Hockey

The Hawks lines are coming into focus now that they’ve gotten through a few preseason games, i.e., DeBrincat-Strome-Shaw (ugh) are your second line, and Toews and Kane are joined at the hip for better or worse on the top line, with CCYP trying to find the least bad option to skate with them. But there’s still a lot of uncertainty in the bottom-six rabble, of which the Hawks have no shortage. Brendan Perlini is yet another piece of that rabble, and his role on this team is still as unpredictable as it was last spring. Let’s do it:

2018-19 Stats (w/ Hawks)

46 GP – 12 G – 3 A – 15 P

45.2 CF% (-3.8 CF% Rel) – 40.4 xGF%

52.6 oZS% – 10:36 Avg. TOI

FFUD Review

A Brief History: When Dylan Strome and Brendan Perlini came our way around the same time as our Thanksgiving food comas, Perlini was expected to be the more reliable producer, while Strome was the will-he-won’t-he prospect who hadn’t yet reached his potential. (I think it’s still debatable what that potential and its ceiling may be, but that’s for another day and another preview.)

Perlini ended up being serviceable on the second line and mostly underwhelming, until March hit and he showed flashes of…well, maybe not quite brilliance, but definitely shininess, scoring eight goals in seven games. However, following that offensive outburst he promptly turned around and started acting like a bored, cranky teenager who couldn’t be bothered to win a puck battle. Colliton chose that moment to give the appearance of having testicles and benched Perlini for his insolence, once during a game and then just sending him to the press box for a little while. The Hawks dithered about re-signing him in the offseason but eventually inked him to a one-year, 875K extension that basically screams “this is your last warning.”

It Was the Best of Times: If Alex Nylander turns out to be the perennial loafer we expect him to be, then Perlini could earn a spot in the top six (that’s also dependent on Andrew Shaw and Brandon Saad but we’re aiming for the best-case scenario for Perlini here). Honestly, it’s pretty sad to think that our top six depends on who’s less of a lazy dumbshit, but here we are, your 2019-2020 Blackhawks. Maybe Perlini finally has a true breakout year with 40+ points and gets signed as an actual depth scorer for two to three years at a still-affordable $3 mildo or so.

It Was the BLURST of Times: Conversely, Perlini could end up unmotivated and salty, and as a result he fades into irrelevance in the press box as Nylander, Kubalik, Wedin, et. al., fill the holes up and down the lineup. Not even useful to trade, Perlini becomes an official has-been-never-was.

Prediction: Brendan Perlini will earn himself a roster spot, albeit in the bottom six. I’m not convinced that Nylander is any better, and we know Zack Smith isn’t, so if the organ-I-zation keeps burying superior talent in the AHL or at least not bothering to give the likes of Sikura (either one) or Kurashev a look in the regular season, then there’s probably room on a line for Perlini. I don’t expect he’ll turn into some offensive juggernaut—we’re probably talking in the 25-point range. But he’s not chronically lazy, and that ends up being good enough…great seats still available.

All stats from Hockey Reference and Natural Stat Trick

Previous Previews

Robin Lehner

Corey Crawford

Adam Boqvist

Carl Dahlstrom

Calvin de Haan

Erik Gustafsson

Duncan Keith

Slater Koekkoek

Olli Maatta

Connor Murphy

Drake Caggiula

Ryan Carpenter

Alex DeBrincat

David Kampf

Patrick Kane

Alex Nylander

Everything Else

We made it through the defense, everyone. I know, it wasn’t pretty, but we did it. Now onto the forwards where the situation is…better? It’s better, right? Yes, it couldn’t be worse than the defense, so yes.

When Brendan Perlini and Dylan Strome came over in the Schmaltz trade, Perlini was actually the more known quantity and Strome was the question mark who hadn’t really realized his potential. That’s not how the narrative played out once they got here, though, as Strome found his groove and ended up being one of the Hawks’ best players (and a rare pleasant surprise in a season of mostly unpleasant ones). Perlini, on the other hand, was a bit of an enigma with the Hawks, having one burst of scoring and playing decently on the second line, sandwiched by benchings and periodic irrelevance. Let’s dig in:

(With the Hawks): 46 GP – 12 G – 3 A – 15 P

45.4 CF% – 40.4 xGF% [5v5]

It Comes With a Free Frogurt!

Brendan Perlini had basically one really good week. OK, that’s not entirely fair, it was like two really good weeks. Between March 2nd and March 16th, he scored eight goals in seven games, including his first-ever hat trick against his erstwhile team, the Coyotes. And all of that was extremely fun and when you’re scoring, everything is great.

Aside from that stretch, Perlini was a serviceable linemate for Strome and Top Cat on the second line. As a line, their possession at 5-on-5 wasn’t exactly stellar, especially considering that these guys weren’t taking dungeon shifts (49.5 CF% with 68% oZS). Still, he was able to be in the right places at mostly the right times and proved he can play well when on a line with other good players…I know, what an accomplishment, right? But this is where we’re at, and we’ll take it. His shooting percentage jumped from a sickly 5% with Arizona in the first part of the season to 15.6 with the Hawks, showing that Perlini can be effective given the right tools to work with.

The Frogurt is Also Cursed

Perlini seems like kind of a character, and to me that’s not a bad thing. The dull facelessness of hockey players, which is an all-too-common occurrence when the majority of your athlete population consists of rural Canadian white kids with a seventh-grade education, is irritating and tiresome. So I’m cool with players actually speaking their minds and having a personality, and so much the better when they have perspective on life and playing a professional sport. However, it seems that Perlini’s outlook may just be fucking with his give-a-shit meter, which hovered dangerously low at times this season for a guy still proving he’s a top-six player.

If you’re Patrick Kane and you’re being lazy and it leads to a dumb turnover, you’re going to get away with it. If you’re Brendan Perlini, clearly you won’t, as his benching and scratching shortly after his scoring streak showed. He was particularly lazy against the Sharks in March when the Hawks ostensibly were still shooting for a playoff spot, and Beto O’Colliton stapled his ass to the bench and then made him sit in the corner and think about what he did for a little while.

Now, was that totally deserved? Eh, maybe Colliton was making sort of an example of him, but again, you’re Brendan fucking Perlini, you better act like a try-hard. None of his numbers—possession, scoring, high-danger chances, nor that shooting percentage—were good enough to justify him not at least trying his damndest to win puck battles consistently. This team is also slow, so as a younger guy on the second line, he needs to bust his ass to push the play, and besides, Dylan Strome isn’t fast either so it’s really not asking all that much effort-wise.

Can I Go Now?

Perlini deserves another chance next season, and even if he doesn’t stay with Strome and DeBrincat he can probably be a decent bottom-sixer. Let’s say he ends up being “a guy”…at least he’s a 22-year-old guy and not Artem Anisimov, an older and even slower guy. He’ll also be a cheap signing, maybe around 1 mildo or so. And who knows, maybe he’ll do some peyote in the desert or something and have a revelation about working his ass off.

Previous Player Reviews

Corey Crawford

Cam Ward

Collin Delia

Duncan Keith

Connor Murphy

Henri Jokiharju

Gustav Forsling

Erik Gustafsson

Carl Dahlstrom

Everything Else

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

Money Puck

The 2019 campaign is over. It will likely go down as one of the most disappointing performances that the Hawks have had since the core congealed back in 2007. Two 40+ goal scorers. A 35-goal scorer. Eight 30+-point seasons. A defenseman with 60 fucking points. And no playoffs.

It’s a massive disappointment. Yet somehow, it exceeded expectations? Given how bad the Western Conference was this year, the Hawks were in shouting distance of the playoffs as recently as two weeks ago. I certainly didn’t expect that, especially with Crawford missing as many games as he did. While none of us really expected the playoffs to be a reality, that they were even in the running was at least surprising. What’s scary is that it came on the backs of career years from Kane, Toews, DeBrincat, and Gustafsson. Is it safe to rely on that?

Fuck, we’ve got a long, long time to crack this brewski open. I’ll try not too be too retrospective tonight. Let’s kick it.

– First, thank you for reading and sharing this year. Sincerely, it’s a pleasure to write for all of you.

Cam Ward was outstanding tonight. Four goals on 50 shots is entirely acceptable behind this sock-as-as-condom defense. He certainly deserved a win for the effort tonight. We gave him a ton of shit this year, but tonight is a good memory to keep of him. Even though the Hawks had nothing to play for, Ward gave it a good effort. It’s a nice send off.

Alex DeBrincat had a hot and cold game. Early on, he was everywhere, creating offense on Perlini’s goal especially. After playing staunch defense in his own zone, he skated to the neutral zone and executed a dump and chase on his own. All Perlini had to do was be there for Top Cat’s pass. As the game wore on, DeBrincat got a little looser. It was especially obvious on Fibbro’s goal. After turning the puck over on the near boards, he stood complaining about something, forcing Gus to cover his man high in the zone. Fabbro took advantage, dropping into the space left wide open by Gus covering his man. Had DeBrincat not complained, maybe he’s in that spot.

After the year he had though, you don’t hold something like that against him. Not tonight at least.

Brendan Perlini ended a nine-game pointless streak tonight, but his airheadedness also allowed Wayne “They Don’t Call Me ‘Plate Tectonics’ for Nothing” Simmonds to crash the slot for a prime chance in the first. We’ve seen this before from Perlini, where he will take time off on a play that gives an opponent a good chance. Something to watch going forward, especially in terms of how Colliton deals with it. He’s scratched him before for boneheadedness.

Drake Caggiula can stay. That it took Stan Bowman signing Brandon Manning as a “fuck you” to Quenneville to get him isn’t his fault. He’s looked in place with Toews and Kane, mostly because he will go get the puck, taking that pressure off Toews. I’m still not sure that a Stanley Cup contender should have Drake Caggiula on the first line, but it hasn’t looked particularly wrong. I liked him tonight, and I liked him all year as a Hawk.

Patrick Kane is a piece of shit as a person, but he’s a goddamn artist with the puck. His patience on the goal line before his pass to Caggiula was astounding.

– I’ll go on record as saying I really like Pat Foley. Generally, he’s good at what he does and is entertaining. But listening to him call Austin Watson “physically proficient” in the same breath as talking about his far-too-short 18-game suspension for domestic violence was a bit much. He probably didn’t relate the two, but as a broadcaster, that’s kind of his entire job: to say things thoughtfully and clearly. He probably didn’t conflate the two consciously, but that he didn’t think how that phrasing might play was jarring to me.

– The sooner we all come to terms with the fact that Erik Gustafsson will never be anything more than a below-average defender with the ability to score 60 points, the better. He’s going to be the most interesting player the Hawks have next year because of his offensive proficiency, his defensive offensiveness, and his sweetheart contract.

– Listening to Nashville fans mock Ward after an empty netter reminds me of Clint Eastwood talking to that empty chair that one time. Looking forward to their piss-sweater-wearing team getting bounced before they win a Cup again.

We’ll have playoff coverage and baseball shit for you in the off-season. We’ll give you the postmortem in a week or two. And as always, we’ll give you the skinny on the draft and free agency. But for now, and for the second straight year, we’ll sign off on games that matter.

Thanks again for reading. As a great man once said:

Onwards . . .

Booze du Jour: Victory’s Sour Monkey and accoutrements.

Line of the Night: “They really have no business being in this game with the opportunities they’ve given up.” Pat Foley on the Hawks, getting it 100% correct

Everything Else

The playoffs may be a distant memory, but that’s no reason not to peer into the smoldering remains of the dumpster fire that is this lineup. We’ve only got one more week after this! Shall we?

The Dizzying Highs

Alex DeBrincat. After a brief slump and enduring inexplicable line nonsense from Beto O’Colliton (those two issues are seemingly not unrelated), Top Cat bounced back with a strong week. His goal Saturday against the Kings was one of those where it looked too easy, and in the win over the Sharks he scored twice, including on a 5-on-3. He and Dylan Strome have maintained their chemistry, when their coach deigns to play them together, but even on the third line against the Kings he managed a goal and a 52 CF%. He’s now tied with Patrick Kane for leading the team in goals. We’ve basically come to expect this performance of him at this point, but as Pullega said the other night, one of the few bright spots is that DeBrincat is someone to build around going forward, and this week was a reminder.

The Terrifying Lows

Brendan Perlini. I guess it’s a little unfair to throw him into the Terrifying Lows, and maybe it’s unfair of Colliton to demote him so quickly and angrily, but there’s no denying that Perlini’s recent hot streak may have been just that—a streak. He basically exploded in early March in shots, scoring chances, and of course goals, but starting last weekend he reverted much closer to his baseline (1, 2, 4, 0 SOG since the Colorado home-and-home). His possession numbers have tanked as well, and following a dumbass turnover and overall shitty performance against the Sharks, he got benched late in that game and then basically sent to the corner with a dunce cap to think about what he did, both for the Kings game and against the Jets. Is Perlini really the biggest issue on this team? Not even close. But a bad week is a bad week.

The Seabrook-Forsling Pairing. If there is one silver lining to the impending end of the season, it is that we will not have to watch these two clowns skate together for at least a few months. Hopefully we’ll never have to see it again, but I remain pessimistic. Brent Seabrook was underwater in possession for basically an entire week. He’s taken five penalties in the last four games, including one that led to the Coyotes’ only (and game-winning) goal. Forsling hasn’t been any better—sure, he hasn’t taken as many ridiculously bad penalties in these last few but he’s been a turnover machine and is still generally offensive to the eyes when watching him. Any blabbering about Jokiharju or any of the other baby defensemen not being ready rings pretty damn hollow watching these two.

The Creamy Middles

Brandon Saad. Saad hasn’t scored in a while but he did log two assists against the Sharks, and maybe more importantly he’s just been playing reliably well. His possession numbers have been outstanding and he even came close to setting up Dylan Sikura for what is now the most impossible goal in hockey, Sikura’s first. He’s been a force for good in these dark times, whether on the top line or not.

Corey Crawford. Maybe he hasn’t been completely lights out lately, but when you’re getting hosed by your teammates and still manage to keep them in the game, that says something. For example, none of the goals against the Kings could really be pinned on Crawford. Wagner and Amadio both ran past defensemen who were 1) slow and 2) totally out of position, while the winning goal was an OT power play goal thanks to a terrifically stupid penalty by Jonathan Toews. Toews then continued the stupidity against the Jets with a trip on Mark Scheifele who got a penalty shot as a result. And Crawford stopped it. He hasn’t been perfect, but he’s been better than the numbers may say. And he deserves much better than what he’s getting to work with.

 

Everything Else

vs.

RECORDS: Hawks 34-33-10   Kings 28-40-9

PUCK DROP: 9:30pm

TV: NBCSN Chicago

YOU HAVE SELECTED REGICIDE: They all hate us so we won’t list any of them

It’s funny. There are a fair few fans who wish the Hawks would have done what the Kings have done, no matter how unpleasant it would be to watch or experience. And you get it, because it would appear the Kings are going to have a top-two spot in the lottery, meaning they can’t drop any lower than three. Though it would be pretty sweet if they went through all this and ended up with the third pick in a two-player draft. I’d get a chuckle out of it, at least.

What’s even funnier is the Kings didn’t meant this. The Senators did, but the Kings definitely didn’t. They thought tye could build off their playoff berth last year. That’s why they signed Ilya Kovalchuk, who at 35 can only shoot and complain. I’ll give you one guess which one he’s done a ton more of this season. Anze Kopitar couldn’t ride the percentage wave any longer, and has returned to merely being a good player and a cautionary tale for Jonathan Toews. Jeff Carter combs his hair a lot. Drew Doughty has his mind on his money and his money on his mind and that’s it. Jonathan Quick is going to make sure that everyone realized he was never really that good by being terrible for the rest of his career. It’s so much fun!

Worse for the Kings is there’s not a lot here or coming that they can get excited about, except whatever they get in the draft. Carl Grundstrom might be a decent middle-sixer, as well as sounding like an itchy patch somewhere sensitive and funny. That’s about it. Alex Iafallo is probably a guy. Put it this way, when Trevor Lewis and Kyle Clifford are on your second line you are an affront to nature. Welcome to Kings hockey.

For the Hawks, with both the Coyotes and Avalanche getting points last night, as well as the Wild, they were basically putting more knives in the corpse of the Hawks. Like that scene in Escape From LA when Snake finds the first agent they sent it. But I guess the Hawks have to convince themselves if they run the table maybe possibly something could happen, so until you’re officially out you might as well go for it. Which should mean no lineup changes or alterations other than the defensive rotation and hopefully not having to bench Brendan Perlini again. But you never know with this outfit.

The last time the Hawks were in LA they might have put in their most uncaring, simply embarrassing effort of the season.They were supposedly back in it, needed a buzzer beater to get past the Ducks, and then simply looked like me going through Bumble at Staples Center. Hopeless, aimless, pointless. They could have done the same in San Jose on Thursday after losing their last chance, but they didn’t. So it would be really weird for them to lay an egg against one of the few teams they should probably be easily getting by. But again, you never know with this outfit.

Folks, I won’t lie to you. If you think there’s something amiss in your life if your Saturday night is centered around Hawks-Kings, I can’t convince you otherwise. It doesn’t mean disaster, but you might want to do a quick once-over about what’s going on with you. They have to be there. We probably do, too. You don’t.

 

Game #78 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

Money Puck

The ghost of the Blackhawks playoff run came out to haunt tonight, but sort of like Casper: kind of fun, kind of annoying. Against a cold Sharks team that looked sloppy and disinterested throughout, the Hawks managed to squeeze out whatever ounce of hope is left in this toothpaste-for-dessert season, despite their own sloppiness in the ass end of the ice. Let’s clean it up and grasp for meaning.

– The most notable thing about this game has to be Alex DeBrincat scoring his 40th goal. His 39th was a relief to watch, as DeBrincat got in close on the 5-on-3 to stuff home two shots off a Toews rebound–pass. With Kane doing some nifty stickhandling at the far dot, Toews managed to get position in front of the net for a redirect. Martin Jone5 managed to stuff it, but Toews recovered and shoveled a pass to DeBrincat, who buried his second try. For a guy who was just missing on shots or just flubbing passes over the last three or four, you could feel the pressure come off.

Cat’s second goal of the night, his 40th, was more stereotypical of our favorite 5’7” behemoth. After Kahun showed off some good puck retrieval near the corner boards and shoved a nice pass to Strome behind the net, DeBrincat broke wide open through the slot. Strome set him up from behind the goal line for an easy one-timer. If nothing else comes from this year, we can take solace in knowing that Alex DeBrincat is without a doubt something to build around.

Brandon Saad brought possession dominance tonight. In the first, he flashed the skill and power that had us teasing him as the second coming of Marian Hossa. He pickpocketed Brent Burns early in the first to set up a dangerous backhander for himself that he airmailed. He delivered a perfect setup pass on Connor Murphy’s goal, following an impressive cross-ice pass from Anisimov. He redirected Gustafsson’s point shot enough to create a rebound that Toews stuffed home. He had a breakaway shot attempt stopped by a good backcheck from unrepentant douchebag Evander Kane. He posted a 100 CF% (as did Dylan Sikura).

In the second, while driving the slot, he slid a pass to Toews for a good wrister that Jones blocked, and which then nearly turned into a stuff-shot goal for Sikura.

In the third, he set up the Toews–Sikura 2-on-1 that had everyone’s shitter puckered in anticipation for Sikura’s first goal. Sikura probably waited a second too long to shoot it, but everything about it otherwise was a result of Saad’s strong breakout pass.

On the game, Saad led all Hawks with a 58+ CF% (29.08 CF% Rel) and two assists. And that’s about as perfect a representation of what Brandon Saad is. He’s an outstanding rhythm guitarist who shows flashes of superstardom. He’s a quieter contributor than most of us want him to be (I screamed about him scoring 90 points this year because I’m a fool for what I want him to be), but there’s little doubt that he’s an important contributor.

Over the last 12 games, he’s had a negative CF% Rel just once (03/09 against Dallas). On a team whose defense is a filled condom that slips out of your hands before you can tie it off and throw it in the fucking trash where it belongs, dominant possession numbers ought to be treated as a premium. We’ll always wish he were more of a 65–70-point guy than the 55 tops he is, but with everything else he does well, you can live with it, especially with the firepower the Hawks still tease when the lines are constructed well.

Jeremy Colliton obviously listens to Live From the Five Hole. After we spent 40 minutes bitching and moaning about how the lines, especially the nuclear option, just had to go for that retro 50s charm, it was no more tonight, and the Hawks manic’d themselves into a lead not even their putrid defense could blow.

– Although he gave up four goals, you have to consider this a good outing for Crawford. The Radil goal is one he’d like to have back, but each of the rest was the result of bad defensive positioning. Seabrook floating between Hertl and Nyquist with Crawford protecting against Hertl, giving Hertl an open passing lane. Duncan Keith watching Joe Thornton dribble like Prince against Charlie Murphy. Slater Koekkoek existing. Despite one near headsmack on the cross bar and taking a hard wrister in the mush, Crawford still managed to stuff 19–21 at even strength.

– Playing Brent Seabrook at this point is active sabotage. He was simply terrible all night, taking three penalties and posting a pathetic 26+ CF%. The same goes for Gustav Forsling, who was nearly as bad both statistically and by the eye test. The only redeeming thing about these two is that Seabrook has three rings, and those are nice memories. Slap Mr. Leader in a suit, buy him out, and let him coach. Henri Jokiharju should be here right now if this is a pairing that’s trotted out there in the midst of a “playoff run.”

– There’s not much to expect out of Slater “Couldn’t Beat Out Dan Girardi” Koekkoek. But what he did on Meier’s game-tying goal was beyond the pale. With Murphy properly covering on the near boards, Koekkoek was responsible for Meier, who was creeping through the neutral zone. Instead, he rushed toward the near boards inexplicably. This left Meier wide open for a Couture cross-ice pass and an easy goal. It was one of the worst defensive executions I’ve seen all year. On a team that at some time employed Brandon Manning, Jan Rutta, Gustav Forsling, and Brent Seabrook. That’s something.

– Connor Murphy had a nice game. The fancy stats are piss, but he had six blocks and a goal. He took a lousy closing-the-hand penalty too, but other than that, he didn’t lose his ass like so many other Hawks D-men tonight. If for nothing else, I’d love to see the Hawks get a legit blue liner or two just to see whether Murphy is actually as good as I hope he is or whether he’s more of an oasis in this defensive desert.

– Perlini found his ass stapled to the bench after he kicked the puck to center ice while on the wall, causing a horrid and unexplainable turnover. He had his ass punched in possession throughout the game, so it probably wasn’t a bad call by Colliton. Though I’d rather see him flex nuts on Seabrook or Forsling or Koekkoek first, he’s got more depth in his forward lines to do something like that. So fine.

The Sharks had lost six straight coming into this, but it’s still fun to watch the Hawks take advantage of a good team off its game. It’s disappointing that it took Colliton until after the Hawks’s playoff chances realistically ended to construct the lines in ways that have proven to work very well. But if the Hawks came back next year with minor changes to the forward lines (i.e., no Kunitz), a revamped blue line minus Seabrook and Forsling, and a healthy Crawford, they can be a playoff team next year.

If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, I’d have something to stop the spins.

Booze du Jour: Miller High Life

Line of the Night: “Where were we last time?” –Steve Konroyd, mirroring everyone else’s thoughts on the Arizona game in the pregame.

Everything Else

vs.

RECORDS: Hawks 33-33-10   Sharks 43-24-9

PUCK DROP: 9:30pm

TV: NBCSN Chicago

ALSO FAKING THEIR VOICE LIKE ELIZABETH HOLMES: Fear The Fin

If you were to ask both fanbases, both would tell you their team is a mess, a disaster, an embarrassment. One has lost six in a row, and one has lost four of its last five. Neither is living up to the expectations the front offices themselves set for their respective team. But really, only one of these teams is a true mess.

The Sharks are the ones who have lost six in a row. They’ve lost touch with the Flames at the top of the division, and the Bay Area faithful are already chewing their nails down to the quick over a first-round matchup with the Knights (who happened to paste the Sharks a few games ago, at least on the scoreboard but as analytics have told us that doesn’t count). Erik Karlsson won’t play until the playoffs, and it’s no guarantee he’ll be 100% then. And rushing him back is what got them in this predicament in the first place. Joe Pavelski has missed the last four games, isn’t a sure bet for tonight, and nagging injuries with 10 days to go to your best forward who happens to be 34 doesn’t set anyone’s nerves at ease.

What’s really causing the angina-kicks in San Jose is that the Sharks can’t get a damn save anywhere. Both Martin Jones and Aaron Dell have gone Little-League-Outfielder-With-The-Glove-On-His-Head in the crease, and the Sharks have the worst SV% at even-strength in the league. Which makes their 95 points and glittering metrics something of a wow, and also exemplifies how good this team really is. If they were getting league average goaltending, they’d probably be able to see where the Lightning are. Most nights, the Sharks demolish teams, and then watch Jones or Dell either make it much harder than it should be or ruin the work altogether. Even in this six-game punt, the Sharks have carried a 56+% share in every game and the same in scoring chances save one.

So yeah, the Sharks bet that Martin Jones would figure it out as the spring invaded seems a shaky one right now (and Jones has the playoff pedigree where you could see the logic). And the Sharks have more riding on these playoffs than just about anyone. Karlsson’s a free agent. Thornton’s a free agent and might retire. Pavelski is a free agent. There’s a heavy now-or-never feel to this.

As for the Hawks…who knows? The season is officially toast now. When you’re tired with the Oilers with six to go, you’re toast. Them’s the rules. So what do you watch for now? I don’t know. There’s nothing that Dylan Strome or Brendan Perlini or the like are going to do in the last six games that’s going to make you feel any differently about them come next year. You already know what the defense is. Maybe Crawford will get a day off now, or the chance to close out the season strongly.

So I guess the thing to watch is the emotional response. Do the Hawks chuck it and mail in the last six games? Do they still try and play well and be professional about it? It might give you some indication about what the players as a whole think of Coach Cool Youth Pastor. If this team isn’t going all out, then the results for these last games could be ugly/hilarious/high art. And also make for a very curious tone heading into camp next year. Once you chuck it on a coach, it’s nearly impossible to get it back. Recall that the Hawks showed some spikiness at the very end of last year for Q.

There’s no doubt the Sharks would be looking at this as their get-well night. They’ve pulverized the Hawks twice already, and they never looked like they had to get out of second gear to do so. And they probably want to get right, because their next two are Calgary and Vegas, and they at least need to throw down a marker for themselves in those. Otherwise, if they somehow puke this one tonight, they could be looking at eight or nine games biffed in a row, and that’s not how you want to enter the last week and playoffs.

I’m still high on the Sharks, but it’s more out of hope than expectation now. If Pavelski and/or Karlsson are iffy, and the goalies are the goalies, it’s quite a challenge. You would expect the antenna will be up for San Jose tonight. That’s probably very bad news for a questionably interested Hawks team.

 

 

 

Game #77 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

Money Puck

That’ll about do it for any playoff hopes the Hawks had. In another BIG GAME, the Hawks let out the biggest and densest of farts, failing to scratch against a team straight ahead of them in the standings and more than happy to play a wet blanket trap. Now too bad for the playoffs and too good for a top draft pick (probably), the Hawks get to end the year against a running buzz saw of teams entrenched in the playoffs and the Kings. What a fucking treat.

– Let’s start positive. Corey Crawford looked outstanding yet again. At the beginning of the broadcast, Foley mentioned that Crow was pitching a .940 SV% through the last nine games. In his last five, including tonight, Crow tossed a .924 SV% and managed to get saddled with a 1–3–1 record. He had another stellar game ruined by a bad penalty and his team’s complete Beavis when it mattered most.

Still, it’s always going to be comforting to watch Crawford dominate like he did tonight, especially when his team is giving up 12 high-danger chances for throughout the game, including seven in the third. Crow looks like the Crow of old, and that’s at least a small respite from this skidmark of a season.

– Another thing Foley and Konroyd spent far too much time doing early in the broadcast was pushing the “Keith has really grown” narrative. Konroyd’s Keith fluffing was especially egregious early in the first, during which he waxed poetic about how Keith had really evolved under Colliton’s man zone system as shown by his +20 plus-minus rating or some such shit. Anyone with standard definition television can see that Keith has gone kicking and screaming like Ned Flanders into this fucking asylum of a system, and no meaningless plus-minus or OT goal in a game they needed in regulation is going to change that. Having Keith take the lazy tripping penalty on Crouse late in the third was just the icing on the cake.

I won’t ever hate Duncan Keith, but some of the pissbaby penalties and plays are starting to wear thin.

– It’s good that the next six games don’t matter, because Patrick Kane is completely out of gas. Tonight saw him displaying flat passing and skating and more stripped turnovers than I can remember in a while. And yet, Colliton kept double shifting him, because that’s apparently his counter-clockwise fucking swirl. Except when Kane can’t keep up with the plays he can normally make, the swirl looks more like a knuckle.

– It’s a bit concerning that in the last five games—five games that in theory mattered—the Hawks managed to score just seven goals, and that was with the “nuclear option” flying out there regularly. That’s something that’s on Colliton. He boxed his team in by tossing out one line with all the scoring threats and no one to retrieve the puck, and then Nathan For You’d the rest of the lineup.

It wasn’t until the third of this game that he tried throwing Sikura up with DeBrincat and Toews, leaving a tired Kane to try to manufacture everything else by himself. It’s frustrating when you’ve got teams directly above you in the standings simply trapping and stuffing the middle because they know the top line won’t be able to retrieve the puck off a perimeter shot. It’s especially frustrating when your third line dominates in the oZ but doesn’t have a true scorer to finish the job. Colliton either couldn’t or wouldn’t make the adjustment. I’m not sure which would be worse.

David Kampf is a fine player. Maybe even good. But if you needed to be reminded about why he’s not ever going to be a Top 6 guy, tonight was the night. His line was the only forward line underwater in possession, and they were way, way under. He doesn’t complement Perlini or Strome well at all, and that Colliton thought that the way to fix that line was to put a defensive stalwart with very little offensive upside in the middle of it doesn’t inspire confidence.

– Forsling–Seabrook continues to insult. Along with the Kampf line, they were buried in possession (26+ and 30+ CF%, respectively). Seabrook’s desperation tripping penalty led to the Coyotes’s only goal, and Forsling had no fewer than four unforced turnovers, at least three of which came in the defensive zone on long pass attempts. It’s a never-ending nightmare whenever these two are on the ice. Given how bad they are, everyone should be fired if Boqvist and Harju aren’t up and playing with this team next year. There’s simply no way those two can be any worse than Forsling–Seabrook.

– On the Yotes’s goal, Connor Murphy went out too far to cover Keller, who easily slipped a pass by him and to the waiting stick of humongous puddle of wet dogshit Nick Cousins. If Murphy sags a bit, it closes that lane off and makes that pass more difficult at least. It didn’t help that Kruger couldn’t clear the ice immediately prior, but Murphy’s positioning was the main culprit.

Brendan Perlini’s got a hell of a release. If he can ever get it under control, he could be fun. I do not like how many ifs I have to attach to him at all.

Alex DeBrincat has had a rough go of it over the past few games. Now that the Hawks are dead, Colliton would be wise to slot him with Perlini and Strome again and try to get that line back on track.

Unless you think the Hawks can beat the Sharks, Kings, Jets, Blues, Stars, and Preds all in a row and in regulation, then tonight’s loss was the final nail in the coffin. The best they can do now is try to get the Perlini–Strome–DeBrincat line back on track, get Sikura his first goal, and maybe give Garbage Dick some time off.

We’re at the funeral, so we’ll sing the requiem.

Booze du Jour: Two Hearted

Line of the Night: “FUCK” –Corey Crawford

Everything Else

The Dizzying Highs

Brendan Perlini – Get on with your bad self, son. Perlini posted his first career hat-trick, then added tallies in Toronto and Montreal. Perls still has a little work to do to top last year’s 17 goals in Arizona, so before we go all gaga we should understand he’s done this kind of thing before. Up until the last three games, Perlini and his linemates were putting up some seriously impressive metrics as well. But they’ve crashed to Earth with the rest of the team in Canada, and weren’t particularly impressive last night against a trap that no one on the team seemed to recognize or deal with. But hey, five goals is five goals. Hopefully he closes strong and gives us a good, “HE’S ON THE TEAM FOR NEXT YEAR!” feeling.

The Terrifying Lows

Gustav Forsling – In what was a pretty decent week for the Hawks, at least results-wise, it’s hard to find anyone to pick on. So I’ll go with my usual target, and really weep that I’m in a world where I have to justify hating Forsling getting in the lineup over Carl Dahlstrom. Seeing as neither should be on the team next year anyway. Whatever, Forsling got himself clocked by both the Leafs and Habs, and the Coyotes in a six-goal win as well. If I watch him lose another race or bail out of it altogether I’m basically gonna plotz. No, Slater Koekkoek isn’t any better, but at least he stood up Brock Boeser last night to draw a penalty, which is one more defensive contribution than Forsling has made all season.

The Creamy Middles

Corey Crawford – That seems harsh, as his last five appearances he’s carrying a .960 SV%. That should put him in the first column, but the thing is we kind of just take Crow’s brilliance as the norm. We shouldn’t, and after his injury odyssey of he past year-plus, we really should treasure any kind of spirited displays we get from him. We don’t know how long they’ll last. But we knew before the season, and we knew during the season, that Crow remains the Hawks most important player. Look, he’s playing well for the most part since he came back. He’s made eight appearances, and the Hawks are 6-1-1 in those. This is not a coincidence. He’s going to get every start save one half of the back-to-back against Colorado at the weekend until the season stops mattering. And if he continues to do this, it might matter all the way to the end.

Everything Else

vs

RECORDS: Canucks 30-32-10   Hawks 32-30-9

PUCK DROP: 7:30PM CDT
TV/RADIO: NBC Sports Chicago, NHL Network, Sportsnet, WGN-AM 720
SEA TO SKY TOILET: Canucks Army, Nucks Misconduct

Every season in every sport takes on a complexion of its own, for better or for worse. Water finds its own level, and certain truths are exposed over a large enough sample size whether they make sense or not, and they seem wholly confined to within the context of that league year. So it’s with that being said, that despite the two teams tonight being objectively horseshit, it is a critical, must-win, FOUR POINT game on West Madison for both the Hawks and Canucks.

For the visiting Canucks, this is precisely where any right-thinking fan of theirs (and there are about six of them, admittedly) does not want the team to be. Sure, they are bad, but they aren’t fully bad enough to put themselves in the best position possible to draft a transformational forward (whose brother just happens to be in the Canucks’ farm system), and they aren’t at the tail end of any window with any aging veterans who could realistically justify a go-for-it mentality, or at least not anymore, with the last remaining holdover from the “glory” years of nearly 10 years ago now being Alex Edler and his elbows. Sure, they have the likely Calder trophy winner in Elias Petterson, who has been sensational and leads all rookie scoring despite a) being hurt a significant portion of the year and b) basically doing it with zero help, as Brock Boeser has been hurt just as often as Petterson has.

At 60 points in 61 games, Petterson is the Canucks’ leading scorer in all three categories, and has all the tools one would ask of a true superstar in the making – he’s fast, he’s an elite stickhandler and passer, has a quick shot, and has great scorer’s instincts. He’s currently centering the aforementioned Boeser and his huge shot, along with fellow prospect Nikolay Goldobin, who has taken a slight step back in his first full season in the NHL with only seven goals in 62 games after eight in 38 last year. It could be a bout of bad luck as he’s only shooting 6.7% this year while getting more shots on net, but even still he’s good for 1.67 per game in all situations, as opposed to Boeser’s nearly three per game.

So at least with those three forming a top line, GM Jim Benning can get a good look at what the future might hold while deluding himself that his team is in a playoff chase. Behind them however, things are far less interesting. As of last night, Bo Horvat is centering whatever is left of Loui Eriksson and Leafs castoff Josh Leivo, and Adam Gaudette is getting another look at the show with bottom six minutes between the suddenly well-traveled Tanner Pearson and Zack-Kassian-Cosplayer Jake Virtanen. Big free agent acquisition Jay Beagle still patrols the fourth line, just more expensively now, and between the likes of the other Granlund no one cares about and Fifth Feather’s favorite guy Tyler Motte.

On defense the Canucks are even less conspicuous, with the aforementioned Edler being about as default a #1 defenseman as there is in the league. He’s paired with the potentially useful Troy Stetcher, but it’s difficult to say how useful he could end up being considering he’s only ever been on teams that’ve gotten their dicks kicked in. And when looking at the rest of this blue line its easy to see why Quin Hughes would want to take his time getting here, unless 21-year-old former 3rd round pick Guillame Brisebois getting his first taste in the league or the corpse of Luke Schenn excites you, which it shouldn’t.

In net tonight will be another prospect after Jakob Markstrom made 44 stops in a shootout win in Dallas last night, Thatcher Demko, who might have the worst name in the sport. After two years in Utica, Demko has spent most of the year hurt, with four appearances for the Canucks and 16 in The A. He hasn’t been particularly impressive to this point, with an .895 overall and an .892 at evens, which is always impressive when the EV mark is lower. But Demko has consistently put up solid numbers at every level when he’s been healthy, and given the far more protracted growth curve for goaltending, none of this should preclude him from future success.

As for the Men of Four Feathers, getting four points in regulation against Toronto and Montreal when they weren’t expected to get any kind of makes up for shitting their pants against the Kings and failing to capitalize on the Avs and Stars a few weeks back, but not fully. And Corey Crawford throwing up a shutout in his home town (where he always performs well) is certainly a bonus, but everyone involved would have preferred it not taken him 48 stops to do so. Granted, the dam didn’t break until the Hawks went up two early in the third, but 48 shots is still 48 shots. He’ll get the call again tonight, as all of the sudden Crawford’s posted a .929 overall in March.

In front of Crawford the Platoon of Ineptitude between Slater Koekkoek, Carl Dahlstrom, and Gustav Forsling is likely to continue, though Forsling has managed to stay in the lineup by some act of god. There’s nothing really that can be said about this unit, they’re historically bad and they’re not going to stop any time soon, so just duck and cover and try to get out of each 60 minutes alive.

Up front, the Brendan Perlini Debutante Cotillion continues (just as Fifth Feather sooth-said on the podcast), as on top of his insurance marker on Saturday he’s just today been named the NHL’s second star of the week with five points in three games. It’s all well and good, and certainly playing with the Otter Boys maximizes his obvious tools, but he’ll need to continue this output if the Hawks are going to keep this charade of playoff hopes alive.

Whether anyone likes it or not, this game has playoff implications for both teams, such is the fetid state of affairs in the Western Conference this year. Even that context aside, given the rosters of both teams and the fact that the Canucks were on the road last night and took the maximum time necessary to come away with two points, the tale of the tap says that the Hawks should walk away victorious. But this team has found new and exciting ways to trip over its own dick when encroaching on competence multiple times this year, so to assume this game is a gimme would be stupid. In any event, six is better than five. Let’s go Hawks.

 

Game #72 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built