Now begins the portion of the preview to this “series” where any parents allowing their children to read this should probably be reported to DCFS. While both the Hawks and Oilers boast varying concentrations of firepower among their respective forward corps, to call both of these teams a bit of an adventure on the blue line would probably be a bit complimentary. There are gaping fissures in the space-time continuum to be found on either side of the ledger here, and it will be up to the coaching staffs to find them. Ten guesses as to which one is more likely to do so, with the answer to be given on Thursday for the coaching preview.
As Feather points out regularly on our podcast, “reading the tea leaves” has gotten frustrating and fatiguing. It’s just about all we can do these days, given how little the Hawks let out and what does get out never puts them in a good light these days.
To say Duncan Keith is tired of Jeremy Colliton’s act is pretty much in the same fashion as telling you tomorrow’s Tuesday. Last night’s dejection doesn’t really change that. You can watch Keith play his own game that has nothing to do with Colliton’s supposed “system” and know he’s got no use for him. It’s been pretty obvious since Colliton took over that Keith at best eyed him with suspicion and at this point openly despises him.
Toews has always been the tougher read, but seeing as how he wasn’t afraid to bus-toss his coach in the media all the way back in November, it wouldn’t be a huge leap to suggest he’s pretty much had it as well. Toews is the captain and will always do his best to hold things together, but he can also hear the clock ticking on his career, or at least his peak years, and a third-straight year of going home in mid-April is not something that’s going to sit all that well.
Patrick Kane has hinted at wanting to talk with the front office after the season. It’s the closest Kane has come to suggesting he wants changes and won’t be afraid to say so to the people in charge.
Brent Seabrook is a different kind of case, given he just has to get healthy and what the plan is for him here long-term. Corey Crawford’s is as well as he’s a free agent and can simply turn around and head somewhere else if he doesn’t like what’s on offer, either for him or the team as a whole.
We’ve briefly talked about it on the podcast, and maybe we’ll get to it again this week, but what will the Hawks do if the main three, or all five, demand changes in coach or GM or both? Would they even? Would they go over Stan’s head? We’ve seen them go around the coaches before, when everyone wanted Mike Kitchen punted off Joel Qunneville’s staff in that summer that nearly ended with Q in Montreal and the Hawks with a new coach.
As we’ve always said, the main three don’t have a ton of leverage. They could demand Colliton be fired or they’ll ask out, but the Hawks don’t have to move them in that scenario. It’s hard to fathom that any of them would go public with a demand to get out, and short of that it’s hard to see how they could force it. The markets on Keith and Toews would be limited, and though Kane’s would be larger any interested team would still have to perform a variety of arm-balances to get his cap number in.
The question is why would the Hawks even want to go down that road? You don’t want to have the inmates running the asylum and all that, but rare is the collection of teammates who all have three rings (two in Crow’s case), two Norrises, three Conn Smythes, a Selke, a Hart, a couple Jennings. If there’s any grouping of players that can justify demanding changes to an organization, it’s this one.
Beyond that, what would the Hawks be holding on to? Why would Jeremy Colliton be the coach you’d go to the mat with these players with? He hasn’t developed any player, as no player is any better than they were a year ago. Dylan Strome has been on a wing. Adam Boqvist has been scratched at times and still doesn’t run the top power play unit nor has he shown his puck-carrying abilities. Alex Nylander sucks. Kirby Dach was a fourth-liner for too long. The power play is right up there with touching your face right now. What is the sign that things could improve with this coach down the road?
The answer is of course you wouldn’t. And it’s not like these players have a track record of downing tools or mutinies. Get a coach in here whom they believe in and respect and runs a system that they can see the benefits of, and they will suddenly form the kind of leadership any coach would dream of.
These guys are such loyal servants that I don’t know that stating Colliton and Bowman are going nowhere would cause them to agitate to move elsewhere. It feels out of character for all of them. But it’s clear they’re fed up. And Keith is definitely running out of time, and Toews and Kane can at least see the finish line for the first time. Crawford will have other offers. So if it would ever to happen, it’s going to happen this spring.
What would the Hawks do?
This was always going to be a tough one for the Hawks, especially the way the Stars are playing right now. While the Hawks do struggle with teams that are open and play fast, there’s a better chance they’ll leave the spaces the Hawks need to create and score. Teams like the Stars, which basically turn the whole surface into a mudpit (and the ice didn’t help), are less likely to leave gaps. That’s what you saw today. That game could have been four hours long and the Hawks probably don’t get more than that one goal.
Let’s to it.
The Two Obs
-The Hawks had one high-danger chance in the game. One. So while the shot totals might look even, the Hawks weren’t really close. And the reason for that is it’s hard to find a team that fights harder at each blue line than the Stars. They keep that third forward high and their d-men up, and they can double at the points to keep you hemmed in. When they can’t do that, they still stand up at their line with three, and they can do that because not only is their defense big, but it’s mobile. Only Oleksiak in today’s lineup would approach “plodder” status, and he’s actually mobile for his size. They don’t have to win the race to dump-ins that they force, they just have to be close enough to lean on you when you do. And that’s what they do. The Hawks don’t have a lot of puck winners, and aren’t built to grind out chances…which is how you end up with one.
And if you get through all that, you have to weave shots, passes, and bodies through an enchanted forest in the middle of their zone. The Hawks have one d-man who can fit a shot through in Boqvist, and they’ve robbed him of any confidence. They’re not going to bull their way through much either.
Now you may ask where the Hawks would be if they opted to collapse like that instead of whatever it is Colliton asks them to do. The Stars have two really good goalies and play to that. The Hawks have those, too. They wouldn’t be the Stars, they don’t have the mobility or size on their defense. But they would be better off than they are now.
It’s hardly galvanizing to watch, but it’s effective and the Stars stick to the system. Compare that with the Hawks running all over like kindergartners nearing the end of the school year and you begin to understand why there’s some 15 points between them in the standings.
-You don’t want to base much of anything on one game, but we can say we’d like to see Lucas Carlsson more on this trip. And it’s frustrating to see a team that lacks movement and skill on its blue line so badly wait this long to give someone like Carlsson a look instead of Dennis Gilbert Elmer Fudd his way around the ice. It’s unlikely Carlsson can prove that the Hawks don’t need additions beyond Ian Mitchell next season in these last 20 games (if Mitchell even signs), but he can at least take a shot at it or showcase himself. He’s got hands, he’s got feet. The Hawks sport three other d-men with both right now. One’s 36. One’s 19. Give us more and let’s see, because there’s nothing to lose.
-Meanwhile, it’s quite the message I can’t decode that Slater Koekkoek can take three penalties in a game and not get demoted in the lineup, whereas Adam Boqvist was benched for the third on Friday for…well I don’t fucking know.
Koekkoek was at fault for the first goal, as Keith stepped up to block a shot and Fetch decided the guy at the side of the net was more dangerous than Joe Pavelski loitering right in front of Crawford. That’s Joe Pavelski of the 368 career goals, 200 of which at least have come within five feet of the net.
Koekkoek has been fine most games as a third pairing guy because the Hawks didn’t have anyone else. But he’s not an answer for any team that means to be taken seriously. He’ll get to finish the season in the lineup thanks to the Hawks trade of Gustafsson to follow and Nick Seeler being a clod, but it shouldn’t be ahead of Carlsson.
-Putting DeBrincat in front of the net on the power play is one of the dumber ideas Colliton has had, and I realize the enormity of that statement. He’s 5-7. His main skill is as a sniper, which you can’t do with your back to the net from two feet away. And the guy in front also has to be able to get below the goal line to retrieve the puck in traffic. Again, he’s 5-7. It’s not a use of the things he does well. Just as it probably isn’t when Dach is stationed there. I’ve had quite enough of this. I’ve had quite enough of all of Colliton’s ideas.
Ok, that’s enough of this. We’ll talk again post deadline, when the Hawks will hopefully have a direction for the first time in three years.
For a minute it seemed like they may have had something going, but then the third period happened. We have to file this one under “going off the rails,” and it may have just taken the last shreds of the Hawks’ playoff hopes with it. It’s been a long night so let’s just get through it:
–The first period was downright dull, with Hawks coming out of it down a goal, slightly up in possession (56 CF%) and even in shots with the Rangers (12-12). Filip Chytil‘s goal was a softie, which in retrospect was a harbinger of what was to come from Robin Lehner. But it wasn’t a disaster, by any means, just some mid-February boredom.
–Then, the Hawks did the opposite of what they usually do, which is suck donkey balls in the second period, and instead they were, shall we say, dominant in the second. Well, maybe not dominant per se, but at least in control. Jonathan Toews made a goal-line save early in the period and they promptly flipped the ice and Dominik Kubalik scored his 24th off a great pass from Duncan Keith, who got his 500th assist on the play. They led in shots (16-10) and again in possession (57 CF%), and they continued their actually functional penalty killing after Lehner punched Brendan Lemieux in the back of the head (which was kinda funny but not really necessary). Things were looking up–despite the fact that demand was so low that Sam had to sell his tickets for a measly $28, it was seeming like maybe the fire sale, in terms of tickets and personnel at the trade deadline, was a little premature.
–And then…it all fell apart. The Rangers scored five goals in the third period on 19 shots. Even just writing that out is insane. Suffice it to say, Lehner did not look good at all in that period. And no, I don’t mean that snarkily–he really didn’t. He hasn’t looked very lights-out since the All-Star break but this was something else. I won’t subject you to a breakdown of each goal he gave up (I’m nicer than that), but at least three of those should never have gotten through. And what’s worse, with the impending trade deadline his value just plummeted. Now it wasn’t totally his fault, as it never is with this team. Adam Boqvist had another rough night, but at this point I’m so infuriated with Coach Pete that I don’t even care if he did play badly. For example, he and Keith both got completely burned by Kreider on his goal, but Lehner definitely should have stopped it and I’m convinced that Boqvist’s mind is twisted with shitty coaching and an ass-backwards system that he’s trying to follow for the sake of not getting benched, but it goes against everything he knows and instinctually understands about the game, and the result is this general crappiness on top of being, ya know, a fucking teenager.
–One thing that did make this more entertaining than usual was the guys being on Hot Mic for the…well not calling the game, but narrating the game I guess. In addition to Sam’s bargain-basement tickets ordeal, they covered the inevitable video tribute to the sellout streak once they can no longer keep up the charade, along with deep thoughts from Matt and Fifth Feather, and the comments from you dear readers were priceless as always. We appreciate everyone who came along on this first simulcasting adventure and hope to bring you more soon.
OK, so there’s no denying the Hawks are really in some shit now, but maybe this and/or Friday will be enough to convince the front office to be selling everything that isn’t bolted down. Yes that’s a huge step that I don’t think they’re ready to admit, but it’s getting awfully hard to deny what we’re seeing. Onward and upward?
Fair warning, everything that comes next in this post is almost certainly fantasy. It’s what the Hawks should do, but almost certainly what they won’t. You know the truth, I know the truth, but the truth hasn’t found purchase in the barren wasteland of the Hawks’ braintrust in a long time. While the Hawks have lost five straight, they will use their effort last night–which was very good–and the unlucky nature of the defeats to Boston and arguably Minnesota as justification that the results will turn around sharpish and they’ll be back in it.
And on the surface, the Hawks can make that argument. They’re six points back with two games in hand on the Yotes and one on the Flames, who just happen to be next up on the schedule. And with as bad as the West is, and with the amount of teams in this jumble, it’s kind of hard to just fall out of it. It’s also nearly impossible to climb into it.
But you don’t need an archeological team to get beneath the surface to see the truth. The Hawks are in last, and they’re two points behind the Wild who very well may be giving up in that they’ve already traded Jason Zucker. This is a team that had to go 12-6-0 just get to get back into the bottom of the conversation of the playoffs. But this isn’t a team that wins 12 of 18. This is a team that wins 12 of 23, as they now have done. That’s who they are.
Right now, the Coyotes are on pace for 89 points. The Hawks are on pace for 83 (EIGHTY-THREE). The Hawks would have to play at a 101-point pace to get to 89, which might not be enough. And I guess, if you were the most cock-eyed of cock-eyed optimist, you could say they already played at a 101-point once for six weeks there. Do you honestly think they have it in them again?
And by every metric, the Hawks are where they should be. They’re one of the worst defensive teams in the league. They’ve outscored what they have created, though they’re built to do that. What’s going to get better here? Certainly not the goaltending. It can’t. Maybe DeBrincat has a two- to three-week binge in him. Maybe the power play binges for no reason other than the sense of humor of the gods. But how much can that rise above the horrific defense? How is this team going to leap over four teams?
So here’s the question the Hawks’ front office has to answer, though we know how they will: While there is value for the younger players to play in games that matter and have stakes, does that matter more than what they can gather long term by selling at the deadline? It’s clear it would not. Long-term, the Hawks are still at least a winger short (likely two) and two d-men short. If they want to say Ian Mitchell is one of those d-men, I’ll take it, but you still need one more. And none of those answers are in the system. The pipeline…she be dry.
So what can the Hawks do here? If you were to separate out Erik Gustafsson, Robin Lehner, possibly Corey Crawford, maybe Drake Caggiula, maybe Olli Maatta and think what you could collectively for all of them…maybe a 1st round pick, a 3rd or 4th round pick, and a prospect or two. The last of which probably won’t amount to more than a couple lottery tickets, but you need lottery tickets. And an additional 1st rounder could be combined with the Hawks’ 1st rounder to acquire an actual piece at the draft. You never know how that will shake out. Or you just use your two first rounders and maybe you get something for 2021-2022. Or maybe you package your first rounders to get into the top five. I don’t know, but what I do know is it gives you options you need.
Because if one summer trade and one free agent signing get you another winger and d-man, and you can solve your goaltending without breaking the bank (i.e. some combo of Talbot, Markstrom, Crawford, Halak, Murray, Greiss, Khudobin, who are all free agents and not all will be ewxpensive), now you’re ready to do more than just scrape in as a wildcard and get your brains beaten in by the Blues.
Maybe if Colliton finally has the mobile blue line–which it would be with Boqvist, Mitchell, Murphy, Keith, and acquisition to come–his high-pressure system has a chance, if you’re determined to stick with it. That’s a discussion for another time.
The biggest frustration with the Hawks over the past couple seasons, distilled down to its essence, is a complete lack of vision. Everything is made up on the fly. In the summer of 2017 it was we have to get younger and faster. So in came Saad and Murphy, out went Panarin and Hjalmarsson. And then that just stopped. Strome isn’t fast. de Haan isn’t fast. Maatta isn’t fast. Gustafsson isn’t fast. Koekkoek isn’t fast. And suddenly it was about blocking shots and being gritty. And all of it has left the Hawks spinning their wheels.
Now’s the time to show you have vision. Yeah, the playoff spot is visible, if you squint. But trust your fans to see the big picture, because they do. They’re dying for the Hawks to see it as well.
If Keith gets pissed off at another lost season, so be it. Is he really going to be a part of your next very good team at 38? Would Kane? Well, there’s your chance to really reset everything. There is opportunity here, if you only see it that way instead of the end.
Where does the vision come from, though? Do you trust Stan to do the sell-off much less the final touches of a rebuild which he hasn’t gotten right yet? Does McDonough know this? Does he have the balls to fire Stan now and get someone in to do this job? Is it too late? Will Stan follow instruction? Will he even get it?
This is the frustration, because we’re pretty damn sure these questions aren’t even being asked in those offices, much less being answered. But it’s time now. You’re done.
Or you can continue to chase this playoff spot you won’t get. Lehner and Crawford can both walk. Seabrook wants back in. You have no prospects. Maybe Mitchell doesn’t want any part of this. Where are you then?
The answer is clear to us. It’s time they see it.
Game Time: 7:30PM CST
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720
Sunrise Mustaches: Litter Box Cats
Ordinarily two teams meeting one another while both riding five game winning streaks, with each heading into their bye week after the matchup would be enough of a stage-setter for a pretty decent game, especially one between teams with some of the scoring prowess that each possess. But all of that takes a back seat tonight on West Madison.
Funny, on a night when the Hawks finally defeated a direct competitor for the playoffs, it won’t even grab the headlines. And maybe that’s the way they want it. They’ll have to do it more than a few more times between here and April, but every journey begins with one step. On the second of a back-to-back, where the Hawks have been strangely dominant, against a Jets team that should give them problems (though they have far more of their own), the Hawks not only got the win but eased to it.
I’m not saying you should get excited, but if you want to start at least inching that way, go right ahead. Maybe the bye comes at the wrong time for them.
Of course, none of this is why it’s a historic night. Let’s get to it.
The Two Obs
-The headline will be Patrick Kane reaching 1,000 points, and it should be. I have more than a few tangled thoughts about it, which I’ll get to tomorrow. But we should probably start labeling him, rightly, as the best the organization has ever had. Again, more tomorrow.
-I mentioned in the preview that a big reason that the Hawks have ripped this off is that they’ve settled the bottom of the roster a bit better. Koekkoek and Maatta have gelled on the third pairing, and while neither are world-beaters or even definite NHL players, they’re better options than both Dennis Gilbert or Brent Seabrook right now (sorry, it hurts to say, but it’s true). Both were once again above water in possession tonight, and it’s a bigger deal than you might think to not have to run for the bomb shelter for 12-15 minutes a night when you toss out your third pairing.
To boot tonight, the fourth line came up with two goals, and you’re going to win most times that happens.
-Not a night Keith and Boqvist will want to hang on the wall, as they’re going to struggle with the size the Jets boast. Whatever, they got through it.
-Flip side, Kirby Dach’s line had a great night, capped by Kampf’s goal. Kampf still is wildly a fish out of water playing as a wing on a scoring line but let’s leave that aside for tonight as his goal was the result of what Kirby Dach can be. A 150-foot rush where he looked pretty springy and got to the net and at least caused a rebound. The Hawks have shown the proper patience with Dach even though he hasn’t scored in ages, and you hope tonight’s performance is something he can build on. Certainly fatigue has to be playing a role and the bye will do him good. Wouldn’t mind seeing Caggiula on his line in the future as he’s a puck-retriever who isn’t lost on a scoring line, but that’s another discussion for another time.
-Didn’t notice Patrik Laine until the goalie was pulled. It seems the Jets have done and are doing just about everything they can to bend the team around him, and he’s still giving second-line production. The dude might just be a passenger. Wouldn’t be shocked to hear trade rumors this summer.
-Also their defense blows, and if you miss Tucker Poolman or an aged and swelling Byfuglien that much I can’t help you.
-It would be easy to go pessimistic about this streak–pointing out that the Leafs were about to be on their bye, or that the Ducks, Habs, and Sens suck out loud, or that the Jets are a mess–but these were five games the Hawks had to have. And they got them. They’re still three points out, but now have no other teams to leap. They probably have to play at this pace for a long while to stay in it. But you have to believe there will be a Top Cat binge somewhere around here. And probably the power play will have a good few weeks just because. The goalies will always provide a high floor. And while I’d still bet the Knights and likely the Preds to eventually zoom up the standings, i wouldn’t count on any of the Yotes or Oilers or Canucks to get too far away from the Hawks either.
Basically it’s not going to take acts of God to keep the Hawks at least in it until the end of the season. And hey, it’s more fun and interesting when there’s something riding on the games. So let’s have some fun.
Whenever the job-reaper comes for Jeremy Colliton, be it the middle of the season, in the summer, or never, he’s going to try and mount some defense if only to make himself more attractive for another job down the road. He doesn’t want to be Trent Yawney, y’know? And the first thing, maybe the only thing, he can point to as something that’s improved markedly from his first year to his second is the penalty kill.
The Hawks currently are in the top-1o on the PK, which is a drastic improvement on the historically bad unit that befouled arenas and our TV sets last year. Now it would be easy to dismiss this improvement as merely and improvement in goaltending, and you can’t ignore that.
This year the SV% on the kill is .892, third-best in the league. Last year it was .842, which was sixth-worst in the league. So yes, that’s a big difference. But it’s not only that.
Overall, there are other improvements however. This year, the Hawks are giving up 97.4 attempts per 60 on the kill. Their xGA/60 on the kill is 6.33. Last year, those numbers were 104.5 and 8.1. Now, it’s hard to visualize or really understand those numbers, but a 25% reduction in expected goals against certainly is noticeable. The attempts against moves them from third-worst last year to middle of the pack this year, even if a reduction in attempts of merely 6% doesn’t really register.
If it helps, the Hawks have gone from giving up 63 shots per 60 minutes on the kill to 56 now, which directly mirrors the attempts they’re giving up. So it’s not like they’re blocking shots that much more often, they’re not even giving the lanes to shoot. Which is good.
On an individual level, there’s been improvement both in new players brought in and an uptick from those that were already here:
xGA/60 This Year/Last Year
Connor Murphy – 6.35/7.89
Duncan Keith – 7.62/8.94
David Kampf – 7.4/9.54
Jonathan Toews – 6.00/8.96
What has also helped is the players who weren’t here. Where Brent Seabrook led the team in shorthanded time-on-ice last year, that’s been replaced, or was, by Calvin de Haan. Ryan Carpenter in for the declining Marcus Kruger. Olli Maatta has replaced Carl Dahlstrom and Seabrook, and the one thing Maatta has been good at is on the kill.
Speaking of Seabrook, it’s time to be mean.
Those are the differences in the Hawks PK’s CA/60 and xGA/60 after and before Seabrook was put on the shelf for the season. It’s only been 14 games, and any special team can go on a run for 14 games. I’M NOT SAYIN’ I’M JUST SAYIN’….
So yeah, the goalies certainly have made a difference, but Colliton can claim to improved the overall system on the kill, and they certainly aren’t giving up shots from the middle nearly as much and are pushing things to the sides at a slower pace so they can get in the lanes. That’s something. It’s not enough but it’s something.
37 in 37 (in a row?)
That’s Jonathan Toews the past 37 games. We almost forgot that he only had two points in the first 11 games, where we really started to worry if he’d lost a step. He definitely was a half-step behind the play more than we’d ever seen before. And now he’s been averaging a point-per-game for nearly half a season, and is on pace for 66 points which would be just about what you’d expect. If he were to continue to be a point-per-game, it would be 73. And it’s surprising because A) he’s not lighting it up on the PP like he was last year and B) he hasn’t really been playing with any offensive dynamo. Saad and Kubalik are certainly not bad players, but they aren’t the dynamic forces that Kane or DeBrincat can be. So yeah, we’ll never worry again…until next October, obvi.
Even in the midst of a shitty Hawks season and an even shittier Red Wings season (not that those are anything new in those parts), it still feels nice to watch the Hawks get a nice win over that trash heap franchise from that trash heap city. I just wish this win hadn’t felt so… itchy. Let’s get into it:
so do the Hawks, just a little less
-As good as the win over the Wings felt, it took the Blackhawks way too damn long to realize that they were playing an AHL team, and react accordingly. They were straight up asleep for the first period and a decent bit of the second period as well – despite having 55% of the shot attempts, they still lost the scoring chance battle 9-6 and the high danger chance battle 3-1 in the first. While they started playing in the second period, it wasn’t until they were able to quickly strike back-to-back goals with just shy of five minutes left in that frame that it really felt like the Hawks came to life. Not the most encouraging play against an opponent like this, but in the end getting the win is still much better than it would’ve looked had they lost to this Detroit group, so I won’t bitch too much.
– Alex DeBrincat was a gosh darned force tonight, with straight up dominant metrics across the board. He posted a 68.75 CF%, 70 FF%, 71.6 xGF%, and a 55.56 SCF% (scoring chances for). He also made two great plays in the leadup to Strome’s opening goal for the Hawks, first to get the puck of the Hawks’ defensive zone onto the rush, then winning the puck off the boards behind the net and then feed Strome in the slot. The results have unfortunately not always been there for Top Cat this year, but he’s been playing solid so if he keeps up more games like this (easier said than done) he will start to see the production rise.
– Congratulations to Dylan Sikura on his first NHL goal. It only took him more than half a regular season’s worth of games to get it.
I kid, I kid. Sikura hasn’t exactly bloomed in the way that I think many of us would have preferred He didn’t get a ton of ice time tonight (just 9:39 at evens) but made the most of it with a nice 56.25 CF% and adding that goal. Just build off of it moving forward and please don’t make us wait another 43 games for the next one.
– Adam Boqvist fucks. He is so offensively skilled and creative, he just needs to tap more into those abilities both as a PP QB and at 5v5 play. He has all of the tools to be a true force and produce at a 1D level in the NHL. His goal tonight was a thing of pure beauty and I look forward to many more like it coming.
– It cannot be overstated – God Bless Corey Crawford. While the team was figuring their shit out tonight, Crow was solid and kept them much more in it than they should’ve been for a while, including an awesome series of saves after a really rough play in front of the net by Duncan Keith. May Crow live on in our hearts forever.
– Blackhawks go next on Tuesday against the Flames.
-We’ve commented in the past year that when the Hawks have played in games against teams that are fighting directly for the playoff spots the Hawks claim to be after, they’ve fallen flat on their face. This can be a big fudge-y to determine, as some teams are in for automatic spots, some teams should be but aren’t, and others definitely are in the wildcard chase.
But this harkens back to last year. And going over the actual records, it’s kind of funny that we thought the Hawks were so in it, and they were, as they were under .500 at the time when this started. That’s more on the Western Conference than the Hawks, but the standings said they had a chance. And here’s what they came up with:
2/22/19 – Colorado: lost 5-3
2/24/19 – Dallas: lost 4-3
3/9/19 – @Dallas: won 2-1
3/11/19 – @Arizona: won 7-1
3/23 – @Colorado: lost 4-2 (this pretty much ended things)
3/24/19 – Colorado: Won 2-1 in OT
3/26/19 – @Arizona: lost 1-0, definitely ended things
So my claims that they’ve never taken a point is an exaggeration, but 3-4-0 with one of those wins in OT isn’t exactly impressive either. And the win in Arizona was before the Coyotes had made their last charge toward the playoffs, and the OT win over Colorado was basically after the horse was out of the barn. Still, you get it.
It could be argued that the win over Calgary on Tuesday was over a fellow playoff competitor, as the Flames are in the wildcard mess at the moment. We can go back and forth on that. My wager would be on the Flames eventually joining Vegas and some other random third team in the automatic spots, and rather easily as well. Time will tell on that one.
It’s hard to know what games that came before have the same meaning, but now that we’re in the second half we’ll definitely get sharper context for some. They’ll have games with the Flames, Predators, and Jets in the next couple weeks (all at home) so that will be a good start. Next month is rife with them as well.
-One thing we know the Hawks simply aren’t equipped to do is protect a lead, and a big one. They might hang on desperately and let their goalies bail them out, but they can’t shut down a game. We saw it last night, we saw it in Calgary, we saw it in St. Louis earlier in the year.
Looking back over the schedule, a lot of wins were the Hawks coming from behind or catching a team cold. The Islanders were clearly out to lunch. Their one authoritative effort of late was against the Jets, and even then they had to survive an utter onslaught in the second period when leading. The win against the Wild saw them take the lead with six minutes left. The Bruins were able to storm back to get to OT. You have to go all the way back to their win at home against the Stars, which was Dallas’s third game in four nights for another “easy” win.
This isn’t much of a surprise, given the state of the Hawks defense. They can basically only toss out Keith and Murphy to keep things “calm,” and even then Keith was a culprit for the winner last night. Keep them separate, and you’re still asking Adam Boqvist and Erik Gustafsson to see things out in later minutes. There’s just no way.
It’s been a constant complaint around here, but the Hawks blue line is the prime example of how there’s just no plan. If they had any idea that Seabrook wouldn’t be part of the every day lineup, and they should have, then the minutes going to Dennis Gilbert right now would be going to Henri Jokiharju (who’s no genius but he’s a hell of a lot better than Gilbert and wouldn’t you look but the Sabres just moved along an overpaid vet to keep him in the lineup. What’s that like?). Instead they have a winger who is deservedly sitting behind Matthew Highmore. After being given literally every chance and boost to succeed.
At this point, there is no downside to letting Phillip Holm or even Nicolas Beaudin take those minutes. They can’t be anymore helpless than Gilbert, who is Brandon Manning bad, and perhaps they would respond better to the NHL game than the AHL one which has happened before. Gilbert is definitely meant for the AHL game. Fuck, you’ve scratched and clawed to keep Fetch on the NHL roster, perhaps it’s time to give him one last stretch of games to see if anything can be salvaged here. The Hawks were so convinced of it earlier.
Or maybe you can just keep throwing things at the wall. It’s going great so far.
-Also it’s time for MY GUY Philipp Kurashev to get a look over John Quenneville, who doesn’t really do anything. The Hawks are still far too infatuated with plugs who “work hard” instead of those with actual skill. Quenneville is never going to be more than a fourth-liner. Again, you have nothing to lose.
-I feel like two or three times a game I marvel that Zack Smith always seems to be in a good spot but then completely undoes that by having no feet or hands.
-John mentioned it last night, but there’s no excuse for coming out of a TV timeout and having Gus, Strome, and Top Cat out for a defensive draw, no matter how much you trust Carpenter to take it. This is base-level NHL coaching, and Colliton gets it wrong far too much.
I have spoken.