Everything Else

One of the few bright spots of the Blackhawks 2018-19 season was the emergence of Collin Delia as a seemingly legitimate goaltender. A relative unknown prospect who was a UDFA out of college and is literally from a town in California called Rancho Cucamonga, if you told anyone that you knew Collin Delia had a future in the NHL before this year you’d be a liar. But Delia was a pleasant surprise when Crawford went down and might’ve played himself into the future of this franchise in one way or another. Let’s do this.

16 GP – .908 SV% – 3.61 GAA

.916 SV% at Evens – .853 SV% on the PK

It Comes With a Free Frogurt

For a guy who was in college two years ago and couldn’t even crack a .900 SV% in the ECHL in 2017-18, to see Delia come to the NHL and have stop shots at what I remember as a .940 clip for a short while was extremely confusing and almost jarring. My original thought when Crawford went down and we were in the hands of Cam Ward and a guy named Collin but with two fuckin’ L’s, I thought the Hawks were gonna be leading the Jack Hughes race come the end of the season. But he proved to be nothing if not reliable, and while the astronomical save rate dropped quickly as you can see above, he was still more than acceptable and even very good at even strength.

That .916 you see at evens above is all even strength situations, and that is more than fine, but his .925 rate at 5v5 is damn near elite – it ranked 24th total in the NHL among goalies with at least 600 minutes played, tied with Carey Price and better than Braden Holtby. Being 24th doesn’t sound great, but remember this guy was in his first real NHL action and the difference between him being 24th or being in the top 10 is .005%, or half a goal every 100 shots. And that’s when the game is being played as intended.

It’s hard to say if it means anything quite yet, and I’m certainly not going to go crowning him as the future franchise goalie seeing as this was only 16 games. But the Hawks clearly saw enough in him to commit a 3-year deal to him, even if it is a relatively insignificant $1-mildo cap hit per year. That contract has potential to be really beautiful regardless of how he turns out in the future, because if you have a reliable backup on that kinda cheap deal it can be a huge win, and if he ends up as your future franchise goalie you have him locked up for two years beyond Crawford’s deal very cheap and can add elsewhere to make a run. It’s easy to bury as well, so it’s virtually no lose for the Hawks.

The Frogurt is Also Cursed

It’s hard for me to find much to say too negatively about Delia considering there were not many expectations for him and he only played 16 games, but there were certainly times that I found myself scratching my head at his play. He had the same problem I mentioned Ward having yesterday, which was the tendency to miss a save that 99% of other goalies would’ve made, but in fairness to both he and Ward, just about every goalie has a few of those a year anyway. Now, the rate at which Delia had them over just 16 games can certainly be concerning, but I want to see more before I make a call on that.

Overall I think the biggest issue with Delia in 2018-19 was just that we didn’t get to see as much of him as we should’ve. Ward being here and having an NMC made it impossible to have Delia around when Crawford was healthy, and the Hawks were never gonna sit Crawford if he was able to play. So even when it would’ve made far more sense to have Delia here rather than Ward in the backup role, we didn’t get to see that, and that left us (or at least me) wanting to see more than we were able to.

Again, it’s way too early to make any sweeping statements about Delia, but at the very least he should be considered a lock for the backup gig next year, and he gave us enough good to be intrigued enough to see more next year.

Everything Else

The Blackhawks were badly in need of a serviceable backup goaltender for the 2018-19 season. after Anton Forsberg and Jeff Glass did their best swiss cheese impression in 2017-18. So Stan Bowman went out and signed Cam Ward. After which, the Blackhawks were still badly in need of a serviceable backup goaltender for the 2018-19 season. Let’s do this!

33 GP – .897 SV% – 3.67 GAA

.912 SV% at Evens – .793 SV% on the PK

It Comes With a Free Frogurt

If he had actually come with a free Frogurt, that would’ve been the number one most positive thing about Cam Ward’s stint with the Blackhawks in 2018-19. For someone whose now been through 14 NHL seasons and is 35 years old, expecting anything other than backup level production would’ve been foolhardy, but Ward did have his moments, I suppose. He carried a good load of the play for the Hawks when Crawford was out, although maybe he shouldn’t have. He stole a few games here and there. But really, trying to project Ward as much more than a disappointment this year would be pretty tough to do.

At the very least, Ward managed to have a .919 SV% at 5v5 play (the above Evens number is all even strength situations), which was better than even Corey Crawford‘s mark of .916. So when the game was being played as intended, he was fine, but you would still hope to see a little better for a team that had playoff hopes, or at least wanted you to think they did. And again, he kept this team in some games and even stole them a win or three, with three 40+ save efforts in wins during February. So it wasn’t all bad. But, it was more bad than good. Let’s get there already.

The Frogurt is Also Cursed

If I wasn’t following a theme, that would’ve said “Mostly Cursed,” but alas I am a team player. The first problem with Ward was not even one of his own fault or doing, and that was that he had an NMC in his deal, which meant the Hawks were stuck with him all season long regardless of how it worked out. Even if this season went to shit, which there plenty of times when it seemed like it would/could, they didn’t even have the chance to see if some contender in need of goalie help down the stretch would give up a pick for Ward. Not that mid- or late-round picks in the NHL are worth much, but certainly more than a bad goalie on your roster for no reason. Yet here we are, still having to talk about him because he was here all year for no reason.

On top of that, Ward’s play was just mostly underwhelming even knowing that expecting much more than replacement level was a fool’s errand. He couldn’t even break .900 on his total SV% on the year. That was big time tanked by his atrocious play on the penalty kill, which was certainly not helped by the Blackhawks atrocious penalty killing units, but to be below .800 there is just embarrassing as well. No one has a good save percentage on the PK, but to be that bad is inexcusable even with the bad PK.

Ward is also the king of soft goals, and I shit you not it felt like almost half of the goals I watched him give up this year were ones he should’ve had. He just didn’t play angles very well, and his movement is certainly not natural anymore given that he’s up there in age (for athletes) and has a lot of mileage on him already. But he clearly didn’t have it anymore, and it showed most of the year. Even as someone who was in favor of the Hawks finishing out of the playoffs to have a shot at the lottery (and I’ve been validated, bitches), it’s hard not to wonder if the Hawks could’ve been playing hockey these last two weeks if they’d had a better backup playing than Ward. But we will get to that tomorrow.

Alas, Cam Ward is gone. May we never deal with him again, and may we drink to forget we dealt with him at all.

Everything Else

vs.

RECORDS: Bruins 21-14-4   Hawks 15-20-6

PUCK DROP: Noon Central

TV: NBC

Beantown, Because Boston Is a Concrete Fart: Stanley Cup of Chowder

What better way to nurse a hangover than to watch this Blackhawks team play this Boston team at the unnecessarily hallowed and despicably overrated grounds of Notre Dame? In a successful attempt to prove that hell exists and that it’s taken residence wherever hockey goes, we’ll get to experience arguably the worst fanbase in America cheer on arguably the biggest douchebag in hockey at arguably the biggest sham of a university against inarguably one of the worst teams in hockey. Happy fucking New Year.

Starting with the Bruins, it seems like Tuukka Rask has finally put whatever family demons he was dealing with behind him. Since his leave of absence that spanned a few days in November, Rask has been riding the waves between middling and good. His even-strength save percentage on the year is .925, and his shorthanded percentage is a strong .896. Hilariously, it’s been his performance on the power play that’s done the most harm, as he’s somehow managed to post a .759 on the man advantage, which is really something. He’s coming off a strong performance at Buffalo, pitching a .929 in an overtime win on the 29th.

Per usual, the Bruins rely heavily on Patrice Bergeron (12 G, 19 A), David Pastrnak (23 G, 25 A), and perpetual passenger Brad Marchand (12 G, 29 A) for just about everything. This line has accounted for nearly 41% of all of Boston’s offense this year, and that’s with Bergeron missing a month between November and December with an upper body injury. This line will score, dominate possession (57+ CF%), and then rub your face in it if you let them on the advantage. Of Pastrnak’s 23 goals, 10 have come on the PP, which is second behind Patrik Laine.

Then of course there’s Brad Marchand, who will likely get an honorary degree from Notre Dame for being the most insufferable asshole to visit the stadium since the Class of 2018 graduated. He’s doing his usual routine of scoring just over a point per game while racking up penalty minutes being the most annoying nuisance this side of a dog with the squirts on a white carpet. There is a small chance that he won’t play due to an upper body injury, but given what a horse’s ass he is, bank on him being out there and causing some kind of injury, whether physical or mental, to all involved.

DeBrusk and Krejci anchor the second line, and it looks like Ryan Donato will ride next to them today. DeBrusk is on a 30-goal pace, and when Krejci has scorers on his wing he’s dangerous, so if the Hawks go hot and heavy against the first line (as they should), you can expect some damage from here.

After that, it’s retreads and generated names. Noted Dog Murderer David Backes won’t suit up because he’s a crooked penis in the midst of a three-game suspension for, what else, an illegal hit to the head. Former Blackhawk Joakim Nordstrom plays in the bottom six here, which is probably summation enough. There’s some excitement about former second rounder Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, but it’s not clear why. Colby Cave or Chris Wagner doing anything for you? No?

The big news on the blue line for the Bruins is the loss of moon-faced Ice Time spokesman Charlie McAvoy. McAvoy has missed extended time once already this year for a concussion and was placed on IR last week with a lower body injury. When McAvoy’s been healthy, he’s been effective offensively, scoring 11 points in 17 games.

Elsewhere, Zdeno Chara continues to do a terrible job of convincing anyone that he isn’t actually Rasputin. At 41, he’s still taking more than 21 minutes a night. He’s also recently returned from an MCL injury, but prior to it, he was playing well on the positive side of the possession ledger. He and Brandon Carlo, who earlier this month snapped a 115-game scoreless streak, serve primarily as the Bruins shutdown pairing. Torey Krug will be a terror in the offensive zone and absolutely nothing else. He’ll pair with John Moore who, probably for the first time in his life, won’t be the whitest person in the room.

As for the men of Four Feathers, hoo boy. Jeremy Colliton announced that he’s starting Cam Ward, according to Eric Lear. There have been several low points this year, but this already ranks in the top five, after Crow hitting his head and Bowman signing Brandon Manning as a solution to a problem the Hawks didn’t have. And he’s doing it because “He’s an important part of our group…Guys respect him and he’s played well for us.” Fuck off with that fish shit. The only thing that might be true about that is “guys respect him.” He’s not important and he has not played well for the Hawks by any metric. Holy shit, Jeremy, your trip to Notre Dame is the time you decide to make the Cool Youth Pastor moniker inapplicable? Someone hit this motherfucker with a surprise left. Either Colliton is really this stupid or this is coming from higher up (think Bowman or McDonough). I’m not sure which would be more infuriating.

There is no reason to start anyone other than Collin Delia no matter what your criteria are. Delia has played better, looked better, and is far, far more Irish than Ward. Christ, he’s posted a .957 against the MacKinnon line twice and Dallas’s “fucking horseshit” line! What else does he have to do to earn this, besides suck for 14 years, apparently? There’s really no argument against him, except if you want the Hawks to purposely tank in an effort for Hughes. But even if that did happen, there’s still a more-than-likely chance they’ll lose the lottery anyway, so, I guess fuck off with that mess.

Jesus Christ, they’re really gonna start Ward. This is like asking your parents for a puppy at Christmas and having them throw pieces of dog shit from a dog that isn’t yours at you on Christmas morning while yelling “NOT UNTIL YOU CLEAN UP AFTER IT.”

Other than this gigantic giardiniera fart, Sikura and Perlini have flipped, putting them on the third and fourth lines, respectively. Even though DeBrincat has done everything and more to earn a Top-6 spot, somehow Wide Dick on the wing with Strome and Kane is sort of working, so that’ll stand pat. The other thing that shouldn’t be working but is, is Keith–Gustafsson, which, whatever. Hockey is stupid sometimes.

The Hawks have had a nice run lately, and ironically, it’s come thanks to a strong power play and goaltending. If Dahlstrom–Murphy can shut down the Bergeron line, the Hawks continue to perform with the man advantage, and Ward somehow gets pulled within the first 10 seconds, you can see them pulling a stunner.

That is, of course, if you can get past all the pomp and circumstance of playing at Notre Dame. You’ll no doubt learn more than you ever wanted to know about its sterilized history, about how Bowman is an alumnus, and about how Jesus Christ is staging his Second Coming at South Bend. It’ll all be made even more insufferable with Pierre, Roenick, and Milbury all having a role in this one, where they will no doubt turn this game into their own personal St. Patrick’s Day of mindless self-indulgence about Notre Dame’s long traditions of grooming boys to be men while pretending they and the university writ large don’t have all the character and fortitude of an unflushed toilet. Oh, and Weezer is playing at some point during an intermission. I sure can’t wait to hear their new hit single about ride-sharing or whatever other banal aspect of rich, white dork culture Rivers Cuomo is peddling as art these days.

Hell is real, and it is located at South Bend.

Fuck Notre Dame. Fuck Boston. Fuck Weezer. Fuck Cam Ward.

Let’s go Hawks.

 

Game #42 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

Box Score

Corsica

Natural Stat Trick

One of the worst shows I have ever seen live was Beirut at the Aragon in, like, 2011–12. I showed up for the first half hour, got bored, and left. It’s no wonder this game felt so familiar, because that’s the exact tack the Hawks took with this eminently winnable game tonight. After a hot start, the Hawks got buried by their own incompetence, which is just another way of saying business as usual. Let’s do this quickly: We’ve all got Feats of Strength to finish, I’m sure.

– Coming into this game on a three-game winning streak and fresh off Collin Delia’s stoning of the most dangerous line in hockey, Jeremy Colliton decided to ride the Cam Ward wave. This is some true Galaxy Brain shit. On the one hand, complaining about Ward getting the start tonight probably has a bit of looking a gift horse in the mouth to it. Coming into this game, he had a .949 SV%. On the other, those two games came against a floundering and hurt Preds and an even more hurt Dallas team. Also, in case Ward spasming a couple good games had made you forget, Cam Ward is really a used-car-lot wavy-arm guy who moonlights as a goaltender.

Ward should have been pulled after the first goal. For reasons that can only be deciphered by true Brain Geniouses, Cam Ward came out to challenge Hawryluk after Hawryluk overpowered Dahlstrom/Dahlstrom lost his edge. Except after getting about halfway out, Ward flinched and tried to go back, leaving Hawryluk—a guy who has never scored an NHL goal—a yawning net to shoot at. I don’t have adequate words to describe what a shitshow this goal was because there’s no excuse for a 1,000-year veteran to do what Ward did. You wouldn’t see that in a fucking beer league—as Scott Foster once showed us—and yet, here we are.

Then, as if to retroactively adjust to completely losing his ass and crease on the first goal, Cam Ward turtled into the net on Hawryluk’s second goal. Huberdeau’s stretch pass between Keith and Gustafsson was art, and those two probably share part of the blame, but at no point did Ward look like an NHL goaltender on this attempt.

The third goal was more on Forsling than anyone—as Forsling totally froze as Hoffman stepped up after Toews pressured Weegar up top, giving Hoffman too much time to pick his spot, which happened to be the back of the net via Forsling’s groin—but that fourth goal was the result of a rebound that would have made Dennis Rodman blush. And the fifth goal, because fifth goals are things we talk about when Cam Ward starts, was a simple short-side snipe that an NHL-caliber goalie probably puts some leather on. But alas, Cam Ward is not an NHL-caliber goalie.

Jeremy Colliton has done a lot right lately. Starting Cam Ward tonight is decidedly not one of them. Fucking ride Delia until he gives you a reason not to. Starting Cam Ward doesn’t do anything for this team.

Dylan Strome is officially good. You can mark it down. His assist on Our Large Irish Son’s first goal of the year was a clinic in vision and patience. After stealing the puck at the offensive blue line, Strome set up behind the net off a Perlini pass, waiting for help. Murphy crashed, Strome fed him, and the rest is history. But the patience and nerve Strome showed behind the net was otherworldly. Strome had another steal around the same spot in the second, which led to two high-quality chances from Kane. He capped his night off with a goal off a Kane pass. Strome was the most impressive forward of the night, and it looks like the Hawks really have their #2 center in him.

– Our Sweet Boy Connor Murphy also had himself a night. You saw the goal he scored, which was a testament to his positioning and sneaky good wrister. Murphy played a big role in the Hawks’s third goal, leading the rush off a good Forsling outlet pass and grabbing the secondary assist on Strome’s goal. He also led the Hawks in even-strength TOI, led all Hawks D-men with a 51+ CF% at 5v5, and did it mostly against the Huberdeau–Barkov–Dadonov line. On top of all that, Murphy looked much more comfortable with the puck in his exits, which was a weak point in his game last year. Between Strome and Murphy, there’s a lot to hope for regarding the future.

– Here’s your gamely “Alex DeBrincat is not a third liner” alert. His goal was a bit flukey, as he was trying to pass to Kane through the slot and had the good fortune of sweeping in a pinballing puck, but a goal’s a goal. As much as we’d like to see him flip with Anisimov, he’s still making shit work where he’s at.

– Regardless of what Colliton ends up being, it looks like he might go down as the guy who fixed the power play. The top unit of Gus at QB; Strome in front; and Top Cat, Toews, Kane across has looked legitimately dangerous when it’s out there and Gus and Kane can be bothered to give a shit. It scored again due to Toews’s roving and retrieval and the movement Kane, Gus, and Top Cat show up top. It’s probably way too early to pronounce the PP truly fixed, but when’s the last time you looked forward to the PP?

– Just a quick reminder that Cam Ward sucks and we could have had Delia in net, who likely stops at least three of the five Ward allowed tonight.

Dylan Sikura and Brendan Perlini led all Hawks in CF% tonight, with shares above 70. Perlini is going to be frustrating, as he’s big, fast, and has no finish, as evidenced again tonight with his janking of a shot toward a wide-open net early in the Hawks’s first PP. Sikura’s no savior, but he’s good on the third line.

Carl Dahlstrom ended up in Coach Cool Youth Pastor’s doghouse tonight, spending the latter part of the game with Seabrook. You can maybe partially blame him for the first goal. But other than that, I’m not sure what else he did noticeably poorly. He and Murphy didn’t have the best game together, as Murphy’s peripherals spiked away from Dahlstrom, but I’m not sure what triggered Colliton to switch them up.

– Saad and Toews looked good in the first, then got completely horsed for the rest of the game. Erik Gustafsson also flashed evidence that he has a Give-a-Shit meter, and it was hovering around zero for the last two periods.  You can trace much of the loss to these facts, along with the fact that Cam Ward blows.

It wasn’t all bad, but it certainly wasn’t good. The Hawks will get a few days off before welcoming the Minnesota Mild to the UC on Thursday. Until then, stay toasty and toasted. Merry Whatever You Celebrate.

Beer du Jour: Miller High Life and Death Wish Coffee

Line of the Night: “It’s tough waking up and seeing how ugly I am now. I knew I didn’t have the looks before, but this doesn’t help.” –Connor Murphy explaining to Steve Konroyd how he felt after the Tyler Pitlick elbow.