This is the outcome you expect when you’re playing a team that has scored nine goals since its last regulation win eight games ago. The Oilers, once again, have managed to be a zoo without cages despite having a generational talent in David McConnor, and the Hawks took two points they needed on a drag-ass Sunday afternoon tilt. To the bullets.
– Let’s begin with the past in front: Nick Schmaltz’s game-opening goal is the sort of thing that should give Hawks fans the same sense of anticipation we all felt in the 08–09 season. His read off Rutta’s point shot was obscene, and he made Kris Russell look like the overrated pile of hockey garbage no one in broadcast wants to admit he is. Even better, Schmaltz gave Ryan Nugent-Hopkins every reason to have the long face he has, using him as a screen en route to an embarrassingly beautiful backhand against Cam “(Used to Be a) Cha-Cha” Talbot.
– On the topic of Jan Rutta, he had himself a nice game after a four-game absence. He carried a 56 CF% (and a precisely even 0.00 CF% Rel) and racked up an assist on Schmaltz’s wizardry. But no matter what, there’s absolutely no justification for slotting Rutta in place of Connor Murphy, who, over the past month, has been the best Hawks D-man by just about every metric. I get that Murphy had a rough go of it against Vegas, but unless Murphy were hurt or had the runs, scratching him is absurd.
Going further, I don’t think that Rutta’s good performance was a coincidence. Before his streak of sitting, he had begun to look sluggish and overpowered after several hockey writers, including yours truly, were champing at the bit to anoint him the savior of the Hawks’s blue line. It’s almost as if Rutta needs some extended time off during the season to recharge. There’s another Hawks D-man who probably needs it too, but it isn’t Murphy.
I know that we probably won’t ever see Seabrook as a healthy scratch because of this bullshit LEADERSHIP narrative that’s served as nothing more than justification for Seabrook’s contract, which the organ-I-zation threw at him like a farm boy throws a wedding ring at the girl who took his virginity. But I think that you’ll get better results letting Rutta slot in for Seabrook over Murphy or Kempný (who had a 59 CF% today). Both Rutta and Seabrook are right-handed shots who have shown signs of exhaustion throughout the season, and what would be a better example of leadership for Bottomless Pete than admitting that you don’t have the energy to play 82 games a year and give other, more physically fit players a slot to play? Fantasies, I know.
– Back in reality, there’s no doubt that Cam Talbot sucks. DeBrincat’s goal had no business ending up in the back of the net, since all Top Cat wanted to do was try to center Sharp. Nonetheless, credit where it’s due, as David Struggle had no trouble shrugging off a checking attempt from EA Sports–generated name Matt Benning behind the goal line to feed Top Cat. Kampf has looked pretty alright in his six games up, and he’s made that third line work somehow, as he, Top Cat, and Sharp had respective CF%s of 57+,61+, and 64+ today. It doesn’t have to make sense for you to take it.
– We got a taste of vintage Toews on the Hawks’s third goal. After Vinnie Hinostroza horsed Darnell Intern, both by skating by him and dropping a beauty of a backhand pass to Toews, Toews did that thing that makes me hope they retire his number with a “C” someday where he overpowers a defender and makes a one-handed pass to a drooling Brandon Saad. While one play does not a season make, it was nice to see Toews see a result for all the strong underlying numbers he’s had this year.
– Saad had a goal and 60 CF% at evens, but the eye test was a bit more mixed. He got pantsed by McDavid in the first and Draisaitl in the third, and he knuckle-pucked a nice pass from Vinnie in a high-danger zone in the third. Not to say that Saad isn’t a brute force, but today looked a little less godlike than I’m used to. I get he was up against the McDavid line, but he looked a bit more janky than normal.
– Gustav Forsling had a 61+ CF% at evens spending almost two-thirds of his time in the offensive zone. IT’S ALMOST AS IF THAT’S WHERE HE BELONGS.
– Aside from the weak Nurse goal, Forsberg looked good today. His rebound control is a much needed salve after watching Good Story Glass Jeff bounce biscuits off his pads for far, far longer than is acceptable for a team looking to vault into a wild card spot. Still, without Crawford, this team is going to run in place.
– I’m glad Eddie O. is healthy enough to do games again, but the way he toed the company line today made me look forward to Konroyd’s opium-den droning in Ottawa on Tuesday. Between blowing kisses at StanBo for signing Bouma and Wingels while the Hawks sit in last place in the division, lauding Seabrook for tapping on Forsberg’s pads after a bad goal, and chiding Kempný for an aggressive pinch in the second period (despite the fact that that’s what Kempný is good at doing), it almost made me miss Konroyd at home. I’m getting awfully tired of this SEABROOK IS A LEADER justification for his shit performance, and Eddie O. is the prime evangelist.
Oh, Jordan Oesterle had an unassisted goal today. To piggyback off this feat, the mantra of the upcoming week of hockey can only be KEEP FIRING, ASSHOLES!
Beer du Jour: Two Hearted
Line of the Night: “I love that play from Brent Seabrook.” –Eddie O. commenting on Brent Seabrook tapping Anton Forsberg’s pads after a soft goal, which is neither a play nor a way to justify Seabrook’s piss-poor performance anymore. It’s 2018, not 2013.