Hockey

The Ducks aren’t a good team, the Hawks aren’t a good team, and there was plenty of dumb bullshit to go around. But, if the Hawks want to at least have a semblance of dignity (and are willing to not worry about the draft pick ramifications), they need to beat these teams that are even worse than they are. And that’s what happened so we’ll go with it:

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

–In the spirit of not burying the lede, Adam Boqvist and Dylan Strome both had a very good night. Let’s start with Boqvist: his pass to set up Caligula’s goal in the first was spot on and was an identical repeat of a play he had against the Panthers. So yes, let’s have this pass for a tap-in become a habit of his. He also had the secondary assist on Strome’s first goal, and at the other side of the ice, it was his defensive play that set up Nylander’s goal in the second. That may sound like yeah, a good defensive play, that’s your job description, but that goal was the point where the game broke open, so that particular stop carries some weight. As for Dylan Strome, he’s been in a weird limbo since coming back from his ankle injury, and being marooned as a winger wasn’t really working. Tonight he was back at center and having Patrick Kane on the wing will always make you look good. But Strome took full advantage of the situation and had a three-point period in the second (2 goals, 1 assist).

Corey Crawford was outstanding again and then fucking Ryan Getzlaf had to go jumping up to knee him in the head in the third. This shouldn’t surprise anyone at this point, but Crow finished the night with a .949 SV%, and at key moments before the Hawks piled up a bunch of goals, he was keeping them in the game. To wit, the first period was mostly a dull back-and-forth until Crawford had to make a flurry of saves in the last 5 minutes, and he withstood a 5-on-3 in the second. Danton Heinen‘s goal in the second was your typical defensive breakdown and can’t be chalked up to a mistake on Crawford’s part. Carter Rowney‘s was a bit soft but also seemed to be a redirect. Getzlaf’s stupid ass could have avoided leaping into him, but he clearly couldn’t be bothered to avoid kneeing the opposing goalie in the head. What a piece of shit. But, the other part of this is whether Coach Pete should have just kept Crow out the rest of the game. The Hawks were up 5-1 with almost half the third period over…was it really necessary to send him back out there? I’m not saying, I’m just saying. Either way, let it be known that Corey Crawford is the hero we need but don’t deserve.

–Also, for the record, I’d like to see what Malcolm Subban can really do and if he can be a decent/reliable backup or 1B. I just don’t want to see it because Crawford took a head injury from a stupid asshole play, obviously. But this may have been the moment to just leave Subban out there to close out a game that was damn close to blow-out status

–Oh Alex Nylander…don’t for a minute think he’s anything other than a bust. He had a couple good plays (I for one was surprised he scored on his goal and wanted him to pass instead, so that shows what I know). So we’ll have to keep watching them try to make Fetch happen.

–In general though, I didn’t hate the lines tonight. The Nylander-Strome-Kane line obviously was a scoring juggernaut, but overall I was glad to see Toews, Strome and Dach as the first three centers. Kubalik-Toews-Saad is also just a sensible top line (finally). They didn’t score but still managed six shots and had a 66 CF% at evens.

–If you need more evidence that Ryan Getzlaf sucks, he let Matthew Highmore steal the puck and get past him for a short-handed opportunity in the third. Luckily for him Highmore sucks too and didn’t convert, but he would later have a nice pass to David Kampf for the sixth goal, thanks to Getzlaf’s lazy-ass effort. Ya hate to see it.

Tonight was a win they had to have, and historically they’ve blown those opportunities. So we’ll take what we can get and just be glad they didn’t cough up a hairball against this half-assed excuse for a team on their home ice. Onward and upward…

 

 

Hockey

We know exactly what it feels like to be what the Habs were tonight…dominant in possession yet unable to capitalize on the power play and losing to a mediocre team. The difference is, the Hawks have excellent goaltending and Montreal most certainly did not. Although Crawford (great as he was) isn’t the only story tonight. Some fourth-line luck and decent special teams work did what they’re supposed to do, and were enough for a win. Let’s get to it:

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

–It’s hard to believe I’m writing this, but Zack Smith was the difference-maker tonight, proving that there really is a first time for everything. But hey, good for him, right? Early in the first, he and Drake Caggiula took advantage of Charlie Lindgren being Charlie Lindgren when there was a bad turnover behind the Habs net on the PK, and it resulted in Smith scoring a short-handed goal. Then Smith potted another (even strength) goal barely three minutes later, and it was undoubtedly the best period of his life. It’s easy to laugh at the situation, or laugh at the Habs for letting this bum score twice on them, but honestly it was downright refreshing to have someone different step up and score. Especially with this being the second of a back-to-back, having the fourth line eat up some minutes and be productive while doing so was exactly what was needed.

–Related: when Drake Caggiula scores on you, you suck. Sorry, Lindgren, but it’s true.

–On the other hand, Dominik Kubalik suddenly couldn’t buy a goal, and not for lack of trying. He had three shots, all of which would have been easy goals, well, last night or any game in the last little stretch here. They were those point-blank shots that make you wonder how it couldn’t possibly have gone in because given the laws of physics, it would seem much more likely that the puck would go in rather than stay out. In fact the top line as a whole struggled to find the back of the net, and it was when Caligula moved off the top line that he did end up scoring. It’s really not a big deal (who gives a shit if they don’t score in one game?), but my concern is that Coach Cool Youth Pastor will use this as proof that Kubalik-Toews-Kane isn’t the right combo for the top line because they didn’t score in the .02 seconds they had on the ice together. But here goes dumb ‘ole Caggiula scoring so he’ll be back on the top line by Saturday.

Adam Boqvist had a couple nice plays, although the stats were rather ugly for the night. In the first period he saved a goal when Crawford got lost in space and couldn’t make it back to the far post in time, and it was a good keep by Boqvist at the blue line that set up Top Cat’s power play goal in the second. He flashed some speed but finished with a miserable 24 CF%, so cherry pick whatever you want from that information. Our other tender-age star, Kirby Dach, had a no-good very bad game. In the first, he broke his stick on an power play attempt, right in the slot and you could practically hear the sad trombone sound, and he followed it up by taking a penalty a few seconds later to negate the advantage for the Hawks. Even beyond that, he fumbled shots, and his line with DeBrincat and Kampf only managed a 38 CF% at evens. Like the top line, it was nothing to get upset about–both Boqvist and Dach are going to have games like this–but it’s becoming worrisome that Dach has struggled for a couple weeks because he needs confidence and decent coaching at this impressionable stage. Right now he seems to be sorely lacking both.

Corey Crawford was outstanding as usual in Montreal. Admittedly he looked a little shaky in the first, particularly when he fell on his ass behind the net, all by himself, but it obviously only injured his pride. Losing his net when Boqvist had to bail him out was also concerning, but when it mattered most he was lights-out. He finished with a .970 SV%, and the one goal he did give up came in the midst of the Habs completely running over the Toews line, in one of the stretches where it felt like the Hawks were dispossessed for hours at a time (there were many of these). For all the Habs’ dominance in possession, he was up to the task the rest of the time with a number of excellent saves, and overcame some rebound issues early on. People can sing Lehner’s praises all they want, but Crawford is god.

–It was good to see DeBrincat score, especially on a power play. Nothing earth-shattering, but let’s take what we can get.

So far, so good on this road trip. Or train trip, which the broadcast wouldn’t shut the fuck up about. They honestly sounded like old-timey boosters describing the wonders of the new iron horse, as if millions of people don’t take trains every damn day (and as if professional soccer teams in Europe don’t use them constantly to get to games). Dumbasses. But hey, wins are wins, so onward and upward…

Hockey

This was a well-played game. Yeah, that’s right, I said they were good! Of course there were a few defensive breakdowns and they gave up a total of 16 high-danger chances, but they stayed right around 50 CF% as a team, they actually led in shots (38-32), and also gave up way fewer than 40 shots on the night. That alone is notable. Plus, only three of those high-danger chances came in the third so essentially they not only held a lead but extended it, took advantage of their one power play opportunity, and tightened up defensively when needed. Oh, and their goaltender was pretty OK too I guess. To the bullets:

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

–The story tonight again was Corey Crawford, and really the goaltending in general. But let’s be honest, Crow was amazing, particularly during some scrums in the second period, such as during the PK on Shaw’s dumbass penalty (how many more times are we going to say that? Wait, I don’t want to know). The Hawks gave up 14 shots in the second, their worst period in that measure, and yes Calvin de Haan deserves credit for saving a goal but Crawford was basically the first and second star tonight (at least, to me his is). It seems safe to say at this point that balancing the workload with Robin Lehner is really working for Crawford, and it makes sense as he’s getting older and has more time to recover from shit like the two shots he saved with his facemask tonight. I’m not suggesting he’s concussed every time a puck hits him above the shoulders, but it’s just punishing in general to get hit with shit at high speeds, and the extra time to rest between games certainly doesn’t seem to be breaking his rhythm or his comfort in the crease. He’s the hero we need but don’t deserve.

Anton Khudobin was really fucking good too, though, and the Hawks should be damn proud that they got two by him. The first by Brandon Saad was squeezed through a closing five hole like the Millennium Falcon escaping closing monster jaws. The second was Patrick Kane‘s that keeps his scoring streak going, and it was on their lone power play. That goal came in the third and basically sealed the game, and it was pretty classic where Kane held the pass as everyone in the UC—and me leaping off my couch—screamed for him to shoot but he held on just long enough to get Khudobin out of position. Well, really Khudobin was already flopping a bit but Kane’s patience faked him out just enough. It was a thing of beauty.

–And our Large Irish Son capped it off with the empty netter, which always seems like something we can never manage.

–One downside was that Dylan Strome was scratched for concussion protocol, but Kirby Dach did a fine job filling in on the second line. Granted, that line was still shitty defensively (35.7 CF% and 9 SA) but Dach played well and given Coach Gemstone’s predisposition to be randomly shitty to Strome, there’s a chance Dach plays himself right into Strome’s job. I don’t want that and I still say that DeBrincat-Strome-Kane is a no-brainer while Dach should play with Kampf and Kubalik, but I’m also saying don’t be surprised if the new kid supplants Strome, who ends up getting traded in a typical lack of foresight.

–Speaking of forward lines, the fourth line of Smith-Carpenter-Highmore was excellent. They had a 77.8 CF% at evens and a total of 5 shots between them. Early on in the first when the Hawks were getting outplayed, Zack Smith even had a breakaway that of course he couldn’t finish on because he’s Zack Smith, but still you gotta appreciate the effort. They were solid throughout and exactly what you want out of a fourth line.

–And, let’s just note for the record that the Hawks killed both penalties they gave up, and took advantage of the one power play they had. It was a little questionable with Erik Gustafsson as the only defenseman out there on the power play but as we saw, it ended up not being a problem. It was a relief to see them 1) not give up a shitload of penalties and 2) not fall to pieces when they gave up the two penalties that they did. We need special teams to keep this up.

–I also have to say, given everything that’s going on with the NHL right now with asshole coaches, endemic racism and bullying, and hopefully the start of a general reckoning with deep-seated cultural problems in this sport, I was relieved to not be listening to Pat and Eddie tonight. I pictured myself wincing every time Foley opened his mouth, worried about what ass-backward thing he would say if any of the recent news came up. And for the record, AJ Mleczko was knowledgeable, confident and had a nice TV voice—she was a pleasure to listen to and way less annoying of a between-the-glass person than that jamoke the local broadcast has been putting out there. She handled color commentary and the bench interviews and was excellent the whole time. Can we please try having more women in these roles?

The Stars’ winning streak and the Hawks’ losing streak are both over, good riddance. It’s not getting any easier with two against Colorado after the turkey coma, but if they can play like this it may just stay interesting. Onward and upward.

Line of the night: “He can scoot!” –John Forslund describing Kirby Dach, who is probably the only guy you could say that about and not get your ass kicked (yet).

Beer de jour: Busted Prop Wheat, Crystal Lake Brewing

 

Everything Else

Tonight was a goalie win and this is why I love Corey Crawford. There were some other bright spots but the Hawks yet again gave up a ridiculous number of shots and Crow pulled not just his usual headstand in Montreal but a season-high and even a career-high in saves. Let’s get to the bullets!

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

– Crawford definitely recovered from his illness the other day, and he’s the reason the Hawks won this game. He stopped 48 shots tonight, and his saves ranged from the flashy highlight reel ones to workaday solid positioning. His rebound control was excellent. And while the Hawks defense was relatively decent through two periods and the start of the third (including a key penalty kill), by the second half of the third they crumbled and basically tried to do a performance art interpretation of their Wednesday night debacle. Even before that, Crawford repeatedly kept them in the game when they were scoreless or then clinging to a one-goal lead. Overall the number of shots he faced was absurd and a return to the bad old days like what  we saw the other night, after a few games of the Hawks giving up under 30 SOG which apparently was a lucky fluke. After the injuries and all the bullshit (and literal shits), Crawford is still god.

– The lines got shuffled at the end, but for the majority of the game the top line of Saad-Toews-Sikura was dominant. Together these three had a 65 CF%, and between them nine shots. Sikura continued to not score…and it’s becoming laughable and sad at the same time. He was excellent tonight overall, with four shots including one goalpost that missed by maybe a couple millimeters, and a give-and-go with Perlini at the end of the third where Perlini was trying SO HARD to get him the puck and passed it into Sikura’s skates instead of putting it on his stick. The kid had a 58 CF% on the night and was all over the ice. Either he’ll score 10 goals in one game, or he will never score one ever in his life (with the Hawks at least).

– Also impressive from the top line was Brandon Saad. Right at the start he had some nice takeaways and also straight-up burned Shea Weber, which is always enjoyable. He wasn’t as noticeable offensively after the first period but he was fast and smart with the puck all night. Jonathan Toews, on the other hand, must have run over the ref’s dog or banged his daughter or something because he got called for two bullshit penalties. Toews was fine for the most part but definitely not happy with the officiating. It was the second silly call that led to the penalty kill right at the start of the third, which luckily they got through, and then Perlini scored and they got some breathing room.

– On that note, Perlini scored again, so thumbs up to him hitting a hot streak at exactly the right time. And in the most festive aspect of the game on this St. Patrick’s Day weekend, our Large Irish Son scored the first goal! Connor Murphy played really well the entire night so it’s fitting that he got the go-ahead goal. Now, he and Slater Koekkoek didn’t exactly light up the possession numbers (a wretched 33 CF% for the pair and Murphy individually was no better). But in yet another case of the eye test and the numbers not matching up, Murphy’s positioning around the net was great and he had multiple clears that at least helped Crawford, which is more than can be said for some of the other jamokes. The possession leader on the defense tonight was Nachos with a whopping 45 CF%, so don’t let Murphy’s numbers fool you. He was good tonight.

– The power play has continued to go cold, which in a way is a course correction? Maybe? If I say it like that will I stop worrying so much? After being so terrible for so long and then so unstoppable for a stretch I guess it stands to reason that it would cool off a little. But I won’t lie—it would be encouraging if they could at least get one goal on the man advantage if they’re going to cosplay that they’re a playoff team. Did you know it’s been since the Anaheim game on February 27th that they got a power play goal? If you did, I’m sorry. If you didn’t, I’m even sorrier.

Two points are two points and they need every single one right now. Also lol Montreal, it’s great when we’re not the only ones who fuck it up when it matters. If the Hawks are really going to steal the last wild card they have to keep this going on Monday. Can they? At this point it’s anyone’s guess who shows up, but at least we know what Crawford is still capable of. Onward and upward…

 

Everything Else

Tonight’s game was quite a throwback—to stupidity, dirty hits, pointless fights, everything you remember from the bad old days! This marks two games in a row where the Blackhawks have had a player thrown out, which tells you nearly all you need to know. Let’s get to it:

Box Score

Corsica

Natural Stat Trick

–The Hawks actually made it over 10 minutes without giving up a goal in the first period. This is where we’re at now, when going half of the first without falling behind is a major step. Putting aside the blackness of that reality, not only did they avoid giving up multiple goals early, they even answered the Flames’ first goal with a classic forehand-backhand by Jonathan Toews, which just de-pantsed Mike Smith. So the game didn’t get off to TOO terrible of a start, although it must be said that the Flames outshot the Hawks 18-6 in the first. Think about that for a minute. They gave up 18 shots in one period, which is bad enough, and that was a full three times the number of shots they themselves managed. What does this tell you? One, is that they barely clung to life in that period. Two, is that the only reason they did so was because Corey Crawford is unreal. He had multiple saves in the first that kept the game from getting out of hand early, including after Forsling had a bad giveaway, and also on the PK after Kunitz took Dumb Penalty #1 (more on that later). Crawford hasn’t exactly been lights out in his last few games, but none of the goals tonight can be pinned on him as bad or soft ones. He was definitely back to form.

–And man did we need him to be. The level of stupidity tonight was really something to behold. After getting out of the first tied at one and with a tenuous hold on things through 4-on-4 to start the second, Chris Kunitz went full-on Neanderthal and elbowed Travis Hamonic in what can only be described as a dickhead play. Hamonic’s head was down, but Kunitz went high with the elbow and he was getting rid of the puck so it was both foolish and dangerous. Kunitz fully deserved the major penalty and game misconduct. And of course, the Flames scored twice on the ensuing extended power play. Those goals made the difference in the game, and they were entirely because of Kunitz being a stupid asshole. If he isn’t stapled to a chair in the pressbox for the rest of the season that will prove once and for all that the Hawks’ brass is incompetent, doesn’t understand how to win, and doesn’t care to figure it out.

–In an attempt to not be outdone in the stupid asshole department, everyone’s favorite dung heap Brandon Manning got in the most useless and wimpy fight possible with Garnet Hathaway (which btw is NOT an actual name). The two skated around each other with fists brandished like old timey boxers, and hit each other far less than that. It didn’t “change the momentum” or “send a message.” In fact, the only upside was that Manning spent most of the rest of the game in the penalty box and thus unable to offend our eyes with his playing.

–Clearly I’m not one for fighting, but I will say this: in the second period when James Neal basically stomped on Corey Crawford and Crawford came after him and nearly punched him, I was cackling with delight. If Crow wants to hit someone because he’s frustrated with this shitty team and the defense allowing him to get curb-stomped, I’ll set aside my issues and I’ll be here for it.

–The power play…it’s just so bad. And on paper it really shouldn’t be: Toews, Kane, Saad, DeBrincat and Jokiharju…this should be a functional first power play unit! But they can’t make a zone entry to save their lives. Seriously. They cannot get out of their own zone, they cannot get through the neutral zone, and they most certainly can’t get across the offensive blue line. It’s like a god damn force field, and that stupid-ass drop pass in the defensive zone has lived on in the Colliton era like a recurring nightmare. There are too many issues to cover in these bullets, but suffice it to say that the clown shoes are still firmly entrenched.

–Alright, enough doom and gloom. What was good from this game? Toews’ goal was pretty and we need the top line to keep scoring. The Kahun-Kampf-Kane line may be something that works. Their 43 CF% didn’t bode all that well but they were certainly fast (and besides, the entire team was underwater in possession). Dylan Strome had a nice goal. And once again, for the cheap seats in the back, Crawford finished the night with a .927 SV% and an assist, and had to face 41 fucking shots on goal.

Tonight was ugly, dumb and frustrating. If the Hawks had gotten blown out it would have made sense and been deserved. The Flames are playing much better, but again this could have been a winnable game—Mike Smith is Mike Smith which means there’s always a chance, and the fact that it came down to the stupidest of penalties is downright painful. But, there’s no rest for the wicked with three more games this week. Fire Chris Kunitz into the sun. Onward and upward.

Photo credit: Chicago Tribune

 

Everything Else

It’s the first win of the Jeremy Colliton era! And the end of a wretched losing streak! And why did it happen? Because Corey Crawford is god. To the bullets:

Box Score

Corsica

Natural Stat Trick

–The first period was just plain old uneventful. Crawford had a big stop on Vladimir Tarasenko (more on him later), and David Kampf and Brandon Manning fell over one another in the defensive zone in a very accurate Three Stooges impression, but it’s the Blues and they weren’t able to capitalize. Aside from that, it wasn’t a poorly played period by any means, just not a flashy one.

–The second wasn’t much better, but the Hawks got their one and only goal and on the power play no less. It was actually more luck than skill, as Jay Bouwmeester kicked it in while Jay Gallon was flopping around. But whatever, we’ll take it. And honestly Allen wasn’t that bad tonight, it’s just that Crawford was better.

–And he had to be—the Hawks gave up 28 shots on goal and only managed 19 of their own. Same old story. In fact the Hawks got domed in possession tonight and were only above water in the first period. They had a 39.4 CF% and 33.3 CF% in the second and third, respectively. Going by the eye test alone tonight, the defense actually didn’t look that bad, that’s the fucked up thing. Yes, Manning and Forsling as a pairing was rather terrifying to watch, but for the most part the defense at least attempted to get themselves in front of their net. After leaving O’Hare-runway-sized gaps in front of Crawford for most of last week’s games, this is a relief. And yet, they still gave up nearly 30 shots. Baby steps, but there is still work to do.

–I’m not entirely sold on Colliton’s lines, but I also think it’s too early to start bitching about them (yet). The top line of Schmaltz-Toews-Kane is passing the aforementioned eye test. Anisimov is still too damn slow and couldn’t keep up with the again-resurgent Brandon Saad, so that’s annoying. I’m not quite sure what the DeBrincat-Kampf-Kahun line is going to end up being. They were just north of 50% in possession, which was better than the top line, and all together had five shots on the night. So yes? This is good? I have difficulty trusting Kampf to make good decisions or execute competently, I’m worried that Top Cat is wasting his time, and I’m suspecting that Kahun was basking in reflected glory from being on a line with Jonathan Toews. All of these assumptions could turn out to be wrong, so again, no judgement…yet….

–Tarasenko had an interesting evening, sacrificing a tooth (wholesale, like a cartoon with it popping out of his mouth onto the ice), and he foiled the Hawks trying to get a damn empty net goal. Twice. This had to have been a painful game for him, in both the physical and mental sense.

If the drought was going to be broken, it makes sense that it came against the lowly Blues. The fact that we had to eke out the win with a fluky own-goal by dumbass Bouwmeester and Crawford had to stand on his head against these bottom-feeders to keep the Hawks in the game is a little worrisome. But hey, it’s a win! And if we can beat these fucksticks, then we can do the same against the equally terrible Kings on Friday. There’s nothing to worry about, right?

 

Everything Else

A flurry of games, more overtime nonsense, and the Hawks are basically at .500 with six wins and six losses coming at various times from the third period onward. I can’t say it’s worse than I expected (it’s not, I figured they’d be doing much more poorly than this already), but it does feel like the Preds, Avs and Jets are about to pull away in the division any day now, leaving the Hawks scrambling with the dregs soon enough. And with that cheery thought, let’s see where things are at:

The Dizzying Highs

Corey Crawford I know it’s been a small sample size, and I realize he gave up a shitload of goals in the St. Louis game the other night (for the record it was 6), but anyone who’s been paying attention to this team knows Crow is making the difference right now, and he will by the linchpin to any attempt at making the playoffs. Even with the crapfest last Saturday, his save percentage is .919. He had to have a truly wretched game to bring it down to middling for the league…this guy hadn’t played in 10 months and had no warm-up time to shake off any rust. And now we know why—there wasn’t any to begin with. In his three wins thus far, Crawford’s SV% was .974, .960, and .947. And he’s doing it with the laughingstock that we call our defense. His positioning has been solid, he’s somehow restrained himself from murdering Brandon Manning yet, hell he even got an assist against the Rangers last week. He’s the hero we need but that we don’t deserve.

The Terrifying Lows

Jan Rutta What else can be said? This motherfucker is so bad he got benched in the middle of a game and then sent to the press box. His shooting percentage is literally zero, and while that’s obviously not the most important metric for a defenseman early in the season it’s still pretty indicative of how things are going for him. I can throw more numbers at you (his possession sucks at just under 50 CF% when half his zone starts are in the offensive zone, etc. etc.), but do you really want to be reminded? I don’t want to do the reminding either. Suffice it to say Rutta is one of the worst on an already-terrible defense, and Connor Murphy and Gustav Forsling really can’t get healthy soon enough.

The Creamy Middles

Alex DeBrincat Just as it’s obvious that Rutta sucks, it’s equally obvious that Top Cat is quite good. There could be a case for him in the Dizzying Highs, but I’m saving my adulation for Crawford right now. DeBrincat has had three points in his last five games, and with the exception of the St. Louis Shit Show, the top line has been pretty dominant. He’s running a 56 CF% at evens and a CF Rel of 4.7. Throw in a couple points on the power play, which are hard to come by for this crew, and he’s having a good month so far. Yes we expect him to be this good, but it’s a relief to have that consistently work out.

Alexandre Fortin It’s a theme of Alexs in the Middles today! Fortnite is starting to warm my cold, black heart. He’s only played nine games but geez if he isn’t the most motivated, eager little thing out there. And he’s holding onto the puck at the right time and the right places. He’s got a 56.1 CF% right now and that’s with nearly 53% of his starts in the defensive zone. Fortin isn’t an elite scorer and I don’t expect he’ll be much more than basically a bottom-six guy, but this team needs depth and if he’s here to provide it, then I’m here for that.

Everything Else

Tonight felt like a bunch of coked-up ferrets were let loose on the ice and we got to watch the bizarre yet entertaining spectacle. At times it was hilarious, at times it was maddening, but it definitely wasn’t as dull as you might think for a mediocre-at-best and mostly-really-crappy team matching up for the evening. To the bullets!

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

Corsica

–To that point, neither team was really dominant. Yes I know the Hawks scored four goals, but one was an empty-netter and it wasn’t until late in the third that the Hawks put this away. Jonathan Toews scored early in the first after McQuaid and Skjei went full-on Three Stooges and fell over both the blue line and one another, leaving Toews alone on Lundqvist. But then Brandon fucking Manning being Brandon fucking Manning allowed the Rangers to tie it up moments later. Each team would get momentum and a bunch of chances, yet frantic goaltending by goalies vastly better than their respective defenses would fight off the onslaught. In total both teams gave up 6 penalties, so frequent power plays kept the coked-up pace I mentioned. Possession ricocheted as well—the Hawks had over a 60 CF% in the first, then down to 48% in the second, then back to 61% in the third. It was, as they say, a back-and-forth affair, despite the broadcast singing the team’s praises.

–So it’s admittedly annoying that the Hawks didn’t dominate this entire game because, as we’ve said, losing to truly good teams is acceptable, but stretches like this one are where the Hawks can actually pretend to be contenders. Now before I sound unappreciative, they had a goal in the third get waved off prior to the other weird one later in the third by Kane. So had that gone another way it would have been 5-1. But the fact that these two “goals” were so strange and close to non-goals (or in the case of the former, truly not a goal), didn’t exactly inspire a lot of confidence. The core did well, don’t get me wrong–Kane, Toews, Top Cat, and most importantly Crawford, but I want to see the Hawks be GOOD against shitty teams, not just passable.

–OK, we’re already sick of bitching about Brandon Manning so I’m not going to spend too much time here. But, I’ve got to say, as much as I hate him, I can’t even imagine how much Corey Crawford hates him. That aforementioned goal was a direct result of Manning making a pathetic turnover at the offensive blue line and standing there mouth agape at the side of Crawford’s crease while Buchnevich scored. In the second period on one of their penalty kills (which, really, can we make this stop?) the puck bounced off his dumb ass and right on goal, and Crawford had to make the save. I would seriously not blame Crawford if he pulled some retaliatory, underhanded shit on Manning. Key his car? Leave a bag of flaming dog shit at his door? Sleep with his wife? Pretty sure all of this would be forgivable. And Crawford’s only been back for a matter of days at this point.

–Fortin had himself a night. Only one goal but he was just trying EVER SO HARD the entire game. From his first shift trying to split two defenders (and he almost made it, oh he was trying), to rabidly flying around the ice to being in the perfect position for Schmaltz’s beautiful pass in the second (sidebar: not complaining about Schmaltz passing it for once), Alexandre Fortin was a man possessed (OK, boy possessed, but you know what I mean). Some of that rabidity led to dumb turnovers, which will happen in those situations. But the Hawks need speed and I’m also not going to complain about the scoring or effort.

–I realize this is going to sound stupid and I can’t back it up with numbers, but Brandon Saad had a fire still lit under his ass. The stats won’t necessarily show it—one shot, no points and crappy possession at 48 CF%. But believe me, he was all over the ice, and while this isn’t going down as a historic game for him, his improvement this season continues.

All in all, tonight was another win that they had to have and that’s what matters. It was convincing enough and who would have thought they’d have 14 points already? I don’t know if I’d go so far as to call it an inspiring win, but it’s better than the alternative. Onward and upward.

Beer: Sumpin’ Easy Ale by Lagunitas

Line of the Night: “Going to disagree with him. Strongly.” –Eddie O, in a weird moment of clarity, criticizing Adam Burish for his especially stupid comment that Henrik Lundqvist is one of the most overrated goalies in the last decade.

Photo credit: Chicago Tribune

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The Hawks were absolutely dominant in the first, not so much in the second and third, but no harm was done. To the bullets:

– So we can all feel a little better about the top line. Saad and Toews scored, and even though Toews’ was a total fluke of him batting at a flying puck that then trickled through a classically hapless Luongo, it’s still better than nothing. Saad’s goal in the first was the result of him being in the right place at the proverbial right time, and basically capitalizing on a high-danger chance in the exact way you want to see it done. Saad had seven shots in the first (unfortunately only one after that but still…), and it was simply a relief to see some production and the drought ended. Don’t get me wrong, there were still plenty of bad passes, shots with no finish, and missed opportunities by this line, but they were good enough, which is all we really needed them to be. Hopefully this augers well for the near future.

– Kane’s goal midway in the second period was crucial. Even though it only made the score 3-1, it took the momentum right out of Florida, who had been kicking the shit out of the Hawks for the entirety of the second up to that point. It was looking like we were heading for yet another hot start where the Hawks then promptly shit the bed, but Kane’s patience with the shot showed his give-a-shit meter was at about a 7.5, and once they had a two-goal lead again the win started to feel like a foregone conclusion.

– Which brings me to my next point: why the fuck can’t these guys maintain the pressure and momentum beyond the first period? Is it age for some guys? Inexperience for others? I don’t have the answers, but this whole awesome-first-then-blow-a-lead thing is fucking old already. They can get away with it against teams like the Panthers (especially since in this case they didn’t blow a lead but only tried to), but as we saw on Wednesday against the Lightning, when they’re playing a good team this shit just doesn’t work. If this is how it’s going to go, the Hawks need to at least score 5+ goals in every first period, and then try to just not take dumb penalties.

– The fourth line was serviceable tonight. Bouma, Wingels, and Hayden all had a CF% over 60 at evens, and Hayden and Wingels even got some PK minutes. Hayden scored too, so that obviously helps things. Granted, they had plenty of stupid shit like Bouma whiffing on passes, but overall they were…acceptable.

– Who’s this MacKenzie Weegar asshole? His name sounds like that of a mean-spirited character in a Roald Dahl book. He pissed me off in the second period, but luckily it amounted to nothing.

– Speaking of amounting to nothing, the power play remained terrible. They only had one, and they did absolutely nothing with it, despite the fact that Florida is dead-last in PK percentage. I know the Hawks have had some success on the power play as of late, but they couldn’t even get a zone entry against the worst PK in the league so…that should tell you something.

– The defense was iffy tonight, in my opinion. The Panthers got 38 shots, and while there were 11 blocks and two successful penalty kills, there were enough shaky moments to keep me on edge. For example, Crawford totally bailed out Franson on a Trocheck shot late in the second, Forsling and Rutta on the PK were scrambling, and of course Seabrook fell down a few times for good measure. Yes it worked out, and I know these are the pairings we’re stuck with for now, but it wasn’t exactly a confidence-inspiring performance.

– However, Crawford is god. He finished the night with a .974 SV%. Yes, he let in one goal that he probably should have had, but come on, even gods make mistakes occasionally, right? I mean, look at the state of Alabama.

OK, in all seriousness the Hawks’ possession numbers were worrisome in a way that has become a shitty trend: 83 CF% in the first, 44.7% in the second, and 43% in the third. It’s definitely not what you want to see, and again it won’t result in two points against good teams. But, they needed this win just like they need every win right now, so even though it wasn’t always pretty, it was what had to get done and they managed to pull it off. Onward and upward.

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It feels like I should have some exciting takeaway or some great insight for you from this match-up of two perennial Stanley Cup contenders…but I don’t. It was an entertaining game to be sure, but it was also a midseason game (well, one-quarter-season to be exact), and it was a workaday performance turned in by the Hawks. Remember when they kicked the shit out of the Penguins to open the season? This game was not that, by any stretch of the imagination. To the bullets!

– Corey Crawford is a more worthwhile human than you or me. You probably already knew that—I know I did—but it bears repeating. He got domed by Evgeni Malkin in the first period, who was being the piece of shit that he is, then he went off for the quickest concussion protocol ever, and proceeded to give up just one goal and hold a .972 SV%. Yes, this got helped out by the second goal for the Pens getting called back for interference, which it was, but Crow battled through a lot of bullshit tonight including a bunch of shots at the end. The Hawks wouldn’t have won without his performance tonight, not like that is any kind of surprise. (And kudos to Anton Forsberg for covering those three minutes competently…not even being sarcastic, I mean it).

– Gustav Forsling scored on the power play. Did you ever think you would read such a ridiculous sentence? Yeah, I didn’t think I would ever write it either. Ready for another one? Both Hawks goals came on the power play. Wait, wait, I got another one: Artem Anisimov has 10 goals. Can you believe all this? After how terrible the power play has been I’m downright delighted to see this shit. Forsling finished with a 56.8 CF% tonight, so fine, whatever, if Kempny is going to get marooned in the press box forever you better fucking do something, asshole. And Anisimov with double-digit goals? Fine as well…if Toews is going to continue to fail at finishing, we need some center to do something. Have at it, pal.

– Nick Schmaltz continued his general awesomeness. He had speed all over the ice, some great breakaways in the first period, and somehow someway this second line is working. Schmaltz’s possession numbers with Anisimov and Kane at evens was over 50%. And the assholes on the Penguins were targeting him right up until the end of the game, when it was clear they weren’t going to do anything other than inflict pain and fuck him up, so that has to tell you something about this guy’s effectiveness.

– Look, I know in my rational mind that Phil Kessel is a very talented hockey player, but can we all just agree on something: this guy looks like he’s an insurance adjuster from Scranton and he’s playing men’s league on a Tuesday night just for fun. Seriously, this guy does NOT look like he should be in the NHL. I just, I just can’t get past it…I’ve never been able to get past it. Wherever he goes, I’m just flummoxed by this doughy dipshit-looking guy, who fortunately couldn’t get anything past Crawford tonight.

– Adam Burish can talk on TV? Who knew? I’ve actively tuned him out when he’s on the intermission desk-in-the-midst-of-obnoxious-assholes. So I never bothered to listen, but in the isolation of a studio I noticed he put rational thoughts together with the camera right on him…well done.

When it’s all said and done, the Hawks needed this win as they need every point they can get right now. And two PP goals? Love it. Their next game is against the fucking Lightning so I honestly expect an embarrassment…at least they’re walking away with this win. Onward and upward…