Hockey

This sucks.

There’s not a lot more I can say really. This is what the beginning of a rebuild really looks like, and we’re going to be stuck here for years to come. And personally, I’m not sure how many more free Lankinen rebounds my frail heart can watch. Rebounds for everyone, everywhere, as many as you can scoop up. And the Hawks defense are not scooping very many of those rebounds up at all. Still waiting for those Beaudin and Mitchell call-ups, by the way. Literally any day now.

In all seriousness, a sincere congrats is in order for Pat Foley in his upcoming retirement. The man has been the voice of the Hawks for as long as most of us can remember, and he will be the hardest voice in hockey to replace. I couldn’t tell you a damned thing about Chris Vosters, the new play-by-play announcer, as the merry-go-round of TV auditions from this year has made all the new people a blur. Next Sunday, Foley and the man himself, Dale Tallon, will be broadcasting their final game together in what will likely be an automatic loss to Dallas. Buckle up for that one, folks.

The good news is that baseball starts this week, so everyone in Chicago can turn their attention towards their respective baseball teams and grumble about everything that’s wrong with those two franchises. Add onto the misery, why don’t we?

Monday 3/28
Hawks 5, Sabres 6
Box Score
Natural Stat Trick

The Hawks have spent years of our collective lives getting bailed out by their goaltenders, most recently in Marc-Andre Fleury. Now that era is over, and we get to watch garbage teams like the Sabres score four unanswered goals on the Hawks to tie it and two more within seconds of each other win the game. Granted, the Hawks defensemen weren’t doing Kevin Lankinen any favors throughout—Erik Gustafsson continues to take years off my life standing in front of the net and doing absolutely nothing to defend multiple Sabres goals, in one case kicking it into his own net. Without elite-level goaltending between the pipes, this team is an utter tire fire.

The Cat was responsible for a powerplay goal over halfway through the 3rd that put the Hawks back on top, but the momentum was all Buffalo’s starting really in the 2nd period, and two more Sabres goals late in the 3rd sealed the fate of the Hawks. Kane had a few solid chances near the end of the 3rd, but he wasn’t able to convert on any of them. The Sabres’ tying goal was a result of the Hawks defensemen being on one side of the ice and Alex Tuch on the other, receiving a pass to shoot at a pretty wide-open net—Tyler Johnson didn’t stand a chance defending that one. Jeff Skinner nearly scored seconds later but a Dylan Strome trip disallowed the goal and put Strome in the penalty box. The Sabres’ winning goal was entirely the fault of Lankinen, and something that an NHL-level goaltender shouldn’t allow. It cost the Hawks a point and the game, but luckily this team has nothing to play for down the stretch.

Thursday 3/31
Hawks 0, Panthers 4
Box Score
Natural Stat Trick

I mean, I’m not sure who actually expected a Hawks win out of this game, but it was still tough to watch our (like it or not) captain Jonathan Toews look like he was having a genuinely horrible time during his 1,000th NHL game. Every eye and metric test imaginable against these two teams show the Panthers as the vastly superior team. This game became another look at how far the Hawks will have to climb to be relevant again. It will be a game and a season that Toews will likely want to forget as his legacy is called into question, fairly or not, after his reaction to the Beach allegations, the trade deadline moves, and other whathaveyous. But I’m sure I’m not the only one who wished for a happier outcome for the Captain tonight.

In other news, this game was dreck to watch. Sergei Bobrovsky completely shut the Hawks down, stopping all 37 shots he faced. On the other end of the ice, Collin Delia, who is not an NHL-caliber goalie, got scored on five times, although a mercy kick-in ruling of Barkov’s goal 40 seconds into the game made it only four goals against. Rebounds, five-holes, and a porous defense (Riley Stillman still sucks) meant the Hawks got lit up all night long.

Friday 4/1
Hawks 2, Lightning 5
Box Score
Natural Stat Trick

Nothing like a shellacking on one night to prepare you for another shellacking the next night. The Lightning may not be playing like the impenetrable force they had been over the last month, but once again the gap between the Hawks and actual Stanley Cup-contending teams was well on display tonight. Not to mention it became a Brandon Hagel revenge game when he scored an empty netter in the dying seconds of the game, which I’m sure made Toews incredibly angry.

The Hawks at least scored in this one, the first goal coming from an unexpected source as Calvin de Haan blasted one home from the point in a play reminiscent of Duncan Keith. The other goal was scored by the Cat (who else?) to tie the game, though it certainly didn’t last long as the Lightning made quick work of the game over the 2nd and 3rd periods. And Tampa Bay’s penalty kill (9th in the league) thwarted the Hawks’ multiple powerplay opportunities almost every time and occasionally leading to an odd-man rush the other way. I truly felt bad for Lankinen—how can you possibly ask him, another fringe NHL goalie, to save some of the plays the Lightning produced?

Sunday 4/3
Hawks 2, Coyotes 3 (Coyotes win despite not having their shit together)
Box Score
Natural Stat Trick

At least this was an overtime loss, but it was still a loss to the Coyotes, the league’s true albatross. The skill level of the opponent compared to the previous two matchups were considerably lower, and the game got to be a bit chippy throughout. Defensive structures for both teams fluctuated from “none at all” to “let’s go six minutes straight without a shot on goal as we fool around in the neutral zone,” which leads to wacky hockey.

Dylan Strome was able to score just a minute into the game to give the Hawks their first lead in who knows how long. And the Hawks didn’t look so bad for the 1st period either, although I must again reiterate that the Coyotes are the league’s albatross. Arizona took over in the 2nd period, however, scoring two goals thanks to an Amy’s Youngest clearing attempt gone terribly wrong, and Calvin de Haan and Jake McCabe both getting pantsed by some guy named Travis Boyd. Not a good look.

Despite Kane tying the game up in the 3rd, the Hawks were unable to put it away in overtime. Instead, it was Shane Ghost Bear who was credited with a goal that actually went in thanks to the skate of Amy’s Eldest, a fitting end to the clown show this week of games has been. Speaking of Ghost Bear, I’m amazed he hasn’t been sent to the land of wind and ghosts considering he took a puck to the throat and a stick to the face this game. That’s hockey, I guess.

Hockey

Jeff Skinner – It’s not a very ornery bunch along the Falls these days, so we’ll start with the leader of the “Yeah, But Who Gives A Shit?” brigade. Tamzarian here has 252 career goals in nine seasons plus this one, which means he’s averaged just a tick under 30 goals every season. And he’s scored over 30 four times. And not a single one of them has mattered. He’s never even sniffed a playoff team with Carolina or Buffalo. The Canes, not exactly bursting with finishers, punted him to Buffalo last year and suddenly were conference finalists. Certainly not all his fault, but certainly being categorized and world-class asshole is. At some point a 35-goal scorer has to matter, otherwise you’re just doing the scoring because someone has to score goals on a given night. Skinner might already be there.

Rasmus Ristolainen – Nothing to do with him, he just sucks. And he has sucked for a long time. And the only people who can’t seem to recognize that he sucks is the Buffalo front office. Even most other NHL front offices realizes he sucks, because the Sabres haven’t been able to find a trade partner. Usually you can fool someone. The Sabres can’t.

Vladimir Sobotka – Harkens back to the days when Blues fans would massively overrate a player because he had one good game against the Hawks once. We never thought we’d miss them.

Hockey

They have lots of young talent! They just need time to develop! They’re going to finally make the postseason again! Management is getting its shit together, for real! You’d be forgiven for thinking that we’re talking about the White Sox, but lo, it is the Buffalo Sabres who seemingly every year are on the verge of great things only to see it go down in flames. After a truly ugly spectacle last year in the second half, they’ve brought in new coach Ralph Krueger who, despite having a name that makes him sound like an insurance salesman from Toledo, is actually NOT part of the clique of crusty old white men from which NHL GMs and coaches are typically drawn. So they say it’s really going to be different this time, but I think we’ve heard this song before…

2018-2019

33-39-10 76 pts (6th in Atlantic Division)

2.70 GF/G (23rd) – 3.27 GA/G (24th)

49.9 CF% (14th) – 47.82 xGF% (22nd)

19.5 PP (16th) – 80.9 PK (12th)

Goalies: This remains a huge weak spot for Buffalo, and in a goalie league, that’s a problem. By the total numbers Carter Hutton isn’t horrible, and at 5v5 he managed a .913 SV%/2.80 GAA on the season. But what that masks is a second half that was hot garbage, with an .895/3.56 after January 1st. Backup Linus Ullmark isn’t much better. He had a .918/2.69 at 5v5 for the year with a decent .910 after 1/1, but an .856 SV% on the PK (Hutton wasn’t spectacular either with an .883 on the PK).

All of this is to say that both of these guys are middling goalies, which won’t kill you every night if the young, snazzy defense can play well in front of them, but it means they also can’t be relied upon to win it for you if the defense shits the bed at times, nor can they be counted on to steal a few games. The Sabres have prospect Ukko-Pekka Luukonen—easily in the running for best name in the league—but he’s out with a hip injury so by the time they bring him up, if in fact he can play at the NHL level, it may be too late.

Defense: On the other hand, the defense should be a relative strength for Buffalo. The top pairing is, for now, the Rasmuses (Rasmusi?), Dahlin and Ristolainen. However, Ristolainen wants out and could be a valuable trade piece for greater forward depth (more on that later). If he’s moved out, Brandon Montour could move to the first pairing. Dahlin should continue building on a solid year (was 4th on the team in points, and the only guys beating him in possession numbers all played fewer than 35 games). Either Ristolainen or Montour, who himself should have a strong year now that he’s fully out of the Anaheim shitstorm, would make a decent partner.

Otherwise, Montour may pair with Jack McCabe. Or, Colin Miller may jump to the first pairing and then it’s Montour and McCabe on the second. None of which is terrible. And, we’ll probably see our almost-special-boy Henri Jokiharju somewhere, likely on the 3rd pairing. Yes, I’m just assuming Harju makes the lineup over Marco Scandella, although Casey Nelson could figure in as well, depending on if they want to play him and/or Harju on their off side.

Forwards: As is the style of the time, the Sabres have a top line and little else. However, it is an enviable top line, don’t get me wrong, of Jeff Skinner, Jack Eichel, and Sam Reinhart. Like their other prodigy Dahlin, Eichel should just have more good days ahead. Last year was a career year for him with 82 points (which led the team), with Skinner and Reinhart right behind him.

Beyond that it gets a little dicey. Casey Mittelstadt needs to learn how not to suck, and if he can’t there’s an outside chance he’ll lose the 2C spot to recently drafted Dylan Cozens. However, that assumes Cozens makes huge strides really quickly, and that his thumb injury isn’t an issue (but at that age would a damn thumb really not heal? Come on). Conor Sheary and Marcus Johansson could finish out that second line, but after that, as is so often the case, there’s no depth. Do Evan Rodrigues and Jimmy Vesey do anything for you? How about Johan Larsson or Kyle Okposo? I didn’t think so. Their fourth line of Zemgus Girgensons (who is not a character from Lord of the Rings?), Larsson and Okposo might be the fourth-liniest line ever. Prospect Arttu Ruostalainen may be able to help with the depth issue, but again, that’s assuming a young guy in Europe can make the jump to the top club right away. Or maybe they can get something for the aforementioned Ristolainen—you’d have to think forward depth would be their asking price. But, it’s a lot of ifs.

Prediction: The Sabres likely won’t be the trainwreck we saw at the end of last year, but it’s doubtful they’ll be a playoff team either. If everything, literally everything, goes right, they finish with about 85-90 points—closer to 80 if not everything goes right. Maybe just maybe they take 4th in the Atlantic? It seems unlikely unless Montreal regresses and Florida fails to make a leap forward. But, spoken like a true Sox fan, even if they don’t make the postseason, they should still see a lot of improvement and maybe a faint light at the end of that tunnel.

Photo credit: theleafsnation.com

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Everything Else

vs.

RECORDS: Sabres 30-28-8   Hawks 27-30-9

PUCK DROP: 7:30

TV: NBCSN Chicago

IN A BARREL: Die By The Blade

I’ll give you the perspective as a season ticket holder. Normally, the Sabres game is one you can count on unloading for a profit. It usually doesn’t matter what state the Sabres are in, because Buffalo fans travel (or they’re already here and just come out of whatever abandoned factory they live in). Tonight’s game, I couldn’t sell for a song. Even Sabres fans couldn’t find a fuck to give about this one. That’s partly due to their own team’s slide ever since they won 10 in a row, and the Hawks not being able to be much of a draw to anyone else. The combination of the two renders this one a “non-happening.”

So let’s start with the Hawks, who return from a frankly embarrassing California trip. They needed a buzzer-beater to get past the Ducks, who have been a burned-up clown car for two months or more. They were flattened by the Kings, who had lost 10 in a row before that. Then they were simply outclassed by the Sharks, which isn’t a crime, but not something you can just shrug off when everyone didn’t care against the worst team in the conference the day before.

So now it becomes the watch to see how they respond. The season is lost, and they can say whatever they want. So can Coach Cool Youth Pastor keep his charges interested and motivated? Because he’s coming off a trip where pretty much everyone couldn’t be bothered in Los Angeles. He then had his assistant captain essentially air him out, in a way, to the press. So he’s not in the best spot here, with a team closer to giving him the Bolo Yeung wave-off than anyone in the organ-i-zation should be comfortable with.

So if the Hawks mail it in here for the last 15 games, yes that would probably be better long-term due to the draft position, but it will put Jeremy Colliton in an awfully weird position. Once a team quits on you, it’s nearly impossible to reel them back in. Whatever they may want, Keith is going to be here next year. So will Kane and Toews. You can probably count on motivation from the latter two, either due to sociopathy or professional pride, but even Toews has had his nights off this year. What if he checks out? Then you’re basically lost, and you have a lot of young players in what is becoming a more and more toxic atmosphere.

However, if Colliton can get them to recover and at least spasm one more death rattle, at least there’s hope that those who are gong to take this team forward in the future are listening. Which isn’t much, but it’s at least what I’m paying attention to.

As for on the ice matters, David Kampf returns, in for Dylan Sikura. That’s kind of annoying, but I can’t really defend Sikura too much more when he hasn’t scored. Kampf is actually more important than most realize, as his Baby Kruger ’13 act has been missed. So that’s cool. Corey Crawford gets the chance to recover from his technicolor yawn in Los Angeles.

To the Sabres, who have sunk like a stone since briefly being the talk of the league in the fall. Since that 10-gamer that was all OT and one-goal wins, they’ve gone 13-22-6, which is unsightly to say the least. And there’s not a lot to build on at the moment. They don’t score a bunch, they give up too many goals, but they’re not that close to the bottom in any category. Their summer hinges on whether they can keep Jeff Skinner, as he’s been the only winger to really dovetail with Jack Eichel.

Their big move at the deadline was to move along Brendan Guhle for Brandon Montour–the hallowed Brendan-to-Brandon upgrade–in a bid to get anything on their blue line other than Rasmus The Younger. The rest of the season will also be an evaluation of Phil Housley as coach. If the Sabres continue to break up like a too-steep reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere, he’s going to be out of a job come May. If he can pull them out of this stall, he may get one more chance.

Like a lot of not-quite teams, the Sabres are one line. There’s Skinner-Eichel-Reinhart, and then whatever you find at the bottom of your trash can when you take the bag out. Evan Rodrigues is centering the second line, for god’s sake. Casey Middlestadt carries a lot of hope but not a lot of production yet. Kyle Okposo went back to his home planet. There’s nothing else really worth talking about.

This is one of a few games left on the schedule that will take place merely because they have to. There’s nothing riding on it, so just try and enjoy the spectacle of a hockey game. There’s not much else I can say about it.

 

 

Game #67 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

Now that the Hawks’ season once again lies in rubble and dust, you wouldn’t blame fans for turning their scarred eyes to the summer, and to the hopes of what the Hawks might do in free agency or via trade. One name you’re going to hear more than once is Jeff Skinner.

The Hawks have been connected to Skinner before, a couple times during his days in Carolina. Skinner was seemingly always on the block, and some of it had to do with a reputation of being a complete dickhead in the dressing room. But this is hockey, so even if that was true, what it’s based on could be literally anything. He might have worn orange New Balance shoes once and Jordan Staal would have lost his shit. We don’t know.

The Hawks couldn’t get much into the Skinner trade talks this past summer, as Skinner made it pretty clear he only wanted to go close to his home of Toronto. Buffalo counts. He didn’t cost all that much, three draft picks in the next two drafts and no first-rounders and also a prospect the Hurricanes have already moved along. He won’t cost any picks in the summer, but he will cost a fair amount of money.

Skinner is a lock to put up his first 40-goal season, to go with two other 30+ goal seasons. And if Mark Stone can get $9.5M a year (seriously that contract is STOOOOPID), and he’s never pierced 30, then Skinner’s and his agent’s eyes must be lighting up. Especially considering Skinner is just 26. Might they be looking at eight figures? That’s hard to justify, especially if you look deeper.

Skinner is an elite sniper, so his metrics are always going to be outdone by his actual performance. Or at least they usually will be. But this season is something of an outlier even in that. Skinner is averaging less shots, less attempts, and less chances than he has in the last five years, and that’s with getting to play with actual talent in Buffalo instead of Raleigh (the Canes never had a center in the stratus of Jack Eichel, until Aho this year). And yet he’s cashing in at 16.3% of his chances at even-strength, which is miles over what he’s done before. It’s also double his expected shooting percentage, based on the chances he’s getting. Again, Skinner is a gifted scorer, and he’ll regularly outshoot his expected percentages, but double? On the plus side, he does always stay on the positive side of the possession count and ahead of his team’s rate. But he’s also been heavily, heavily kept in the offensive zone on his shifts, so he’d better.

There also is an element of, “Yeah, but who gives a shit?” with Skinner. He’s never played a playoff game, won’t this year, and he’s never been all that close. So no team has been good because Skinner is on it. It’s hard for a winger to accomplish that, but it’s something an inquiring team might want to consider, especially if you’re going to hand him Scrooge McDuck’s vault. It could be that Skinner is just something of a luxury player and you’d better have everything else.

Again, 40 goals is 40 goals. But given the spike in his percentages, more likely Skinner tops out as a 30-35 goal guy. And that’s hardly a nothing. But it’s not something you pay more than $7M per year for, and Skinner is likely to be asking for more than that. Buyer beware.

 

Game #67 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

Melissa Burgess has been a longtime contributor to DieByTheBlade.com, a leading Sabres site. You can follow her on Twitter @_MelissaBurgess. This is the Q&A we did with her a month ago when the Hawks were in Buffalo, and things were a bit rosier for all of us. 

The Sabres had an incredible hot streak in the fall, but have been pretty poor since. What was going so right then that’s going so wrong now?

They did have an incredible hot streak, but it was a lucky one. So many of those wins came by one goal, whether in OT or shootout or regulation – it’s not like they were exactly running away with games. They just happened to find ways to win every night, grabbing the dirty goals, sometimes in the final minutes, and never giving up. So what’s changed? I think they just stopped meshing in that same way and it shows. Production drops off, pairings and lines don’t mesh the same, and all of a sudden, you find yourself out of the playoff picture.

What’s been the review of #1 overall pick Rasmus Dahlin?

Dahlin has been doing well so far in his rookie season. I think it’s important always for people to remember that he’s going to make mistakes, as any player is. But for Dahlin, it’s not just what he’s doing this season or what he does next season that matters; he’s hopefully a part of this team long-term and that success matters too. I think he’s a promising young defenseman and I like what I see from him.

Jeff Skinner is pouring in the goals but has yet to sign an extension. What’s the buzz on the chances of his long term stay?

It seems more likely than not that Skinner stays in Buffalo. I mean, when’s the last time you saw him without a smile on his face? In all seriousness, I’ve heard contract talks will start soon and I’m super excited for that. He’s an unreal player and it’s a treat to have him.

Jack Eichel is on his way to blowing past his career high in points. What’s the feeling about him there? Being drafted alongside Connor McDavid doesn’t help, but it doesn’t feel like he’s usually considered in the “next crop” of superstars like McDavid, Matthews, Petterssen, and the like…

I’ve never thought about it like that, but that’s true. You see everyone talking about the others, but not Eichel so much. I think he’s a quiet producer – lots of assists but also lots of moves that maybe seem small and don’t result in points – and that makes him lower on people’s radar. Of course, McDavid has always been “The Next One” and Matthews being in Toronto, there’s a lot of hype there. But I think just the fact that Eichel is that quieter leader sometimes leaves him off people’s radar. I think he’s been a great fit for this team, he seems genuinely invested in the present and the future.

 

Game #67 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

Corsica

This was a bizarre game and I am still not sure I fully understand what happened. Let’s attempt to parse through it together, shall we? The Bullets:

– The first period started out making this one feel like it was set to be a big time ass whipping by the Sabres. They ended up closing the period with an almost 60% CF and just watching it go down was painful. The Sabres aren’t great, but are definitely better than the Hawks, and it seemed like they were ready to flex on them. Then Gustav Forsling made a great play – broke clocks are bound to be right at least once a day – to feed Drake Caggiula in front of the net all alone, and the Hawks had a 1-0 lead. And from there, it just felt a bit like the Sabres started chasing a game they were controlling. It wasn’t really the result of anything the Hawks did, which is what made it feel so weird.

– Let’s stay on Forsling for a second. I wrote a few weeks ago that as much as I wanted to hold out hope on him, it wasn’t possible anymore. But the play he made to set up Caggiula was another sign that there is maybe a good hockey player in there that is just being suppressed. It’s like Get Out – the good hockey player is in the Sunken Place. The problem is, flashes like that are only worth so much. Later in the game he blew a defensive assignment that resulted in a flurry of chances for the Sabres. Part of that is out of his control – Sam pointed on Twitter how in this system that CCYP is running, any blown assignment is a disaster regardless of who’s there to try and help. But blowing the assignment was terrible. He’s still young, so maybe he can take a giant leap forward next year, but this is probably what he is.

– Cam Ward was good tonight. It was another strange thing to behold. He made a ton of saves he shouldn’t have and none of the three Sabres goals were on him. Hopefully he waives that NTC and they can get someone to take him.

– Patrick Kane is still really good. Brandon Saad is still good. They were both excellent tonight. I wish they were playing well for a good team. Hopefully there will be a blue line solution and a Jack Hughes here next year and they can do this again for a good team.

Everything Else

 vs. 

RECORDS: Hawks 18-24-9   Sabres 25-19-6

PUCK DROP: 6pm

TV: NBCSN Chicago

WEARING THE KELSO HELMET: Die By The Blade

The Hawks escape the Polar Vortex, and their bye-week, only to arrive in the constant vortex of misery and ice that is Buffalo, New York. As Harry T. Stone once said, “Why don’t you just sleep in your refrigerator?” They’ll find there a Sabres team still dog-paddling furiously to find the refuge of a playoff spot, but seemingly can’t get any closer after their one hot-streak of the season.

The Sabres seem to suffer from what’s been going around with a lot of teams on either side of the periphery of the playoff cutoff, and that’s they’re one line and then a bunch of understudies and scenery. You’ve seen this in Dallas, Colorado, Vancouver to an extent, Edmonton for like four minutes, Boston, and the like.

Jeff Skinner, Jack Eichel, and Sam Reinhart (the one good Reinhart) form a deadly unit. Skinner is on his way to his first 40-goal season, Eichel is averaging a point-per-game for the first time. They’ve kept the Sabres in most games every night, and they had one streak where they found a way to win every game they were in. Which is the only reason they have any hope of a playoff spot now. Throw in competent goaltending in spots from either Carter Hutton or Linus Ullmark, and you get a team that’s slightly above an also-ran but not nearly ready for primetime either.

Because there’s isn’t anything behind that line. Casey Mittelstadt will be a fine player one day, but is learning the ropes. Kyle Okposo died of dysentery. Jason Pominville is three days older than water. Evan Rodrigues helps prove the theory that if you wore a letter for your college team, you suck. There’s just no secondary scoring here.

Perhaps one day Rasmus Dahlin will chip in big-time with that, but as promising as he is asking him to do it at 18 from the blue line is a bit much. Rasmus The Lesser (Ristolainen) has always been a fraud and maybe now they’re even realizing it in Buffalo. The rest of the defense is basically plugs like Zach Bogosian or Marco Scandella, or players who just never got there like Nathan Beaulieu and Jake McCabe. Again, there’s a top tier base here in Dahlin, the Sabres just need to fill in the rest behind. Or wait until their other prospects do so. It’s a project.

For the Hawks, they’ll start the post All-Star break “push” with a weird road-trip that goes east-to-west. with tomorrow night in Minnehaha to face the equally confounding Wild before decamping for Edmonton to face the always hilarious Oilers. Maybe the schedule makers just wanted the Hawks to see the three places consistently colder than Chicago for perspective.

Cam Ward will get the start, with Collin Delia getting the nod for what is the more “important”divisional game in the Hawks’ heads only. In theory, you might have to haul down the Wild to get into the playoffs, so if the Hawks do rip off 15 in a row the two points tomorrow will matter more. Or something. I just work here, ok?

As for other lineup changes, I would imagine that Carl Dahlstrom comes in for the bewilderingly-demoted Jokiharju, though Forsling was activated and could be chosen to waste all of our time again. Connor Murphy will probably stare quizzically at Slater Koekkoek all night, while the revival act of Marlboro 72 continues to not sell out theaters nationwide. Boy, this is fun. Whatever two of Perlini, Kunitz, and Hayden floats your boat will play. No, it does not matter.

The Hawks are back. And there was must rejoicing.

 

 

Game #52 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built