Hockey

In a way, the Hawks should be glad they managed to get even one point tonight, after being dominated by the Bruins for much of the game. But it feels wrong because it’s a waste of yet another stellar goaltending performance, and they were so close to winning and yet had a goal called back for a spurious hand pass. I’m not going to sit here and blame the refs—the blame falls squarely on the Hawks for not being better than their opponent—but this ones leaves a bitter taste. Let’s get through it:

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

–The Hawks got totally outplayed, but the very least we can say is that they were genuinely trying—they’re just not as good as Boston. This game was not like last night’s against the Wild where they just couldn’t be bothered to give a shit for the first two-thirds of the game. They definitely gave a shit, but the best they could do was just hold the Bruins off. In the first two periods, the Hawks managed just a 31 and 38 CF%, respectively. They were outshot 16-5 in the first and ended the night outshot 40 to 22 (they’ve got to stop with these 40-shot games). Coach Gemstone did them no favors early on by having the galaxy brain idea of starting our fourth line, including the illustrious talents of Alex Nylander, against what is basically the best line in hockey, in Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak. That went exactly how you think it would, and Robin Lehner was racking up saves basically from the opening whistle. This dumb mismatch led to the logical fallacy of tripping-diving on Nylander and Pastrnak late in the third, but the NHL have never been ones for consistent or sane thinking (how can it be a penalty if it’s also a dive?! THIS CAN’T BE). Neither is Colliton when it comes to matchups, apparently. Nylander-Carpenter-Smith barfed up a 20 CF% at evens, and he kept throwing them out there despite their blatant inability to keep up with the Bruins’ top line.

–Relatedly, Lehner was outstanding and showed no rust coming off a long break. Granted, he let in a softie to Kuraly, but you can’t even be mad about that when it’s compared with the 1,827 highlight reel saves he made throughout the rest of the game. A penalty kill in the first period was a particularly indigestion-inducing sequence when he made what seemed like impossible leaps across the crease. Krejci had a flurry of chances and was visibly frustrated by Lehner stopping them repeatedly. His east-west movement all night was outstanding, and it had to be for the Hawks to even have a chance. The OT goal was a heartbreaker where Dach, who otherwise had a good game, just got beat and there was nothing Lehner could do. I’m sure he’s salty about this one, but he has every right to be.

–Something very concerning was Adam Boqvist ‘s shoulder injury. He got boarded by David Krejci in the second and immediately skated off with his arm limp, and while he hasn’t been the most solid of players lately, the last damn thing this team needs is to lose a defenseman who can technically move the puck and is definitively fast. This would also be the second functional defenseman taken out by a shoulder injury (third if you count Seabrook but that’s another story). The only silver lining was that Alex DeBrincat finally scored a goal on the ensuing power play, but file that under “pyrrhic victory.” The Hawks picked up that random oaf from Minnesota but neither he nor Dennis Gilbert are going to help them get into the playoffs, whereas Boqvist will. Here’s hoping it’s not severe and he doesn’t miss the entire Western Canada trip, because if they don’t make up ground there, it will no longer matter if he’s able to come back before the end of this season.

–To return to Kirby Dach, he had another strong game yet couldn’t come through at the very end. He did continue his scoring streak, however, with an assist on Top Cat’s goal, where he (Dach) was cool, calm and collected in the crease which generated the rebound that popped out to DeBrincat for the goal. He had 3 shots and generally passed the eye test, despite his line as a whole struggling in the fancy stats (19.2 CF%, -27.8 CF Rel, -38.3 SF%, woof). I do not pretend to make any grand pronouncements about Dach right now, but he again showed what he can do, and what he needs to work on.

–Did Maatta have a hand pass late in the third? After getting taken down and on a delayed penalty, he definitely moved the puck with his hand, but it appeared in super-slow-motion to have ricocheted off his stick just barely, from where it made its way to Drake Caggiula who scored what would have been the winning goal. Again, a heartbreaker to lose out on something that close, and maybe the puck really didn’t graze Maatta’s stick and it’s a fair call, but that doesn’t really help or make it feel less frustrating.

So they got two points in two days, and are (I believe) two points out of the second wild card (that’s a lot of twos in that sentence). If they have any hopes of eking into that last spot, now is the time, and they better hope their young defenseman isn’t out for the season. Onward and upward.

 

Hockey

vs.

RECORDS: Hawks 10-12-5   Bruins 20-3-5

PUCK DROP: 6pm

TV: NBCSN Chicago

FRUSTRATED WOMEN: Stanley Cup Of Chowder

So you’ve just been fustigated by the West’s leader at home. What’s the best follow-up to that? Why, one of the East’s best on the road of course! Where they haven’t actually lost a game all year! Where they’ve collected 28 of 32 points! Sounds fun, no? Who’s excited?

Whether the Hawks like it or not, that’s the task they face. And they’ve brought their moms along with them to…Boston and Newark? What the fuck did their moms ever do to them? Don’t they go to Arizona and Vegas next week? That seems an oversight. Or were they afraid they wouldn’t be able to pry too many moms away from the craps table to go watch their sons trail in the Knights’ wake? We’ll discuss this another time. THAT’S NOT WHY YOU CALLED.

Anyway, the Hawks wash up on Causeway St. to find everything pretty much humming for the Bruins, even with Patrice Bergeron missing the past few games. They have the league’s fourth and fifth-leading scorer in Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak, and the Hawks didn’t seem to be able to do much about the third-leading scorer in Nathan MacKinnon last weekend. The Bs have two goalies in the Vezina discussion, as both Jaroslav Halak and Tuukka Rask have save-percentages north of .930. So if you’ve got one line that no one can stop, and a goalie every night no team can get past, what the fuck else do you need? The answer is not much, because the Bruins don’t have much beyond that and yet they’re 14 points up on what was thought to be the league’s toughest division. Some guys have all the luck.

Is there some air in the Bruins start so far? Maybe a little. They’re pretty middle of the pack in most metrics, and they certainly don’t create a host of chances and shots for themselves. They just have two guys burying them at ridiculous rates. They’re top-10 when it comes to allowing expected goals or scoring chances, which looks a lot better when Halak and Rask have combined for a .936 at evens. As you might expect, giving the Perfection Line a look with an extra man has led to pretty much instant death for any opponent, as the power play is clicking at 30.9%. That’s enough to get it done most nights right there.

And with this cushion in the Atlantic, the Bs don’t really have to fear a flattening out or market correction. 14 points even at this stage is a gargantuan lead, and unless both Halak’s and Rask’s head fall off and roll into the Charles, they’re not losing that. So they can look forward to at least the first two rounds with home ice. Their season is almost accomplished and we’re weeks away from Christmas.

In the big picture, you have to feel like the Bs need to find secondary scoring somewhere. Only Krejci below the top line has more than 20 points, and some of that is boosted by getting to play with Pastrnak in Bergeron’s absence. Then again, this was enough to push to the absolute limit last year, and it may just be no one ever figures out how to stop that line until Marchand decides to do it himself (which he always does). I wouldn’t trust any team that has Danton Heinen or Jake DeBrusk on the second line either, but they have 45 points and all I have is shit in my pants. So there.

The underlying cause to the Bruins is that they have three d-men who can really move the play in Charlie McAvoy (the mouth-breathing loser TM Fifth Feather), Torey Krug, and Matt Grzelcyk. The latter’s absence is last year’s Final was massive, and it deprived the Black and Gold from having a puck-mover on the ice at all times. Krug still has no idea what he’s doing defensively, but as he gets to play with Brandon Carlo most of the messes get cleaned up. The Bruins can play at pace.

Which is a problem for the Hawks, who can’t. Duncan Keith will miss both of these games, which means the Hawks are going to try and combat this unholy beast with five slow d-men and the moderate mobility of Connor Murphy. My eyes are bleeding too. Anyway, Dylan Strome sounds like he might make the bell, but Andrew Shaw and Drake Caggiula won’t.

I can’t sugarcoat this one for you. It has every chance of being ugly. The Hawks can try and leak out and maybe cherrypick their way to some odd-mans, but that will only leave them more exposed in their own zone. The Bruins aren’t a great possession team, but they have more than enough forwards who can hold the puck long enough and carry it low-to-high or the other way which always sends the Hawks into hysterics defensively. And even if you get out against the Bruins, you have one of two goalies who have been a wall to get past.

Stranger things have happened? That’s going to replace “One Goal” as the motto soon.

Everything Else

 vs. 

RECORDS: Hawks 23-24-9   Bruins 31-17-8

PUCK DROP: 6pm

TV: NBCSN non-locally, NBCSN Chicago locally

PLAYIN’ HOUSE WITH SHINE: Stanley Cup Of Chowder

If some of this recent winning-streak for the Hawks is based on getting to play some lower-tier competition, that will change a bit tonight on Causeway St. Then again, the state they’ll find the Bruins in doesn’t exactly make them a premier force either. It doesn’t have to make sense, because it’s hockey and it’s the NHL. And I guess I’m contractually obligated to point out the Canucks lost last night, this is the Hawks game in hand on them, and they could climb higher. If that matters. Which it might. But probably doesn’t. But maybe.

Anyway, the Bruins. They’ve won four of five, while inspiring exactly no confidence in their fans while doing so. They needed overtime to get past the Kings and reeling Avalanche. They needed a shootout to get past the confuse-a-cat Rangers. They scored one goal against the Caps. So it’s not a clear demonstration of raw power, exactly. The Bs are third in the Atlantic, in a real tussle with the Leafs and Canadiens. And it’s one of these weird happenstances that only takes place in the NHL, where it might actually be beneficial to finish fourth in the division. Second or third means going through either the Leafs or Habs and then the Lightning. Swapping over to the Metro could see a team have to get past a somewhat illusory-Islanders team and then any of a flawed Pens, Caps, or Jackets. The easier path is clearly marked.

The Bruins are also beat up. It was announced this morning that David Pastrnak is out for three weeks with a thumb injury, and this was a team that was one-line-plus-one-center anyway. Now David Krejci has no one to play with again, and the unholy alliance of Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand will look to their right and wonder how Danton Heinen got there. Clearly, the Bruins are screaming out for a move, and should be in on any discussion for Panarin, Duchene, Stone, and whoever else. That is if they think they can make anything of this season. Given the age of Bergeron, Marchand, and Zdeno Chara, they don’t really have seasons they can just give away.

All that said, this is the Bruins team you remember. When Bergeron is out there, they’re one of the best teams around. When he’s on the bench, they are most decidedly not. When he’s playing, the Bruins carry nearly 60% of the chances and attempts, and are below water when he’s on the Gatorade. Krejci is having a wonderful season, and he’s doing it with interns and contest0-winners on his wings for the most part. David Backes is broken and dead. None of the kids that showed flashes last year have backed that up. Jake DeBrusk has three goals in 2019. Heinen has been a nothing. The Bruins are short, and would look to be short if they run into the Leafs in the first round, and would heavily struggle with the Canadiens’ speed at least.

The defense is at least healthy, which is most certainly wasn’t earlier in the season. Chara, McAvoy, and Krug are all back. Chara is still getting done by cutting down his game more and more and letting McAvoy do the work beyond the Bs blue line. Krug is still a choose-your-own-adventure at evens but a power play weapon, making him Michigan Gustafsson, really. But that’s ok, because the goalies have been really good. Both Tuuke Nuke ‘Em and Jaro Halak are over .920 on the season, and Rask hasn’t lost in regulation in nearly two months. So even when Bergeron isn’t keeping everything on one end, the Bruins get bailed out most of the time.

To the Hawks. Dylan Sikura will replace Kunitz in the lineup to keep him saved for his 1,000th game at home on Thursday, because that’s a huge occasion for this organization. Apparently. The defensive rotation will continue. What the Hawks need to do is figure out how they want to handle Bergeron. Bruce Cassidy will toss him out against anyone not named Toews every chance, and the Hawks are either going to have to try and survive or change quickly. Bergeron and Marchand against Anisimov and Hayden is not going to be funny for anyone in red, so that’s one the Hawks will probably try and get away from and have Toews or Kruger take on the big assignment.

Eight is better than seven, even if it’s empty.

 

Game #57 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

We went to our normal Days of Y’Orr crew. No one told us they were all dead. Some relative forwarded us to someone named Jon Fucile. So here you go. We don’t know either.

Not that you could do this, but the Bruins are in a tussle with the Canadiens and Leafs for the 2nd and 3rd spots in the Atlantic. Technically, wouldn’t it be better to finish 4th and deal with whatever dreck wins the Metro instead of Toronto or yet another series with Montreal?
I’m torn on that, though I’d lean towards preferring a match-up with the Metro. The Bruins have handled the Maple Leafs pretty well over the past couple years, but the Leafs have more than one line which could be a problem in the playoffs. Tavares actually playing some meaningful playoff games could cause him to Hulk out and go nuts and as much as I love Zdeno Chara, he already looks tired. Pretty soon Bergeron is going to have to play D and pull a Weekend at Bernie’s with Chara. Doesn’t bode well for the playoffs.
Because the NHL playoff schedule sucks and there’s a chance Toronto and Tampa could meet in the first round, it’d be nice to watch those two teams beat the shit out of each other and hope the Bruins could make a series of out the scraps if they happened to make it to the second round (which is doubtful anyway).
The Metro is such a crap show but the Bruins just got their first win against the Capitals after losing 14 straight to them so not sure I’d want to see the Caps in the first round.
Though I’m confident the Bruins could give the Penguins or Blue Jackets a run. Yeah the Pens have Crosby, Malkin, Letang and Kessel but they have less D than an early 90’s John Wayne Bobbitt and over in Columbus Bobrovsky forgot you’re supposed to play well in a contract year. So yeah I’d say play for 4th and hope for the “best” from the Metro.
I mean… go for #1! Yeah! Rah rah and all that.
The Bs have been racking up points, but they’ve gone to OT with the Flyers, Rangers, Kings, and Avalanche of late, none of whom are above the remedial class. Any worries there?
Oh yeah. The Bruins score less than me and I’m married. When the Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak line isn’t out there, this team couldn’t score on an empty net. Well, maybe that’s a tad harsh. But they’d definitely have trouble scoring on a blind folded Martin Jones, and he can’t stop anything this year. And now with Pastrnak being out at least two weeks with a busted thumb, scoring is likely to dry up like Oilers playoff chances after opening night. This was a problem last year too and management failed to address it. We never learn from our mistakes.
Well, except for firing Chiarelli. But it was too late. IT WAS TOO LATE.
They have to get David Krejci any winger, right?
They have to but I’m afraid they won’t. Even if I drink a gallon of Bruins Kool-Aid I still know this team has zero shot at a long playoff run without adding more to the second line.
Boston management is too addicted to their failing prospects, though. Sweeney should’ve made a move or two last year when some of the top B’s prospects had some value before they tanked hard this year. They’ve tried spreading out the scoring by putting Pastrnak on Krejci’s wing, but then you break up what is arguably the best line in hockey.
The rumor mill is popping with Panarin to Boston rumors, and I think he and Krejci would look GREAT together but I’m not sure even that that the Bruins have enough depth scoring to be a threat to a healthy Tampa Bay team. Also rumors that the Bruins are front runners to add Wayne Simmonds, which is a trade I would LOVE if I had a time machine and could get the Wayne Simmonds from 3-4 years ago. Vintage Wayne Simmonds is what Bruins fans pretend Milan Lucic was.
The Bruins last year seemed to have introduced an impressive collection of younger players. But DeBrusk hasn’t scored in forever, McAvoy is made out of graham crackers, Heinen has 16 points, and one or two others have flattened out. What’s the truth here?
I hate to admit it but I think we all got suckered in last year with way too many young kids playing over their heads. It caused management to mostly stay firm this offseason as well and feed the fanbase some crap about having what they need already in the system. The signs were there, but we ignored them like an unwanted step child.
This year they came crashing back to earth like the Challenger. I still believe McAvoy has the talent but he can’t stay healthy long enough to get any kind of rhythm going. This is why I’m pro HGH. At least specifically for McAvoy. He’s the one out of this group I’d cut some slack.
DeBrusk is a classic Bruins case study. Both management and fans LOVE their power forwards and give them way too long of a leash. There were even a few rumored deals on the table last year where the Bruins could’ve included either Carlo or DeBrusk and got Landeskog in return but luckily for Colorado we’re the drunkest city in the US because management was like NO WAY WE WOULD’VE EVEN TRADE DEBRUSK FOR MCDAVID. Now he’s struggling and you’d have trouble trading him for an autographed copy of Gigli signed by Ben Affleck.
 
Boston also overvalues 4th liners every since Shawn Thornton and Gregory Campbell led the Merlot Line to a couple of great seasons a decade ago. Heinen, a guy with 4th line talent at best, gets propped up because of past, clearly unsustainable success.
Boston blew this whole thing more than my mom, and she’s a prostitute.

 

Game #57 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

 vs. 

RECORDS: Hawks 29-31-8   Bruins 42-15-8

PUCK DROPS: Noon on Saturday, 11:30am on Sunday

TV: NBCSN Chicago Saturday, NBC Sunday

WHAT IS IT, YAH’ PERIOD?: Days Of Y’Orr

As you can see, given the home-and-home nature of this and the fact that they’re both in the afternoon when we will most certainly be sleeping it off (I’m seeing Screaming Females tonight for fuck’s sake), we’re going to combine both previews. Also, the potential for this one to get very ugly for the Hawks also doesn’t inspire us to spill more words than necessary, because everyone needs to prepare for the gore that might ensue here.

It’s been a while since the Hawks have seen a member of the league’s glitterati. The Lightning and Leafs visited at the end of January. That’s the last time they saw the Predators, too. Remember that? When the Hawks deservedly beat the Preds in Nashville and had hope? You probably don’t. I assure you it happened. It’s just been washed away in a tide of sadness and incompetence. So this will be a new-ish feature.

And the Bruins are certainly among the league’s best. They have the third most points in the league with 92, though that still has them only within six points of the Lightning in their division. It also is going to reward them by playing perhaps the fifth or sixth best team in the league in the first round in the Leafs. Great playoff system we have here, where we’ve known the Leafs and Bruins were going to see each other to start things off since before we deep fried our turkeys. Love this league.

This version of the Bruins comes in a bit beat up. Patrice Bergeron is out for a couple weeks. Charlie McAvoy might be out until the playoffs. David Backes is suspended (I’m Jack’s sense of shock). And Bergeron and McAvoy have been the main engines among the skaters as to why there’s been a revival in The North End. Bergeron is having his best offensive season in 10 years, thanks to Riley Nash and Sean Kuraly being able to take a portion of his checking assignments off his hands. Combined with having David Pastrnak and his faithful gargoyle in Marchand on the other side, and they’ve been simply feeding it to teams.

McAvoy has relieved Zdeno Chara of his #1 d-man duties, and has given the Bruins a puck-moving d-man that can dominate games that they really haven’t had since #77 packed it off to Denver. His metrics are some of the best in the league, and Chara can now just concentrate on his own zone which he still blocks most off with his gargantuan reach. It’s allowed Torey Krug to bum-slay on the second pairing, which is what he was built for. It’s a pretty fine-tuned machine when fully on display.

And somehow, being without these two haven’t slowed them down. They’ve won five in a row, with four of those coming without those two. It certainly help when Tuuke Nuke’Em in net is back to his best, with a .920 overall. Rask had been middling the past couple seasons, which has led to the Bruins being middling overall. Not anymore.

Riley Nash has taken Bergeron’s center spot and done pretty well. David Krejci has Rick Nash as a winger and give Krejci real finishers and he’ll do damage. Rookie Jake DeBrusk is on the other side and he’s got a fair amount of dash to him. Remember, Krejci is the only player to lead playoff scoring in two years and never win a Conn Smythe. When Backes returns they have a nifty checking line with him and rookie Danton Heinen.

If there’s a silver lining for the Hawks, it’s that the Bruins won’t have the urgency as some other teams they’ve seen of late. They’re entrenched in second, the Leafs aren’t going to catch them unless they completely come apart and the Lightning are probably out of reach as well. So…there’s that?

For the Hawks, there really aren’t any changes to make now that Carl Dahlstrom has been sent down for being too steady. The lineup you saw on Thursday is what you’re going to get for these two.

Bruce Cassidy is more aggressive than Claude Julien was, which is why you’ve seen the Bruins scoring go up. They get up and go and the blue line is encouraged to join in on the fun. There’s little dump-and-chase here. Even without Bergeron and McAvoy they’re still going to press and pressure. It’s a big test for the Hawks’ defense, and we know how those have gone this season. At least with afternoon games you get a lot of time to erase it from your mind.

 

 

Game #69 and #70 Preview

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

 vs 

Game Time: 11:30AM CDT
TV/Radio: NBC, TVA-S, WGN-AM 720
Of The April Birds: Days of Y’Orr, Cup of Chowder

This morning’s national TV tilt means nothing to the Blackhawks, having wrapped up home ice in the Western Conference yesterday afternoon thanks to the Wild getting blanked in Nashville by the Preds. And in an ideal world, they should just be able to forfeit the remaining four games on the schedule and not even get into their cars to head to the rink from here on out, let alone get on a plane to head out west for the final three games on the road, only one of which will be against a team playing for anything in the Ducks. But that’s not allowed, and today’s opponent, the Bruins, still aren’t out of the woods yet as far as getting into the post-season, so brunch hockey is still going to take place on West Madison.

Everything Else

bruins fallon fever pitch vs evil empire

Game Time: 11:30AM Central
TV/Radio: NBC, SportsNet, TVA-S, WGN-AM 720
You White, You Ben Affleck: Cup of Chowder 

There really is zero excuse for an 11:30 start this morning, as the game isn’t necessarily running as counter programming to anything specific. But the NHL and marketing sensibility have never exactly gone together like bologna and Miracle Whip. So somehow what they’ll bill as in important game between two ORIGINAL SIX teams in its final pre-scheduled Sunday matchup still will start while the vast majority of the country is still sleeping. Great job again, everyone.

Everything Else

AltLogo at bruins country bear jamboroo

Game Time: 7:00PM Central
TV/Radio: NBCSN, CBC (Anglo), RDS (Franco), WGN-AM 720
Feed The Tree: Cup of Chowder, Days of Y’Orr

Dating back three years to the 2010 Final against Philadelphia, the Hawks have lost the first game away from the United Center in six straight series. Overall in that time frame, the Hawks have gone 7-10 on the road, and 3-4 this post season. And in order to win this series, the Hawks will now have to win at least one game on the road, with the first of potentially three games in Boston tonight.

Everything Else

bruins country bear jamboroo vs AltLogo

Game Time: 7:00PM Central
TV/Radio: The Channel Formerly Known As Versus, CBC (Anglo), RDS (Franco), WGN-AM 720
Some People Try To Pick Up Girls And Get Called AssholesCup of ChowderDays of Y’Orr

Well now, has everyone stocked up on caffeine and other crucial supplies? Ready for another 5 hour hockey game? No? Well me either. If there’s one thing to take away from Wednesday’s game, it’s that there aren’t going to be any easy victories for either team in this series. The Hawks started the game as the team looking like they had a message to send. I don’t think we’ve seen them be quite so physical right from the drop of the puck in a while. Everyone knows the Bruins are the bigger team with the nastier reputation, so the Hawks clearly wanted to send a message that they would not be intimidated. Interesting strategy…