Hockey

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Game Time: 5:45PM CDT
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, NBCSN, SportsNet, WGN-AM 720
Potemkin City Limits: Copper n BlueOilers Nation

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.

Hockey

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Game Time: 9:30PM CDT
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, NBCSN, WGN-AM 720
Supporting Caste: Copper n BlueOilers Nation

It was never going to be as straightforward as it felt like it might be during the first 40 minutes of Game 1 on Saturday afternoon. That fact was smashed home with the force of Mjolnir and the speed of Evan from Superbad right away in Game 2, and it left the Hawks chasing a much faster team from Jump St. to leave the series tied going into a PIVOTAL Game 3 late this evening. Because ALL games are pivotal at the moment. It’s immutable hockey law.

Hockey

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Game Time: 9:30PM CST
TV/Radio: NBCSN, NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720
Rural Alberta Advantage: Copper n Blue, Oilers Nation

 

While it was pretty well assumed that the preliminary series between the Oilers and Hawks was going to have all the defensive structure of a Jackson Pollock rough draft, Saturday afternoon’s tilt showed just how silly this whole thing has the potential of getting in a hurry. And fortunately the Hawks came out on top putting the Oilers immediately on their heels in this short 5 game series.

Hockey

To this point in the riveting miniseries this week that has been the preview of the Hawks and Oilers’ best of five play in series, things have been fairly close to a toss up in the other categories. A case can be made either way among any of the on-ice units either of these teams possess, as there are enough question marks and variables everywhere coming out of a four and a half month hibernation to really make it anyone’s guess. The same can not be said behind the benches however, as the Oilers have an actual adult running their show in Dave Tippett, and the Hawks have Jeremy Prinze, Jr. playing the sensitive nerd when he wears his glasses.

Hockey

And now this disaster. I was thinking earlier this morning that there really isn’t a parallel to the Oilers wasting one of the best players of all-time for years, but of course there is. It’s the Anaheim Angels. Mike Trout appeared in the playoffs once, and his team has been weighed down by incredibly bad contracts and journeymen and kids who were never up to it. And the same goes for Connor McDavid. Other than Leon Draisaitl, they’ve been surrounded be either old trash or kids that just haven’t popped the way it was thought (looking at you directly, Darnell Nurse). And this season doesn’t look to be any different. We can only hope this is the one where McDavid snaps and demands a trade midseason or in the summer, to give us some proper drama.

Let’s get through it together:

2018-2019

35-38-9  79 points (6th in Pacific)

2.79 GF/G (20th)  3.30 GA/G (25th)  -42 GD

47.9 CF% (25th)  46.6 xGF% (26th)

21.2 PP% (9th)  74.8 PK% (30th)

Goalies: Sweet Jesus God. As we said with the Flames preview yesterday, the two Alberta teams pulled an indirect goalie switch, with Mike Smith, his .900 SV%, and his cantankerous nature landing behind an even worse defense than the one he had in Calgary that had him throwing whatever he could fit under the bus. Won’t his go well? Smith had a promising playoff performance while under constant carpet-bombing from the Avalanche, but that won’t be a worry here. Though the carpet-bombing might be. Smith is also 37, and I guess the hope here is that being reunited with coach Dave Tippett will help them rekindle the sporadic and greatly overblown success they had in Arizona. Good luck.

Backing him up is Mikko Koskinen, who earned a three-year extension from Peter Chiarelli, which must have been the last straw as Chiarelli was fired the very next day. Which might lead one to ask how you’re letting a GM you want to shitcan sign anyone to an extension, but keep in mind EdMo is where logic freezes and then is pissed on for sport. Koskinen’s .906 last year really inspired the masses, and as he’s 31 now there’s little reason to think it’s going to get much better. Sure, Tippett can batten down the hatches and try and create trench after trench in front of him. But with this outfit, what would that matter. Fun fun fun!

Defense: The “definition of insanity” quote isn’t actually real. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results just makes you the Oilers. So once again, these clowns are going to roll out Oscar Klefbom, Darnell Nurse, Kris Russell, Adam Larsson, Matthew Benning, and even Brandon Manning, and then be truly perplexed why McDavid is bringing a machete to the dressing room that he keeps sharpening and whispering something about the time of purification being at hand.

Nurse just has never blossomed into the atom-smashing, puck-moving loudmouth he promised as a junior, and is basically just kinda there. Klefbom, while allowing for a bunch of Tom Jones jokes, is just an ok possession-driver. Larsson is great at putting all his equipment on. The rest you know. They must hope Evan Bouchard can stick this time, though he seems to be a bit of a plodder and will need to quicken up to be effective at this level. Ethan Bear is going to keep Bouchard in the AHL for now, along with something called Joel Persson, because you always want to trust 25-year-olds making their NHL debut to really impact your roster. The hope must be for Bouchard to bludgeon the AHL for half of a season and then be up.

Forwards: Zack Kassian is going to be on McDavid’s line. I don’t know what more I have to say.

Once again, the Oilers will keep having the debate of whether Draisaitl and Nugent-Hopkins should play center or be moved to McJesus’s wing to give him any talent to play with, and once again there really won’t be a right answer. They’ve reassembled the bad parts of the 2015 Wings with Riley Sheehan and Tomas Jurco here, and remember that Wings team sucked. James Neal escaped his hell in Calgary to stand still and fire here with whatever passes McDavid or Draisaitl can get him. Which should actually work for 20-25 goals or so.

Sam Gagner has come home again, even though you were pretty sure he was dead. Tippett will find a way to keep Kailer Yamamoto off this roster, even though it could use all the dash it can find.

Prediction: This is where I’m supposed to say that Tippett will tighten things up and at least lower their goals against to keep them competitive for a while. But Ken Hitchcock couldn’t do it, and that’s all he does. And Todd McLellan is no idiot and he couldn’t either. Even if you trusted the goalies, which you shouldn’t, the defense has no top pairing player anywhere. Maybe if Tippet is finally the one to unlock Nurse, things could improve. But how many coaches is it going to take?

Tippett surely isn’t known for getting max scoring out of a team, and this team was short on scoring even with McClavicle, RNH, and Leon The Ladies Man. They still think Kassian can do anything. Neal might pop for a few goals, but not enough. They’re simply miles behind Calgary, Vegas, and San Jose, and you can’t see them running with any wildcard contender either. It’s another lost season up in EdMo, barring some miracle.

Save yourself, Connor. No one else here will.

Everything Else

spacecoyote vs oldschool

Game Time: 7:30PM Central
TV/Radio: CSN, WGN-AM 720
Carnivorous Vulgaris: Five For Howling

Since the calendar turned to 2015, the Hawks have now gone a sub-par 3-5, which in Conference III has been enough to drop the Hawks tied for third with the Jets and four points back of second place St. Louis. Even if any of the other teams in the division weren’t winning any and every game they played, this would still be an unacceptable record, particularly with the Hawks not playing on home ice until February 9th after tonight. And though the bottom appears to have finally fallen out on Dave Tippett’s Coyotes this season, the Hawks aren’t currently playing well enough to count any game as a given.

Everything Else

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 FACEOFF: 9pm Central
TV/RADIO:
NBCSN, Comcast, WGN Radio 720
ACME’S FAVORITE CUSTOMER:
Five For Howling

Turn it right around. That’s how this season is going to go. Any gleam from a win is going to be quickly washed away with the flow of another game right on its tail. So it is as the Hawks return to the Valley Of The Sun/Invisible Owner to face the Coyotes in their home opener tonight.

A lot of the narrative will be about a rematch of last year’s playoff series, Raffi Torres not playing and Marian Hossa playing, Mike Smith, Corey Crawford, etc. But with the urgency now spiced to taste in every game this year thanks to there being only 48 of them, no one should pay too much attention to it. It’s a game on the schedule you need to win, no more no less.