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

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

It took about 30 minutes, but the Hawks came roaring back against a team that hadn’t won a game since December 23 to win their third game after trailing through two periods. Never mind that the Senators are a divot full of wastewater runoff. Two points is two points. Let’s.

– Someone ought to give Mats Hallin a number just so we can retire it. He’s struck gold once again with Dominik Kubalik, who continues to complement his booming shot with speed and the exact kind of toughness along the boards and in front of the net that make things move in the nethers. He’s now on a six-game points streak and a five-game goals streak. He has 10 points over those six games and a cumulative 61+ CF% over those six. Tonight, he was second among all Hawks forwards in CF% (76+), led everyone in the universe with a literally unbelievable 96.87 xGF%, and had nine shots on goal.

He’s been dominant recently when given the chance.

– Which is why someone needs to tell Jeremy Colliton that absolutely no one tunes in to watch him put on Kissinger’s toilet glasses and flex his Throbbing Genious Brain. Look at the game flow chart here:

This is where Colliton stopped playing with his pud and put Kane with Kubalik and Toews. Who would have thought that loading up your top line against one of the NHL’s urinals would lead to complete dominance going forward? This “spreading out the scoring” horseshit only works when you have forward depth, and the Hawks absolutely do not have that. If the Hawks want to continue this playoff-team farce—and whatever, I’m here to watch them win—Colliton must stop trying to show everyone how fucking smart he thinks he is.

Ryan Carpenter is a fine fourth liner. Alex Nylander sucks. Patrick Kane should never be playing with either of them. Keep Kubalik–Toews–Kane together. This isn’t fucking difficult.

Drake Caggiula had himself a great game. He led all skaters in 5v5 possession with an 88+ CF%. He also had a hilarious 94+ xGF%. He’s another fine bottom six guy who can contribute when not asked to play so far out of his element. He exceled when Coach Gemstone finally slotted him off the top line. It’s doubly encouraging that he did so well in just his third game back from the land of wind and ghosts. Yeah, it’s Ottawa, but whatever. Gotta start somewhere.

– Friendly reminder that the Blackhawks could have traded Erik Gustafsson at any point during the season before the deadline last year. Or during the off-season. Instead, we get to watch him get turned inside out in the slot by Chris Tierney for absolutely no good reason on the Sens’s second goal. You may have been willing to forgive such atrocious coverage when he was putting up 60 points, but he’s not going to do that ever again. There aren’t any other options because Stan Bowman is a moron, but it’s nonetheless agonizing.

Jonathan Toews put up another good game tonight. It’s amazing what he can do when he’s not forced to drag AHLers and glorified fourth liners around. His 71+ CF% and 96+ xGF% tonight were a feast for the nerds. And he was easy on the eyes, contributing to every single goal the Hawks scored.

On the first, he won the puck behind the net and flung a crisp pass to the slot. Kubalik missed on it, but it found a waiting Kane, who ricocheted a shot off Kubalik’s shin pads.

On the second, Toews dropped a two-line stretch pass onto Kubalik’s stick, who exploded through the neutral zone for his second goal. No muss, no fuss.

And of course, Toews pantsed Hogberg in OT. An all-around outstanding performance from the captain.

It was more of a struggle than it needed to be, but when Colliton got out of his own way, the Hawks pulled it out. We can only watch and wonder whether he will keep his most dominant line together tomorrow night in Montreal, and if they want to keep flirting with the idea of going to the playoffs, there’s no excuse not to.

Onward.

Beer du Jour: Kalamazoo Stout

Line of the Night: “I heard there might be some beer on that train.” –Steve Konroyd describing the train ride the Hawks are taking to Montreal

Hockey

vs

Game Time: 7:30PM CST
TV/Radio: NBCSN, NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720
David Poile Is A Scumbag: On The Forecheck

If the Hawks record and stagnant roster weren’t a self evident indication of how rudderless and sclerotic this Organ-I-Zation has been since its most recent playoff ouster at the hands of tonight’s vistors, the Nashville Predators, then the fact that the Preds fired Peter Laviolette earlier this week while remaining ahead of the Hawks in the standings should drive the point home. But it remains unchanged that the Hawks are still outwardly holding the product on-ice to a playoff standard, and tonight poses yet another opportunity to gain points on a team they are currently (on paper) battling for a playoff spot, an opportunity which will surely end up being pissed away in creative fashion as so many others have the past two seasons.

Hockey

It’s the good, the bad, and the moderately acceptable in the world of the Blackhawks this week…

The Dizzying Highs

Drake Caggiula: Two goals in two games from Caligula earns him a spot in the Highs this week. The first came when he was on the top line against Columbus, and the second came during his stint on the bottom line against Washington, off a great pass from Alex Nylander, showing that while Caggiula is really a bottom six guy, he is producing throughout the lineup (such as it is) right now, so more power to him.

The Third Line: Saad-Kampf-Kubalik is the real deal. Every time they’ve played together they’ve dominated possession, and they can score to boot (example: third goal against the Capitals Sunday). Whether it’s stats or the eye test, they’re passing it. It feels like a resurgence for Saad as well, as he finds a place in the lineup where he can make an impact without all the outsized expectations. Luckily Beto O’Colliton seems to have realized this as well and is keeping them together so far.

The Terrifying Lows

Erik Gustafsson: To be honest, there are a lot of guys on this team that could be here right now. But I don’t make the rules, and I can’t put the entire team in the Terrifying Lows (yet), so we’re going with Gus, who’s been demoted to the third pairing and is still managing to suck balls. He’s had four assists but most of them were a couple weeks ago, he’s got no goals, his possession numbers are underwater, and Calvin de Haan has had to drag his ass around because Keith and Murphy are a more trustworthy pairing then Keith and Gus. Plus, de Haan is an actual defenseman and Gus clearly needs a babysitter. QB’ing the power play was his only redeeming quality and that hasn’t resulted in much of anything lately. We’ve been saying sell high…

The Penalty Kill: As of this writing it was 28th in the league. Same as it ever was.

Pat Foley: Whatta jamoke. Not only did he make a mildly sexist comment about female hockey players’ appearance, but he did it mere weeks after making a mildly racist comment about a player’s name. There isn’t much I can add to what Pullega and Sam have already said, but ultimately it’s up to the Blackhawks as to whether they want to deal with the Hawk Harrelson level of dumbassery that’s clearly here to stay (and I say this as a lifelong Sox fan with many fond memories of Hawk calling games throughout my childhood).

The Creamy Middles

Goaltending: So we’ve all been waiting to see how the Crawford-Lehner duopoly would work out and…it’s too early to say that one guy has the hot hand and the other doesn’t. To be fair though, Lehner looked outstanding earlier in the weekend against the Blue Jackets with a .949 SV%. Crawford has been a little shakier, with an .862 SV% against the Capitals on Sunday but a great performance against the Oilers before that (.964). A few of the goals by the Caps can’t really be blamed on Crawford (e.g, Wilson’s goal when Seabrook was actually interfered with and didn’t just fall on his ass on his own, for once), yet he hasn’t always been sharp. To be clear, I am not advocating to bench Crawford. I am just pointing out that the goaltending has been a mix of great and mediocre and so we’re still waiting to see how this goes.

Kirby Dach: Yes, it’s the smallest of sample sizes, so let’s just be up front about that. But Dach was thrown into the deep end immediately and handled it well. At least, he didn’t cause any problems or make anything worse. And he had a beautiful pass to Kane that should have been a goal on the backhand (I think Kane wasn’t expecting such a spot-on pass), some quality backchecking, and even put his babyface in the right place at the right time to draw a four-minute penalty (the fact that the Hawks ended up DOWN after that wasn’t really his fault). There’s not much else to commend him for, but he wasn’t bad.

Alexander Nylander: I’m being fair here, everyone, give me some credit. You know I don’t like him and will hold against him something that he can’t control (being traded for a player I think is better). However, Nylander had two assists on Sunday against the Capitals and even got elevated from the fourth line (which was actually clicking quite well so no shit-talking here about the fourth line). Over the weekend he’s had a 53 CF% and has generally been helpful wherever Colliton has put him. Small sample size again, but it’s taking the sting out of that trade right now.

 

Hockey

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

Corsica

After a monumental diaper filling in the first period that would have made even Bobby Hull ask, “What the fuck am I doing here?” the Hawks managed to mostly lock their shit down and scratch out a victory on none other than Jonathan Toews’s stick. Which is good, because you wouldn’t be remiss to wonder where the fuck he’s been lately. Let’s clean it up.

– If you’re a “stick to sports” kind of fella (and you absolutely are a fella if that’s your mind-set, and if you don’t like that assumption, fuck you), skip this bullet. Or better yet, don’t.

Pat Foley is the voice many of us have followed forever and ever now. We were all pissed when the Hawks flicked him like a well-rolled booger back in the dark days, and we were overjoyed to have him back initially. But it’s probably time for this motherfucker to go.

At the tail-end of the first period, Nick Gismondi did a nice spot about how 35 Olympian women hockey players were playing a four-team tourney at Fifth Third Arena (or whatever corporate horseshit it’s named after). He mentioned that the morning before today’s game, they were skating with about 65 girls, aged 5–16, and that the tourney was to raise awareness and support of women’s hockey. Gismondi said that Hilary Knight made a comment about maybe having Foley and Edzo call a couple of their games. After sharing a laugh, Foley said, “Well, that’s be the best-looking team we’ve ever covered.”

That’s grade-A, unfiltered horseshit.

I’m sure Foley thought it was a cute compliment. It isn’t. These are Olympic athletes, some of whom have won gold motherfucking medals. They take their sport seriously and are doing their absolute best to make others take it seriously too. To have someone as well-known as Pat Foley minimizing what these women are doing by commenting foremost on their looks is a waste of everyone’s time. Foley’s job, whether you like it or not, is to inform people who are listening about the intricacies of the game. By minimizing these women’s accomplishments to make what he likely thought was a cute joke, he’s established that this tournament is a joke, which is unfiltered dogshit.

As a professional broadcaster, a person whose sole job is to communicate expertise to people who might not otherwise know better, Foley should absolutely know better. Fuck you if you think it’s innocuous, because it isn’t. Framing women’s hockey as a glorified peep show isn’t something we need or want (and again, if you think this isn’t a big deal, I can’t suggest that you fuck yourself more than I am right now).

While I’m pretty sure it was just Foley being out of touch, rather than consciously shitty, it’s inexcusable.

If there’s one positive that came out of this dick tripping, it’s the exasperation that came from Edzo, who tried to cover for his out-of-touch partner as much as possible with a “You hope everyone gets a chance to watch” comment immediately after.

Women aren’t just things to look at. Believe it or not, they’re living, breathing, shitting fucking people with goals, ambition, and aspirations. Foley either needs to either get with it or hang it fucking up.

– Now, to the hockey at hand. Thank Christ Robin Lehner showed up. The first period saw the Hawks get annihilated in possession. If Lehner isn’t at the top of his game, we likely have a Hagar going into the second.

– There wasn’t much to like about anything outside of Lehner tonight. Somehow, Maatta and Seabrook were the two best defenders in terms of Corsi (60+% and 50%, respectively). Coach Kelvin Gemstone leaned mostly on the Shaw–Strome–Kane line, because double-shifting Kane is his fucking counter-clockwise swirl at this point.

– We all like Saad–Kampf–Kubalik, but at some point, Colliton is going to have to put those two wingers next to Toews. He simply doesn’t mesh well with DeBrincat, and Caggiula—for as nice as he is—isn’t a top 6 guy. Toews brought up the rear in Corsi with a putrid 28% at 5v5. Yeah, scoring an OT game winner is cool and all. But it’s a waste of DeBrincat and Toews’s skill, and Caggiula’s . . .whatever. . .to keep them together.

– Caggiula’s goal was nice, though. Floating at center ice and a quick snap shot gave the Hawks an entirely undeserved 1–0 lead. Caggiula is useful, but probably not on the first line is all.

Connor Murphy got totally horsed on Markus Nutivaara’s goal. I kept looking for the penalty Edzo was talking about, but all I saw was a D-man beating another D-man.

– Kubalik didn’t show up on the score sheet, but his vision is excellent. He had two excellent passes in the first—including a one-handed attempt—that found Saad on the doorstep. But as is Saad’s wont, he couldn’t quite pot them. Putting Saad and Kubalik with Toews is something that should happen in the next game. You can always revert to 20–64–8 when facing the likes of McDavid. In the meantime, stack that top line.

– Good to see Erik Gustafsson continue to do his best Bitcoin impression.

Calvin de Haan is a wonderfully representative defensive defenseman. He made a couple of odd-man-rush plays that made me say, “Ah, that’s what a defenseman is supposed to do there.”

– Top Cat got off the schneid on the power play. It was the old Gus–Kane–Top Cat connection, with Kane slinging a saucer onto Top Cat’s stick through the slot for an easy one timer.

The Hawks will welcome the Caps on Sunday. The Caps have legitimate scorers on their team, so this dragging-their-asses-like-a-dog-with-worms play style won’t cut it there.

Onward.

Beer du Jour: Victory Sour Monkey

Line of the Night: “Not a good piece of skin cancer.” Pat Foley, describing John Tortorella’s basil-cell carcinoma removal.

Hockey

Alright, let’s take this death march to the forwards, where the story is kind of the same—just as the defense is mostly a collection of 6th or even 7th guys, the offense is a potpourri of bottom-sixers. Case in point: the very guy we’re kicking this off with, Drake Caggiula.

2018-19 Stats (w/ Hawks)

26 GP – 5 G – 7 A – 12 P

49.71 CF% (1.17 CF% Rel) – 45.48 xGF% (0.92 xGF% Rel)

59.2 oZS% – 40.8 dZS% – 14:51 Avg. TOI

FFUD Player Review

A Brief History: The very best day of Caggiula’s career with the Hawks came before he even dressed. That day was the day they acquired him in a trade with the hilariously stupid Edmonton Oilers that relieved us of everyone’s, particularly John Pullega’s, most-hated player, Brandon Manning. Caggiula could literally have been a beer league player of a bag of pucks and he would have been welcomed with open arms in exchange for Manning. And even once that rapturous feeling wore off, Caligula was not terrible on the top line with Toews and Kane. Granted, it’s hard to be terrible on a line with them but he did no harm.

Except to himself, that is. Because despite sustaining a concussion and missing about a month, this dumbshit promptly ran head first into getting domed by Dustin Byfuglien, which didn’t result in another (acknowledged) head injury, but it did show that he is a complete and utter oaf. And fortunately, everyone realized he’s really just a bottom-six guy with a bunch of missing teeth, so his position on the top line wasn’t exactly the linchpin of the offense.

It Was the Best of Times: Given the collection of flotsam the Hawks have acquired, Caggiula’s best-case situation is to settle in on the third line with David Kampf and maybe Brendan Perlini. Or Brandon Saad, if he gets marooned there. Or Andrew Shaw. That’s right—Andrew Shaw belongs at best on a third line, he’s not an elite scorer, and he’s a dumb piece of shit. I know, you don’t believe me, but you’ll see.

Anyway, this preview is about Caggiula, and while his mediocre possession numbers, despite very sheltered zone starts, don’t scream third line, ideally he’ll improve the defensive aspects of his game, and this is where he’d make the most sense in terms of the depth chart. Essentially, if you have to have Drake Caggiula in your top six, you’re fucked.

It Was the BLURST of Times: And that brings us to the worst-case scenario. Let’s say Saad has a slump, Kubalik doesn’t pan out, Nylander remains useless, and no one earns or deserves a spot on the top line with Daydream Nation so it falls to Caggiula. He likely wouldn’t do too much harm, aside from probably taking some stupid-ass penalties and getting brown brain a couple times, but he also wouldn’t provide the scoring ability the Hawks need. And it would exemplify how their bloated forward corps is really just a bunch of guys. A bunch of guys who don’t make the playoffs.

Prediction: Caggiula will most likely meander among the bottom six, possibly spending some brief stints on the top line as Coach Cool Youth Pastor figures out who’s awful and who’s useful. For his part, Caggiula will finish with around 20 points as a half-decent albeit very block-headed third- or fourth-liner, best remembered for being anyone other Brandon fucking Manning.

Stats from Hockey Reference and Corsica Hockey

Previous Previews

Robin Lehner

Corey Crawford

Adam Boqvist

Carl Dahlstrom

Calvin de Haan

Erik Gustafsson

Duncan Keith

Slater Koekkoek

Olli Maatta

Connor Murphy

Brent Seabrook

Everything Else

Drake Caggiula is a nice player to have in general. He’s a good combination of decent skill, board-crashing puck retrieval, and missing teeth that each and every rockhead broadcaster pollutes his britches over year in and year out. What makes Caggiula even better is that StanBo got him for Brandon Motherfucking Manning. Sane people may argue that the Strome trade was tops on the year, but we all know that this was truly the feather in StanBo’s stupid fucking cap.

Hawks Stats

26 GP, 5 G, 7 A, 12 P

49.71 CF%, 45.48 xGF% [5v5]

It Comes With a Free Frogurt!

This one’s easy. Drake Caggiula isn’t Brandon Manning. In case you’ve forgotten, Brandon Manning managed to get sent down to the AHL while playing defense on the Edmonton Oilers. There is no better metaphor that can accurately capture how fucking bad he is at his chosen profession. What an asshole.

On top of not being Brandon Manning—the PETA of hockey players—Caggiula looked serviceable if not good in his 26 games here. He spent most of his time on the first line with Daydream Nation and wasn’t a total clusterfuck up there. Granted, if your first line consists of Drake Caggiula, either your coach is an idiot or you suck, but since we know that the latter is certain and the former is a distinct possibility, you live with it. On the first line, he came close to scratching even in possession, and was above board in the relative Corsi share (+1.8). He was the guy doing what everyone wishes John Hayden would do, which is retrieve pucks and set up his more skilled linemates.

The Frogurt Is Also Cursed

Caggiula is a bonafide bonehead. Two games after spending a month in the dark room with a concussion, ya boy went out and got his skull caved in by Dustin Byfuglien, a man with hardly enough motivation to elbow his way to the front of the buffet anymore. It’s hard to have a consistently positive impact for your hockey team if you’re too concussed to play.

By virtue of being on the first line, Caggiula had plush starts, starting nearly 60% of his time in the offensive zone. This makes those possession and expected goals percentages look pretty shitty. But that’s also a function of playing with Garbage Dick, who tends to make a lot out of very little.

Can I Go Now?

Caggiula is still pretty young (24) and is on a decently cheap contract for next year ($1.5 million cap hit). Having him available to play top line minutes is a plus, but it shouldn’t be what we expect from him going forward. He looks like a much better fit as a puck retriever in the bottom six, but I’m not sure I’d trust him with the kind of defensive responsibilities you’d give to the Kampf line.

If the Hawks are going to stick with Saad on the third line, that could be a safe spot for Caggiula, especially if we’re looking at Caggiula as a center, which seems to be where StanBo and Beto O’Colliton want to slot him. Something like Saad–Caggiula–Sikura/Kahun could make for some decent depth scoring and responsible possession. With no history of defensive responsibility, you’re sort of forced to put him in a role where he can take advantage of softer zone starts. But he’s shown he can handle that in a small sample size last year.

Overall, Caggiula is a fine if not good puck retriever with OK speed and a bit more touch than the average grinder. Certainly better to have that than whatever it was the Brain Trust thought they were getting with Manning.

Previous Player Reviews

Corey Crawford

Cam Ward

Collin Delia

Duncan Keith

Connor Murphy

Henri Jokiharju

Gustav Forsling

Erik Gustafsson

Carl Dahlstrom

Brendan Perlini

Alex DeBrincat

Chris Kunitz

Artem Anisimov

Marcus Kruger

Dylan Strome

Jonathan Toews

Brandon Saad

Dominik Kahun

John Hayden

David Kampf

Patrick Kane

Everything Else

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

Money Puck

The 2019 campaign is over. It will likely go down as one of the most disappointing performances that the Hawks have had since the core congealed back in 2007. Two 40+ goal scorers. A 35-goal scorer. Eight 30+-point seasons. A defenseman with 60 fucking points. And no playoffs.

It’s a massive disappointment. Yet somehow, it exceeded expectations? Given how bad the Western Conference was this year, the Hawks were in shouting distance of the playoffs as recently as two weeks ago. I certainly didn’t expect that, especially with Crawford missing as many games as he did. While none of us really expected the playoffs to be a reality, that they were even in the running was at least surprising. What’s scary is that it came on the backs of career years from Kane, Toews, DeBrincat, and Gustafsson. Is it safe to rely on that?

Fuck, we’ve got a long, long time to crack this brewski open. I’ll try not too be too retrospective tonight. Let’s kick it.

– First, thank you for reading and sharing this year. Sincerely, it’s a pleasure to write for all of you.

Cam Ward was outstanding tonight. Four goals on 50 shots is entirely acceptable behind this sock-as-as-condom defense. He certainly deserved a win for the effort tonight. We gave him a ton of shit this year, but tonight is a good memory to keep of him. Even though the Hawks had nothing to play for, Ward gave it a good effort. It’s a nice send off.

Alex DeBrincat had a hot and cold game. Early on, he was everywhere, creating offense on Perlini’s goal especially. After playing staunch defense in his own zone, he skated to the neutral zone and executed a dump and chase on his own. All Perlini had to do was be there for Top Cat’s pass. As the game wore on, DeBrincat got a little looser. It was especially obvious on Fibbro’s goal. After turning the puck over on the near boards, he stood complaining about something, forcing Gus to cover his man high in the zone. Fabbro took advantage, dropping into the space left wide open by Gus covering his man. Had DeBrincat not complained, maybe he’s in that spot.

After the year he had though, you don’t hold something like that against him. Not tonight at least.

Brendan Perlini ended a nine-game pointless streak tonight, but his airheadedness also allowed Wayne “They Don’t Call Me ‘Plate Tectonics’ for Nothing” Simmonds to crash the slot for a prime chance in the first. We’ve seen this before from Perlini, where he will take time off on a play that gives an opponent a good chance. Something to watch going forward, especially in terms of how Colliton deals with it. He’s scratched him before for boneheadedness.

Drake Caggiula can stay. That it took Stan Bowman signing Brandon Manning as a “fuck you” to Quenneville to get him isn’t his fault. He’s looked in place with Toews and Kane, mostly because he will go get the puck, taking that pressure off Toews. I’m still not sure that a Stanley Cup contender should have Drake Caggiula on the first line, but it hasn’t looked particularly wrong. I liked him tonight, and I liked him all year as a Hawk.

Patrick Kane is a piece of shit as a person, but he’s a goddamn artist with the puck. His patience on the goal line before his pass to Caggiula was astounding.

– I’ll go on record as saying I really like Pat Foley. Generally, he’s good at what he does and is entertaining. But listening to him call Austin Watson “physically proficient” in the same breath as talking about his far-too-short 18-game suspension for domestic violence was a bit much. He probably didn’t relate the two, but as a broadcaster, that’s kind of his entire job: to say things thoughtfully and clearly. He probably didn’t conflate the two consciously, but that he didn’t think how that phrasing might play was jarring to me.

– The sooner we all come to terms with the fact that Erik Gustafsson will never be anything more than a below-average defender with the ability to score 60 points, the better. He’s going to be the most interesting player the Hawks have next year because of his offensive proficiency, his defensive offensiveness, and his sweetheart contract.

– Listening to Nashville fans mock Ward after an empty netter reminds me of Clint Eastwood talking to that empty chair that one time. Looking forward to their piss-sweater-wearing team getting bounced before they win a Cup again.

We’ll have playoff coverage and baseball shit for you in the off-season. We’ll give you the postmortem in a week or two. And as always, we’ll give you the skinny on the draft and free agency. But for now, and for the second straight year, we’ll sign off on games that matter.

Thanks again for reading. As a great man once said:

Onwards . . .

Booze du Jour: Victory’s Sour Monkey and accoutrements.

Line of the Night: “They really have no business being in this game with the opportunities they’ve given up.” Pat Foley on the Hawks, getting it 100% correct

Everything Else

This was a poorly played game for the most part, which I guess comes as no surprise given who the teams involved were. And yet, the contrast between the dull first period when both teams ended up with a handful of themselves and the excitement of basically every other televised sporting event in the nation tonight was striking. What was worse, however, was the ending, where the Hawks took one meager point and lost in OT on a power play thanks to a terribly poetic penalty by Jonathan Toews. We knew the season was over but this is a harsh exclamation point on it. Let’s get to the bullets:

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

– As mentioned, the first period was mostly a back-and-forth affair between mediocre opponents, and although the Hawks ended up on the wrong side of the ledger in terms of both shots and possession (9-14 and 48 CF%, respectively), it wasn’t a painfully noticeable difference in play quality. The only part that was certifiably painful was Keith shattering his stick on a shot near the end of a late-period power play. Not only was that the personification of a sad trombone sound, but Kyle Clifford jumped out of the box just as it happened and the Kings had numbers going the other way. But fear not—Seabrook took a dumb penalty and the Kings were too useless to score on it…that time.

– Not useless was Alex DeBrincat, who scored a relatively soft goal by curling it just underneath Campbell early in the second. Top Cat is now tied with Patrick Kane as the team’s leading goal scorer, with 41, and his career total is…wait for it…69 (NICE). And yes, you’d make that joke too so shut up. Having DeBrincat and Garbage Dick on the third line is still some galaxy brain bullshit as far as I’m concerned, but I’d rather see Top Cat produce anywhere and any way that he can, rather than flail in the stupidity of bad coaching decisions. Remember, a 25-goal scorer tops, this guy.

Erik Gustafsson‘s magic carpet ride continued with another goal, his 17th. Campbell likely was screened because he didn’t seem to see the shot coming from three miles away. However, Gus giveth and he taketh away, as his habit of doing confused pirouettes away from forwards left Michael Amadio alone in the slot to tie the game in the third. If you can’t stop a fourth-fucking-liner on one of the league’s worst teams you seriously need to re-evaluate what you’re doing and how you understand your job description.

– But wait! Before we pile on the crappy defenseman, at least he scored. Kane and Toews both point-blank fucked up multiple times in overtime. The fact this game went to OT is stupid on its own, but they had nearly a third of the 3-on-3 with control of the puck and couldn’t finish any of their shots. Toews followed that up with a penalty on Anze Kopitar, which is frustrating for its timing since that led to the winning goal by LA, and sad in its relevance for an aging, slowing legend trying to slow down nearly his mirror image. And it backfired in a pretty dramatic way, really putting the final nail in the coffin where the Hawks playoff hopes now lay. But had either he or Kane converted on any of their opportunities earlier, that penalty wouldn’t have happened. Maybe they’re tired after the amount of ice time (would be fair enough at the end of the season although tonight’s wasn’t too egregious), maybe they just don’t have it or don’t give a shit, but it did not inspire hope for the future.

David Kampf broke some part of his face (or severely messed it up), and not that it matters now but still, not the way to end the season.

– I can’t say that Austin Wagner is any good, but I can say that he is fast. He absolutely scorched Carl Dahlstrom in the second for the tying goal (the first time), and he did it to Connor Murphy in the third but our Large Irish Son was bailed out by a Crawford poke check.

Drake Caggiula seemed awfully excited to be back in the lineup, and yet I can’t help but wonder if he should try to avoid getting into fights rather than seeking them out, seeing as he just missed a month with a head injury. I dunno, just doesn’t seem like the best strategy. He had four shots, so that’s something, and he didn’t get into a full-on fisticuffs, but boy was he trying to.

I know I sound like a broken record but this has to be the end of the playoff delusion, even if the math doesn’t say it’s for certain yet. We all know it is, and really, if you can’t beat this lowly-ass Kings team any of the times you play them, do you really even deserve to be in the playoffs? The answer is no. Onward and upward?

Beer de jour: Sun Catcher by Revolution Brewing

Line of the Night: “Halfway through an almost scintillating first period.” —Foley, sarcastically saying what we were thinking.

Photo credit: NHL.com

Everything Else

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

Money Puck

The last four minutes were a speedball that saw the four best players the Hawks have decide, “Enough of this bullshit.” But everything up to that point was a one-too-many-Vicodin full-body dry heave. The Ducks have won just five games in the last 10 weeks, and it took divine intervention for the Hawks to come away with two points. The Hawks looked like horseshit for 56 minutes, but because the Ducks are the living embodiment of a botched C-section, they got away with it. Let’s try to tidy this up.

Corey Crawford is back, and he looked mostly good behind a blue line dead set on putting him back in the dark room. Twenty-nine saves on 32 shots in his first game back is something you’ll take, especially since, save for one bad play, he looked pretty good throughout. That one mistake was egregious, as he misplayed the puck behind the net, allowing Derek Grant (who?) to make a blind between-the-legs pass to Troy Terry (WHO?), who had a wide-open net to shoot on. Still, Crawford looked confident and spry, and he kept the Hawks in it despite their best efforts to throw it away. Plus he had an assist on Artie’s shorty.

– This might have been the worst game Duncan Keith has played since before the lockout. He was constantly out of position, and it was no more evident than on Anaheim’s second goal. With Seabrook covering Rowney on the near boards (which is questionable in itself), Keith—for no good reason—meandered into the same area. Rowney outmaneuvered Seabrook, causing a turnover on the boards. While the puck was loose, Ritchie laid a clean check on Seabrook, giving Rowney room to leak out Seabrook’s backside. Rather than sagging back down in front of the net where he should have been in the first place, Keith weakly stuck his stick into the Seabrook–Ritchie scrum, leaving both Rowney down low and Kessler up top plenty of room to embarrass him. You can blame Crawford for being overzealous on the poke check attempt, but you would be wrong. Keith’s miserable positioning left Rowney all alone for a slick redirect.

Things only got worse in the third. Keith got walked by Troy Terry, leading to a good chance that Seabrook had to break up with a slide. He had an awful clearing attempt, under very little pressure, that led to another great scoring chance for the Ducks. He was fortunate that Crow was up to the task, because if the Ducks weren’t a team that couldn’t successfully piss in the ocean, we could have been looking at a 5–2 final.

– Though Keith looked exceptionally bad, no one on the defense looked good at all. Dahlstrom and Murphy both had a CF% above 56, but it never really looked like that. Everyone was everywhere except where they were supposed to be, which makes Colliton’s claim that “These seven defensemen give us the best chance to win” even more maddening. Harju won’t solve everything, but after the last three games, and especially tonight, anyone who tells you Harju wouldn’t be a top-4 D-man on this team is a fucking cop.

Artem Anisimov was noticeable tonight. On his shorthanded goal, he managed to outskate Cam Fowler, which should result in mandatory retirement for Fowler. He led all Hawks on the possession ledger (besides John Hayden, who had a better share but with fewer than 10 minutes played), because fuck all of us.

– Top Cat is a treasure. His power play snipe was a clinic. He took a pass from Gus between the blue line and top of the far-side circle. He took his time moving into the far-side circle, because the Ducks blow and didn’t even try to cover him, and picked his spot high stick side. His second goal was him being in the right place for a Toews pass, which he’s shown a penchant for since forever.

– Toews’s pass to Top Cat was special. He curled around from behind the net and threaded the puck between HAMPUS! HAMPUS! and Josh “Don’t Call Me Charlie” Manson. There are few people who can dominate the area behind the net like Toews.

– Perhaps the only Hawk better than Toews on and behind the goal line is Saad, when he wants to be. He’s been doing that thing where he puts his shoulder down, walks the goal line, and tries to stuff the puck in more often recently, and I’d like to subscribe to that newsletter. And of course, his pantsing of HAMPUS! HAMPUS! on Kane’s game-winning goal is the kind of stuff that made us all think he could be Hossa Jr. He’s having a nice year, and until the last four minutes, looked like the only Hawk who wasn’t exploring the vast reaches of space on the third hour of a boomers binge.

– Garbage Dick is at 40 goals and 94 points. He ought to hit 50 and 100. That would be just fine.

– Caggiula left the game with a concussion. Hopefully, he gets better fast.

The win was nice, as were the last four minutes. But this might have been the worst game the Hawks have played since the Old Man died. It was a sloppy sluice of slippery shit, even if the outcome was good (ALL PROCESS, NO PLAN). The defensive scheme is a zoo without cages, and the Hawks have proven that they can’t outscore those woes against real teams. Enjoy the comeback, but this isn’t sustainable. This is a shitty team that just has a few Hall of Famers on it, so they’ll tread water for a little while. But tonight reinforces the refrain we’ve been singing all year: Whether in free agency or by trade, the Hawks need real defensemen to supplement Murphy and Harju next year. Anything less is malfeasance.

Onward . . .

Booze du Jour: Tin Cup & High Life

Line of the Night: “Fans might get impatient with him, but Seabrook is underpaid for all the things he brings to the dressing room.” –Patrick Kane, future NHL GM, according to whichever bozo was doing the national broadcast