Hockey

vs.

RECORDS: Hawks 12-13-6   Coyotes 18-11-4

PUCK DROP: 8pm

TV: NBCSN Chicago

SOOOPER GENIUS: Five For Howling

The Hawks and Coyotes will do it again, just four days after they came together for an occasion that will be lost to the annals of time soon (hopefully). In the interim, they both got kicked around by Pacific Division opponents, the Hawks by the Knights and the Coyotes by the Flames.

So obviously not that much has changed since these two went to a shootout on Sunday. The one major storyline for the Hawks is what they’ll do without Calvin de Haan now as he joins Duncan Keith in the medical tent. de Haan wasn’t put on LTIR today, just normal injury reserve, so maybe it’s not the catastrophe it looked on Tuesday. Either way, he’s out for the next few.

On the surface, we know that it means. Assuming Olli Maatta has recovered from the West Nile he contracted in New Jersey, he’ll come back in, pair with Seabrook, while Gustafsson is with Murphy and the two kids are together for like nine minutes. What it should mean is pairing Adam Boqvist with Connor Murphy and see what you have. Because what do the Hawks have to lose? They’re bottom of the division, they’re one of if not the worst defensive team in the league, so let’s have some fun. Give Boqvist the best free safety you have and let him run. Yes, he had a bad turnover on Tuesday that led to a goal. It’s going to happen. He also hit a post, created two other chances, and helped set up the goal you got. Let him make mistakes, live with it, see if he gets better. We know the Erik Gustafsson road. We know the Slater Koekkoek road. We know exactly where it ends.

Other than that, it’s hard to give you reasons to get excited to watch. The forwards should stay the same, unless Matthew Highmore comes in for someone, possibly Sikura though he hasn’t done anything wrong in two games, really. And once again the Hawks will hope that the Coyotes don’t have a plan for the night, or won’t stick to it, because that’s generally the only way the Hawks win.

Luckily for the Hawks, the Yotes defense might be as big of a mess as theirs. Jason Demers joined Niklas Hjalmarsson the shelf, and they were all over the place against Calgary on Tuesday. They gave up goals to Zac Rinaldo and Milan Lucic, which in a world that was logical would lead to automatic relegation instantly. They gave up 24 shots in the first two periods, though did rally furiously for a 17-5 edge in that category in the 3rd after the Flames had checked out.

The Yotes certainly have been piling up the shots lately, with 48 against Calgary and 47 against the Hawks on Sunday. If they had finishing talent, they might have been pouring in the goals. But they don’t, so they’ve gotten two of four points and needed a shootout for those.

Same plan as Sunday. The Yotes are pretty quick up front, and gave the Hawks fits when they were diligent about forechecking and harassing the Hawks D into turnovers. When the Hawks try and freelance out of this or don’t really care about helping out, you get what you got on Tuesday or the last half of Sunday. If the Hawks are dedicated to moving the puck quickly and directly, they can create chances against a beleaguered Coyotes blue line.

If the Hawks can’t get points here, they’re staring dead straight at the season being over by Christmas. The Avs are up twice next week, as is a trip to The Peg after a home date with the Wild, who just zoomed past them in the standings. It’s very easy for all of that to go balls-up. Have to get you can while you can when you can. And more quotes from random sources that might inspire.

 

Everything Else

vs.

RECORDS: Hawks 33-32-10   Coyotes 36-33-7

PUCK DROP: 9pm

TV: WGN

HI HOMER! FIND YOUR SOULMATE: Five For Howling

Only because the Western Conference refuses to let anyone die (at least outside Southern California), tonight’s tilt still has implications on the final wildcard spot. With their decisive win in Winnipeg last night, the Stars have probably extricated themselves from this Battle Stupid. The Wild still seem to be going the other way, though they’re three points up on the Hawks but having played two games more. The two combatants tonight are officially not dead, so this somehow clears the bar of “BIG GAME.” We know how that’s gone for the Hawks, with Sunday’s hail mary being their only reprieve.

Since you last saw the Coyotes, which was getting speed-bagged by Brendan Perlini, they’ve gone 2-4-1 and have lost those four all in a row leading to his one. Their last out was a cure of insomnia, shutout-loss to the Islanders, who have a habit of doing that. Getting pumped by the Lightning on the road is par for the course, but also eating it to the Panthers and Devils is not. It’s left the Yotes two points behind the Avalanche having played the same number of games. Let’s say their forlorn hopes are fading.

The problems for the Coyotes are hardly inconspicuous. Since putting up a touchdown on the Ducks, in this 0-4-1 stretch they’ve scored six goals. That’s not going to get it done, no matter what kind of holistic/satanic ceremonies Darcy Kuemper may be performing in the crease to put out numbers like this. And the Coyotes don’t score because they simply don’t have enough talent. Yes, Derek Stepan is back, but when you desperately need Derek Stepan to return, that says everything about what you are and where you still need to go.

I suppose the Coyotes can claim to be a little hard done by, as in those five games they’ve been on the positive side of the possession ledger. But they don’t do as much with that as most opponents will, so they’ve lost the chance battle. There’s not enough here to turn possession into threat consistently, and that will be their problem until they produce a star out of the kids they have or they convince one to sign there. Which ought to be a real trick. Worker bees need a queen, after all.

So the Yotes can be GO HARD all they want, and there is a decent amount of speed here, and they can gobble up points in the doldrums of the season when other teams are in the midst of, “I can’t be fucking bothered with this” phase. But when teams are trying, or just ramping up for the playoffs, they’re short. The Hawks will find this out themselves in a week, if not sooner. But it’s enough to put the Hawks off for sure, and the Yotes will definitely be looking for some get-back after getting it up them sideways on Madison St. a couple weeks back.

As for the Hawks, I guess if they’re still counting these as real games they need to run the table this week. That includes a trip to San Jose, a team that has treated them like a marrow bone twice already but is kind of a mess at the moment, can’t get a save anywhere, and is basically locked in where they are and is waiting for the playoffs to start. So maybe you can goof a win there, who knows? But beating the Yotes and Kings is an absolute must, because the last week is murder. But hey, if you’re going to pull a miracle, pull A MIRACLE.

Only changes tonight you’d see is the defensive rotation in some fashion that doesn’t really matter. One would think at home the Coyotes will come out far more aggressive, for one after what went on last time and after losing four in a row on the road. The Coyotes are faster than the Hawks and if they play up to that they can cause all sorts of headaches. If they’re on the heels and give the Hawks’s greater star power time and space to be the Hawks’ greater star power…well, you saw what happened last time. You’ll know how this will go by how out-and-up the Coyotes are playing.

Hey, it’s better to have games with minimal stakes on them than just running out the clock, I guess. Let’s take it a little further.

 

 

Game #76 Preview Suite

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We’re so sorry.

All right, on with it. The Coyotes would like you to believe that they got back into the playoff race–one they’re falling out of now–due to the collective. That even though they don’t have any stars, or anyone close at forward, because they all worked together just so damn hard and man aren’t they adorable they’ve managed to find the swarm method to points and competitiveness.

It’s all utter horseshit, of course. The Yotes are here because Darcy Kuemper got them here.

Kuemper took over the starter’s job at the end of November when something on Antti Raanta went TWANG!. Since the turn of the year, he’s been marvelous. He’s made 32 starts in 2019, going 19-8-5 with a 2.18 goals-against average and a .927 save-percentage. Since January 1st, the only goalies to have a better SV% than Kuemper are Ben Bishop, Thomas Greiss, Jordan Binnington, Andre Vasilevskiy, Carey Price, and Juuse Saros. That’s the two Vezina frontrunners, the highest-paid goalie in the league, and one behind a Trotz defensive team. All of them are backstopping playoff teams at the moment as well, so it’s no secret what the Yotes are doing loitering around the West’s wildcard spots.

Kuemper flashed something like this last year, as Jonathan Quick‘s backup in Los Angeles. He made 19 appearances and amassed a .938 SV% behind the still-stingy (and utterly boring) Kings defense. That earned him a deadline deal to the Coyotes, where he wasn’t nearly as effective filling in for the seemingly perma-crocked Antti Raanta. Still, as an insurance plan, you could do way worse. Instead, the Coyotes got a reason for being.

Arizona has needed it. While their record since the calendar change is good to better than good, their methods are not. They’re bottom-10 in attempts, scoring-chances, and high danger chances since January 1st, so they’ve basically needed every Kuemper save they’ve gotten. They’re also bottom-10 in goals scored at even-strength in that time, so again, the margins for error are extremely thin. Which might be why they’ve lost five in a row with Kuemper’s level dropping every so slightly.

The Coyotes do limit what Kuemper has to do in one fashion. They give up a ton of attempts but block a ton of shots, as they’re middle of the pack in shots-against and scoring-chances-against since the turn of the year while being bottom-five in attempts against. So Kuemper doesn’t have to perform a high amount of miracles, but he does have to perform a high-percentage of the ones asked because the Coyotes just don’t score much.

Which puts brain-boy John Chayka in something of a quandary next season. Raanta will be coming back, but can’t be trusted to stay upright in a stiff breeze. The Coyotes have to do something eventually other than promise a future, and next year would seem the bills come due. Kuemper is signed through next season at a very cheap $1.8M, so the simple answer is to keep him around as Raanta insurance.

On the other side of the coin, you could never sell higher on him than now, especially with that very reasonable salary. Raanta’s injury history make him unmovable, or at least for nothing more than whatever’s left in the truck after cleaning. This is far and away the best regular season Kuemper has had, and his only one as a full-time starter. He also remains DARCY KUEMPER. Raanta was awfully good last year when healthy, and the Yotes could use some pieces at forward. Would the Flames or Sharks or someone else who bites it early due to a giant sucking sound in the crease come calling? You have to think they would, and the free agent class has Bobrovsky, Varlamov, and that’s just about it. Kuemper’s going to be a more attractive trade piece than he will ever be.

He might not be done yet. The Coyotes face the Avs and Wild after tonight, which are direct competitors. Their three games to close the season are the Kings, Knights, and Jets, and while the latter two are much better than the Coyotes, they almost might not have anything to play for by then. If he’s got one more spurt in him, he could goof the Yotes a playoff spot. Which would only drive up his value even more.

Let’s see how galaxy brain Chayka really is.

 

Game #76 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

Catherine Silverman covers the Yotes for The Athletic, as well as working as a goalie expert of In Goal Magazine. You can follow her on Twitter @CatMSilverman. This is the Q&A we did with her a couple weeks ago when the Coyotes were here.

The Yotes have hung around the playoff picture, and yet they don’t have anyone who has scored over 42 points. Is this all or mostly Darcy Kuemper‘s resurgence?

So, let me preface this as saying that I think that Darcy Kuemper has been a really solid part of the team this year. He’s had his moments that put your heart in your throat, but he’s internalized the need to play well for the team’s playoff hopes and gotten the job done. 

That being said, I think that the biggest contributor to their success has been their scoring depth. They don’t have anyone over 42 points, but they have 11 players with 20 or more points and 10 players with 10 or more goals. In comparison, the Blackhawks have a 96-point getter, but also only have 10 players with 20 or more points — and they only have eight players with 10 or more goals. It’s why the Dallas Stars have a 61-point player in Tyler Seguin, but are still hanging around Arizona; they only have five players with 10 or more goals. 

While the more top-heavy teams live and die by the success of their stars, Arizona has been getting effective middle-six production from… well, everyone. Add in their injuries (if you project players like Schmaltz, Richardson, Galchenyuk, and Grabner onto an 82-game season, they’d all be sitting on much higher point totals) and their success makes a lot more sense. 

In my opinion

Look, we like Connor Murphy. We may be the only ones, but we’ll hold on. But we can’t help but notice the metrics that Niklas Hjalmarsson is turning in these days. Starting in his own zone most of the time, against the toughest competition, and turning it around. Is that to do with playing with Ekman-Larsson? Because Hammer was starting to turn here before the trade…

I think it has a bit to do with it, but Ekman-Larsson certainly isn’t propping Hjalmarsson up if that’s what you’re insinuating. Isolated on his own, Nik has been one of Arizona’s best players all year; he’s looking incredibly effective, and very much like the player that Chicago initially signed to his current deal. 

It’s possible that the rest from no playoffs last year combined with missed time for injury legitimately gave him enough rest to refuel his tank. Whatever it is, though, he’s looking fantastic.  

We were also Alex Galchenyuk fans and though Arizona got the better of that deal. He’s produced ok, been hurt a bit, but maybe not yet what we were thinking. What is he to someone who watches him far more?

He’s been exactly what the team traded for. After missing the start of the season for injury, he had a bit of a slow start — understandable when coming in with the season in full swing on a brand-new team. 

In the last few months, though, he’s been one of their best players. He’s excellent on the power-play, has 15 goals and 36 points in 57 games (which would be 43 points if he’d missed no time, putting him over that 42-point threshold), and has won 46 percent of his face-offs — his highest percentage in three years. 

Since February 1st, he’s put up seven goals and 11 points in 17 games. If he can continue to perform on the power-play like he has lately — and, frankly, continue to set up plays for Clayton Keller like he has been, even when it doesn’t get him a point on the board — he’ll continue to prove to be a fantastic add for the team. 

Three points out, game in hand on the Wild, 15 to go. Can the Yotes do it?

Three points out and two games in hand now, since the Wild forgot they were playing tonight. But I’d say at this point, it’s really anyone’s game — meaning that I won’t be putting money on Arizona, but I won’t be surprised at all if they make it either. 

Jason Demers is healthy again. Michael Grabner is healthy again. Antti Raanta is getting close. They’ve survived the first of potentially four to six weeks without Derek Stepan, and only lost one game in the process. I think if they put up the kind of performance they did down the back stretch last year, especially with Colorado losing one of their own top-heavy talents and Minnesota and Dallas struggling with consistency, they could easily slip their way in. 

 

Game #76 Preview Suite

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The 69th game, a DLR, a hat trick by Brendan Perlini…are you not entertained?! Nothing makes any sense but it certainly was fun. Hell, the Hawks are at .500, if you can believe that. And this weird on-again-off-again playoff race is, well, on again. To the bullets!

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

– The Coyotes are ostensibly the better team out of these two. Not by a huge margin, if you go by their records, but nonetheless that’s what the numbers say. But that didn’t happen tonight. Even after they went down a goal early, the Hawks were the better team. Brendan Perlini tied it shortly after old fan favorite Weiner Anxiety scored, and they never looked back after that. Brandon Saad had an effortless-looking tap in from a beautiful backhand pass from Toews (which is not actually anything close to effortless but he made it look that easy). The give-and-go passing that resulted in Kane’s goal in the second was textbook, and from the third line no less. Perlini nearly had a hat trick about 15 times, an then with literally three seconds left he finally made it happen. Chris fucking Kunitz scored, I mean really, what the fuck was going on with the Coyotes?

– Part of that answer is that Darcy Kuemper sucked out loud. It was probably just an off night, maybe the Hawks got lucky, I don’t know. I should credit their skill, I know, but I’m jaded and just think they rattled him early and it allowed the Hawks to jump out to the lead, which they amazingly didn’t surrender.

– And that really is the story here. This makes two games in a row with a downright solid defensive effort by one of the the worst blue lines in the league (will I have to stop calling them that?). The Hawks only gave up 25 shots, and that follows Saturday’s 27 shots given up…it’s nearly competent. In the third the Coyotes dominated possession but otherwise it was the Hawks (63 CF% in the first, 70 CF% in the second), and only two defensemen—Gustav Forsling and Nachos, no surprise—were underwater in possession all night. For the record Foreskin had a 46 CF% and Seabrook a 48; the rest were over 60.

— The corollary to that is how bad the Coyotes defense was…and they were bad. Even Hjalmarsson and OEL had a 38 and 31 CF%, respectively. I don’t have a real explanation for it, just like I can’t explain why Kuemper shat the bed. This sounds like a perfect time for them to bounce back strong tomorrow and kick the shit out of the Blues because why not.

Patrick Kane isn’t a third liner, this goes without saying. But at this point who gives a shit? If CCYP needs to spread out the scoring and it results in six goals, so be it. I think it was actually a nice gesture to put Dylan Sikura on the top line with Toews and Saad because jesus that guy just needs to score already (who hasn’t heard that before amirite?), and Kane can produce anywhere and with any jamokes. Again, it makes no sense to screw with the lineup this way but I can’t argue with the results.

— Good for Brendan Perlini! Fuck the Coyotes and this guy’s been on a hot streak so if anyone deserved a hat trick, it’s him.

— Also good to note is that Crawford had another solid game. Yes the defense in front of him was on tonight, which of course shouldn’t be such a notable thing, but either way he was well positioned most of the night and looked solid. He ended with a .960 SV%, which they’ll certainly need if they’re going to do anything with this supposed playoff push.

And now, without further ado, your DLR…

Everything Else

Catherine Silverman covers the Yotes for The Athletic, as well as working as a goalie expert of In Goal Magazine. You can follow her on Twitter @CatMSilverman. 

The Yotes have hung around the playoff picture, and yet they don’t have anyone who has scored over 42 points. Is this all or mostly Darcy Kuemper‘s resurgence?

So, let me preface this as saying that I think that Darcy Kuemper has been a really solid part of the team this year. He’s had his moments that put your heart in your throat, but he’s internalized the need to play well for the team’s playoff hopes and gotten the job done. 

That being said, I think that the biggest contributor to their success has been their scoring depth. They don’t have anyone over 42 points, but they have 11 players with 20 or more points and 10 players with 10 or more goals. In comparison, the Blackhawks have a 96-point getter, but also only have 10 players with 20 or more points — and they only have eight players with 10 or more goals. It’s why the Dallas Stars have a 61-point player in Tyler Seguin, but are still hanging around Arizona; they only have five players with 10 or more goals. 

While the more top-heavy teams live and die by the success of their stars, Arizona has been getting effective middle-six production from… well, everyone. Add in their injuries (if you project players like Schmaltz, Richardson, Galchenyuk, and Grabner onto an 82-game season, they’d all be sitting on much higher point totals) and their success makes a lot more sense. 

In my opinion

Look, we like Connor Murphy. We may be the only ones, but we’ll hold on. But we can’t help but notice the metrics that Niklas Hjalmarsson is turning in these days. Starting in his own zone most of the time, against the toughest competition, and turning it around. Is that to do with playing with Ekman-Larsson? Because Hammer was starting to turn here before the trade…

I think it has a bit to do with it, but Ekman-Larsson certainly isn’t propping Hjalmarsson up if that’s what you’re insinuating. Isolated on his own, Nik has been one of Arizona’s best players all year; he’s looking incredibly effective, and very much like the player that Chicago initially signed to his current deal. 

It’s possible that the rest from no playoffs last year combined with missed time for injury legitimately gave him enough rest to refuel his tank. Whatever it is, though, he’s looking fantastic.  

We were also Alex Galchenyuk fans and though Arizona got the better of that deal. He’s produced ok, been hurt a bit, but maybe not yet what we were thinking. What is he to someone who watches him far more?

He’s been exactly what the team traded for. After missing the start of the season for injury, he had a bit of a slow start — understandable when coming in with the season in full swing on a brand-new team. 

In the last few months, though, he’s been one of their best players. He’s excellent on the power-play, has 15 goals and 36 points in 57 games (which would be 43 points if he’d missed no time, putting him over that 42-point threshold), and has won 46 percent of his face-offs — his highest percentage in three years. 

Since February 1st, he’s put up seven goals and 11 points in 17 games. If he can continue to perform on the power-play like he has lately — and, frankly, continue to set up plays for Clayton Keller like he has been, even when it doesn’t get him a point on the board — he’ll continue to prove to be a fantastic add for the team. 

Three points out, game in hand on the Wild, 15 to go. Can the Yotes do it?

Three points out and two games in hand now, since the Wild forgot they were playing tonight. But I’d say at this point, it’s really anyone’s game — meaning that I won’t be putting money on Arizona, but I won’t be surprised at all if they make it either. 

Jason Demers is healthy again. Michael Grabner is healthy again. Antti Raanta is getting close. They’ve survived the first of potentially four to six weeks without Derek Stepan, and only lost one game in the process. I think if they put up the kind of performance they did down the back stretch last year, especially with Colorado losing one of their own top-heavy talents and Minnesota and Dallas struggling with consistency, they could easily slip their way in. 

 

Game #69 Preview Suite

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Q&A

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Everything Else

wildthings vs oldschool

Game Time: 8:30PM Central
TV/Radio: NBCSN, TSN (Anglo), RDS (Franco), WGN-AM 720
Reintroducing: Hockey Wilderness

For the second time this playoff season, the inevitable playoff matchup between the Blackhawks and the Colorado Avalanche has failed to happen, this time not only because of the Blues’ incompetence, but because of the math finally catching up to the Avs in the form of the Minnesota Wild. The result is now a rematch of last season’s first round few could have predicted happening at all, let alone in the second round.