF%. But believe me, he was all over the ice, and while this isn’t going down as a historic game for him, his improvement this season continues.

All in all, tonight was another win that they had to have and that’s what matters. It was convincing enough and who would have thought they’d have 14 points already? I don’t know if I’d go so far as to call it an inspiring win, but it’s better than the alternative. Onward and upward.

Beer: Sumpin’ Easy Ale by Lagunitas

Line of the Night: “Going to disagree with him. Strongly.” –Eddie O, in a weird moment of clarity, criticizing Adam Burish for his especially stupid comment that Henrik Lundqvist is one of the most overrated goalies in the last decade.

Photo credit: Chicago Tribune

Everything Else

You don’t need me to tell you what was important about tonight—but I will anyway, it was Corey Crawford coming back. And despite what the score was, he looked just fine. It was the usual suspects being the pieces of crap that they are that led to the loss, but you don’t need me to tell you that, either. To the bullets:

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

Corsica

–After goal-a-thons in recent games tonight’s effort seemed rather anemic on offense. This could have easily been at least 2-0 Hawks at the end of the first, had it not been for Fortnite’s total lack of finish. Kane set him up beautifully multiple times, but to no avail. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him demoted back down to the third or fourth line after tonight’s performance (although it’s just as likely Q loves him and will keep him on the second line, so who knows). A poorly timed post by Schmaltz in the second period was another example of the Hawks being snake-bitten.

–Don’t take that to mean that there was no plain ‘ole incompetence tonight—that would be far too generous. Back to Nick Schmaltz, he had a pretty shitty game, to be perfectly honest. Yeah, his CF% ended up being 52.9, but that was a rebound from the mid-30s he had going in the first period, and he pulled his classic pass-when-he-should-shoot early in the third, which basically wasted a huge amount of time and space that could have been a good opportunity.

–But the real tale of woe here is Brandon Manning and Chris Kunitz and how horrible they truly are. We’ve already beaten this dead horse that they suck, but it’s hard to overstate just how much. Even with the aforementioned anemic offense, this game would have been tied at 1 (at worst), had it not been for Manning completely misplaying a 2-on-1 in the first and hanging Crawford out to dry, and had Kunitz not made a shitty, stupid pass attempt late in the third that Clayton Keller (GET A FIRST NAME, ASSHOLE) picked off and scored on to basically put the game out of reach. So after not being able to score a 5-on-5 goal yet this season, the fucking Coyotes found their even-strength mojo thanks to our useless clods who Quenneville refuses to sit, despite the availability of Brandon Davidson, Victor Ejdsell, and ANYONE ELSE FROM ROCKFORD AT THIS POINT.

–Alright, enough of what sucked. The silver lining was that really Crawford looked pretty good. Sure, there were a couple saves where he just barely got a toe on the puck, and in the second there was a terrifying moment where he half-somersaulted out of the crease and I held my head in my hands like I was trying to protect his brain by steadying my own, but all in all he was solid. That includes some great point-blank saves like the one he had on Grabner in the third, which at that point kept it a one-goal game (till Kunitz shat the bed). I’m guessing it’ll take a little while for him to be fully comfortable, and there’s always the chance he’ll regress after dealing with contact or other unforseen issues, but for a first outing after 10 months, this was a very good sign.

–You know who else had a good game? Erik Gustafsson. That’s not a huge shock as he’s been generally playing well, but tonight he had the lone goal after textbook passing from Toews and Top Cat during a 4-on-4 stint, and he made two huge shot blocks to bail out Crawford in the first and second periods.

–I can’t be mad about Raanta having a good game. And when Hjalmarsson was getting misty-eyed after his ovation I was basically at the point of yelling I’M NOT CRYING, YOU’RE CRYING at the tv. And I can’t be mad about Our Cousin Vinny scoring two goals either. I want to be mad because this loss is extremely aggravating, but of course it’s these guys who I can’t hate.

So the Hawks were dealt their first regulation loss of the season, and to the fucking Coyotes (did I already complain and call them that? I did, didn’t I?). It was bound to happen at some point, but the fact that it came at the hands of The Team of Hawks Rejects and on the night Crow finally came back makes it all the more painful. There are still positives to walk away with, though, and with a barrage of games coming up that’s what we’ll do. Onward and upward.

Beer: Lagunitas Sumpin’ Easy Ale

Line of the Night: “Good players get a stick on it.” Steve Konroyd, throwing shade at Alexandre Fortin after he missed yet another great pass from Kane 

Photo credit: Chicago Tribune

Everything Else

Box Score
Event Summary
Natural Stat Trick

Look, going to overtime five straight times as the Hawks have to start this season, an NHL record, isn’t necessarily a good thing. There have been blown leads in the last three games, and in the opener they trailed to a team they really shouldn’t have. But given where the expectations were to start this season, taking 8 of the first 10 points available will be accepted in whatever form it comes in. And tonight was as solid an endeavor as this team is likely to put forward, particularly when it comes at the expense of the Blues. So now onward to what everyone is really waiting for; it’s time to shit on Brandon Manning some more and heap praise upon Alex DeBrincat.

Everything Else

And we’re back with the season’s first edition of Atop the Sugar Pile. For those of you who need a refresher, this is our recurring look at the good, the bad, and the just mildly mediocre in the Hawks universe at a given moment. Only three games into the season we have a very small sample size right now, but why should patience, timing, or logic dictate what we do around here? Fuck that. Without further ado, let’s get to it:

The Dizzying Highs

Jonathan Toews: Well, well, well…didn’t I tell you just a couple weeks ago that Toews is not the washed-up has-been people were worried he was deteriorating into? The answer is yes, yes I did. And it’s probably the only accurate prediction I’ll have all season. Now to be clear, I said he’d have a better year, not an amazing year, but with the way things are going he could end up proving me wrong all the same (and the accurate prediction count will go back to zero). So far Toews is tied for the team lead in scoring with 6 points, 5 of which are goals plus a hat trick. He’s gained at least one step back, maybe more (although it’s early days still and we’ll see how well he maintains that). And beyond just raw scoring, he’s doing things like out-muscling defenders and keeping the puck in the zone, as happened in the Toronto game when he created the possession and passing that led to Top Cat’s thing of beauty. With Alex DeBrincat and Dominik Kahun, in fact, his line has a 54.8 CF% (evens), and Toews himself is sporting a 56.3 (same). Will he actually stay on pace for 80+ points? No, that seems extremely unlikely. But he’s got the speed, the possession, and the scoring that we need, and he’s starting the season in exactly the right way.

The Terrifying Lows

Brandon Manning: Yeah, you knew who would be in this category. This guy is a clueless oaf who should be toweling off cars at the Fast Eddie’s down the street from me. But instead he’s playing professional hockey for REASONS. He was personally responsible for multiple goals in the Ottawa game. His possession numbers are wretched: 44.8 CF% and a CF Rel that’s hovering around -15. And it’s not even that he himself sucks—he’s also the worst possible partner for Brent Seabrook. Nachos needs someone who covers for his shortcomings, not someone whose own incompetence exacerbates those shortcomings. Seabrook had a crucial goal in the first game to tie it in the third, but take a guess where his other numbers are at. That’s right, they’re in the toilet. And Manning had nothing to do with the goal, so he can’t bask in any reflected glory there. At one point on Sunday during the Leafs game he actually skated into Seabrook at center ice. How do you not see an ass that large in the middle of the ice and at least maneuver around it? No, Brandon Manning is like the cone of ignorance where Bart brings down the intelligence of all the kids around him. Fuck this guy.

The Creamy Middles

Henri Jokiharju: One could argue that HJ belongs in the Dizzying Highs, and indeed he’s performed better than expectations and those expectations were already pretty damn high. But just as his youth has positives like speed and exuberance, it also has drawbacks like inexperience. And so it has been: he’s leading the team in possession with a 69.2 CF% (NICE), and also a team-leading CF% Rel of 21.8, although it should be noted that he’s starting nearly three-quarters of the time in the offensive zone. And to top it all off he’s got 5 assists, so he’s managing to be a quality defensive player while making offensive contributions like everyone hoped/expected. But, at moments he has been outgunned, such as a couple times in the opening game and when getting smoked by John Tavares on the Leafs’ third goal on Sunday. However, he’s, you know, playing defense as is his job description, and that’s more than we can say for some of the jamokes we’re stuck with. HJ will at times be a dizzying high, and at times he’ll be terrifyingly low, but at least to start he’s comfortably in a good middling place.

Everything Else

at St. Louis City Hall

RECORDS: Blues 0-1-0   Hawks 1-0-0

PUCK DROP: 7:00 p.m. Central

TV: NBCSCH

IT’S NOT HIS FAULT HE CAN’T READ: St. Louis Game Time

The NHL decided to kick off a weekend of inferiority complexes early, as the Hawks took I-55 south to practice in an abandoned fucking mall because St. Louis is less a city than it is a cluster of trash piled together by no fewer than five rat kings. If there’s one good reason to watch, it’s that the Blues managed to do one thing right for the first time in team history for tonight’s game, choosing to don the powder blue uniforms that might deceive the undiscerning eye into thinking this is a team that chooses not to employ players who drink rainwater from the rafters for sustenance. And yet . . .

The first game of the “This Year’s Different” Cup couldn’t come quickly enough for the Blues, who had a mudhole stomped in their asses by Winnipeg in the season opener. Trash City hung with the Jets for an entire two periods, presumptively because no one in St. Louis can count higher than two, before giving up three goals in just under two minutes in the third. It’s once again the Blues’s woeful defense and goaltending that will keep it from ever doing anything worthwhile.

Year in and year out, the Blues try to convince everyone that Alex Orange Jello and Jabe O’Meester are not only not dead but also top-pairing guys. And they’ll do it again tonight, mostly because there’s nowhere else to go for them on the blue line. Vinny Dunn and his gabagool-stained sweater will likely pair with Colton Parayko, and these two can move the puck if nothing else. And let us assure you, they can’t really do anything else. In the season opener, Dunn–Parayko had CF%s under 25%, despite the Blues having a 54+ CF% on the game and despite those two starting in the offensive zone more than 70% of the time. You have to try to be that bad. Behind them is the Cronenberg pairing of Chris Butler and Jordan “The Lesser” Schmaltz, which might be worse than anything the Hawks throw up on the ice today. That’s a real commitment to sucking.

All of this makes you wonder just how long Jay Gallon can go before having a complete mental breakdown. As the perennial presenter of the “This Year’s Different” Cup, Jake Allen has seen this movie play out, and it never ends well. And lo, Thursday saw him toss a .800 SV% up, including a short-handed goal, despite his strong first 40 minutes. At some point the Blues will have to admit that Gallon probably isn’t the guy to get them to the WCF, let alone past it, but that day is not today. He’s likely to get the start, but if humanoid marital aid Mike Yeo gets itchy, it’s possible to see Chad Johnson take his first start for the Blues. Johnson is about as much of “a guy” as you can find, right down to his frathouse-appropriate name.

Even with all the dreck on the back-end, the Blues do have dangerous weapons up front. Ryan O’Reilly and Vladimir Tarasenko have all the skill to be a holy terror, provided the aptly named Patrick Maroon doesn’t trip over his own dick too often and kneecap them. You can count on him getting into at least one fight tonight for HOCKEY REASONS, and god willing it’ll be with Brandon Manning and result in match penalties for both.

Behind them is the quick and crafty line of Jaden Schwartz, Brayden Schenn, and Jordan Kyrou. Kyrou is just 20 years old and stands as a beacon for St. Louis’s future offense, as he’s fast and has outstanding hands and vision. With most teams looking to blanket the O’Reilly–Tarasenko line, this is where you figure the Blues can do the most damage. Bozak is on the third line where he belongs, but slotting him in with Steen and alleged-living-person David Perron as the Blues’s version of a dungeon line is going to have him wondering what the fuck he was thinking signing in STL. The Ivan BarbashevRob ThomasSammy Blais line rounds it out. Thomas (20th overall in 2017) and Blais are both supposed to be a thing for the Blues.

As for the Hawks, the song remains mostly the same. Cam Ward will try to build off a decent performance against the Senators, assuming the Hawks don’t fart and belch their way through their own zone like they did on Thursday. The Hawks had a hard time fending off pressure from Ottawa’s crashing defensemen on Thursday, which simply doesn’t bode well against a team with better weapons like the Blues do.

There are no changes for the Hawks defensively. Duncan Keith and Henri Jokiharju will have their work cut out for them against either the O’Reilly or Schenn line, and this will be HJ’s first real test of his defensive awareness and abilities. Erik Gustafsson and Jan Rutta will keep doing whatever it is they’re supposed to do, and this game is set up to allow Cowboy Gus to be an aggressive bum slayer. The shutdown pairing is Manning–Seabrook, which is fucking hilarious because the only thing Manning has ever shut down is any hope that the Hawks’s pro scouting department has any idea what a hockey player is, let alone what a passable hockey player looks like. Brent Seabrook did look better than expected on Thursday, but whether that’s per se or resultant of playing next to Manning remains to be seen. If God were merciful, you’d have Davidson rotate in for Manning, but alas.

Before I digress into another fit about Manning, let’s get to the forwards. The only change that might be made is subbing in John Hayden for Andreas Martinsen on the fourth line. We still aren’t sure why Moonface Luke is playing center over Kruger. The Toews line figures to carry most of the momentum in this game, and if the Hawks can get more than just 10 minutes of giving a fuck out of the Kane line, there are plenty of advantages to take against the Imo’s Pizza that is the Blues back-end. We’ll likely see KunitzAnisimovKampf out for far too long against Tarasenko, because it’s completely fucking normal for a team with playoff aspirations to have line like that as their third. Truth be told, that line was the most dominant in possession on Thursday, but the Blues are much, much better than the Senators you assume, so there might be a violent regression here.

The more they say things will be different, the more they stay the same.

Let’s go Hawks.

Game #2 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups And How Teams Were Built