Hockey

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

Evolving Hockey

A ho-hum affair through 40 turned into a small heartbreaker in the last 20. The Hawks gave up three goals against a team that ended up skating 10 forwards from the second period on, which isn’t great, but they kept it interesting. Let’s clean it up.

– Sue me for leading with Corey Crawford again, but of all the things the Hawks have done consistently well, goaltending is it. The highlight of Crow’s night came on the heels of Slater Koekkoek (more on him later) not doing whatever it is that Jeremy Colliton thinks he can do. After taking a stretch pass from Mathieu Joseph, Anthony Cirelli played catch with Alex Killorn on a 2-on-1 breakaway against Brent Seabrook. Christ on Earth what a horrifying thought. But Crawford managed to stop both of Cirelli’s attempts, which even a slightly lesser goalie would have been beaten on.

And once again, it’s hard to fault Crow for any of the three goals he was on the ice for. One came against a top-flight power play, and the other two came off bad positioning and turnovers.

– The next time Coach Kelvin Gemstone wants to inexplicably scratch a forward in favor of seven defensemen, he should scratch Alex Nylander instead of Dominik Kubalik. Unless Kubalik was hurt, refusing to serve A Bit of the Kubbly is bad on its own, given what Kubalik can do on both sides of the puck. But what, exactly, has Alex Nylander done lately, other than scoring two garbage-time goals against a backup goaltender? That’s not a hypothetical, because Nylander’s lackadaisicalness led directly to Tampa’s response goal in the third.

Following a failed Maatta clear that unfortunately hit the linesman, Nylander floated to the near boards to cover precisely zero skaters. This of course left a huge lane open for Victor Hedman, whose shot redirected off Cirelli and in. We knew that Nylander was a loaf on the defensive side of the puck, so it’s not so much surprising as it is disappointing, following the Seabrook miracle goal as it did. Surely, whatever system Colliton thinks he’s running doesn’t help, but picking your ass on the near boards doesn’t either. So.

– Piggybacking off that point, this whole playing Slater Fucking Koekkoek for any reason whatsoever horseshit needs to end yesterday. He contributed absolutely nothing positive, which should surprise no one, and was nearly responsible for a Lightning goal late in the second with the Hawks already down. This should be enough to bring your piss to a boil, but it gets even worse, dear reader.

Remember those two huge saves Crawford made that we talked about earlier? You can blame Fetch for that. With Mathieu Joseph beginning the breakout from the defensive zone, Koekkoek hovers in the neutral zone, then points at Joseph to signal to David Kampf to cover him. Yes, David Kampf, one of the steadiest and most reliable defensive players the Hawks have. While Slater MacArthur was giving his directives, wouldn’t you know it, Joseph fired a pass right by him, leading to two high-quality chances.

I don’t need Slater Koekkoek on the ice. I especially don’t need him making suggestions to one of the Hawks’s best defensive forwards about how to play defense. And the cherry on top was that he got playing time over Kubalik. I can only imagine that Colliton did this because Koekkoek was drafted by the Lightning and wanted to let him start against his former team, but that’s fucking stupid. Koekkoek was never a stalwart there. He was an afterthought. That’s why he’s here at all. Great work.

Olli Maatta even slides slow. He sold out trying to defend Point and Palat’s 2-on-1 following a Kane turnover in the neutral zone and was both too early and too short on the uptake.

Patrick Kane did keep his scoring streak alive with an assist on the Hawks’s second goal. He also led the Hawks in ice time with 27+ minutes, because Jeremy Colliton definitely knows what he’s doing and absolutely isn’t out of ideas just 22 games in.

– Speaking of Colliton knowing what he’s doing, the first period was chock-full of examples of why his defensive system doesn’t work with this team.

On this play, Palat passes up to Shattenkirk, who drives down the near boards. Palat then picks Dach as Shattenkirk gets around Murphy. Then, de Haan comes out to cover Shattenkirk, despite the fact that Brayden Point was standing right in front of Crawford and also WAS THE GUY DE HAAN WAS COVERING. Why abandon Point there? Is that what he’s supposed to do? If so, is Dach supposed to take Point at that point? What the hell are we doing here?

Here’s another fun one. Cernak takes a shot from the blue line and misses. Murphy can’t corral the puck behind the net. Conacher picks it up, and Dach and Koekkoek both try to cover him, leaving Joseph wide open in the slot. If this is what the system spits out, then the system sucks. If this is NOT what the system is supposed to spit out, then the Hawks cannot run it, and it should cease immediately.

– Brent Seabrook’s goal was fun. You rarely want to see Seabrook skating below the goal line, but he banked his shot off McElhinney’s back and in. It was a nice sliver of hope while it lasted.

They made it interesting at the end. That’s all we really ask.

Onward.

Beer du Jour: Jefferson’s and Bell’s Best Brown

Line of the Night: “I love any kind of bar, but the popup ones are fun, too.” –Foley

Hockey

Once again, and this was a mistake I made a ton in the past and shouldn’t have given my family’s proclivities, the Hawks are not at “the quarter pole.” That’s when there’s a quarter of the season left. Anyway, the Hawks played their 21st game last night, which crosses the 1/4th threshold. So let’s do a basic version of what you’ll see at times like this, and try and suss out what the fuck these Hawks are, hmmm?

Biggest Surprise

Duncan Keith – I know, it’s kind of ridiculous to categorize a surefire first-ballot Hall of Famer (and a genuine one at that, not some ridiculous Hockey Hall of Fame version of that) as a surprise. But Keith has been fading for at least the past two seasons previous to this, and you could argue it even started the season before that which became evident when the Nashville Predators turned him into a fine paste in the Hawks’ ever so brief appearance in those playoffs.

Keith had been openly prickly with his coach last year, and it was not outlandish to suggest he had just checked out and if you squinted you could see a path to him asking out and playing somewhere else (despite his denials of that late last season). Before this season, Keith’s current rep wasn’t all that much higher than Seabrook’s, if you were honest with yourself. It was thought that he could still have use as a second or third pairing player, but that would still leave the Hawks with a major gap at the top. And that would only be if he felt like it, no sure bet, and was willing to shape his game to compensate for his age.

Well, Keith has been better than that, for the most part. It hasn’t always been perfect, but there certainly have been a few games or more where he’s at least reminded of you of what he was, which is the best Hawks d-man there’s ever been. Not to say he’s been at that level, but it at least looked like that same guy who could once do that, where before it just seemed like an alien form. Especially with Connor Murphy, which hadn’t worked in the past, Keith was again stepping up beyond his blue line–and successfully–while playing the angles only he could see again. Of late, he’s actually been happy to play free safety for Erik Gustafsson, something he’s blanched at before.

Keith’s actual metrics mirror the team’s in the “horror show” category, but his relative marks are the highest they’ve been in three or four seasons. The Hawks are simply better when he’s on the ice, and that hasn’t been the case in a while.

Biggest Disappointment/Question Mark

Jonathan Toews – This may not be the time to write this, because the past three games have been better from Toews. He managed CF% of 54, 64, and 63 the past three, which is far better than when he was getting his skull kicked in earlier in the year. We’re used to slow starts from Toews, last season aside, but he had looked particularly behind the play in the season’s first month or so.

Still, four goals and 11 points has him on pace for just 15 goals and 42 points, and and the 3% shooting-percentage at evens and 8% overall would suggest that he’s due some correction. But his individual attempts and chances are down to 2016 levels, which is when all this talk of decline started. And for the most part he’s been paired up with the Hawks most consistent forward in Brandon Saad.

It’s left a question as to how exactly the Hawks can, should, and will be able to use Toews going forward. He no longer is the center who can do everything, which is fine. He shouldn’t have to be at 32. But can he actually slide down the lineup to accommodate Kirby Dach and play more of a checking role? Is he up to that? Can he score enough from here on out to justify manning the top line?  What is he willing to do? He’s never been asked that, and the time may soon be coming. He can avoid that with a binge, but it hasn’t really looked like coming.

And if it doesn’t, there will be more ugly questions for a coach and front office that has done its best to duck them for as long as they can.

Biggest Storyline

The Seabrook Saga – It’s going to hang over the Hawks all season, and it didn’t have to. Perhaps the AHL’s more physical/neanderthal ways will keep Adam Boqvist from really lighting up the statsheet and causing more pressure on the Stan Bowman and Jeremy Colliton. They’ll never admit it, but somewhere within them they may be hoping for that. But as the Canes showed last night, the Hawks simply aren’t quick enough or anywhere near it to compete at the top of the NHL, and maybe not even the middle. Boqvist proved already he’s an NHL player, and can help them with they speed they lack.

This is only going to get worse as the season rolls on, and the Hawks can’t always count on injuries to help them shuffle the deck to keep avoiding the question. Well, maybe with Connor Murphy they can. Maybe they can start to pin it on Olli Maatta to keep avoiding the big decision. But his double scratching earlier in the year will not be the last time this rears its uncomfortable-looking head.

Team MVP

Robin Lehner – With Corey Crawford taking a couple weeks to find his rhythm, which much like Toews has usually been the case, the Hawks would have been utterly buried without Lehner. Even when they did lose, he kept them from truly morale-sapping results in Nashville and San Jose that might have turned things for the organization. There are seven or eight or even nine points on the board right now that he had a major hand in, and without even half of them the Hawks would be rooted to the bottom of the NHL standings. Crawford is joining him now, which has led to this streak of competence (or competent results), but it wouldn’t have mattered in the least without Lehner’s season-long efforts.

Dach Report

Solid B – We may look upon last night as some sort of turning point, as for the third period Dach replaced Dylan Strome with DeBrincat and Kane. That line produced both goals, and while I doubt that’s how they’ll start Thursday, you can bet this is a switch that Colliton will pull again.

Dach has been pretty well sheltered, as he should be, mostly playing on the third and fourth line 10-12 minutes and almost always starting in the offensive zone. Which is how he should be spoon-fed at his age, and the Hawks have the flexibility to do that. But that might be running out, thanks to Toews’s waywardness and Dach’s precociousness. He’s sixth in rookie scoring even though he’s played six to eight games less than everyone ahead of him, and has made a play or two every night that makes you take notice.

We’re not too far off from Dach having to play higher up the lineup, which is exciting and daunting. He’s already gotten less and less of his tendency to glide out of his game, and has not shied away from doing the work low and on the boards to make plays. He still can get a little lost in his own zone, but so can the whole team, and the Hawks have tried to keep him from being there at all as much as they can.

Now get him on the power play and stop with this Nylander nonsense on that unit.

Hockey

I should state right at the top that I’m not much one for confrontation either, and have spent a lifetime running from my problems. So to say I understand where the Hawks are coming from would be putting it lightly.

The Hawks have taken seven of the last eight points. They just got their first win over Vegas. They seem to have found a balance with what their coach wants and what the players want. They’re scoring, the goalies are playing spectacularly. They’re back to .500 and there’s at least a glimmer of hope that they could springboard from here into at least making the season interesting. It’s easy to understand why the Hawks don’t really want to be rocking the boat right now.

With that in mind, they sent Adam Boqvist back to Rockford this morning. Which means Connor Murphy is ready to go on Saturday in Nashville, for another impressive 11 minutes before something else on him goes TWANG! All makes sense. But the hard conversation is coming for the front office, so they might as well have it now.

We talked about this on the podcast, but this week is another chance to have a sit-down with Brent Seabrook. Because the clock is ticking very loudly and the Hawks have run out of ways to avoid it now. No later then next summer they’re going to have to do this, and if they are in a playoff chase (which they aren’t yet) it’s probably coming sooner. So why not get ahead of it?

Have Stan and Colliton and McDonough meet with him in Nashville or wherever the next two days, and calmly explain that they can’t keep Boqvist in Rockford forever, and it’s about winning games and he helps us do that. Again, make it clear how much Seabrook has meant to the organization and his teammates and fans. You’ve already prepared the ground a little by his double-scratching, which they handled poorly (even if it was the right decision at the base of it). Tell him this is where he is, this is where the team is going, and if that works for him or not. Assure him you’ll try and accommodate him if it doesn’t, but he should also know that a trade is hardly a guarantee given the factors involved. Just keep him informed and feeling like he has some control of the situation.

We know what Seabrook’s voice means in the dressing room, and they don’t want to lose that. But the players also want to win and get back into the playoffs. Adam Boqvist helps that cause. He helps it more than Brent Seabrook does. And though they’ll never say it out loud, the players know that too.

Sure, you could duck out of it and start scratching Olli Maatta whenever Boqvist returns. If it was good enough for the Penguins and all that. Doesn’t seem like the way this is trending.

And as we’ve said, this is coming. Even if you say that Boqvist will take Gustafsson’s spot after Gus leaves in free agency or is traded, whither Ian Mitchell? Or Nicholad Beaudin or Chad Krys if they pop up into the frame? This is precisely why you don’t trade for vets with multiple years left on their deals when you’re trying to pivot to younger d-men, but this is the bind you’ve put yourself in.

You can only put it off for so long, and everyone would be healthier if you start dealing with it now. What if Boqvist spends the next two weeks or month simply lighting up the AHL while Seabrook continues to gasp for air? And if the power play goes stale? And the record never really gets far away from .500 in either direction?

There will only be one answer. Best to start preparing for it now.

Hockey

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

Evolving Hockey

Holy shit, that was fun. I would like every game to be like this going forward. Air raid, motherfuckers. Let’s clean it up.

Corey Crawford is a goddamn treasure and he should have his number retired. Nights like tonight remind you just how important he’s been to this team for the last nine years. Per usual, the Hawks got mauled in shots on goal, but Corey Crawford could not give less of a fuck about that if he took a vow of celibacy. He made 39 saves on 42 shots, including about 10 high-danger saves. Not one of the goals he gave up was on him. He kept the Hawks ahead in the second, when the Knights pressed the hardest. He even got called for a bullshit “throwing object” penalty and withstood a Marchessault penalty shot.

We say this just about every game, but without the goaltending, this is a route. Corey Crawford was the star of this shootout.

– The 12–17–88 line was furious tonight. DeBrincat and Strome were nails with their passing, and Garbage Dick scored a much-needed answer goal in the first. On that goal, DeBrincat shrugged off pressure from Karlsson and left a soft pass for Strome along the far boards. Then, Strome fired a cross-ice pass to a streaking Kane, who was left all alone for a quick one timer.

Then, for the coup de grace in the third, Strome took a backhand saucer pass from DeBrincat up the middle and potted the Hawks’s fifth goal high glove side. The Hawks scored three of their five high glove.

Kirby Dach is going to be a special player. I bitched and moaned when they took him over Byram, but I’m happy to be entirely fucking wrong about that. Can you believe that his goal was probably the second most impressive play he made tonight? And boy, what a goal it was. Zack Smith (more on him shortly) made Ryan Reaves look like, well, Ryan Reaves, along the near boards, angling a pass toward Ryan Carpenter. Carpenter pushed the puck up to Dach, who stuffed home his own rebound after Flower’s initial denial. That would have been impressive enough. But check this fucking shit out:

Seabrook makes a pass up the boards to a well-covered Dach. Despite getting imprisoned along the boards by Nick “The” Hague, Dach managed to shovel a one-handed pass to Zack Smith (there’s that name again), who then fed a pass to de Haan for the Hawks’s second goal. The strength and poise to make a play like that is exceptional, and Dach made it look easy. Just imagine what he’s going to do with 30 extra pounds. Plus, he led all Hawks in possession and was one of just four Hawks to finish above water (Maatta, Carpenter, DeBrincat). Holy shit, what fun.

Calvin de Haan put on a “Fuck Your Analytics” clinic. He and Seabrook may have gotten pasted in possession to the tune of a 29+ and 34+ CF%, respectively, but it didn’t matter. De Haan’s goal was a masterful high-glove shot. Though we usually scoff at blocks, each of de Haan’s three was purposeful. His defense after the first period was essential.

Yeah, his piss coverage on the PK—wherein he floated toward the near boards to cover a low-risk Marchessault, giving Karlsson a parting-of-the-Red-Sea-sized lane to drive down—led to a goal. And his questionable coverage of Patches earlier in the first period—covering Patches, who was skating behind the net, by flying in front of Crawford—nearly led to another goal. But he tightened up in the second and third and was the good kind of noticeable the rest of the way. Fuck Corsi, indeed.

– I would like to officially take back any bad things I’ve ever said about Zack Smith. A penalty shot, two outstanding assists, embarrassing Ryan Reaves more so than Ryan Reaves does naturally, and a 100 GF% is quite a night. He was one of the most fun guys to watch out there tonight.

– Nylander had a couple of nice passes again, sandwiched between a few bad turnovers and a lot of invisibility. Conversely, Kubalik was quiet most of the night until the end of the second, when he had two prime chances stuffed. I get not wanting to change what’s working (for whatever reason it’s working), but I’d like to see those two flip spots. Just to see.

– With Connor Murphy coming back this weekend, this was likely the last we’ve seen of Boqvist for a while. It’s dumb, but I guess in context, it makes sense. He had a really strong first period (72+ CF%, 89+ xGF%), but he sort of tapered off as the game went on. We would have loved to see him on the PP1 instead of Keith, but Colliton is in this weird hockey libertarian phase right now. His interference penalty in the third wasn’t all bad though, as he showed that when he puts his ass into it, he can overpower NHL players. Small things.

– I’m only going to mention how bad Brent Seabrook looked because he is a seventh D-man whom the Hawks are too scared to scratch for Boqvist’s sake. He was overmatched by the Knights’s speed all night and didn’t really have a single positive contribution. It’s profoundly stupid that he gets to play over Boqvist, because Boqvist—for all his greenness—is still a bigger threat.

Erik Gustafsson is coming back to life. He was uneven on the defensive side, which is good for him. His goal was a prime example of what he can do when he plays with talented players. Strome fed him a perfect pass from just above the goal line, giving Gus a chance to skate one way and shoot the other. Let’s hope that he continues to score so the Hawks can get more than a bag of pucks for him at the deadline.

Brayden McNabb can eat all of the shit on Earth.

It doesn’t have to make sense if it’s fun. If the Hawks continue to commit to the air raid, they’re going to win more games than if they go back to whatever the fuck MAGIC TRAINING CAMP produced. It looks more like individual brilliance than anything systemic, but for now, who gives a shit? Just win, baby.

Also, fuck the Knights.

Beer du Jour: Jefferson’s Very Small Batch and Bell’s Best Brown

Line of the Night: “Almost touched it in the restricted area as that puck was coming hot and heavy.” –Eddie O.

Hockey

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

A frustrating loss for the Hawks, but for a different reason tonight. Instead of getting ragdolled, the Hawks spent most of the game looking good. But a blown puck-settling on an easy clear and a microcosm of why we don’t trust Colliton’s system kept Pittsburgh in it. Let’s clean it up.

– An outstanding game for Brandon Saad, who was consistently the best Hawks forward on the ice tonight. He led Hawks forwards with a 60 CF%, which shouldn’t be too surprising. What was a bit surprising were his silky hands and feet on Kubalik’s goal. It felt like I should have been paying a $49.99 monthly fee, using an incognito browser, and still deleting my history after watching it.

First, Saad blows through the neutral zone by himself, starting a 3-on-1 with himself, Kubalik, and Fetch Koekkoek. He drops a pass back to Koekkoek, who then biffs a pass back to Saad. The pass was in Saad’s feet, going full speed, and with little room to work. But Saad kicked the puck to his stick and laid a smooth pass to a streaking Kubalik, who potted a one timer that whispered, “Fuck you, Jeremy” as it hit the back of the net.

Then, on Kane’s goal, it was Saad barreling toward the net, forcing Murray to stand pat and give Kane the short side. Saad also hit the crossbar in the first. Saad’s a special player, even if he’s never going to lead any scoring categories.

– Alex Nylander also had a good start to the game, though he disappeared later on, which is sort of his thing. After Saad blocked a shot in his own zone, he set up a 2-on-1 with Nylander. After passing to Nylander, Nylander went right back to Saad with a sweet saucer pass to Saad, who just missed off the near post. Nylander’s coverage was generally good as well. If he can put it all together for a full game, he could contribute. Baby steps.

Erik Gustafsson has looked much, much better lately, especially on defense. Though it’ll never be a staple of his game, he had at least one break up at the blue line and one steal in his own zone to snuff out a rush. He also looked pretty good on the Hawks’s 5-on-3, which the Hawks should have scored on. After playing catch with Kane on the near boards, Gus walked up the middle, drawing two of the Penguins’s three defenders. He then shoveled a pass to a wide-open Kane, who flat-out shanked the shot at a yawning net. Right idea, bad execution by the one guy who usually executes there.

– Even though he missed the PP goal, Patrick Kane did make up for it. His short-side goal was precisely what you expect from him. That creep can roll.

– Kane’s goal came immediately after Brent “I still have more to give but what I didn’t tell you is that it’s to whichever team is playing me” Seabrook whiffed on a simple pass from Strome in the defensive zone. This was striking-out-in-tee-ball-level whiffage, which left Dominik Kahun pick up the puck and drive for a nice set up. Seabrook was fortunate that Kane picked it up and said, “Fuck this, I’ll do it myself.”

– Crawford had another great game nullified by his bad defense. Twenty-nine saves on 31 shots ought to get you a win. But the Hawks can’t seem to score more than two or three a game. Ho hum.

– All right, this Slater Koekkoek horseshit needs to fucking stop. He broke two plays that led directly to Penguins’s goals. I’ve often looked at this motherfucker like a puppy looks at a loud fart on linoleum. His fancy stats typically look good, and tonight was no different (55+ CF%, 1.72 CF% Rel). But then he manages to fuck up so profoundly badly that I feel the urge to David Putty my fandom.

The Penguins’s first goal was entirely avoidable and entirely on Koekkoek. After the Hawks had some pressure in the Pittsburgh zone, the Penguins managed to clear the zone along the near boards. Instead of stepping up and corralling the clear, Koekkoek flinched and got caught half way between the puck and dropping back to defend. Evgeni Malkin turned him into dust, not only blowing by him but also scything a pass around him to a streaking (and tired) Jake Guentzel. It was a simple play that Koekkoek straight up fucked up. When Murphy comes back, they had better waive this motherfucker.

– The Penguins’s second goal was a confluence of bad defense and a bad system. First, the Hawks let Rust enter the zone, which, whatever, that’s a thing they do. Rust rings a pass around the boards, from near to far. Olli Maatta—who was benched for Erik Gudbranson in the playoffs just last year—was somehow too slow to cut it off, despite being maybe five feet from the puck by the time it reached him. This gave Evgeni Malkin not only time but also Olli Maatta all to himself. Malkin easily overcame Maatta and set up Rust on the doorstep. Crawford stops two shots point blank.

Then, Rust goes behind the net to recover the puck, and Brandon Saad picks him up. For some reason I certainly can’t fucking discern, Olli Maatta comes flying like a zeppelin out to the near boards to cover Malkin. This leaves Slater Koekkoek to cover in front of the net alone, which is not a situation anyone ever wants to be in. In his infinite wisdom, Koekkoek steps up to lay a stick into the back of Simon, who’s standing and sort of screening in about the middle of the slot, pretty far away from the crease. Meanwhile, Brandon Rust has leaked out to the spot where Koekkoek once was, giving John Marino a wide-open lane to feed a wide-open Rust.

Everything about this play was indicative of why we don’t trust Colliton’s system. Is Maatta supposed to come that far out on Malkin, and if so, why? Is Brandon Saad supposed to stay man-on-man with Rust down low because Maatta is now way out on the boards, or is that Koekkoek’s responsibility? (Based on Saad’s reaction after the goal, which was essentially, “What the fuck, man?” I’m going to guess it’s Koekkoek’s responsibility.) I’m willing to consider that Saad should have covered Rust on that play, but the idea of a forward being forced that low in the zone to cover for a slow defender jumping up is so odd. Lots of questions and not many answers, mostly because Colliton’s system often doesn’t make sense.

This is a game the Hawks should have had. There are signs of life, but if they’re forced to protect a lead late, they’re typically fucked. Still, they didn’t look like an AHL team tonight, and that’s progress.

Onward.

Beer du Jour: Jefferson’s Very Small Batch & High Life

Line of the Night: “We talk about the sellout streak but as Eddie always says, tickets are still available.” –Pat Foley, telling everyone at FFUD personally to go fuck themselves.

Hockey

Is it desperation? Is it just a recognition the Hawks have a serious speed and skill deficiency? Is it just to distract from the Seabrook drama? All of it? Who the fuck knows, and who the fuck cares, because we get to see the most fun toy the Hawks have in the organization (outside a fully engaged Patrick Kane, which we haven’t seen this year yet). Earlier today, the Hawks called up Adam Boqvist.

The need for Boqvist, or the idea of Boqvist at least, is quite obvious. The Hawks have no d-man who can skate himself out of trouble. They have no defenseman who can get them started in transition by himself. They have no puck-movers, ever since Erik Gustafsson suddenly lost the limited skill he had to be that. Their power play sucks, and is in desperate need of movement and creativity.

Can Boqvist do all this? Yes, someday. Now? Certainly not all at once. And it would be utter lunacy to have #27 doing anything above a third-pairing role to start. Which is probably why the Hawks will do it. They could be that desperate. In 12-15 minutes a night, Boqvist is not going to be able to turn games or change them. But you’ve got to start somewhere, and if they really think something is going to come of this season, then you need to start the process of getting him there as quickly as possible.

Boqvist can do things about the power play. The Hawks need power play goals. They’re not going to go anywhere without them. They’re not good enough at even-strength, and they’re not going to be unless they find one or two more Boqvists than they have. They simply have to win the special teams battle. They’re getting completely turked on them now. Boqvist isn’t going to help the kill, but he can help the power play.

So no Kirby Dach shit and not have him out there even if he’s a rookie. Fuck, put him on the #1 unit ahead of Gustafsson. I don’t care. Knock it off with this goddamn drop pass at center ice. Have Boqvist threaten it, but then skate through two people and create chances off the rush. With Boqvist’s speed and skill, he can actually back people up at the blue line. Gustafsson can’t, which is why no one takes his rush up before that drop pass seriously. They’re just waiting for Kane to get it.

How does it affect the lineup? My first guess would be it sends Dennis Gilbert back to the muck where he came from and belongs. I would not be surprised if it actually knocks Gustafsson out of the lineup, simply because if you have Gus and Boqvist in the lineup at the same time, your penalty kill would only have four d-men on it. Although the Predators do that. So do a couple other teams. You can get away with it if those four D-men are good. Maybe when Murphy is healthy again (for the limited time things stay that way), you can get away with Murphy, Keith, de Haan and Maatta killing penalties, I don’t want to think about it.

Ideally, your pairings by Thanksgiving will be:

Murphy-Keith

Maatta-Boqvist

de Haan-Gustafsson

That’s almost representative!

I would imagine Gustafsson will be traded at some point this season, just because he’s not earning a contract right now in free agency and if he eventually does, the Hawks can’t or won’t afford him. Maybe Seabrook will be too now, who knows?

Anyway, the now. Are there going to be shifts and whole games where Boqvist looks terrible? Absolutely. There are going to be shifts and games where he’s the best show in town. A lot of these are going to cross-over into the same game. But the Hawks need it.

The Hawks have made it clear the next three years are what matter here. Dach is here to stay. Boqvist is up. The movement to the next generation has started. Ride the snake.

Hockey

There are two things that are true about Brent Seabrook. Two things that you have to keep in mind simultaneously. And two things the Hawks have not been able to square away in their heads simultaneously, and they’re the only ones.

Brent Seabrook is a Hawks legend who was an integral part of their three Cup wins and will most likely one day have a dual number retirement ceremony with Chris Chelios.

Brent Seabrook is no longer one of their six best d-men, and possibly not even an NHL defenseman anymore.

For at least two seasons now, the Hawks have used the first statement to blind themselves to the second. And now apparently, they’re using the second statement to blind themselves to the first.

I want to get this upfront. If Seabrook plays last night, the Hawks still get torched. I have no idea if that kind of effort has anything to do with a dressing room in turmoil or not, because the Predators are that much better, and more to the point, that much faster. So I’m not making that connection.

That said, the way the Hawks and Jeremy Colliton, or how they’re making it look like Jeremy Colliton, have handled this Seabrook thing this week is unacceptable. And it was so easy for it not to be.

Oh, and let’s put this at the top too:

So either someone is lying, or Jeremy Colliton quite simply is a coward. Joe Quenneville could get away with this kind of thing, and sometimes did, because he had the rep and it was clear what he wanted out of practice and games. He had other things to do than explain every detail of what was missing from someone’s game (not that I always thought this was a good policy, especially with younger players).

Colliton has none of this. To boot, Seabrook was his ally in that dressing room last season when veteran players were rolling their eyes, given their past relationship. It’s probably why the front office bent over backwards to make sure Seabrook would have a roster spot this year, because they knew how tenuous Colliton’s hold was on the team and how much Seabrook’s voice was worth.

So much for that:

This isn’t necessarily a “Come and get me!” plea. But it isn’t not one either, and it’s generally how they start. Now you’ve got an angry and respected vet publicly rebelling against a coach I’m fairly sure isn’t equipped for this and then getting your ass waxed to for the second time in four games. There are better looks.

Is scratching Seabrook a necessity? It surely was going to be whenever Adam Boqvist is ready. And on the second of a back-to-back at home, that’s actually not a bad time to introduce it. It gives you the cover of “rest,” and even if no one buys that (no one did) everyone can kind of just pretend they do and move along. This is a fanbase and media that saw it enough with Marian Hossa, an actual contributor, in his last couple years to get it. Considering how Seabrook had gotten his doors blown off in Carolina, no one would rock the boat on that. If it was preparing the field, it was about the only way you could do it.

Doing it a second straight game, after Seabs would have had two days off, blows off that facade we were all doing our best to hold in place. Now you’re embarrassing him, somehow more so than his play has, and he apparently had no indication this is how it would go.

We and many others laid out how to handle this during the offseason. The front office needed to go to Seabrook and tell him how much he’s meant to the team, the organization, and the fans, and how his name will pretty much live on forever in Hawks history. But they also needed to make it clear where they thought he stood in the pecking order, and how they needed to start to turn their blue line over. They needed to say to him, “You’re going to be #6-#7, if that, and you’re going to spend more than a smattering of nights in the pressbox. If that’s not ok with you, we will do our best to find you a solution that is, even if it means eating half your salary. If you feel you can come into training camp and prove us wrong, ok. But this is where we have you now and that’s the risk you’ll take.”

And maybe they did, because the feature of that method is to keep it quiet and everyone gets to save face at the conclusion. But I tend to doubt it, because the trade of Henri Jokiharju sure seemed like it was made to keep Colliton from having to make any hard decisions. And again, Seabrook is claiming he’s never heard anything.

Again, this was always going to happen. But when you’re scratching a guy with a rep and voice that Seabrook has so you can keep Dennis Gilbert or Slater Koekkoek or Erik Gustafsson (who’s been worse this year and not by an eyelash) in the lineup, and you’re doing it without being open to the player, that’s a slap in the face to a player who deserves much, much better no matter what his performance has been.

It feels like the Hawks wanted to avoid going down this road as long as possible, and were just hoping that an injury or divine providence would help them avoid it altogether. Boqvist and Mitchell are arriving one day soon, possibly March or April. That’s when all the bills were coming due. They’ve sped up the process now. But not on purpose.

Nothing the Hawks seem to do these days has a purpose. Or a plan. So you get not even sniffing the playoffs for a third straight season, and no discernible map on how they plan to correct that in the future.

Hockey

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

Corsica

Christ. Fire them all.

– The Official Marc Crawford Watch begins now. Jeremy Colliton is entirely out of his element. His systems have all the connectedness of a 3:30 a.m. Crave Case fart after a 6-hour GG Allin tribute concert.

I’m not even sure where to begin. The Hawks were outshot 40–14 through two periods. At no point did they ever lead the possession share. Their xGF% was 22+%. If not for the Kings, who have all the panache and verve of a gangrenous scrotum, the Hawks would have two goals over the last five games. Seven in five is bad enough. The Hawks were a team that finished in the top 10 in goals scored last year. Colliton has managed to take the one thing the Hawks could do well and bury it under his throbbing Genious Brain.

Then there’s the defense. It’s truly a work of art that Colliton could manage to scratch Seabrook incorrectly. Dennis Gilbert, Slater Koekkoek, and Erik Gustafsson all proved tonight that scratching your 7th D-man is pointless if the guys you’re playing ahead of him are 8th, 9th, and 10th D-men themselves.

This is after training camp. This is after Colliton had an entire off-season to implement his system. This is what it produces.

All of the Core guys—Toews, Kane, Keith—looked lost tonight. None of them were effective, and they all looked to drag. And given the overall effort, it isn’t hard to think that Colliton has completely lost his Core. If you manage to lose Toews, and it sure looked like Toews was lost tonight (28+ CF%, 22+ xGF%), what are you even doing here?

Then there was Colliton’s galaxy brain just prior to Bonino’s first goal. At about 16:40 in the first, the Preds had just finished applying a bewildering amount of pressure on the Hawks to the tune of three or four good shots on goal that Lehner miraculously turned away—including a post-to-post save—which all started because of some lazy coverage by Toews at neutral ice. After the TV timeout following a Lehner freeze, Colliton CHOSE to ice DeBrincat–Strome–Carpenter Gustafsson–Gilbert. In the defensive zone. Against a team that was outshooting them vastly. After six or seven shots (that’s not hyperbole), the Preds scored because, get this, EXACTLY ONE OF THOSE GUYS IS EVEN PASSABLE IN THE DEFENSIVE ZONE.

This is what a moron does. Jeremy Colliton is a moron. Even if his GM is a bigger moron, this kind of decision makes it clear that Colliton is out of his element.

There’s no structure to anything the Hawks do at all. It’s a lot of flotsam floating and true talent rolling their eyes. If Colliton makes it to Christmas—hell, Thanksgiving even—we can only assume that the league has contracted back to six teams and every other coach has been Poochied away.

Robin Lehner prevented that game from being 8–0. If Stan Bowman makes it to the end of this year, it’ll be solely because Lou Lamoriello had no more use for Lehner. Falling ass backward into a talented goaltender will stay his execution longer than Colliton’s. Whoever’s the GM this off-season better pucker up their ass-kissing lips, because Lehner’s got to be looking for the nearest exit.

– This game should reinforce the fact that the Blackhawks have absolutely no idea how to scout defensive talent. Dennis Gilbert is not an NHL player, no matter how many times he leads the game in hits. The only thing I can say for sure about him is that he’s slow. I want to say he’s clueless too, but Colliton’s ass-blood scheme would make Paul Coffey look like Dennis Gilbert, so I can’t say that with any confidence.

– The Blackhawks could have traded the Erik Gustafsson formerly known as a 60-point D-man before the draft or at any point in the off-season. Never forget that.

Jonathan Toews looked horrible tonight. He looks like he’s given up, and I can’t blame him. Colliton replaced Toews with Saad on the PP1 late in the first period. Yes, Saad was the best forward up to that point, but he’s never been much of a producer on the PP. This reeks of a coach who’s lost his best players trying to prove a point nobody cares to hear anymore.

– I guess if you’re looking for a positive outside of Lehner, maybe there were two. Dach made a couple of heady plays in the first. The first was a dump in that was out of Rinne’s reach, which led to a DeBrincat stuff attempt. The other was a good-idea-not-so-good-execution play on a 3-on-2 with Saad. Dach glided up the near side and tried to feed a streaking Saad for a tip, just missing him. He’s got a feel for the right ideas, which is nice. It’s really gonna suck when they send him back to the WHL next week.

The other was that late in the third, 11 games into the 2019–20 season, Colliton finally put DeBrincat–Strome–Kane together. They immediately produced a strong scoring chance before Kane got a hooking/unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. The fact that the one line that should have been a given going into the year is together only after more than 13% of the season is finished is lamentable.

– I don’t give a fuck that DeBrincat and Strome were statistically awful tonight. This putting-them-on-the-fourth-line horseshit is unacceptable. It was cute when they played the Kings, in the same way that a toddler screaming “God dammit” in a church is cute. Only after letting his team get thoroughly embarrassed did Colliton put them with Kane—which is where they should be at all times, defense be fucking damned—and what do you fucking know? They finished with a 100 CF% and a 78+ xGF%. Get fucked, Jeremy.

This team is lost. Its identity has been reduced to off-ice soap operaisms and leading the fucking league in hits. It’ll be hard for them to do worse than they did tonight, but as long as Colliton and Bowman are calling the shots in any capacity, they sure as shit are going to try.

Start over.

Beer du Jour: Craggenmore 12 and High Life

Line of the Night: “PK Subban wasn’t even in their top three defensemen.” Eddie O on the Preds

Hockey

Time again for the good, the bad, and the surprisingly acceptable in the world of the Hawks.

The Dizzying Highs

Dylan Strome: This guy gets demoted to the fourth line and comes back and scores two goals against the Kings after that humiliation. And he had an assist. Alex DeBrincat could be here as well but we’re giving the nod to Strome—it may only be one bounce-back game but he earned this.

Robin Lehner: He’s been getting hosed by by his teammates and should have a much better record, but despite the frustrations of terrible defending in front of him, Lehner has been solid. He came into Sunday’s game against the Kings with a .922 SV%/2.44 GAA and proceeded to finish that game with a .974 SV%. I still say there’s no real goalie controversy here and Crawford isn’t at full-on backup duties (yet), but Lehner could play himself into a more clearly defined starter role, or at least make the contract decision coming later this season a lot easier on the front office. All of that is well in the future, and for now let’s just be happy he’s playing so well and giving the team a more-than-reasonable chance to win every time he’s in net.

The Terrifying Lows

The Power Play: In the midst of all the disappointment last year, people kept saying well, at least the power play is better. So much for that, at least thus far. The Hawks’ power play is currently ranked 26th at a miserable 10.3% and hasn’t notched a goal since Top Cat’s against the Blue Jackets on 10/18. All the credit Colliton got for turning around last year needs to be held up against the current results before anyone decides if he’s worth much of anything. For example, his inexplicable decision to play Nylander over Strome (and don’t think I’m just bad-mouthing Nylander here, keep reading) made no sense, because as Sunday’s game showed, playing Strome and DeBrincat together can result in goals! Strome isn’t going to solve all the power play’s issues, let’s be clear, but it’s just another symptom of a coach who appears to not know what he’s doing and a team that struggles to finish.

Brent Seabrook: OK, I’m seriously not trying to pile on here or be a dick about it. For this article I have to objectively look at the team and describe who and what are demonstrably bad, and it would be kind of disingenuous to ignore how bad ‘ole Nachos has been. He finally got benched for the Kings game, which means it was so bad that Coach Cool Youth Pastor had to locate his balls and tell Seabrook to grab a seat in the press box. And we know he’s been loathe to do that. But the decline we all knew was happening has only worsened, like we all knew it would. He’s got the lowest possession numbers at evens of any Hawks defenseman (44 CF%), his xGA is 5.6 (not the worst on the team but certainly not good), the team gives up way more high-danger chances than they get when he’s out there (HDCF% is 41 and HDGF% is even worse)…I can keep going with these numbers but why? We all know what we’re seeing.

The Creamy Middles

Alex Nylander: I have no desire to adjudicate between Sam and Fifth Feather and their bet over the Nylander-Jokiharju trade being a good thing, so know that I’m just reporting what I see here. And, for the record I’m still not convinced the Hawks will come out ahead on this one, but Nylander HAS been playing decently lately. He had an assist while falling down against the Kings, which was as entertaining as it was effective. His possession numbers have been well above water (65 CF% on Saturday, 52.6 CF% on Sunday, all at evens). He’s even had some decent defensive plays, and those are pretty damn hard to come by these days. So here’s to you, Alex Nylander, for not being as awful as I feared.

Hockey

vs

Game Time: 6:00PM CDT
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720
Keep Pretending Drew Doughty Isn’t A Rapist: Jewels From The Crown

One thing about hockey’s often asinine scheduling that can be construed as a positive is that teams rarely have to marinate longer than 48 hours on bad losses, even if it comes at the expense of both sides playing their third in 4 nights having both played on the road yesterday, as is the case tonight on West Madison with the visiting Kings. And it’s a pretty clear sign that both teams suck when they are each looking across the bench and seeing an opportunity to get on track.