Hockey

So we have our last full week of Hawks hockey before we see what shiny new GM Kyle Davidson has in store for the roster with the 3/21 NHL trade deadline looming. In between now and then, the Hawks have a much stiffer (heh) challenge with 2 of their next 3 games coming against legitimate playoff teams in the Bruins and Minnesota Wild. It’s also a Stupid Schedule Week™ with the Hawks at home tonight, then nothing until a 1:00 start in Minnehaha on Saturday, then they fly back here to take on the Peg. I get the NHL schedulers have had their work cut out for them with COVID blowing everything up and the players not going to the Olympics, but damn that’s a shitty set of game times.

 

3/15 vs. Boston

Game Time: 7:30 PM CST

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

Those Apples Fucking Suck: Stanley Cup of Chowder

 

Less than a week after losing a heartbreaker to the Bruins out in Beantown, the Hawks get their chance at revenge tonight at the UC. Not a whole lot has changed since Summer hit up the preview from last week other than the B’s finishing off their homestand with a 3-2 win against the moribund Coyotes of South Glendale over the weekend. The offense continues to run through that Dunkin Donuts guy, as Pastrnak keeps piling up the points (including the game winning dagger against the Hawks last week). Taylor Hall and Patrice Bergeron are also here, along with the diseased penis Brad Marchand, who I’m sure will do something completely infuriating at some point during the game. Odds are Jake Swayman gets the nod again with him taking the bulk of the starts recently with Bruce Cassidy riding the current hot hand.

With our Large Irish Son Connor Murphy likely confined to the dark room for the foreseeable future while in concussion protocol, the Hawks D will be even more hard pressed than usual to keep Boston setting things up behind the net as they are wont to do. Keeping out of the box will be key, as with Murph out there isn’t really anyone on the PK who can clear the crease like he does. Could be ugly.

 

3/19 At Minnesota

Game Time: 1:00 PM CST

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

First Round Failures: Hockey Wilderness

 

It pains me greatly to concede the fact that the Minnesota Wild are better than the Blackhawks right now, and most likely will continue to be for the next few years at least. They have a very solid mix of interesting veterans and exciting young players. This was made possible after shedding the dead weight that was the contracts of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. The biggest name among the exciting young players would be Kirill Kaprisov, who may very well be the heir apparent to Alex Ovechkin (assuming he ever actually, ya know, retires), as one of the best pure scorers to hit the scene in a very long time. The Wild recently signed him to a 5 year, $45 million extension after what seemed like an impasse that could’ve sent him back to Russia. They’ve also added Old Friend Ryan Hartman, who has now harnessed all the potential we saw during his time with the Hawks.

The back end is populated by a lot of familiar names as the Wild attempted to shore up what was a solid group of Jonas Brodin, Matt Dumba and Jared Spurgeon by adding Alex Goligoski and Dimirti Kulikov. The results have been middling thus far, as the Wild have a tendency (much like Vegas, who they’ve now modeled themselves after) to give up a boatload of shots. With only Cam Talbot behind them to stop the onslaught, the Wild basically need to just play balls to the wall offense to keep opponents out of their zone. That’s not usually a very solid playoff strategy, which is ok because it’s a team from Minnesota, and they never get out of the first round anyways.

 

3/20 vs Winnipeg

Game Time: 7:00 PM CST

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

Everybody Freeze (Arnold voice): Arctic Ice Hockey

 

Last and most certainly least of these 3 is the Winnipeg Jets. While they’ve been on a mini heater over the last week or so, beating the Blues and Lightning by a decent margin, they’re still just 5-4-2 since they last lost to the Hawks in the middle of February. As we all know, playing .500 hockey down the stretch in Gary Bettman’s NHL does not a playoff team make. They’re only 4 points back of Vegas with a game in hand of the final wild card spot, which might actually be worst case scenario for them. With the team needing quite a bit to take the next step, their best course of action would probably be to sell at the deadline like the Hawks. Being only 4 out might make them hesitate to do that, and even worse for them would be to push their chips in like their GM was Stan Bowman. Even if they DO sneak into the playoffs, they face a total ass-waxing at the hands of Calgary or Colorado, both of whom are light years ahead of the Jets. Personally I hope they DO go all in, which would put them on the same trajectory as the Hawks now sit. Misery loves company.

 

Hockey

In what was a very entertaining 3 games for the Hawks this week, they took 4 of a possible 6 points available to them, and if it weren’t for a very unlucky bounce and some shitty officiating in Boston it very easily could’ve been at least 5. Alas, when you’re at the level the Hawks are it always seems that the puck bounces the other way and it’s in you net. Such is life and hockey.

In other news, thoughts for a speedy recovery for our Large Irish Son after he was boarded by Parker Kelly early in the 1st period on Saturday night. Murph went down in a heap and appeared to be out cold when his face hit the ice. The hit itself, while not great, wasn’t particularly preadatory and appeared to be just bad luck with the way his head contacted the boards. You never wanna see the stretcher come out for anyone, and at this point you just hope Murph is ok. Apparently he traveled back with the team, so that is at least some small measure of good news.

Anyways, here’s the shakedown:

 

Tuesday 3/8

Ducks 3 – Hawks 8

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

 

Poor John Gibson. All he had to do is look at the Hawks giveaway calendar to know he was fucked from the jump, as it was Shitty Green Hat Giveaway Night at the UC, which automatically means a hat trick for at least one Hawk skater. Tonight was no different, as Dylan Strome continued to be scorchingly hot with the puck, netting his 2nd career hat trick while Patrick Kane continued is inevitable rise to the top of the Hawks all-time scoring list with 6 points.

Tuesday night marked the 2nd game in a row where Gibson had given up 5 goals, and has now allowed 20 goals in his last 5 games. He actually seemed like he might survive the night after only Strome scored when the Hawks jumped right into the Ducks shit off the bat. Barely 5 minutes into the period and the Hawks already had 9 shots. The dam eventually broke, and before the period was over it was a 5-0 for the Blackhawks and Gibson’s night was done.

His backup didn’t fare much better, as Brandon Hagel scored on the first shot of the 2nd period 16 seconds in. After that, the Ducks tried climbing back into the game as the Hawks suddenly couldn’t stay out of the penalty box. They cut the lead to 6-3 before Strome fired home his second of the night to put the kibosh on that comeback. He added one more in the trailing minutes of the 3rd to complete the hatty, and down came the Shitty Irish Jig hats. While it’s always cool to see that, it’ll never come close to Hard Hat Giveaway night and the chaos that ensued after Towes’ hat trick.

 

Thursday 3/10

Hawks 3 – Bruins 4

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

 

This one was a bummer, as the Hawks played more than well enough to come away from this game with at least a point. Yet a shitty icing call and terrible bounce in the Hawks zone with :18 left on the clock and they come away with a big ole zip in the points column. Yet that’s what happens when you have two different teams with vastly different skill levels meeting in a mid-march game. The Bruins, comfortably ensconced in the Eastern wild card spot 16 points ahead of the Jackets, seemed to be doing just enough to keep themselves in the game while the Hawks were throwing everything they had at Boston. In a scenario like that all it takes is one bad bounce and it’s all over.

On the plus side, Alex DeBrincat continues to tear holes in space and time all over the ice while Brandon Hagel hit 20 goals for the first time in his career. Hagel appears to be doing everything to make sure that the Hawks ask for the absolute moon for his services at the deadline, and I’m starting to come around to that way of thinking. If Hagel truly is the diamond in the rough some think him to be, then maybe it really isn’t insane to ask for a 1st rounder and a top prospect in return for him. While nobody on the Hawks roster should be considered untouchable (everybody’s got a price!), the ask in return continues to climb with every goal. Good on him.

 

Saturday 3/12

Hawks 6 – Senators 3

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

 

If you take out the terrifying image (which, admittedly is very hard to do) of Connor Murphy being stretchered off the ice, this game was actually pretty entertaining in a way that only a game between two bottom feeding teams can be. Once the Hawks got over the shock of seeing their teammate being wheeled across the ice strapped to a back board, things picked up in a way that gave the Sens defense windburn.

Falling behind 2-0 to this overturned clown car of an NHL franchise seemed to wake something in Jonathan Toews that we haven’t seen since the bubble series against Vegas back in 2020. He was all over the ice, scoring the first two goals for the Hawks, and even launching himself stupidly into a fight with Zach Sanford after a questionable hit on Kirby Dach. While I never want to see a guy with a history of multiple concussions and a laundry list of current medical issues leaping face first into a fight with the dregs of the Eastern Conference, it was nice to see a fire in Toews’ eyes.

Also if I haven’t hammered this point home enough of how bad Ottawa is, if Caleb Jones scores two goals against your team…you fucking suck. More of note is that Jones the Younger now has tied his brother in goals on the season despite playing waaaay less minutes. While quite a bit of Seth’s goal drought can be tied directly to puck luck, you still can’t have your highest paid D-man being outscored by his League Minimum younger brother.

Patrick Kane passed Bobby Hull’s Tony LaRussa-looking ass for 2nd place on the Hawks all time leading scorer list with 3 assists tonight, giving him 10 in his last 3 games. The dude is on a tear right now, which bodes well for the entertainment level for the rest of the games this March.

 

 

Hockey

vs

Game Times: 7:30 PM
TV/Radio: NBCSN (3/9), SportsNet (3/9), NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720
Dammit Pantera, This Beer Is Warm: Defending Big D

 

As hard as it is to believe, this series in Dallas will mark the halfway point of this abbreviated campaign for the Hawks, as it’s both zipped right by and felt interminable somehow simultaneously. They’ll face a Stars team that itself is adrift and had better get things straightened out in a hurry given the onslaught of makeup games they now face after both covid and Texan disasters in the past two months.

Hockey

at

Game Times: 6:00PM (2/23, 2/25)
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720
The Horseshoe: The Cannon

As this abbreviated intra-divisional schedule lumbers towards its halfway point, the repetitive nature its structure is now starting to take its icy grip on things, even as Chicago itself finally thaws out only slightly, with the Hawks now playing their third series of the month against the Jackets, and their first in Columbus.

Hockey

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

They got farther than they should have. Some of the kids showed flashes of brilliance. Others looked everything from odious to unusable. We got a couple more classic games from one of our favorite guys. And all the while a coach. My oh my, a coach.

Jeremy Colliton is so revolutionary and paradigm shifting that even the things he does right he does wrong. Waiting until Game 5 of a Quarterfinal you didn’t belong in to scratch Alex Nylander had all urgency and foresight of cleaning out a toilet full of shit only after you’ve begun suffering from ambient sepsis. But given how exceedingly low he has set the bar for himself, that he scratched him at all is praiseworthy.

But then, he didn’t stop at dressing John Quenneville, oh no. He started him on the first line with Toews and Kubalik in an elimination game. Yeah, alright, make your point, whatever it is. But then he kept putting Quenneville out there. On purpose. In an elimination game. That line ended up with a 30 CF%. And a goal against. And Jeremy Colliton kept running it out there. On purpose. In an elimination game.

Fucking check THIS shit out. At the end of the second period, Brandon Saad shared the ice with Jonathan Toews for 16 seconds. In that time, they had a 3 CF, 0 CA, and a goal. In seven seconds—7 fucking seconds, dear reader—with Dominik Kubalik, they had a 2 CF, 0 CA, and a goal.

In what incomprehensible galaxy is it acceptable to skate John Quenneville over Brandon Saad on the first line? In an elimination game. If the very point of this experience was to get younger guys playoff experience, how does skating John Quenneville over Sikura, Hagel, Kurashev, or even Mackenzie THE OX Entwistle accomplish this? Please note that I cannot possibly care fucking less that John Quenneville is 24. He is a nice fourth liner if you are being generous. Fuck, Sikura can at least possess the puck at a better than 30+% rate. What has Sikura done to deserve such a ratfucking?

They aren’t going to fire Jeremy Colliton, but they should. He’s not the coach this team needs, and given their overall performance this year, he’s not the coach this team wants, either.

– The Saad–Strome–DeBrincat line was strong tonight. They dominated possession to the tune of a 61+ CF%. They also played the least of any of the four lines. Goddamn it, can’t you just feel the MINDBRAINS pulsing through your fucking skull? In an elimination game. This fuckin guy.

– We will miss Corey Crawford most of all. We will have tons to say, and it’ll all be a roundabout way of getting at thank you. If this was it, it was a wonderful ride.

– Watching Connor Murphy pull off a spin-o-rama and have an all-around good game was nice. Probably worth more to me than Alexis Lafreniere.

Kirby Dach said hello several times these playoffs. We like what we saw all year. Could stand to shoot more. But we’ll have thoughts on that later.

Adam Boqvist was bad these playoffs. Yeah, he’s barely 20, coached by some guy, and had no reliable backstop to build his puck moving around. And yeah, he went up against an overpowering Vegas team right after two of hockey’s best forwards. But even so, he was totally helpless on defense. Overpowered, outskated, and constantly out of position. You bet your ass we’re putting a lot of that on the clown’s funeral that is this coaching staff. But you get a sense that Boqvist was fundamentally lost out there these playoffs. We didn’t even get a flash of offensive prowess worth writing about. This is our concern dude.

The Hawks would be foolish to give up on him. Still too young, still needs to grow, and any number of excuses. They traded Henri Jokiharju in part because of how much they believed in him. To give up now would be absurd, albeit in Boqvist’s best interest. And yet, you worry.

I think that’s enough of that for now.

Thank you for reading and sticking with us in these unprecedented times. It was fun to have a taste of meaningful hockey, if only for a few weeks and entirely undeserved. We’ll keep doing this shit as long as you all keep reading it, because you’re all alright as a lot.

We’ll probably have some podcasts coming up. Hockey might take a little time off, but we’ll get you your player and coaching reviews. We may have a stray thought or two about the goings on in the bubble. Follow our Sox stuff and our football stuff. And we’ll always be at the forefront of arriving late, drinking all the wine, and throwing up in the misused bidet that is Blackhawks breaking news.

Until then, stay safe and do what you can.

Coranon silaria ozoo mahoke.

Hockey

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

– Just put his fucking number in the goddamn rafters already I don’t fucking care. As predicted, the series went through Crow. He stopped 43 of 45, including eight fucking power play shots against the best power play in recent history. He locked everything down from the second period on despite huge pressure, and if not for a plush bounce off the end boards in the second period, he may have only given up one. Don’t forget that Crawford did this coming off a COVID-19 diagnosis.

We do not deserve Corey Crawford. No one does.

– The penalty kill was complete fucking nails tonight. We all thought it was fucked following DeBrincat’s terrible boarding major, but they managed to hold on. For all the shit we’ve given Olli Maatta his entire tenure, he was a big part of that unit (not as big as Keith, Murphy, Kampf, or Carpenter, but still), so good on him. We successfully Motherfucked the Oilers PP tonight, which went 0 for fucking 5.

– Though the Toews line got horsed for most of the night in possession, they scored two of the Hawks’s three goals. Saad’s wraparound off a rebound is exactly the kind of power move we all have gross dreams about. Kubalik’s GWG is worth the $6 million they’ll have to pay him. And both of them came off an initial Toews touch. As this line goes . . .

Duncan Keith can still fuck. He logged more time than anyone on the pivotal PK and managed to not only get his shots through on net all night but also set up yet another Matthew Highmore goal. To be a fly on the wall when he powerbombs Coach Nathan For You through a table in the middle of his post-playoff-series-win speech.

– If it felt like the Hawks stole one tonight it’s because they did. Only three of them were above water in possession (Dach, Kane, and Maatta[!!!]), even when you adjust for score. The Hawks scored all three goals off bad Edmonton turnovers. They don’t have to be art.

That’s fucking all. Corey Crawford is a legend and they should retire his number. The end.

Avalanche or Knights next. We’ll worry about it in a couple days. For now, enjoy your 2020 Chicago Blackhawks playoff run.

Just like they fucking said.

Booze du Jour: Maker’s and High Life

Line of the Night: “You gotta be hard and sure.” –Eddie O.

 

Hockey

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

Absolutely fucking terrible. Until the last 10 minutes of this game, the Hawks were out-possessed and outclassed by the worst NHL team of the 21st century in the middle of a run that they’re calling a playoff push. A completely botched circumcision of an effort.

– The big story of the night is Adam Boqvist’s scratch. He was having trouble with his right wrist, which forced Dennis fucking Gilbert into the lineup to expected results. It’s the right call to play it safe with him, although based on the pre-game skate it looked like Boqvist had to take himself out rather than his absolute embarrassment of a coach doing it for him.

If you’re an optimist, you look at Boqvist’s absence and the fact that the Hawks had no drive whatsoever without him as portending to a good future for the kid. If you’re a pessimist, you look at Boqvist’s absence and the fact that the Hawks had no drive whatsoever without a 19-year-old defenseman who’s actively being bridled by his complete fraud of a coach as comprehensive proof that this fucking coach and this fucking front office have absolutely no fucking idea what the fuck they’re doing. Take a wild fucking guess where we land.

– You can talk about how the Hawks beat the Lightning and Oilers recently and use that as proof that this is a team THAT DOESN’T QUIT and HAS A LOT OF MOXIE, which is exactly what Coach Nerdlinger wants you to think. You can also eat the shit end of my ass with that horseshit. Beating playoff-entrenched teams at the end of February, when they have no reason to give a full effort, is smoke and mirrors. Beating the Panthers and Ducks should be a fucking given. But losing to literally the worst NHL team of the 21st century in an absolute must-have game is inexcusable for a team with so-called playoff aspirations.

Slater Koekkoek, Nick Seeler, and Dennis Gilbert all played real, meaningful minutes tonight. If we weren’t 100% convinced that Colliton and Bowman are pants-shitting morons in terms of blue line signings and favoritism already, tonight would hammer that nail into each and every one of our skulls. Fuck your injuries and excuses. This is unacceptable at a professional level.

On Detroit’s first goal—and please remember that going into this game the Wings had a -121 goal differential as a team—we got to see Slater Koekkoek show us why Jeremy Colliton should not be coaching a fucking professional hockey team. He did that thing that Colliton tells them to do and went onto the far boards to cover Trevor Daley. Yes, THAT Trevor Daley. You know, the one who if you give him enough room and time will fuck up on his own because he fucking sucks? Koekkoek’s by-design coverage led to a wide-open Tyler Bertuzzi in the slot, with Olli Maatta screening Crawford just cuz. Outstanding. Playoff caliber.

On the second goal, Dennis Gilbert did Dennis Gilbert things, such as picking his ass in the crease and wondering which mix of rocks he’d have for dinner on his bus ride back to Rockford, God willing. By the time he had all the synapses firing to lay out on the ice, Fabbry Robbi or Robby Fabbri had picked his spot and potted his shot. But boy was Eddie quick to blame Crawford, because of fucking course he was.

And though Nick Seeler wasn’t directly responsible for any goals, when your presence makes the question “Is Dennis Gilbert not the worst defenseman on the ice?” one worth asking, well.

– Everyone on the broadcast made sure that you knew that the Hawks got in late last night and that the scheduling was rough and that the Hawks really had something to overcome. Fuck you. Jonathan Bernier had a .906 SV% going into this game. Detroit has allowed the most goals of all teams, with the next closest, Ottawa, allowing 26 fewer goals on the year. And again, -121 goal differential going into tonight. Playoff teams do not lose games to teams like this, especially not when it matters as much as it did tonight.

Connor Murphy did not have a good game. Two penalties, one of which turned into a PK goal against. But babysitting Nick Seeler might do that to you.

– And as much as we love Murphy, we absolutely do not need to see him on the ice in a 6-on-5 situation at the end of a game with the goalie pulled. As if we needed even more evidence that Jeremy Colliton should be fucking up someone’s taxes on purpose and getting rewarded by his boss for “accessing a new revenue stream” instead of doing whatever it is he calls what he’s doing behind the bench, not having Dominik Kubalik, who you may know as the Blackhawks’s top goal scorer along with Kane going into this game, on the ice in a situation where you need a motherfucking goal might be the dumbest fucking thing anyone has done since Stan Bowman hired Jeremy Colliton to coach this team.

The 2019–20 Detroit Red Wings will go down as the worst team of the 21st century thus far. And the Hawks—in the midst of a playoff run they’re just prematurely ejaculating over to tell you about—lost to them in a must-win game. It always sucked losing to them when they were the better team. But this?

Fucking pathetic.

Until Sunday.

Beer du Jour: Evan Williams and Miller High Life

Line of the Night: “Force Detroit to come out of their comfort zone.” –Eddie O describing how the Hawks could overcome the worst statistical team in almost every single category in hockey.

Hockey

As the Hawks venture into the western reaches of Canada, let’s look at who’s hot and who’s not:

The Dizzying Highs

Brandon Saad. Playing on a line with Patrick Kane will always help your scoring no matter who you are, but there’s no reason to nitpick. Saad has been putting the puck in the net lately—three goals in his last four games to be exact. We need Saad to score and that’s happening, he’s currently sporting a 51.6 CF% at evens, and his shooting percentage is sitting at a career-high 15.2. Sure, it could level off a little but he’s been hitting his stride this season and quietly being just solid.

The goaltending. Since 2/1 and going into Winnipeg: Corey Crawford, .932 SV%, 2.36 GAA, 76 shots faced in 2 games; Robin Lehner, .950 SV%, 1.96 GAA, 40 shots faced in 1 game. Now I know, Crow gave up a couple late goals against the Jets, but when you’re on the PK for like 12 minutes a period, that can happen. Besides, he was the only reason that game didn’t turn into a curb stomping in the second period. The Hawks’ playoff hopes may be hanging by a thread, but imagine if we didn’t have this tandem and or if they weren’t playing this well. Actually, don’t imagine it. I just did and it was even more frightening than our current reality.

The Terrifying Lows

Nick Seeler. Just a big, dumb oaf. He had an assist in his first game against Winnipeg, but also a stupid penalty and useless fight. Please get better soon, Adam Boqvist.

Alex DeBrincat. Can somebody just give Top Cat a big hug and tell him everything is gonna be alright? Granted, he got a goal against the Bruins on the power play a few days ago, but aside from that he’s like the episode “Homer Defined” except the dictionary entry would say “snake-bitten” \adj.\: 1. Having been bitten by a snake; 2. Cursed, or generally unlucky without reason; 3. Alex DeBrincat.

Meanwhile, his xGF over the last 10 days is 54.4%, and he’s generating a lot of shots (hell, he had eight against Arizona). But the finish is non-existent, and against Winnipeg on Sunday night he was awful, finishing with a miserable 25 CF% and -36.1 CF Rel. Hopefully this is rock bottom and he can at least sort of contribute as this ship slowly sinks.

The Creamy Middles

Connor Murphy. Did you know this poor bastard has had 66% of his starts in the defensive zone since the break ended? Even with that shitty workload he was nearly equal in possession prior to Sunday (49.5 CF% at 5v5). He’s just doing what he does and not getting enough credit for it, so we’ll be the ones to say something nice about our Large Irish Son.

Kirby Dach. OK, this may be a little harsh and I honestly considered putting Dach in the Highs, but he wasn’t great against Winnipeg, so here we are. However, there’s no denying a point streak, and while Dach hasn’t been potting a bunch of goals lately he’s still managed to rack up six points in his last six games, with the streak ending against the Jets. Five of those points were assists and hey, we’ll take it. Beyond just that, his skating, puck handling, and general demeanor are surpassing his tender years, and he seems to be turning into a genuine top-line center. No, he’s not there yet, but it may not be that far off.

Hockey

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

Since Prince’s untimely death, there hasn’t been a redeeming quality to speak of regarding Minnesota. And for the first 50 minutes tonight, all was as it has ever been since then. But a flutter puck and bad-angle goal later, the Hawks were on the brink of being one point back for the second wild card spot. They managed a point from it all, and they were fortunate to get even that. Let’s clean it up.

Bruce Boudreau has made a career out of winning games that his opponents can’t be bothered to play during the doldrums of the season. Tonight’s first 50 minutes was a master class in that style. The thing is, the Hawks don’t have the luxury of falling prey to a team that’s playing like it’s the last week in April with a spot on the line. But there they were, dragging ass and just hoping that Crawford would pull them out of the sling, which he almost did. It’s hard to find an excuse for it.

Through the first two periods in fact, just two Blackhawks had CF%s that weren’t in the negatives: Gustafsson and Murphy. The Wild kept the Hawks on the perimeter as is their wont, and the Hawks 10,000-pass setups were even more useless than they usually were.

– If the Hawks are going to rat fuck their way into the playoffs—and I still think they will—it’s going to take the kind of small miracles we saw from Boqvist and Maatta. Adam Boqvist was having a putrid game until his goal. He and Keith got clobbered in possession, but more worrying was how tentative Boqvist looked on the power play again. After the Koivu trip on Kane, Boqvist looked like he was going to charge through the neutral zone ass ablaze, only to just stop along the far boards in the neutral zone and nearly turn it over. When the Hawks finally got the puck in, Boqvist did end up turning it over anyway.

Boqvist occasionally flashes a charge only to curl back, and you have to imagine it’s by design. But we’ve seen what happens when he’s tentative, and it’s not pretty. When he just says “fuck it,” like he did on his wrist-shot goal, good things tend to happen. His wrister was more of a floater than a snapper, but he’s got a real weapon with it regardless.

Olli Maatta was also having a terrible, terrible game prior to his goal, which is one of the more absurd goals we’ve seen this year. He was on the far boards and managed to pot the shot far side. Sometimes it doesn’t need to make sense.

Alex DeBrincat needs a fucking hug. He had two or three quality chances snuffed or overshot, and you can see it’s really taking a toll on him. On his near breakaway off the Donato turnover in the first, Top Cat had a couple of steps on Donato. But as the play developed, it looked like DeBrincat was skating through sand. Donato managed to catch up and bother DeBrincat while he shot, ruining the chance. Him coming around in these last two months is going to be crucial to any playoff hopes the Hawks will have.

Kirby Dach makes me forget about Bowan Byram sometimes. He was a beacon light in the third period, and nearly scored a highlight-reel goal after completely breaking Jonas Brodin’s ankles in the near circle. There’s such fluidity to his skating and puck handling. Plus, he’s now on a four-game scoring streak (1 G, 4 A) after going 12 games without. He’s going to be special; it’s just a question of whether it’ll be here when it all comes together and whether it will matter when it does.

Connor Murphy was outstanding tonight. He broke up a Foligno breakaway halfway through the first and should have had a primary assist late in the second, if not for Brandon Saad passing up a gaping net to pass to a heavily covered Patrick Kane in the crease.

Erik Gustafsson had a stereotypical Erik Gustafsson game. His fancy stats were nice (65+ CF%, 75+ xGF%), he tallied an assist, and then he turned the puck over in OT, leading to the loss. He hasn’t been an open sore lately, but we also had 10 days off, so that’s probably factoring into the memory of him.

You’ll take the one point because they really didn’t deserve any. A win tomorrow could put them within one point of the second wild card spot. What a world.

Onward.

Beer du Jour: Michter’s Small Batch

Line of the Night: You best believe this was a Mute Lounge Game.

Hockey

Whenever the job-reaper comes for Jeremy Colliton, be it the middle of the season, in the summer, or never, he’s going to try and mount some defense if only to make himself more attractive for another job down the road. He doesn’t want to be Trent Yawney, y’know? And the first thing, maybe the only thing, he can point to as something that’s improved markedly from his first year to his second is the penalty kill.

The Hawks currently are in the top-1o on the PK, which is a drastic improvement on the historically bad unit that befouled arenas and our TV sets last year. Now it would be easy to dismiss this improvement as merely and improvement in goaltending, and you can’t ignore that.

This year the SV% on the kill is .892, third-best in the league. Last year it was .842, which was sixth-worst in the league. So yes, that’s a big difference. But it’s not only that.

Overall, there are other improvements however. This year, the Hawks are giving up 97.4 attempts per 60 on the kill. Their xGA/60 on the kill is 6.33. Last year, those numbers were 104.5 and 8.1. Now, it’s hard to visualize or really understand those numbers, but a 25% reduction in expected goals against certainly is noticeable. The attempts against moves them from third-worst last year to middle of the pack this year, even if a reduction in attempts of merely 6% doesn’t really register.

If it helps, the Hawks have gone from giving up 63 shots per 60 minutes on the kill to 56 now, which directly mirrors the attempts they’re giving up. So it’s not like they’re blocking shots that much more often, they’re not even giving the lanes to shoot. Which is good.

On an individual level, there’s been improvement both in new players brought in and an uptick from those that were already here:

xGA/60  This Year/Last Year

Connor Murphy – 6.35/7.89

Duncan Keith – 7.62/8.94

David Kampf – 7.4/9.54

Jonathan Toews – 6.00/8.96

What has also helped is the players who weren’t here. Where Brent Seabrook led the team in shorthanded time-on-ice last year, that’s been replaced, or was, by Calvin de Haan. Ryan Carpenter in for the declining Marcus Kruger. Olli Maatta has replaced Carl Dahlstrom and Seabrook, and the one thing Maatta has been good at is on the kill.

Speaking of Seabrook, it’s time to be mean.

86.1/101.3   5.06/6.76

Those are the differences in the Hawks PK’s CA/60 and xGA/60 after and before Seabrook was put on the shelf for the season. It’s only been 14 games, and any special team can go on a run for 14 games. I’M NOT SAYIN’ I’M JUST SAYIN’….

So yeah, the goalies certainly have made a difference, but Colliton can claim to improved the overall system on the kill, and they certainly aren’t giving up shots from the middle nearly as much and are pushing things to the sides at a slower pace so they can get in the lanes. That’s something. It’s not enough but it’s something.

Some others…

37 in 37 (in a row?)

That’s Jonathan Toews the past 37 games. We almost forgot that he only had two points in the first 11 games, where we really started to worry if he’d lost a step. He definitely was a half-step behind the play more than we’d ever seen before. And now he’s been averaging a point-per-game for nearly half a season, and is on pace for 66 points which would be just about what you’d expect. If he were to continue to be a point-per-game, it would be 73. And it’s surprising because A) he’s not lighting it up on the PP like he was last year and B) he hasn’t really been playing with any offensive dynamo. Saad and Kubalik are certainly not bad players, but they aren’t the dynamic forces that Kane or DeBrincat can be. So yeah, we’ll never worry again…until next October, obvi.