Hockey

To a certain extent it’s a mild relief that now the Hawks are losing games where they’re simply outgunned as opposed to looking like they’re playing a completely different sport than the opposition, or at best there like was a gas leak in their locker room (which would have explained Coach Jeremy Trestman hiding in the stalls). But regardless of who is coaching it, and that’s still currently up for debate seeing how much more of a role Marc Crawford has taken recently who is now playing the part of Dick Cheney in the Derek King administration, this team still really can only get goals from like 3 players even when things look how they’re supposed to. Basically if Alex DeBrincat and Garbage Dick don’t score, they’re not really going to, especially since the power play has completely dried up. Dylan Strome gets back into the lineup and back onto the first unit this evening after being healthy scratched for a while, and he STILL has their last power play goal that happened over two weeks ago. But with what Toews can contribute still a mystery, Dominik Kubalik still trying to gain his footing after having his ice time messed with by Kelvin Gemstone, really past the top 2 wingers there’s a big yawning void only occasionally filled by Brandon Hagel. Kirby Dach hasn’t scored in over a month, much of that spent between two guys with 40 goal potential, and that’s simply unacceptable for the third overall pick and who the Organ-I-Zation says the future is entrusted to. If that doesn’t turn around in a big way and in a hurry, there are going to be some extremely bleak and uncomfortable situations concerning the post-Toews era.

12/2 at Washington

Game Time  – 6:00PM CST
TV/Radio – NBC Sports Chicago, SportsNet, WGN-AM 720
Bulldog Front – Russian Machine Never Breaks

Look, the Hawks are going to lose this game. They literally have not won in DC since 1998, and the Caps are just better even without plenty of key pieces (Backstrom, Oshie) in their lineup, even though it does appear that Justin Schultz is supposed to return. When watching this game, just seriously take time to appreciate what Alex Ovechkin is doing right now. Yes he’s creeping up on the all time goal list having passed Brett Hull this season (Hull himself was gracious, his Garbage Son was not) in a race against time to possibly catch Gretzky. All things considered factoring in eras and equipment and style of play, Ovie already is the greatest goal scorer in the history of the league, but having that number to prove it would be something to behold, especially after it was once thought that literally no one could every ascend to Gretzky’s totals. But the fact that he is second in the league in goals and third in the league in points (19 and 37 respectively) through 23 games in his age 36 season is truly incredible. He’s on pace right now for 68 goals, which would put him just two shy of Gordie by year’s end. And even if that pace flattens out a bit, he still might be the oldest player to score 50 goals ever, passing Johnny Bucyk 50 years ago. And Ovechkin isn’t just camping out at his spot on the power play. Twenty four of his 37 points have come 5v5, 27 at all even strengths. The Hawks have 26 goals AS A TEAM at five on five.

12/4 at MSG

Game Time – 7:00PM CST
TV/Radio – NBC Sports Chicago+, WGN-AM 720
NUMBA ONE BAYBEE – Blueshirt Banter

After completely overhauling their front office and coaching staff where they decided they needed to get more rock-headed in launching Jeff Gorton and David Quinn for first timer Chris Drury as GM and red ass Gerard Gallant behind the bench, the team promptly announced that as a roster they intended to be stupider by trading for Ryan Reaves. Of course, this roster was already promising enough with a surprise Norris from Adam Fox last year, as well as Mika Zibanejad flourishing alongside Artemi Panarin, but it appears that they’re poised to make a return to the post season with 31 points in the airtight Metropolitan division. Chris Kreirder has cannonballed his way into 16 goals already, on pace to obliterate his career high of 28 – though shooting 26.2% against a career average of 14% probably helps with that quite a bit. There’s no one thing that this team does exceptionally well, they’re in the middle of the road statistically in pretty much everything, but Gallant teams always play fast and hard, and Igor Shesterkin’s .936 5v5 and .935 overall are certainly good to make it all stand up. Given the expectations set by the start and the new management, don’t be surprised if they try to make a big splash at the deadline.

12/5 at Belmont

Game Time – 6:30PM CST
TV/Radio – NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720
A Headache With Pictures – Lighthouse Hockey

Apparently the limits of Barry Trotz’s occult coaching wizardry are finally breached by a 13 game road trip to start the season, injuries, and a COVID outbreak that forced the Islanders to postpone three games last week. Perhaps playing in the the charmingly revolting toilet that was Nassau Coliseum is where those dark forces that allowed the Isles to reach two straight final fours/semifinals/whatever in modified playoff years, because their brand new UBS Arena at Belmont Racetrack has not been so kind to them to this point, as they’ve lost all four games they’ve had there in regulation. They’re currently in the midst of an 8 game losing streak, and will face the somewhat surprising Sharks tonight at home before they see the Hawks again, so that may very well reach nine. They’ll at least have the benefit of getting the Hawks on the second half of a back to back, but given the offensive struggles of both of these squads, it’s not likely to be a Sunday evening track meet.

Everything Else

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Game Time: 6:00PM CST
TV/Radio: NBCSN, NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720
What A Bunch Of Clowns: Japer’s RinkRussian Machine Never Breaks

Though the Circus Trip is now a thing of the past, the Black Wednesday/Black Friday two-fer for the Hawks still remains, and the past to years things have been set out east rather than in California. And the earlier start time is probably better for all involved on one of the biggest drinking nights of the calendar year, but given the state of things with the Hawks, that probably won’t stop anyone reading this from getting after it and ending up at White Castle/Burrito House/Bacci’s Pizza by 9:30, not that anyone here would know anything about that.

Everything Else

Oh yeah, these guys. While the Capitals finally hoisting the Cup last season was basically the equivalent of Denzel winning an Oscar for Training Day or Scorsese winning for The Departed, they certainly didn’t celebrate like a team that beat an expansion franchise, and to be fair, they did take out the top seed in the conference Lightning and the two-time defending champion and arch-nemesis in the form of the very tired Penguins, so the names won’t be ground out of the silver any time soon. Last season’s champions return mostly in tact, if more than a little bit dehydrated.

’17-’18: 49W-26L-7OT 256GF 239GA 22.5%PP 80.3%PK 47.96%CF 9.19SH% .9248SV%

 

Goaltending: Last year was finally the year that Braden Holtby broke under years of tremendous workloads, with sub .900 months of January and Febrary, ceding much of the home stretch of the season to Philipp Grubauer, who even started the playoffs in Round 1 against Columbus. But as Grubauer faltered, a somewhat rested Holtby was able to return to form and posted a .922 overall the remainder of the post season. With Grubauer shipped to Colorado for a second round pick, Holtby will now be backed up by something called Pheonix Copley (yes, that’s how his name is spelled) who has allowed 6 goals on the 35 shots he’s faced in the NHL since 2016. While Barry Trotz and his propensity for grinding goalies into dirt might be gone (due to some of the dumbest ass reasons ever), Holtby might have to play 70 games again out of necessity. He’s always generally been up to the task as one of the most consistent and stable goalies in the league and has a Vezina to prove it, but the modern game just simply can’t ask goalies to play that much.

Defensemen: Someone was going to pay John Carlson an exorbitant amount of money this past off season, particularly after the playoff run he had where he scored 5 goals and 20 total points from the back end, and given that the Caps actually walked away with hardware this time, it makes a certain degree of sense that it would be them to keep the home grown product in the fold. Carlson is the de facto #1 defenseman here, and he’s certainly paid like it, but it’s the goddamnedest thing that his game picked up right around the time that the Capitals acquired Michal Kempny from a long-out-of-it team with a coach that somehow couldn’t or wouldn’t figure out how to properly use him. Kempny’s coming out party in the post season earned him a contract of $2.5 per over four years, which will be an absolute steal if he plays the way he did in Washington post-trade. Matt Niskanen and Dmitry Orlov provide a fair amount of offensive punch themselves, however one of them is still going to be dragging around what’s left of the wheelbarrow full of cinder blocks that is Brooks Orpik. Orpik was traded, bought out, and resigned back with Washington for $1 million for this year, which probably figures to be his last as he turns 38 a week from today. It’s a solid grouping, but it still kind of hinges on Michal Kempny not being a fluke.

Forwards: The strong suit of any team that has Alexander Ovechkin on it. The sheer firepower that Ovechkin has produced in his career, particularly having occurred in this era, has been poured over at length in this space. Having just turned 33 on Monday, he’s not quite the force of nature that he once was, but he can still basically get whatever he wants on the ice whenever he wants it, even if he probably didn’t fully deserve the Conn Smythe he was awarded in June, which should have gone to Evgeny Kuznetsov and his 32 post season points. Kuzya’s emergence has given the Caps some true center depth as Nicklas Backstrom ages gracefully into a slighly reduced role as a #2 center, and Lars Eller slots in nicely as a #3. Timothy Jimothy Leif predictably did not put up the Mike Bossy-esque shooting percentage numbers last year that he did in his contract year, and the game he plays at 31 would indicate that age is going to hit him in a hurry when it finally catches up, and a summer of being dick in the dirt drunk probably won’t help that. Andrei Burakovsky will be counted on to take the next step while providing some size on the wing, and Brett Connolly and Jakub Vrana will certainly contribute some zest from the bottom six. Tom Wilson is now paid $5.16 million dollars a year to attempt to injure other players and generally be a pus-seeping carbunkle on the ass of the league.

Outlook: After the absolutely boneheaded decision to not pay Barry Trotz like the top tier head coach that he always has been in the wake of his and the franchise’s first Cup, and Todd Reirden has subsequently been giving his first ever head coaching job as Trotz has fucked off to Long Island/Brooklyn/wherever they play. Given how publicly and infamously the Capitals partied this year, having a rookie coach in the room doesn’t exactly seem like a great way to get everyone back on task to making another run at things. This team is still stacked given the restraints the salary cap imposes, but it took a lot of tread off the tires just to get to #1, and they may just not have it in them anymore. Given the personnel, the team can only get so bad, and they’ll probably ride Holtby until he collapses in the regular season which could very well win them an iffy division, but in all likelihood everyone will probably run out of gas by the time the inevitable post-season matchup with the Penguins comes around again.

Previous Team Previews

Detroit Red Wings

Buffalo Sabres

Boston Bruins

Florida Panthers

Montreal Canadiens

Ottawa Senators

Tampa Bay Lightning

Toronto Maple Leafs

Carolina Hurricanes

Columbus Blue Jackets

New Jersey Devils

New York Islanders

New York Rangers

Philadelphia Flyers

Pittsburgh Penguins

Everything Else

At the risk of putting the Fels Motherfuck on the Capitals, it’s a fairly safe bet that Alex Ovechkin will be hoisting The Chalice if not tonight, by Monday. Only the Maple Leafs of 76 years ago have overcome a 3-1 deficit in the Cup Final, and that was a 3-0 comeback back when friend of the program Forklift was just finishing his doctoral thesis. And should that likelihood play out, a couple of different storylines should finally fall by the wayside.

Everything Else

 at 

Game Time: 6:00PM CST
TV/Radio: CSN, NHLN (US), WGN-AM 720
Bernie Would Have Won: Japer’s RinkRMNB

In years past, even for a mid January game, had both the Hawks and Capitals been carrying the two longest current winning streaks in the league (Caps at 7, Hawks at 4) there would be such a clamor over yet another POTENTIAL STANLEY CUP FINAL MATCHUP that it’d be deafening. But with the Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild on an inexorable collision course for June, it seems that tonight’s game in DC is simply old news to most.

Everything Else

Well, at least I know I don’t have to work New Year’s Eve this year.

Bob McKenzie was the first to put it out there, but it looks like the Hawks will be the visitor in an outdoor game for the first time as they will head to likely Nationals Park (outside shot of Camden Yards) on New Year’s Day to face the Caps in The Winter Classic.

It’s a strange choice in that usually the NHL has opted for something of a rival to play the host. Obviously, the Hawks and Capitals have no connection whatsoever. But NBC does like to guarantee its ratings, which the Hawks almost certainly do.

I’d like to believe as well that after the Leafs and Wings served up just about the most boring 24/7 possible, HBO begged the NHL to give them the very photogenic and television-ready Hawks. I don’t know how important that series is to the NHL, but if it is at all I’d like to think it played a small role.

While the game will of course be dogshit thanks to crap ice and whatever weather conditions come up, the HBO series should make for interesting watching and just to see how much the Hawks let in. Remember, both the Wings and Leafs caught flak for kicking the cameras out of the dressing room during games, and I’m sure McDonough is going to throw his back out trying to control whatever message he wants put out there. Still, we’ll be glued to every episode.

Back later today with more exit interviews.

Everything Else

oldschool at new-york-daily-news-house-of-turds-cover-boehner

Game Time: 6:00PM Central
TV/Radio: CSN, NBCSN, 87.7FM The Game
Politics Is All One Big Ass Blast: Japer’s Rink, Russian Machine Never Breaks

With the Colorado Avalanche winning last night and usurping the top spot in the division, the Hawks are now sealed into the #3 seed in the Central Division and will start the playoffs on the road. However, there are still two games left in the regular season, the penultimate of which will take place tonight in D.C. against the already eliminated Capitals. Exhibition hockey in April. Wonderful.