So it’s been a long time since we rapped at ya. Plenty to cover, spanning far and wide. Enjoy.
A completely fucking banner 96 hours for Stan Born on Third. Bowman dug deep into his throbbing Krang’s-body brain to:
2. Trade a solid top-6 LW for a defenseman whose greatest contribution to the sporting world tops out at “piques Vince McMahon’s interest.”
3. Piss off the guys who sell the tickets.
The easy argument would be “This is what a rebuild looks like.” Bull fucking shit.
Why Zadorov and why the FUCK now?
There are many, many things to be pissed about regarding the Saad for Zadorov trade. Let’s start with the easiest thing to be pissed about. Zadorov is a Vince McMahon wet dream. He’s big, he’s muscly, and he sucks big ass at defense. Don’t believe me?
“The 25-year-old is a member of the Chicago Blackhawks now because the Avs became tired of his inconsistent play and they probably didn’t want to deal with another contract negotiation for the restricted free agent.” –Mike Chambers, Denver Post, 10/11/2020
“Zadorov is adored by fans and has become a favorite over his five years in Colorado. His teammates also rave about his humor and ability to keep things loose in the locker room. His character might be the only thing he has going for him these days…because defensive ability certainly isn’t.” –Scott MacDonald, Colorado Hockey Now, 9/11/2020
“This looks like a very obvious improvement on behalf of the Avalanche. Zadorov was getting pushed out of the defense group and his defensive mistakes were becoming too much. He now goes to Chicago where their level of defense is much lower while the Avalanche get back a really really good offensive player.” –Hardev Lad, Mile High Hockey, 10/10/2020
Inconsistent play? Bad at defense? He’ll fit right fucking in!
As we’ve vomited out ad nauseum, the Blackhawks learned all the wrong lessons from the Blues winning the Stanley Cup. Saad for Zadorov itself shouldn’t be surprising, given that Stan Bowman has absolutely no idea what a good defenseman looks like. But Zadorov doesn’t have “future contributor” written anywhere on him on a team with any serious intention of being a contender, now or in the future.
Here it is in neurotic nerd form:
McCurdy’s graphs above give a snapshot of a defenseman who’s simply “a guy” at best. He provides little to no offense, which, whatever. His best defensive year was in 2016–17, and his last three years in Colorado were a hobo’s listless shrug.
But Zadorov often finds himself out of position. And one of his supposed strengths is he’s A BRUISER. Which means he takes penalties. Which means he’s off the ice. Which seems like a really bad place for a supposed defensive defenseman—which is how they’ll sell him if they aren’t already—to be. Seems especially bad given how bad the goaltending projects to be relative to what it was when Crow was here. He makes it more likely that we’ll see Malcolm Subban, Collin Delia, or Kevin Lankinen up against a power play behind THIS defense and THIS system (last year’s good PK performance be damned).
This isn’t a brick in the rebuild. It’s a brick you throw through the window because the owners have abandoned the fucking house.
Though Brandon Saad isn’t Hossa Jr. like we wanted him to be, he’s without a doubt a good, possession-conscious, two-way responsible top-6 forward. All Bowman got for him was a guy who likely won’t be here next year. No picks, no prospects, no nothin’, AND they’re retaining $1 million of Saad’s contract. And if you think Zadorov has potential or whatever, congratulations on being Pierre McGuire, I guess.
Trading Maatta and not re-signing Koekkoek was a step in the right direction. They’re depth guys at best, and doing so sprang hope that Mitchell and Boqvist would get real, big boy minutes from the word go. But after seeing how Colliton turned Boqvist into a kicked and scared puppy, you wonder what that opportunity would be worth to him.
Then, after unclogging the defensive toilet, StanBo immediately stuffed a full box of jagged-plastic-applicator tampons down and said, “This is good.” And he lost a solid top-6 winger to do it. And I’m just now realizing that this is how Alex Nylander gets back onto the top 6. Shit on me.
In short, Stan Bowman traded for a defenseman who will likely take time away from Mitchell or Boqvist, and whose most attractive skill is BIG TOUGH. They’re going to throw him into Colliton’s Pollack-on-Krokodil chase-the-shitty-dragon system, despite the fact that the Avs didn’t want him because he sucks at positioning. Oh, and they signed him to a one-year, $3.2 million contract.
That’s not part of a rebuild. It’s fucking hubris.
But wait, there’s more! No Crawford negotiations but money for Zadorov?
Losing Crawford was bad enough. But as Scott Powers reported over the weekend, Bowman didn’t even bother to negotiate with him.
“There just wasn’t much negotiation,” Crawford said. “We thought there would be more talk. I think it was at $3 (million). We just didn’t go back and forth at all, so it just kind of ended there. There’s not much more I can say about that.
“I don’t think it was necessarily (the term). We just didn’t negotiate that much. That’s all it really was. I can’t really say much more about that. Let’s leave it there.” –Corey Crawford, 10/10/2020
What’s done is done, but in light of this Saad for Zadorov trade, it’s even more upsetting. Crow ended up signing in New Jersey for two years and $7.8 million. That’s a $3.9 million cap hit a year for one of the best and most consistent goaltenders in the league. The Hawks have committed $4.2 million in cap space between the Zadorov signing and keeping $1 million of Saad’s contract. That on its own should be grounds for firing. Fuck off with “It’s just this year though.” I do not care.
If it’s about rebuilding, you maybe get them jettisoning Crow. But which moves has Stan made that you trust to help reach that goal?
And that’s not all! The Core is pissed, too
The fucking cherry on top is that Toews, Kane, and Keith are pissed about these moves. They’re especially pissed about the lack of negotiations with Crawford. Most of all, they’re mad that no one seems to have relayed that they’re rebuilding. You may recall earlier in the year that Patrick Kane made mention of The Core wanting a say in the team’s future. In response, Bowman said something along the lines of “Players play and managers manage.”
These players have won three Cups. They play. When the fuck is Bowman going to start managing this team? If your reaction to The Core’s upset is “It’s not their decision to make,” it should horrify you that Bowman is indeed the decision maker here.
Bowman has ridden this Core, which was almost entirely handed to him when he arrived, to three Cups. Now, after beginning to install his vision—which includes Jeremy Colliton as coach, trading for Alex Nylander on purpose, and failing to build a blue line to give his young goaltenders any hope at success, just to name a few moves—his answer to their concerns is “screw.” Yeah, he’s within the realm of his responsibilities to do so, but outside of drafting Dach and re-signing Kubalik for a song of a bridge contract, what’s Bowman done recently to give you the confidence that he’s at all authoritative about what makes a good hockey team?
In the end, this is less of a rebuild and more of a pursuit of stubbornness. Bowman is going all-in not with The Core that’s won him three Cups; not with a core of young talent combined with a coaching staff that can foster their strengths and patch their weaknesses; but with this Pretty Little Coach and his Shitty Little System that makes anyone in it for long enough worse. No one listens to, respects, or wants to play for Colliton, because he’s a bad coach with a bad system. Instead of admitting fault, Bowman will shift blame and build around his good-looking hunk of walking hubris, because that’s what being born on third is all about.
Toews, Kane, and Keith each have no-movement clauses. Toews has made it abundantly clear that he’s not going anywhere. Keith doesn’t sound interested in moving either, presumptively with how tough it’ll be for him to find a mover who can safely transport whatever crystals he’s healing with these days. And if Kane decides to waive his NMC, it’ll likely put the team’s budget actually in the red. All the while, the actual young talent is under the tutelage of a coach whose biggest possible contribution would be not teaching them anything he knows at all.
The goddamn plane has crashed into the mountain.
The message to Corey and to everyone else today is that we’ve decided we have some young goaltenders here in Chicago we believe in. –Stan Bowman
The indignities never cease.
We all sort of knew it was coming, but it doesn’t make it hurt any less. The Hawks won’t be re-signing Corey Crawford. There are few superlatives you can apply to Corey Crawford that could adequately describe what he meant to this franchise. The most playoff wins for a Hawks goalie ever (52), two Cups, a .918 SV% over 14 years in a league that didn’t employ dog catchers and train hoppers on the top lines, and countless instances of pulling the Hawks’s collective ass out of a sling when they didn’t deserve anything more than swirlee.
He’s always been our Dangerfield. From bringing in Marty Turco for REASONS; to walking smegma trap Pierre McGuire costing him a Conn Smythe with that WEAK GLOVE horseshit that fueled a fire of giardiniera fartin’, cousin fuckin’ angst among the unwashed; to the constant bus tossings the organ-I-zation couldn’t wet themselves quickly enough to dole out in an effort to offshore blame, Corey Crawford never really got the respect he deserved.
We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again: His number belongs in the rafters. I’ll go so far as to say he should go down as the greatest goaltender in Hawks history. Better than Tony O. Better than Glenn Hall. Better than Belfour.
Corey Crawford (and a pandemic, obviously) took this year’s version of the Chicago Blackhawks—a team that iced one of the worst defenses in recent memory—to the playoffs. We surely don’t need to remind you of the Cam Ward/Collin Delia trainwreck of last year, wherein goaltenders not named Corey Crawford averaged a 3.64 GAA and .900 SV%. Throughout his career, Crow made excellent teams into world beaters and pisspoor teams into something feigning passable.
Save his FUCKIN’ RIGHT moment, Crow did it all with quiet, big-dick confidence. No moment ever seemed too big or overwhelming—not even the rough start he had to the Nashville series in ‘15, which Crow came back to save in the end. His memory was short (thanks in no small part to the Hawks’s complete dereliction of player safety, we’re sure), his butterfly pristine, and his presence the one thing you could nearly always count on.
Now we get to worry about the Hawks exploring a trade for Marc-Andre Fleury and his $7 million cap hit, because that has Stan Bowman written all fucking over it. And the free agent market isn’t particularly appetizing, unless you’re counting on a big bounce back from Holtby or are willing to rely on, like, Cam the Magic Talbot. We’d love it if Malcolm Subban would slot in, but, ya know. Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen behind this defense? The Hawks may not win 15 games next year if that’s what they go with.
You can talk about Crow’s age and recent health as reasons not to re-sign him, along with the Hawks’s tenuous cap positioning. We get that, but we don’t buy it. And it’s possible, perhaps even likely, that Crawford told everyone in the front office to cram whatever offer they had up their ass and spin. That’s the version I’m going to believe, regardless of the fact that that doesn’t seem like Crawford’s style. But it’s hard to look past the difference between the Hawks with Crawford and without him. It’s not like Crow underperformed last year, after all.
It’s tough to lose the best goaltender in team history, someone who still has cornerstone performances in him. It’s a heartbreaker that it’s Crawford, someone who did so much right, so little wrong, and still got unduly treated like he’s not the greatest goaltender the organization’s ever seen.
Of every game I’ve seen and experience I’ve had related to Crow, the one I’ll remember most was meeting him at a signing in a fucking mattress store. What struck me most was how kind, humble, and grateful he was to be in the position he was in. It was a fleeting moment, but I’ll never forget how there wasn’t the slightest hint of arrogance in him. That’s truly a marvel for an athlete of his pedigree.
So long, Crow. A cornerstone on two Cup winners, Crow was also the biggest reason the Hawks even feigned competitiveness over the last three years (Lehner was good too, but fuck him). Without him, the house of cards looks to fall apart.
But as they say, nothing gold can stay.
– In other news of less import, the Hawks traded Olli Maatta for some guy on the Kings. A pure salary dump move, kudos to Bowman for getting anything at all back for Maatta. While it’s a foregone conclusion that Brad Morrison won’t be Dominik Kubalik, he can be a depth centerman on Rockford or something. Maybe. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that a spot has opened up for Ian “Good Fucking Luck, Kid” Mitchell, provided Coach Nathan For You keeps the press box buffet stocked.
– The draft was whatever. You sort of got the feeling that Crow wasn’t coming back with the Hawks selecting Drew Commesso in the second round. Their first rounder, LW Lukas Reichel, doesn’t move many needles at first glance. But in a tradition started by Fels, we’re not going to pretend we watch anything related to juniors. He’s from Europe, which has always boded well for the Hawks. Outside that, we don’t expect anyone from this draft class to make any difference one way or another under the current Kane and Toews contract terms.
That’s all for now.
Or 3 to 1, whatever. What a perfect microcosm of what you could only loosely call any of the Hawks’s success this year. The team gets its doors blown entirely off the hinges, only to win on the back of their rafter-worthy best goaltender in team history. We are all vile, disgusting creatures who do not deserve the radiance that is Corey Crawford. And yet, he giveth for at least one more game.
– Corey Crawford is the only reason this team avoids two consecutive first-round sweeps. The Hawks were completely overwhelmed from the get-go and if not for Crawford may have given up 10. He’s the best this franchise has ever seen, and we have the privilege to see it in real time. Getting to watch him could be your only reason for wanting this iteration of the Hawks to keep winning. You’d be completely justified.
He stopped 48 of 49 tonight. The Knights had the puck for more than 70% of the game. Their team xGF% was 71+. And Crawford held them to a single goal. According to NaturalStatTrick, Crawford stopped all nine high-danger shots, although it felt like each and every one was of the high-danger variety. The Hawks had no business winning this game, and yet, Corey Crawford willed them to it.
The Hawks might not be so lucky if Crawford chooses not to stay, or worse, they don’t offer him a contract. Without him, the Hawks will be lucky to win 15 games total next year. He deserves his number in the rafters and anyone who disagrees can kiss my ass and call it a love story.
– Adam Boqvist is getting swallowed whole, and it fucking sucks to watch. Granted, throwing him in the deep end against Vegas was never going to flesh out. But it’s clear he’s overwhelmed and in his own head. The concern isn’t so much how he does in this series but whether this truly awful experience sours the team on him. I am extremely excited for Bowman to trade him for Kris Russell and point to tonight as justification.
– Top Cat finally bagged one. Even if it’s of the empty-net variety, we’ll take it. He’s been much more noticeable and aggressive over the last two games, and managed to be a rare instance of sweeping the puck out of a danger zone and into the corner late in the third. DeBrincat will always make his money scoring goals, but he’s got a sneaky ability to cause more turnovers than you’d expect. Just before his empty netter, he popped a puck loose at neutral ice and created a partial breakaway for himself.
– After the first period, Alex Nylander had more time on ice than Toews, Saad, Kubalik, and Dach. It wasn’t much more, but it was still more. He proceeded to post a goddamn motherfucking 6.25 CF% in four fucking minutes and 25 fucking seconds. One shot for versus 15 fucking shots against. That’s fucking profound. The very fact that this happened during an elimination game WITH THE LAST CHANGE should be enough to get Jeremy Colliton fired. It doesn’t matter how it happened, or why it happened, or that it may have happened because of an extra-long shift (guess how those extra-long shifts happen when he’s on the ice). That it happened at all is the problem.
The act of dressing Alex Nylander at all is lineup management malfeasance. Each and every time he is on the ice, the Hawks turn it over and the Knights end up with extended pressure. Every single time. He may have the individual tools to impress in non-game situations. But he is certainly not an NHL-caliber forward on this Blackhawks team, and likely isn’t one period the end.
Dress Sikura. Dress Hagel. Fuck, dress SAM’S GUY Philipp Kurashev. It may seem like pointless griping, since Nylander didn’t end up affecting much nor did he play much after the first, but it’s not. It’s the purest and most obvious example of Jeremy Colliton not knowing how to manage a lineup whatsoever. And if the next argument is “Well Bowman must be having a say in it,” that could be even worse.
There is nothing we learned tonight other than what we already knew. Corey Crawford is the most important player on this team by a country mile and the best goaltender in franchise history. We get to hold onto that and see him at least one more time. That’s enough for me.
Booze du Jour: Coffee
Unspoken Line of the Night: I don’t think anyone Eddie and Pat knew died, which is good.
It’s not quite a surprise, and it’s not quite a disappointment. But there’s a melancholy about this loss. It’s partly the fact that Vegas comfortably coasted like a vegetable-oil-powered hatchback downhill and still stifled the Hawks. It’s partly the fact no matter how you slice it, this defensive system sucks shit. They didn’t get van Hagar’d, which is something I guess. Let’s pan for gold in this indoor outhouse.
– At least Kirby Dach was noticeable for the first half of the game. His greenness came through on his first instance of noticeableness, as he held the puck way too long on a 2-on-1 with DeBrincat while waiting for a passing lane to open up. Everything prior to his shitting the stage was good though, as he showed off hands by taking a pass in stride through the neutral zone before passing off to Kane, speed and power weaving the puck into the zone, and vision by looking for DeBrincat in the first place. But as we’ve found ourselves saying more than once during this run, just shoot that, baby.
But Dach learned quickly, taking a one-timer off a nice DeBrincat pass following a forced turnover. And later in that same period, Dach just missed Kane stalking in front of the net with a backhand pass from behind the goal line. He became less noticeable as the game went on, but there were things to like about what he did tonight. The Hawks have something in him. Whether they use him correctly going forward will be the big question.
– Adam Boqvist isn’t a defensive defenseman. That would be fine if he also weren’t petrified of making a mistake with the puck. The whole point of drafting him was to develop him as a puck-moving play maker. At no point did he show any ability to do that tonight, while also getting totally pantsed by luminaries like Ryan Reaves.
Pairing him with Duncan Keith doesn’t help him at all. Keith simply does not give enough of a shit to pare his game back and play centerfield for Boqvist, which is what Boqvist needs if he’s ever going to develop the way the Hawks need him to. By no means should we or the Hawks give up on him. But they have to set him up for success, which they have utterly failed to do all season.
– On that note, I would like to double or even triple down on the notion that Jeremy Colliton’s defensive system sucks unwiped ass. On the Knights’s first goal, we had Duncan Keith chasing Reilly Smith from below the goal line up past the near-circle dot, leaving Adam Boqvist and Dylan Strome to defend down low. I’ll grant that this is a shot that Crawford should have had. But the system itself forces Duncan Keith to rove between the goal line and beyond the dot by himself, as Strome and Boqvist stick to their men down low. This gives Shea Theodore way too much time and space to create a play, whether a quick wrister or a potential rebound in an area where the alleged defenders aren’t defenders at all, but rather Adam fucking Boqvist and Dylan fucking Strome.
Part of coaching is simply knowing your players’ strengths and weaknesses, but here’s Coach Nathan For You expecting a light-in-the-ass Boqvist and Dylan Strome to guard the net, and Duncan Keith to do everything else. Brilliant.
The second goal was a perfect example of how this Colliton system can do everything right and still trip over its own dick.
On this goal, it looks like everyone has their man covered. But that doesn’t fucking matter if your team is both too slow and too inexperienced to anticipate. Boqvist follows Roy past the dot by design, opening up space for Ryan Reaves down low. Reaves manages to pump fake Keith and curl back, leaving Keith flat footed. With Boqvist past the circle covering Roy, the system now relies on Matthew Highmore to stick with Carrier. He falls down trying to do so.
The biggest problem is that Ryan Reaves has both time and space to create a play because Keith has no real support on his back end. Boqvist is on the same side as him, and Highmore is overwhelmed by Carrier, who managed to shake Highmore off and get back to his feet to sweep the puck in. THIS IS WHAT THE SYSTEM IS SUPPOSED TO LOOK LIKE. It relies too heavily on guys who simply can’t match up one-on-one, and when one of those guys is even slightly out of position, the entire system falls apart. Where’s the upside to this?
– Though we can bitch and moan about the system (and we will at every chance we get, dear reader), we’d me remiss if we didn’t admit that this was not a good Corey Crawford game. Though there’s a lot to hate about how the first goal developed systematically, that’s a shot Crow should have. Neither Boqvist nor Stasny really screened Crow on this one. You can argue that system fucked Crow, but it’s a shot he should have had, regardless.
Reilly Smith’s goal (#3 for Vegas) was another inexcusable goal. Yes, Toews’s pass through the neutral zone was bad and directly led to the chance. But it was a straightforward wrister that Crow just failed to absorb. The Hawks need Crawford to be everything and more to have a shot in this series, and those two goals were backbreakers.
– Brandon Saad was very good for some of the game. His pressure and power on Theodore led to Kampf’s goal on the penalty kill, and he was one of just three Hawks to be above water in possession tonight with a team-leading 54+% share. (The other two were Dominik Kubalik and Alex Nylander, which fucking rules).
– We can give the Hawks some credit for limiting the high-danger chances in the first and second, and even for controlling possession for the second. But watching this game, you get the feeling that Vegas was doing an after-morning-sex stretch with them through the first 40. Despite being down a goal going into the third, the Hawks only managed five shots in the third and only had the puck for 37% of the time. It’s one thing to play a faux trap early. It’s another to play to your weakness despite the situation, which is exactly what PARADIGM-CHANGING COACH Jeremy Colliton chose to do.
– Robin Lehner lost two skate blades while the Hawks had possession, once on the goddamn power play, and the Hawks fired one shot on goal that technically wasn’t a shot on goal because it hit the post. But please, tell me more about how Jeremy Colliton is a coaching wunderkind whose players definitely listen to him and who has them all dialed in with the focus required to take advantage of a fucking goaltender without a fucking skate blade. Twice.
– Kane’s been awfully quiet for Kane these playoffs, which might throw a wrench in the one cool move Colliton has in the magic bag of tricks he stole from Felix the Cat’s loser fucking dropout cousin, Horace the Fucking Moron.
Vegas is just that much better than the Hawks. Unless Crow throws up a .950 for the rest of the series, there’s not much they can do except try to go air raid, which simply won’t work against a team that can gobble up the puck as much as the Knights can. The best we can look for is development and improvement from guys like Dach, Boqvist, Kubalik, and DeBrincat. We’ll take that.
Booze du Jour: Maker’s and Evan Williams
Line of the Night: “Edmonton could not check their hat in the qualifying round.” -Eddie O.
Well, it finally happened. The Hawks made it back to the playoffs. Yippee, yahoo, and such and such. All it took was a pandemic and its resultant and necessary return to play tournament against an opponent who couldn’t want to impale itself in its collective dick with a Hattori Hanzo sword. And what did they get for their troubles? A matchup against a team they’ve beaten once in their three years of existence, and who couldn’t be a worse stylistic matchup. But hey, it’s the beginning of another Hawks Renaissance.
It was always going to shake out this way wasn’t it? In a year where the Hawks finally tried to fully supplant Corey Crawford in net with noted asswipe Robin Lehner, or at the very least cover themselves against more Crawford injuries, the Hawks were out of it by the deadline, and decided to get what they could for Lehner after he very publicly started demanding to finally be paid what he’s worth, even as Crawford was outplaying him and had been for a couple of months. He was shipped to Vegas who could no longer rely on Marc-Andre Fleury despite giving him a huge contract after harnessing the Reality Stone in the 2018 post-season, and now with the wacky return to play tournament format, the two teams find themselves squaring off against one another for the fate of all humanity.
We are all vile disgusting creatures who do not, have never, and will never deserve Corey Crawford.
— Matt McClure (@Matt_McClure_) August 8, 2020
– 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.
It can never be said that the general public wasn’t warned about this. This series was always going to be frustrating, surrealist theater with members of each bench desperately trying to give games away, and by the time the final horn blew on Wednesday night, the Oilers had managed to do so in rather impressive fashion, and now sit on the brink of heading home from the preliminary round of whatever these playoffs are despite having at least one, if not two, of the best players on the planet.
It was sloppy. It was confusing. It was a total fucking rush. Warts and all, the Blackhawks are now a win away from advancing to the next round of the playoffs. I’m way too drunk to taste this chicken, so let’s rush through whatever it was we just saw.
– As the Toews line goes, so go the Hawks. Each of Saad, Toews, and Kubalik ended up with 56+ CF%s at 5v5, and most of their time came against either McDavid or Draisaitl. Both McJesus and Leon the Ladies Man were underwater when up against the Toews line, which echoed the success the Hawks had in Game 1. It’s clear that when this line can possess the puck, the Hawks have a shot.
On top of it all, Jonathan Toews found himself in the right place at the right time twice tonight. Both of his goals were of the tip-in variety. On the first, he pulled a [insert whoever’s a good goal scorer in soccer here, I dunno, what’s that one guy’s name who committed tax fraud or whatever], toeing a loose puck past Koskinen without even knowing it. On the second, he tipped a point shot from our sweet boy CONNOR MURPHY for the game winner. This guy fucks.
And Saad had a game of almost himself, janking two pucks off the post. When this line is on, the Hawks can.
– Now THAT’S the Corey Crawford on whose hill I will die to have his number in the rafters. Despite The Harlem Draisaitls featuring Connor McDavid, Crawford managed to keep this fart-powered jalopy of a defense from completely dicking the outcome, with at least four high-quality saves at crucial junctures. Aside from a minor puck-handling snafu in the second, Crawford was poised and on his game all night. Had this been the Crawford of Games 1 or 2, the Hawks would have given up eight.
– Kirby Dach. It’s amazing what this kid can do when given the chance. He came up with just one “excuse me” primary assist, but he contributed so much more. He had a 54 CF% for one. He managed to enter the zone with speed on a power play in the second period, which is as monumental a feat as discovering extraterrestrial life that shits Cheesy Gordida Crunches. He even played a decent amount on the penalty kill. Whenever he’s on the ice, the Hawks tend to find success, and it’s been a joy watching him grow into what looks to be a legitimate #1 center for the future.
– Although we love the outcome, the process of getting there is untenable. While it’s little surprise that the Hawks managed just one power play goal on six motherfucking attempts, it’s the reason why that continues to annoy.
It’s cool that they managed to wet dream themselves a PP goal on a 5-on-3 with five forwards on the ice. But every other PP opportunity they had fell back into the old Carmelo Kane routine on the right-side boards. On top of that, Coach Nathan For You has continued to place Toews as a rover and Kubalik in the high slot, which is the exact opposite of each player’s strengths.
It’s easy to forget that the Hawks were a top 10 PP team last year. And as we discussed way back then, a lot of that had to do with Toews’s positioning in the high slot. He’s much more apt to tip a rebound or sweep a shot in than to fire one off a hard slapshot from the top circle like Kubalik can do. Had Coach Galaxy Brain had the wherewithal to understand that this was one the few things he’s managed to get right in his tenure, perhaps we don’t have to prolapse our collective anus in anticipation of a late game winner.
Dominik Kubalik ought to be the rover, not Toews.
– When the Blackhawks inevitably refuse to buy out Olli Maatta and point to his two goals in this series as justification, remember that he was not only on the ice for each of the Oilers’s three goals tonight but also a direct contributor to each of them.
On the first, Maatta tried to one-hand a pass up the end boards under pressure, despite knowing that the leading scorer in the entire goddamn motherfucking game was on the ice. While the puck took a funny hop off the end boards and eluded Koekkoek and Carpenter, there’s no reason for it to get to the point where Tyler Ennis (skypoint) can simply shovel a pass through the blue paint to a horny and prepared Draisaitl. But Maatta is too slow to catch up to plays like that. Thus.
On the second goal, Maatta had a front-row seat to watch Draisaitl pot a rebound after a good Crawford save following Highmore’s egregious turnover. If he had a speed greater than dripping pitch, it’s unlikely Draisaitl has a lane to crash as unopposed.
On the third goal, Maatta found himself on the penalty kill, which is a problem per se. Admittedly, it’s hard to blame Maatta for this one, given how fucking good Connor McDavid is. But also, the Hawks need to buy out Olli Maatta this off-season. So there.
–Feather’s guy Slater Koekkoek had himself a good night for Slater Koekkoek. He was a little bit underwater in possession, but he fired home the shot that Highmore tipped for the tying goal. That’s all you can ask.
– Alex Nylander was unnoticeable, which rules for a change.
Jesus Christ. It’s like losing to your virginity to a shy crush. Though McDavid and Draisaitl CAN do it all, if this Crawford shows up again on Friday, it might not fucking matter.
Drink that whiskey. Rock over London. Rock on, Chicago.
Booze du Jour: Firestone Nitro something, then about half a handle of Maker’s