Hockey

A successful, if unspectacular stretch of games for the Hawks this Valentines’ week as they were able to bookend two wins in Canada with an absolute turd of an effort down in The Lou for the middle frame. During all of this actual hockey being played (how many people were actually playing attention with the Olympics going on and the Bulls being awesome is anyone’s guess), news leaked out that the Hawks were looking to get an insane return from teams inquiring about the services and availability of one Brandon Hagel. The return in question (according to Frank Seravalli in the Daily Faceoff Rundown podcast) is apparently a first round pick and a top prospect, which to me is absolutely mind boggling.

Look, don’t get me wrong. Brandon Hagel is a very solid young player on a Very Not Good team. Were he to be traded to Colorado or Vegas at the deadline he would be a very solid 3rd or 4th line player. Teams don’t trade first round picks and/or top prospects to fill out their 3rd line, no matter how young and cap friendly he may be. At 23 years old (24 when next season rolls around), is he the kind of player you build around for the future? His 27 points in 46 games is a nice addition, but if the Hawks are turning down 2nd and 3rd round picks for a guy they essentially picked up off waivers when the cupboard is completely bare is asinine to me. Not having a permanent GM at the trade deadline is also extremely asinine, but the Hawks aren’t one to be told what is dumb and what isn’t.

Anyways, TO THE RECAP:

 

2/9

Hawks 4 – Oilers 1

BOX SCORE

Natural Stat Trick

 

Guess signing Evander Kane wasn’t the kick in the pants the Oilers thought it would be, eh?

The Hawks jumped right into the Oil’s shit from the get go, with Patrick Kane firing a nifty cross ice feed to DeBrincat, who ripped it right past Professional Crybaby Mike Smith giving the Hawks their first of two power play goals on the night. It was all set up by the hard work of Sam Lafferty, who drew the tripping penalty after outworking Nugent-Hopkins. A minute later the aforementioned Brandon Hagel doubled up the Hawks lead when DeBrincat saucered a cross ice pass of his own during a 3 on 2 rush.

The 2nd period was all about Marc-Andre Fleury, as the Oil emptied everything in the chamber at him. Edmonton dropped 20 shots on MAF in the 2nd, with only Leon “Why So Pissy” Draisaitl’s power play tally sneaking past him. As expected, the Hawks got absolutely annihilated in CORSI in the second period to the tune of 75% to 25%. They supposedly had 6 shots in the period but I can’t honestly remember any of them. Predictably, Edmonton folded like a cheap tent after Strome put one past Smith in the first minute of the 3rd, with Fleury in no serious danger the rest of the way. Shit, even Kirby Dach scored a goal, which tells you everything you need to know about the state of hockey in Edmonton right now. Good win.

 

2/12

Hawks 1- Blues 5

BOX SCORE

Natural Stat Trick

 

This game fucking sucked. The team clearly didn’t give a shit from word go, and they got smoked in every facet of the game up and down the ice. Even Marc-Andre Fleury had the “Not Interested” sign hanging from his helmet. The Blues exposed the Hawks every weakness as a team, and capitalized on every mistake. When the Hawks needed a push in the 3rd to try and get back in the game, the Blues dominated CORSI 82%-18%. It pains me to say it, but they’re just better than the Hawks at everything, and it’s gonna be that way for a long while.

 

2/14

Hawks 3 – Jets 1

BOX SCORE

Natural Stat Trick

 

They can’t all be edge of your seat thrillers. Sometimes during an 82 game marathon, there are just going to be games that are flat out boring. Through the first half of this one, that’s exactly what happened. Just ask Ben Pope:

Really, nothing of note happened until Patrick Kane used a screen by Kirby Dach to rifle one 5 hole on Connor HellBuick. After that brief moment of excitement, things went quiet again until Mark Scheifele tapped in a puck that hit approximately 32 people on the way to the cage off the stick of Nate Schmidt six minutes into the final period. Then Alex DeBrincat decided he’d had enough of this bullshit and gave the Hawks a lead they wouldn’t give up with this absolutely disgusting snipe:

https://twitter.com/NHLBlackhawks/status/1493437331008901123?s=20&t=vAoJOVViVfq06HVVi2B8Rg

Stan Bowman did a lot of dumbass shit while he was here, but drafting Top Cat was definitely not one of those things. Anyways, shortly thereafter, Fleury helped himself out by shooting an outlet pass to Kane who tapped it up to Hagel for the ENG, thus bringing the game to a close. You really can’t complain about the win, but this game was exactly what you’d expect with two bottom of the table teams dry humping their way through 60 minutes of hockey. The Jets won the possession battle 54-46%, but they don’t have DeBrincat or Marc-Andre Fleury, so fuck em. Moving on.

Hockey

After Rocky’s pants-shitting at the town hall the other day, my give-a-shit level about this team has reached “Patrick Kane in Late February” territory. Yet still here I am writing about them, so I don’t quite know if that says more about me than Rocky but whatever. Some hockey is better than none I suppose.

These first 3 games out of the gate post-All Star break feature 2 Canadian reschedules bookending a trip to the Purina Factory down in St. Louis. After the aforementioned town hall shenanigans it’s probably best that the team opens up on the road so they can attempt to concentrate on just playing hockey and not dealing with the fallout of their evil Keebler Elf owner’s tirade.

With Alex DeBrincat’s solid showing at the All Star festivities in Vegas, the Hawks look to start the back half of the season out on a high note. Standing in their way are two underperforming Canadian teams and one offensive juggernaut from St. Louis. Here’s hoping the time off did Toews and Kane good, as the Hawks are desperate for scoring from wherever they can get it.

 

2/9 @ Edmonton 

Game Time: 7:00 PM CST

TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720

#FreeMcDavid: Copper N Blue

 

Man, shit has been rough in Edmo since Christmas. With a 5-8 record after Boxing Day, the Oilers spent the entire month of January getting their skulls cracked in, culminating in the amazing press conference where Canadian “hockey journalist” Jim Matheson asked Leon Draisatl why he was “being so pissy” after having to sit through his idiotic questions.

Oh, and they signed Evander Kane after the Sharks got rid of him before the Vegas Good Squads came to kneecap him and leave him for dead in the Nevada desert.

So things haven’t been very rosy for the Oil since the calendar flipped to 2022. They managed to string together a few wins before the Knights completely ethered them 4-0 heading into the all star break. What type of team the Hawks will see is anyone’s guess, but with 2 of the best players in the multiverse on their roster (even if McDavid has a wonky knee right now) Marc-Andre Fleury will have to be on his game to keep them off of the scoresheet. Regardless of how the game goes, Edmonton may end up with the last laugh if the Hawks brass continues to shoot themselves in the dick and hire Peter Chiarelli as their new GM.

 

2/12 @ St. Louis

Gametime: 7:00 CST

TV / Radio – NBCSN, WGN-AM 720

Wretched Hive Of Scum And VillainySTL Gametime

 

This game will not be pretty. We’ve reached the point where the Blues are simply a more “put together” team than the Hawks are, and outside of Alex DeBrincat and maybe Patrick Kane (if he gives a shit) the Hawks just don’t have the firepower to keep up with STL. Jordan Kyrou continues to tear a hole in the atmosphere with his play, and fresh off his first All Star appearance I’m sure he’ll be looking to continue that trend.

It’s not just Kyrou the Hawks have to be aware of, however. While the Blues still can’t completely get away from their special brand of Stupid, they’re definitely a more high powered team than we’re used to seeing. They have 7 skaters with double-digit goal totals, and Vlad Tarasenko has regained the form he lost after missing a shitload of time with multiple shoulder surgeries. Between him, Kyrou, Barbashev and Buchnevich there’s just too much to have to pay attention to.

In net, Jordan Binnington hasn’t been setting the world on fire with his .900 save percentage and 3+ GAA, but Ville Husso (yet another Finnish goalie. Suomi!) has more than picked up the slack with his .940 and 1.91 GAA and is pretty close to claiming the top spot in what has suddenly become a tandem effort.

Also Brandon Saad is here, which hurts me to my core.  *sad trombone*

 

2/14 @ Winnipeg (AKA North Grand Forks)

Gametime: 8:00 CST

TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720

Middle Of Nowhere: Arctic Ice Hockey

 

I’ll never forget how much my buddy Matt hated people from Winnipeg when I went to college in Grand Forks. He was a bartender, and despised working the one weekend a month when they all piled into their RV and drove south to GFK to shop at Walmart (because the Canadian dollar was more valuable at the time) because they didn’t tip for shit. This preview is for you, Matt Hammond.

Anyways, the Jets suck slightly less than the Hawks do. As of right now they sit 6 points up on them with 3 games in hand but are 7 points out of the last wild card spot. Which in Gary Bettman’s NHL may as well be 40, with Loser Points for everyone. Kyle Connor has officially turned into “a thing” as the 2015 1st round pick of the Jets has done nothing but rake at the NHL level since being drafted and may end up being the Jets best choice of all time.

Unfortunately for The Peg, it’s him and Mark Scheifele and not much else. The Jets are mired in the bottom 3rd of the league with the Hawks for 5 on 5 goal scoring despite being 10th in the league in CORSI for. While some of that may be due for a market correction (the team as a whole is top 10 in most advanced stats, but bottom 3rd in shooting percentage), it may simply just be a bad luck year for the Jets forward corps. With Connor HellBuick having a merely average year, most nights the Jets don’t score enough to run with the higher level teams in the west like the Avs and Knights. What they have will most likely be enough against the Hawks, however. Though that’s not exactly something to brag about these days.

 

Hockey

The Hawks continue to be physically incapable of not stepping in it, both on the ice and off. They’ve lost 6 of their last 7, essentially no-showing it against both the Canucks and Wild this week, finding themselves ahead of only the Coyotes in the Central Division—and it would be a stretch to even call Arizona a pro hockey team, if we’re being honest.

And yet, the actual news surrounding this team as of late was Rocky’s outburst at the town hall press conference before Wednesday’s game against the Wild, which cemented him to Moron status for life on this fair website. I genuinely have no idea what the fuck Rocky thought was going to be asked in the organ-I-zation’s first press conference since the Kyle Beach story permanently changed the landscape of this team and the NHL as a whole? I also have no idea why the fuck he didn’t have a prepared statement, even to just read it halfheartedly off a teleprompter like he did to begin the presser? Really, all he had to do was say nothing, because the first question wasn’t even directed at him. You’d think that would be something he’d be good at doing, considering what went down with his players and coach under his leadership. Maybe he’s just mad that all his pals in the old guard got justifiably canned?

No matter what his intentions, his reaction and his half-assed press release apology means the Hawks continue to be the center of the NHL’s biggest shitstorm, as more and more Hawks fans seem to be leaving the team for good. It shows that Rocky hasn’t learned, and that Rocky likely doesn’t care about learning. And as long as Rocky is at the helm, I won’t be handing over any more money to this team.

As much as the on-ice product continues to pale in comparison to what’s happening off the ice, this is usually the week’s wrap, and games were indeed played, though if you missed them you’d be in the majority. And it seems like the players on the ice have a similar “I-don’t-give-a-shit” attitude, getting outscored 8-1 this week. The only player who seemed to show any emotion was Marc-Andre Fleury every time he gave up a goal. Which happened often. No thanks to the defense, which seemed flat-footed and lethargic for most of this week.

Kirby Dach was nothing special these games either, going -4 for the week with of course no points and really thriving in his New and Improved role as Checking Center on this team by getting consistently steamrolled by Canucks Monday night, as checking centers do. Look, the poor kid wasn’t in control of where he got drafted, but dear God, letting him believe that he isn’t a goal scorer cannot possibly be the answer. His confidence is obviously shot, and since this team seems to have no success developing scorers of any kind, who knows if the answer even lies here?

It’s all such an epic clusterfuck, in every sense of the word, that I am genuinely not sure where we go from here. We have one sure-fire prospect in the entire organization. And that prospect is likely ready for the NHL, but the Hawks are keeping him down in Rockford, probably so they don’t have to say they have zero sure-fire prospects in the entire organization. Derek King is the interim coach, but Marc Crawford is the real Man Behind the Curtain with an abusive history himself. Oh, and maybe Peter Chiarelli will be the next Blackhawks GM, because if you think things couldn’t possibly get any worse, they always can. The Hawks are attempting to rebuild the team in all facets, but how do they expect to do it when no player, GM or coach in his right mind would sign here after everything that’s gone on over the last year?

The All-Star Break couldn’t have come at a better time—I think just about every Hawks fan needs a break right about now. We’ll be back next week, perhaps with the regularly scheduled programming.

Hockey

Sometimes there is victory in defeat. The two games against the Avalanche proved that this week, as the Hawks played them extremely well and yet ended up on the short end of the stick both times. On the other end of that spectrum was the flaming clown car that was Wednesday night’s game against the Scum, where defense was treated completely optional in favor of a track meet up and down the ice. Ultimately the Hawks only took 2 of a possible 6 points in this stretch, which dumps them even further down the cliff that is the Western Conference Playoff Picture.  Time has almost run out for the Hawks playoff hopes, and it’s time for the team to cement their direction for the future of the franchise by installing whoever they decide to be the new GM because there are decisions that need to be made. This is the way.

 

1/24

Hawks 0 – Avalanche 2

BOX SCORE

Natural Stat Trick

 

This was actually one of the better road games the Hawks had played in quite awhile, and yet when you’re outgunned like they were you can’t afford to make any mistakes. The Hawks made 2, and they both ended up in the back of the net. Not much else you can say about these two teams, other than the Avs are considerably more talented on both sides of the ice. They were able to keep possession of the puck for lengths at a time (53% and 55% CORSI in the first 2 periods), while limiting the Hawks to a one and done anytime they were able to get in the Colorado zone. Pavel Francouz (real name) didn’t have much to do to secure his 3rd career shutout as the Hawks were only able to get 24 shots on net, and only 10 of them were of the high danger variety.

The Avs are on a heater right now, as they’re 18-1-2 in their past 21 games, and unbeaten at home since Thanksgiving. The Hawks skated right into the buzzsaw, and I have to give them credit for the effort they put forth. They could’ve packed it in after Rantanen’s goal in the 3rd, but they poured it on and actually owned the possession battle 53-47%. DeBrincat was his usual amazing self, with 3 shots on goal and a tasty 57% CORSI rating. Connor Murphy also deserves some credit, with 3 shots of his own and a stunning 74% rating. The Hawks took 12 shots to the Avs 4 when he was on the ice, and it’s nights like tonight where his trade value will never be higher. That being said, we have no idea who will be behind the wheel when it actually comes time to make those trades, so it may be a moot point.

 

1/26

Hawks 8 (LOL) – Scum 5

BOX SCORE

Natural Stat Trick

 

I have no idea what the fuck this game was supposed to be, but it ended up being the hockey equivalent of snorting a mound of cocaine and riding a roller coaster for 60 minutes. You really can’t bother looking at the advanced stats for this one, as both teams just said “fuck it” and decided they were gonna treat team defense like Qaron Rodgers and Tyler Bertuzzi treat scientific information. The Hawks jumped out to a 4-0 lead on the back of some quality offensive play by Dylan Strome, who had 2 goals and 1 assist in that span. Adding on a tally from Kubalik and Sam Lafferty’s first goal as a Hawk, heading into the dressing room up 4-0 after 1 you’d figure that would pretty much be it for the night, right?

RIGHT?

Nope. The Wings came out flying in the 2nd after pulling Alex Nedeljkovic for Calvin Pickard, scoring 2 less than a minute apart and then potting one with 13 seconds left in the period. The Hawks couldn’t get out of their own end, and were turning the puck over in the neutral zone like it was going out of style. The Wings dropped 13 shots on the Hawks after only mustering 7 in the 1st, and Marc-Andre Fleury looked all kinds of tired.

The 3rd started out just like the 2nd with the Wings pressing hard, but Fleury was up to the task. Finally the Hawks took the momentum back with a PPG from Strome (giving him his first hat trick since juniors) and one from Top Cat on a nice 2 on 1 with Toews. The Hawks were struck with stupid again after that, letting the Wings back within one after a PPG from Moritz Seider and a tally from Dylan Larkin. That was as close as the Wings would get, however, as Hagel stripped Old Friend Nick Leddy and sealed the deal with a breakaway goal. Tack on an ENG from Top Cat, and you end up with the 8-5 final in a game that was sloppy as fuck, but stupid fun to watch.

 

1/28

Avalanche 6 – Hawks 4

BOX SCORE

Natural Stat Trick

 

This game started out a mirror image of the one from Monday night, with the exception that it was the Avalanche that played the perfect road period in the 1st (something that gave the feeling of a cat playing with it’s food), ending it with the score tied at zeros. Once again like the first game against the Avs, it was a dumb penalty that allowed Colorado to take the lead with a PPG from Landeskog barely a minute into the second period. JT Compher tacked on another about 15 minutes later when Caleb Jones lost a puck battle in the corner and Connor Murphy lost his stick into the side of the net, allowing Tyson Jost to flip the puck into the slot to an all alone Compher as Dylan Strome and Brandon Hagel stood there dumbfounded. Shortly thereafter the Avs pinned the Hawks in their own zone for the remainder of the period, resulting in Patrick Kane taking a hooking penalty just before the period expired.

Predictably, Landeskog started out the 3rd the same way he did the 2nd, burying his second power play goal of the night, and seemingly putting the final nail in the Hawks coffin. Unpredictably, the Hawks fired themselves up like Hulk Hogan making a comeback at Wrestlemania and threw everything they had at the Avs in the 3rd. Less than 20 seconds after Landeskog’s goal, Brandon Hagel atoned for his defensive miscue by tipping in a shot from Connor Murphy at the point. Then came Kaner’s goal a minute later off a slick give and go between him and Gustafsson cutting the Avs lead to one. Alas the fairy tale ended there, as Alex Newhook buried a weird one timer past Fleury when Brett Connoly half-assed his way back to the net. The Hawks would score one more from Gufstasson, but it was too little too late.

Overall, it was a very entertaining week of hockey from the Hawks, but they only get two points to show for it. Had this level of compete occurred against almost any other team in the West, the Hawks would’ve most certainly taken at least two of the 3 games. The Avs are not just any team in the West, however, and their talent level far exceeds the Hawks right now. I’m sure this is how most other teams felt playing the Hawks in 2010 and 2013, and I guess it’s only fair it’s being done to them this time around. The Avs are on an absolute tear right now, and their Star Destroyer of a team was more than enough for the Corellian Cruiser the Hawks were puttering around in. It was always going to end this way against them, but at least it was an entertaining watch.

Hockey

There’s no time to waste in this season of cramming games in wherever we can—the Hawks are now going to be playing a double-header this weekend against the Wild, the first tilt between these teams this season. What could go wrong?

Game Time: 7:30 PM Friday / 8 PM Saturday
TV/Radio:
NHL Network, NBCSCH+, WGN 720
-30 wind chill:
Hockey Wilderness

The Wild started out the season hot, winning four in a row to begin the season and going on an eight-game win streak in late November and early December. Following that, however, the Wild have only won three of their last nine games and are now holding onto the 1st wild card spot in the Western Conference, four points behind the Predators because neither of these teams can ever leave the mushy middle of the Western Conference for some reason.

Offensively, the team is led almost exclusively by Kaprizov (first on the team in assists, points, shooting percentage, and offensive point shares according to hockey-reference). Just about as offensively productive is his 1st-line centerman and our old friend Ryan Hartman, who is having a career year and blowing all of his past stats completely out of the water. In just half a season, he’s surpassed all of his previous seasons’ stats, including his one full season he had in Chicago at the beginning of his career. Mats Zuccarello rounds out the Wild’s first line, who like Hartman is likely also benefitting from Kaprizov’s elite playmaking abilities.

The points production definitely tapers off from there, especially considering the myriad of COVID and injury-ridden players they’ve been dealing with. However, Wild fans must be pleased to hear that Joel Eriksson Ek will be making his return Friday to center the 2nd line. Additionally, they are hoping that Cam Talbot can start one of the games—he’s 34 and hasn’t started since January 1, so he could be a bit rusty if we do see him. Finally, Jared Spurgeon may or may not be returning this weekend, but I’m pretty sure nobody gives a shit.

Overall the biggest issue facing the Wild is their bonkers schedule coming up. Wild fans and media members are mad as hell that they have to play 40 games in 77 days thanks to COVID-related cancellations because of their opponents, apparently, and not the Wild themselves. The NHL certainly could’ve spaced more of their rescheduled games out, especially when you look at the multiple stretches of off-days the Wild have had during the month of January. The team will probably be exhausted by the time the playoffs roll around, and that’s if they don’t go on another cold streak and lose their wild card spot. Everyone up north is hoping their top line will see it through to the end, though.

As for the Men of Four Feathers, Seth Jones returns this weekend after missing his return to Columbus and then some with COVID. Dylan Strome is slated to return this weekend as well; he’s only had three assists in his last five games played but seems to be slotting right back into a first-line center role in practice, and with Dach still out he’ll likely stay there. The Hawks’ lack of center depth continues, I guess.

Interestingly, Rockford goalie Cale Morris has been placed on the Hawks’ active roster, despite both Fleury and Lankinen at practice and seemingly healthy. We’ll see how things shake up there, though I would be surprised to see Morris play. Without Fleury in net making every save imaginable, it’s much harder for the Hawks to win as they continue to be out-chanced and out-possessed by most of their opponents. More players stepping up and scoring goals this weekend would be advantageous, as the Wild are going to be the playoff-contending warmup for the Hawks before two games against the Avalanche later next week—God save us.

Hockey

Even with a game cancellation in Edmonton, the Hawks had an easier stretch of schedule to extend their winning streak, what with the Ducks skidding and not fully healthy and the Kraken turning out to be a regular expansion team that isn’t very good. Though we lost to the Kraken in overtime, the Hawks have Marc-Andre Fleury in net which means we can pick up 3 of 4 points on the week.

1/15
Hawks 3, Ducks 0
Box
Natural Stat Trick

The Blackhawks must feel mighty good blanking the Ducks with a COVID-decimated roster that did not include…breakout 20-goal scorer Troy Terry? But a win is a win and they looked good doing it. The Hawks put on pressure early on with some pretty solid chances, including a vintage Kane breakaway opportunity that seems to be getting rarer and rarer these days. Then a hooking call put him in the penalty box, which wasn’t great.

Overall, however, the Hawks were peppering the Ducks with chances, kept pucks in the offensive zone—all despite the numbers saying possession was about even throughout the game. The Hawks looking so good probably had to do with Fleury standing on his head to net his 70th shutout.

Lukas Reichel showed flashes, though he was ultimately stopped by the opposition with most of his chances in the o-zone. He wasn’t terrible in his own end, either, blocking a shot early in the 2nd period. Of course he got sent back down solely because of The Almighty Dollar, which is probably fine because this season is down the tubes anyway.

The Hawks didn’t score until the second period, when Gustafsson (right out of the box) set up Hagel after the Ducks had a myriad of scoring opportunities they somehow didn’t convert on at the end of their powerplay. The Hawks powerplay, though still bad, did finally convert in the 3rd period, as Kane and the Cat made it happen yet again with some great passing. Kubalik scored the empty-netter to end it with just three minutes left in the game.

1/17
Hawks 2, Kraken 3 (Kraken win spirited match of peg solitaire)
Box
Natural Stat Trick

The Hawks saw a lot of pressure from the Kraken to begin this game, which shows with their horrific 19.05 CF% in the 1st. The Hawks were spending the whole first period in the defensive zone, getting drilled physically and not being able to control the puck. Luckily for them the shots on goal were pretty even throughout and Fleury was once again saving every shot with his usual acrobatics in front of the net.

The Hawks looked a bit better in the 2nd with a few good chances and less time in their own zone. The powerplay continued the game-long trend of being complete buffoonery, as the Hawks were unable to get a shot on net it seemed in the 1st period and just a few meager powerplay chances in the 2nd. Luckily a Kubalik breakaway shortly after the powerplay put the Hawks up 1-0, though that lasted only a few minutes before the Kraken scored a weird tip-in goal that no one on the ice seemed to see.

The Hawks scored their last of the game nearing the end of the 2nd period with Brandon Hagel getting set up by The Cat. Kubalik was back on the ice, too, right at the net where he needs to be. I hope his hot streak continues.

The Kraken were able to tie it up in the 3rd with help from Amy’s Youngest who knocked over Fleury at just the right time for the puck to sail into the back of the net. The overtime was a horrific slog despite all the Fleury acrobatics, and the Kraken became the winner of the meaningless shootout on goals by Ryan Donato and Joonas Donskoi.

Seth Jones will make his return to the lineup this weekend in a home-and-home against the Wild on Friday and Saturday. The Wild are clinging to a wild card spot who just recently got Kirill the Thrill back from injury, so they should be a challenge for the Hawks. Read more about it tomorrow.

Hockey

Well, you can’t say things aren’t at least getting interesting over on West Madison lately. After nothing but radio silence regarding the status of top prospect and A New Hope for the future Lukas Reichel was suddenly promoted to The Show on Wednesday. After initially saying he’d only be on the taxi squad, Coach King relented and tossed him in the lineup last night. What resulted was nothing spectacular, but also was not awful either.

How long he’ll be up on the main roster is unknown at this point, but I would hazard a guess that if he acclimates quickly and shows he belongs, the Hawks brass will be hard pressed to come up with an excuse to banish him back to Rockford. At least for the time being we have something to watch that might potentially be here in 3 years.

 

1/15 Vs. Ducks

Game Time: 7:30 PM CST

TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720

Emilio Estevez Is A Moron: Anaheim Calling

 

Up until about 10 days ago, the Ducks were (somehow) the best team in what is admittedly a very barren Pacific Division in the Western Conference. How they got to that point nobody knows, but even after getting passed up by Vegas the meltdown everyone assumed was forthcoming has not shown. Part of the Ducks success has been their uncanny ability to make it into OT and secure the extra point before losing. They lead the entire Western Conference with the Loser Point with a whopping 7 of them thus far. To put that into perspective, they only garnered 9 OT loss points in the entirety of the 2019 season, so they’re on pace to blow that record out of the water.

The Ducks have very few familiar faces these days, other than Ryan Getzlaf’s giant one. The turnover on the front end has been what you would expect from a team that’s been sitting in the basement of the West the past 5 years. Troy Terry and Trevor Zegras lead the team in scoring, both high picks of the Ducks in the last few drafts. Columbus castoff Sonny Milano and his glorious hair seemingly has finally put it together after never living up to his 1st round pedigree in the O-H-I-O. The Hawks luck out, as two of Anaheim’s more dangerous forwards in Rickard Rakell and (to a lesser extent) Jakob Silfverberg will most likely miss Saturday’s tilt as Rakell hurt his shoulder during an awkward collision into the boards and Silfverberg’s got the Rona.

John Gibson is still here, and he’s about as exciting as white bread covered in mayo with his 2.64 GAA and .917 save percentage that is somehow good enough to get picked for the NHL All Star Game. Where he DOES stand out is when the Ducks are on the PK, which is the 3rd best in the league at suppressing shots. A lot of that comes from their very mobile defense, which denies zone entries with some of the best in the league. With the Hawks PP sinking further and further to the bottom of the league, the ability of the Ducks to flip the ice looms large.

 

1/17 @ Seattle

Game Time: 4:00 PM CST (Seriously)

TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720

Johnny Depp Sucks: Davy Jones Locker Room

 

One of the few teams actually statistically worse than the Hawks, the Kraken are nevertheless providing some entertainment for their new fans in the Pacific Northwest. Jordan Eberle leads the team in points, which is somewhat impressive given his role as a #2 scorer for every team he’s ever been on. To be fair, some of that is due to the fact that Connor McDavid and later John Tavares were on his teams. He’s an excellent skater, and is able to create a shot for himself (which he needs to do quite a bit on this team). He’s also 31, which while not exactly young anymore is not so old that he can’t be the face of the franchise for the next few years while they attempt to cash in on all their draft picks.

On the back end they have…uhhh…Mark Giordano? And some other guys? Their goaltending is pretty terrible as well, with both Phillip Grubauer and Chris Driedger having GAAs over 3.30. The Kraken are pretty much what one would expect an expansion team to be, making Vegas truly the exception that proves the rule. They don’t do anything well, except play with a chip on their shoulder which can make them dangerous on any given night. Their fans are loud (mostly because they’re Seahawks fans which makes them insane criminals), and just happy to have a team. So they’ll probably drop 6 on the Hawks and toss the team bus into the Puget Sound.

Hockey

Pardon the title of the preview, but I watched Get Back on Disney Plus the other day and have been listening to Beatles tracks ever since. Anyways, the Hawks played as expected the past 3 games since coming back from their extended Xmas Vacation, getting smoked in all facets in the Nashville and Calgary games and then playing a solid 58 minutes against Colorado but ultimately falling to a simply disgusting Makar OT goal.

What is becoming clearer by the minute is that the Blackhawks are desperately short on skaters that can finish off their shots. Outside of Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat (who is shooting absolutely lights out at a 19% rate, and will eventually come back down to earth) the cupboard is bare at the NHL level. This was never more apparent when Kirby Dach got run down in the 2 on 1 in the 3rd period against the Avs. Ultimately this will result in more of the same for the Hawks, making it only so far in games as Marc Andre Fleury can carry them and hoping Kane and Cat are able to pot a few before the dam breaks.

Reading the tea leaves as to why Lukas Reichel hasn’t been called up from Rockford yet is a pretty clear statement from Kyle Davidson as to what he thinks of the Hawks chances going forward. Why waste a year on his rookie deal for half of a wasted season? While the analytical part of my lizard brain agrees with this, the hockey fan in me wants to see what this kid can do. It would at least give us something to write about other than “the Hawks sucked again,” which feels like what I was doing in 2017-18 covering the White Sox for this joint.

Anyways, here’s who’s next for the Hawks this week:

 

1/6 @ Coyotes

Game Time: 8:00 PM CST

TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720

Hockey Fans More Depressed Than Us: Five For Howling

 

If there were ever a salve for a hockey team that just had it’s ass lit on fire by 3 top tier teams, playing the Desert Dogs would be aloe vera. Not only are they constantly playing under the threat of being locked out of their own arena, the city they call home is actively trying to get them to leave. Not a very conductive work environment, and it shows. Sitting at or near the bottom in every advanced metric the internet could concieve of, the Coyotes are the A#1 team in contention for the first overall pick in the summer. While the Hawks are terrible in goal differential, the Yotes are taking it to an entirely new level with a -56 mark less than halfway through the season. To put that into perspective, the worst goal differential in 2018-19 for the whole SEASON was -64 (hello, Ottawa), so yeah. They’re bad.

There are some pieces that can be salvaged at the deadline for them, however. Professional Hot Dog Man Phil Kessel is here, and 3rd on the team with 21 points and entering his free agent season. Shayne Ghost Bear has one year left on his 4.5 million dollar deal and is producing nicely from the back end on the PP. Assbag Antoine Roussel is also here, and brings that idiotic element that teams so love to acquire for the playoff run. Nick Schmaltz is also here and has 6 points, so…I guess that’s one trade that Bowman actually won.

The only player worth talking about with a future in the organization is Clayton Keller. Drafted 1st overall in 2016, the Yotes handed him an 8 year, $57 million dollar extension last season. He’s rewarded them for doing so by being the team’s leader on the ice night in and night out. While he’s generously listed at 5′ 10″, Keller plays a much bigger game than you would expect, and has the type of finish that reminds you of Alex DeBrincat. More impressively he does most of his damage at even strength, as only 3 of his 21 points have come on the man advantage. If the Hawks D can keep a lid on him, the odds of picking up 2 points goes up exponentially.

 

1/8 @ Vegas

Game Time: 9:00 PM CST

TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720

Degenerates Unite: Sin Bin Las Vegas

 

After a very rough start to the season (7-8 in their first 15), the Knights have righted the ship and find themselves back atop the Pacific Division having gone past the surprising Ducks of Anaheim in the last week. Much of this is due to the Knights forwards finally remembering which end to shoot at. And boy do they shoot at it, because if the Knights don’t pot more than 3 goals a night it’s tough for them to win. After choosing Brain Genius Robin Lehner over MAF, the Knights GAA sits above 3.00 for the first time in their existence. As a team, the Knights have given up merely 2 more than the Hawks have (granted they’ve played 3 more games) and 37 more than conference leader Calgary.

The flip side of that is the Knights lead the West in scoring by a pretty large margin. Leading this charge is Washington castoff Chandler Stephenson who is tops on the team with 34 points. After him come the usual suspects in Reilly Smith, Shea Theodore and Mark Stone. The Knights can run 4 lines out there and have all of them score, and this is even before the eventual debut of ole Slinky Neck Jack Eichel. Take the over in this one.

 

1/11 @ Columbus

Game Time: 6:00 CST

TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720

Did You Know Ohio State Is In Columbus?: Jackets Cannon

 

Another team slumming it at the bottom of the league statistically, the Blue Jackets are another opportunity for the Hawks to pick up some points on this Sherman-esque march to the sea. Columbus is very similar to the Hawks in terms of being unable to keep other teams from scoring, and only getting their own goals from very limited sources. The good thing for the Jackets is that all the goals they ARE getting are from the younger draft pick crowd. Alexandre Texier, Oilver Bjorkstrand and Zack Werenski are all going to be bright parts of the Jackets future. Even some of the “older” players like Boone Jenner and Gus Nyquist are still well South of 30, and could be a part of that future.

Boone Jenner currently leads the team with 11 goals, half of which come on the man advantage where he does most of his damage between the dots. Bjork Bjork Bjork leads the team with 23 total points, and is a lot of fun to watch with his combination of speed and hands. Also Jake Voracek is here.  In between the pipes is where the Jackets have issues, as their GAA over the last month and a half is North of 3.50. CBJ had brought up Daniil Tarasov up from the AHL to fill in for the broken (and terrible) Joonas Korpisalo, where he performed pretty admirably before leaving the game against Carolina with a lower body injury. Korpisalo is back now, and he’s been teaming with Elvis Merzlikins to be extra terrible. The Jackets have given up 7 goals in each of their last 2 games, and weren’t exactly setting the world on fire before that. This game seems like a good chance for Fleury to steal one for the Hawks, but again I’d still take the over.

 

Hockey

So after dropping 2 of their last 3 (one in mind-numbingly dumb fashion against The Leaf), the Hawks return to West Madison for an extended session of home cookin, with only the Stars matchup on the road until the Wednesday after Christmas. The issues the team faces remain the same (lack of scoring outside of Kane and Cat, questionable goaltending when Fleury isn’t in net), but there may be a glimmer of hope as Jonathan Toews potted 2 goals over that span, and has actually looked more himself than in quite awhile.

With Dylan Strome becoming more dangerous while actually getting meaningful minutes (who knew?), the Hawks are kinda sorta getting some of the secondary scoring the team so desperately needs right now. Even Domanik Kubalik was able to get one past The Leaf on Saturday night, so perhaps things are trending upward?

The Hawks will have to make due without having Reese’s Johnson (candy porno name) out of the lineup for at least a month or so, as he landed on IL Sunday with a broken clavicle. The Hawks also punted Mike Hard Man back down to The R, and recalled Brett Connolly and MacKenzie Entwistle. Hopefully Johnson being out means more meaningful minutes (alliteration!) for guys like Phillip Kurashev and Brandon Hagel.

With the game Monday night against Cal and Gary postponed to a Rona outbreak in the Flames locker room, the Hawks catch a break from what would have been (and still kinda is) a tough stretch of games. The Caps are still rolling, having gone 3-1 in the span since the Hawks beat them in the skills competition. The Preds are also hot, having won 7 of their last 10 (though 4 of them came against The Scum, Isles, Habs and Devils) and Dallas had a 7 game win streak before they dropped 3 straight. It’s not going to be easy, but 4 of 6 points here would go a long way to showing that this team is more than just a bottom-feeder right now.

 

12/15 vs. Capitals 

Game Time: 7:00 PM CST

TV/Radio – NBC Sports Chicago, SportsNet, WGN-AM 720

Bulldog Front – Russian Machine Never Breaks

 

After securing their first win in DC since the 2nd Bush administration, the Hawks look to take the season series against the Caps. The offense (and some of the defense to be honest) still resides in the orbit of the best hockey player of the last decade, Alexander Ovechkin. He’s had 7 points in his last 5 games and 44 overall (good for 3rd in the league behind the twin wizards in Edmonton), 10 more than the guy behind him. 20 of those 44 points are goals, good for 2nd in the league. The guy is still a dynamo, and his shot is almost impossible to stop if he gets it off from his spot low in the circles. Adding to the Hawks misery in this game is that TJ Oshie has returned from the land of wind and ghosts, giving the Caps another scoring option.

Defensively the Caps line up pretty well against the Hawks, with John Carlson having another very solid year resulting in Washington having the 2nd best goal differential in the league behind Carolina.  In net, the tandem of Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanacek have pretty similar numbers, and actually kinda look like each other too. They’re basically the same guy, with an average GAA and Save % to go with it. Just goes to show how often the Caps score if they can have an OK goaltending duo and still be tops in differential. Professional Assbag Tom Wilson is still here, so if the Hawks powerplay could find it’s way in from the cold, that might go a long way towards giving themselves a chance in this one.

 

12/17 vs. Predators

 

Game Time: 7:30 PM CST

TV/Radio:  NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720

Getting Smashvilled:  On The Forecheck

 

Since the last time the Hawks saw the Preds they’ve managed to go on a mini-heater by going 11-5 in that span. As noted above, however, a good chunk of those 11 have been against lower-tier teams. Granted, the Preds can only play the schedule barfed out by the league office, but that record can be taken with a grain of salt. Nashville’s advanced stats look like one of my old training reports back in the day, which said “does nothing well,” which describes them to a tee. They’re not top 10 in any meaningful metric other than PP% (and even then they’re 9th), and yet they currently sit in 2nd place in the division. Much like in every year past, this is due to their goaltending, and playing the part of Pekka Rinne this year is his countryman Juuse Saros. The Juuse keeps the Preds playoffs afloat all by his lonesome, and does so with a 2.24 GAA and a .925 save percentage. On the surface those don’t look like superior numbers, but when you combine those with the Preds style of game and Saros’ excellent save percentage of high danger chances you get a Nashville team that does just enough to be very annoying. If the Hawks plan on pulling themselves out of the basement, this game needs to be won in regulation. Having a coach that understands the benefit of matchups could go a long way to making that happen.

 

12/18 vs. Stars 

Game Time: 7:00 PM CST

TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720

Jerry Jones Runs This Town: Defending Big D

 

Last and most certainly least on this list are the Dallas Stars, who have lost 3 in a row during a down road trip. The Stars are actually statistically better than the Preds in a few categories, but are not great inbetween the pipes. Anton Khudobin has turned back into a pumpkin after a few years of relevancy with a 3.73 GAA. After leaving Washington for greener pastures, Braden Holtby has been a pretty mixed bag, with a terrible year in Vancouver and now a slightly above average one in Dallas with a 2.40 GAA and a .920 save percentage. That comes from a team that is one of the better ones in the league in shot suppression, currently ranking 7th in the league in that department at evens. The fact that the Stars are only slightly better than the Hawks at scoring 5 on 5 and you get all the ingredients for a thrilling game. Roope Hintz and Joe Pavelski lead the way for the Stars on “offense,” with Hintz leading the team with 11 goals and Pavs with 21 points respectively. Russian expatriate Alexander Radulov is still here, and his production has gone off a cliff, with only 1 goal and a -11 to his name thus far. With the Hawks actually improving over the last few weeks under Derek King at evens, this game looks to be their best chance to pick up an easy 2 points in regulation.

Hockey

The Hawks surprisingly continue to not suck, eking out wins under Derek King and his amusing, incredibly human personality. After adapting to King’s style of defense, the team has seemed calmer, more in sync and surer of themselves. And considering how horrifically this season started (in more ways than one), I’ll take it at this point.

The Blackhawks’ defensive zone coverage at least makes sense, even without shutdown players like McCabe and Murphy in the lineup, and you’re hard-pressed to find a guy out of position these days, limiting the chances of their opponents pretty well. Of course, many teams in this league are just more talented than the Hawks which will lead to losses on occasion. But considering the garbage effort that was trotted out under Coach Vinny del Colliton, this more boring style of hockey is a welcome change. Maybe we can try out a regulation win or two?

Hawks 4, Capitals 3 (Hawks win menko match)
Box | Natural Stat Trick

The Hawks were able to win this one in spite of all odds, albeit in a shootout. But the entire team had a pretty good game, which included keeping the greatest goal-scorer of all time, Alex Ovechkin, without a goal that night. They also did it without Connor Murphy, who got hit by Ovie early into the 2nd period and had to leave the game to go into the dark room.

Kane and the Cat started things off near the end of the 1st period, their playmaking abilities on full show with a nifty goal that beat the goaltender backhand. Barely a minute into the 2nd period, however, the Capitals tied the game after, shockingly, Erik Gustafsson couldn’t break up the play.

Despite the Capitals dominating the possession game in the 2nd, the Hawks were able to take back the lead with not only a powerplay goal, but one by Dominik Kubalik, who was set up by DeBrincat. Amy’s Eldest made a good play near the blueline to keep things alive as well. Though the Caps ended up scoring two goals to take the lead back thanks to a Fleury fumble and a breakaway glove save gone wrong, the Hawks rallied back late to tie the game up thanks to a goal by Amy’s Eldest. Getting a point was just about all I was hoping for this game.

Nobody scored in overtime thanks to the goalies on both sides, and then Fleury had some good luck in the shootout as two Caps in a row hit both goalposts. Luckily it was enough to give Kane the opportunity to win it in the shootout in a way only he can.

Hawks 2, Rangers 3
Box | Natural Stat Trick

The Hawks won’t win them all, but I was pleased with the effort they put into this game and the fact that they didn’t seem to give up when they were down two (again). Both teams played quite conservatively to begin this game, with four shots total halfway through the first. And the Hawks even scored first (again) on a nifty play by Hagel, who swatted the puck out of the air and behind him for Kane to bury into a wide-open net. Now his goalless streak has been snapped.

Unfortunately, Dylan Strome’s brother Ryan scored shortly into the 2nd period to tie things up for the Rangers after a penalty by Borgstrom put the Hawks on the kill. Ryan Strome was set up easily by Adam Fox and old friend Artemi Panarin to get the puck past a sprawling Kevin Lankinen. Fox and Panarin would later team up again near the end of the period to get the Rangers the lead, sneaking the puck just under Lanks and into the back of the net.

The Hawks continued to get chances through the 2nd and 3rd, but Anton Georgiev was able to stop just about every shot. Panarin scored in the 3rd to seal the deal for the Rangers, although the Hawks’ effort in the waning minutes of the game should be commended. The Cat got a weird goal after a shot that was originally saved by Georgiev ended up just barely sliding across the goal line as he is absolutely clobbered by Kirby Dach in the paint. King pulled Lankinen in the final minute or two of the game, but the Hawks weren’t able to tie things up. We are going to need some steadier production from guys like Kane and Kubalik in the future, as relying on only two guys for all of your offense isn’t a good long-term plan for success.

Hawks 3, Islanders 2 (Hawks win Tiddlywinks competition this time)
Box | Natural Stat Trick

The Islanders were coming off their 10th straight loss with this game and it certainly showed. As expected, the level of offense to watch this game was quite low, as both teams play more defensive-minded games.

And dear God did this one drag awhile. There were only 18 shots between the teams by the end of the 1st, but the Hawks went up with The Cat’s slapshot going off Hagel and into the back of the net. The Islanders had only eight shots in the first period, though it seemed like less because of the Hawks defense breaking up a lot of chances, plus the occasional sprawling save by Marc-Andre Fleury. Neither of these teams have a lot of offense firepower, after all.

The Islanders were able to tie it up nearing the end of a powerplay chance they had in the 2nd. Unfortunately a myriad of sloppy plays made the second half of the period an especially PK-heavy period for the Hawks. Luckily for them, it was Dylan Strome in the 3rd who put them in the lead, a goal he sorely needed for his confidence going forward. In a game where I thought the Hawks were doing way more passing than they were shooting, that was a super neat passing sequence by the Hawks that gave Strome the open net.

Unfortunately, the bad penalties kept coming for the Hawks, as it was now the turn of Amy’s Youngest to be sent to the box for interference. The Hawks can thank the acrobatics of Fleury and the sludge that is the Islanders powerplay for getting out of that one unscathed. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to keep the Islanders from tying the game up with only two seconds left in regulation. After just about the most boring 3-on-3 that can exist with only a few shots off from both teams, Kane scored the only goal in a meaningless shootout (again) to get the Hawks two points.

They seem to be turning their season around, albeit far too late to make the playoffs and therefore losing their first-round pick for this year’s draft. Though that pick would be extremely valuable to the team’s future, I’d certainly rather see a good effort like the Hawks are putting in every night than watching them tank to keep their first-rounder. And yes, I’ll probably regret feeling this way in the next year or two. The Rangers, Canadiens and Leafs are next week—let’s hope for 2 out of 3.