There’s really not much to say at this point. Even for this being the post-deadline final kick for teams that have been long dead such as the Hawks, this recent stretch has been absolute dog shit. During this past week the Hawks got deservedly shut out at home by an expansion franchise that is actually trying for a slow build, allowed one of the most boring teams in the league to put six goals on them, and got absolutely dog walked in terms of possession by a team missing its best (and credibly accused sex criminal) defenseman.
Lukas Reichel has been called up and he’s been noticeable, but still hasn’t put the puck in the back of the net yet because the entire Hawk attack is now being very easily pushed to the perimeter. Neither goalie looks like he will be in the league next year, and Kevin Lankinen’s rebound control has only worsened since he got through the division once in last year’s goofy ass intra-division schedule. Jonathan Toews has hung the I’m Not Interested sign and adorned it with flashing neon lights and truthfully he cannot be blamed in the least at this point – hell, look how this post is even constructed. Even the reliable and enjoyable Alex Debrincat has gone cold and been stuck on 39 goals for a while now, and it is in no way a coincidence that the Hawks have not even been competitive in these games when he’s not making the score sheet. There aren’t even any kids on the absolutely desolate blue line to look for growth out of because Calvin de Haan and Erik Gustafsson have consistently still been dressed up until the the LA game. That’s the same Erik Gustafsson who wasn’t good enough for the dog ass Flyers blue line and was brought in to be a power play specialist and has scored precisely ZERO power play goals. In fact the Hawks do not have a single power play goal from a defenseman, which is truly a fucking marvel.
The box scores and possession numbers are out there for any reader who needs to further punish themselves with this. But for any sane person, at least the ride is almost over.
This week, Rose Rankin, Fifth Feather, and Yours Truly discuss the Hawks deadline, whether they were as sick of Lehner’s shit as we are, Adam Boqvist and Lucas Carlsson, and what if anything the future might hold. It goes on a bit…
It’s always a little hard to judge what a team does at the deadline. We’re not on the phones, we don’t know what the other offers were, so at the end of the day you can’t really say the Hawks didn’t get enough for what they did decide to move along. This may have been the best they could have done for Robin Lehner and Erik Gustafsson.
The problem is that in some ways, the Hawks backed themselves into this. We were hardly the only ones screaming for the Hawks to trade Gustafsson last deadline. His value would never have been higher. He was never going to match that season again. And he was never going to be part of the long-term plans here. It was obvious. When you see Brady Skjei going for a first…
But Stan was afraid of not giving the veterans every chance of chasing a highly unlikely playoff spot. He couldn’t take the bigger risk of sacrificing what was right in front of him, which wasn’t much in reality, for what was to come, which is never guaranteed.
So he sat on Gustafsson. And a third round pick is all you get. It’s always nice to have more spins of the wheel, but your expectations of a third-rounder aren’t high.
As for Lehner, the deadline comes when his play had slipped and Crawford had clearly been playing better than him. There was a brief kerfuffle that Lehner was willing to take a discounted, three-year deal to stay with the Hawks longer term. But you know what? Fuck that. One. that’s in direct contrast to him telling the press himself he wouldn’t be taking any discounts a few weeks ago. Two, the Hawks have too many needs to start blowing too much cash in net, because you still have to pair Lehner with someone. Which brings us to three, which is that Lehner hasn’t earned a three-year deal. He’s got one season as a 1A in a Trotz system, and he’s got two months here bailing out a bad defense, and six weeks of being meh. He’s hardly a guarantee. And his mouth may have worn out his welcome in the dressing room.
Once Carolina decided they weren’t going to chase a goalie, or not pay the price for one, there really isn’t a huge market for one. Vegas needs Fleury insurance. The Flames or Oilers probably should have been looking, but it wasn’t pressing for them. So this is what you get.
Still, the Hawks can focus on re-signing Crow, as long as he finishes the season strongly, and it probably won’t cost them much more than $5M for one or two years. That’s at a number where you can bring in a partner for him at a decent rate.
Still, what the Hawks need is clear, and I today doesn’t really get them closer to it. They’re a d-man plus Ian Mitchell short, or two d-men short, and a forward. Maybe Slava Denim is that down the road, but it sure feels like he’s two years away at least. 2nd or 3rd round picks are only the last part of packages to get something that matters.
With the amount of forwards moving today, one wonders if Stan took any calls on Brandon Saad or even Dylan Strome. Seeing as how he didn’t move them, at least in Saad’s case you might as well start talking about an extension with him just to see, because he can still be a part of a good team here.
Every deadline, when it feels like Stan hasn’t done enough, we hope the summer brings more moves. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t. Saad’s value will be lower then than it is now, so is that even worth it? And maybe a trade isn’t even necessary if they do the things that are necessary to open up cap space (buying out Maatta, keeping Seabrook in the gimp’s closet). You never know what will be on offer.
You can’t force the offers to be out there. Maybe Lehner would have fetched you more a month ago, but a month ago the Hawks thought they were in it. Crawford probably would have been a higher price than Lehner right now, and given that there wasn’t much of a market for Lehner, that’s probably not worth it.
It’s underwhelming, but it probably always was going to be. And that’s what happens when you don’t have a vision and are making things up as you go. And that’s where the Hawks have been for three seasons now.
Well this is an interesting one. The Hawks will play their last game looking like this. How much they will change by the time they play again in St. Louis on Tuesday night, well that’s something of a mystery.
We know Erik Gustafsson is a goner, as he wasn’t even brought on the trip. The Hawks will probably only get a 3rd or 4th rounder for him, making the refusal to move him at last year’s deadline when he would have been worth a first even more frustrating. Corey Crawford is starting, which makes you think that Robin Lehner could be on the move as well, if not Crawford himself. But someone has to play in goal. If the Hawks keep both, you’ll know they either have no vision or plan whatsoever or the balls to execute one.
Is this Brandon Saad’s last game here? Dylan Strome’s? Drake Caggiula’s? There are more options beyond Gus and Lehner, but how many will the Hawks take? You’re not wrong to bet on the low end, but anything is possible.
That’s the intrigue off the ice. On the ice the Hawks will have a new piece to look at, which is Lucas Carlsson. Carlsson has been Rockford’s best d-man, and arguably best player, for a while now, and the Hawks have no reason not to spend the rest of the season seeing what they have here. They should do that with other players as well. Carlsson is definitely the type of player the Hawks should be looking at more often, i.e. one with skill and mobility that can move the puck and himself quickly. Instead we’ve gotten the Dennis Gilberts and Matthew Highmores of the world, which is how the Hawks have ended up here. Maybe Carlsson isn’t anything, but with nothing more to play for it’s an evaluation time. In fact, this is how the Hawks ended up with Gustafsson as a regular, though they’ve clearly botched maximizing his value.
As for the rest of it, the Hawks played a spirited game at home on Friday, which was at least entertaining. Can they keep that going on the road for four games against teams who have real stakes? Much harder to do, and while the Hawks will claim they’ve been better on the road this year, the last road trip that left their season in ashes makes its own testimony. And these games on either side of the deadline could see some killed spirits.
To the Stars, who have won five of their last seven and are still very much in the discussion for winning the division even though they’ve had to lose a coach and surf some injury problems this year.
How are the Stars here? THE BISHOP! and The Khudes, the lates emo band to storm Dallas. Has an emo band ever stormed Dallas? We’ll save that discussion for later. Anyway, the Stars are back to being the same boring-as-all-fuck outfit they were last year that locked up their playoff spot and saw them upset the Preds in the first round and nearly do the same to the Blues (sigh). They don’t limit attempts all that well but they collapse around their net and limit chances, and Bishop and Khudobin are rocking SV%’s over .920, leading the Stars to have the second-best ES SV% at evens.
Because they certainly don’t score much. The Stars don’t have anyone with 20 goals or averaging anywhere near a point per game. They’re 24th in goals per game, but you can get away with that when you’re third in goals-against. There is some spreading out of threats here, with Seguin, Benn, and Radulov now on three different lines, but it also tamps down their threat when not together. Benn particularly seems to be on the spiral down, and we know how he feels about going down.
It’s still a stout defense, which has been buffeted by the return of Stephen Johns after he missed a season and a half with concussion problems. He and Heiskanen have dovetailed well which makes for a hell of a second pairing behind Klingberg and Lindell.
This is the first time the Hawks and Stars have seen each other since right before Thanksgiving, when the Hawks played well enough to win twice but only gathered one point. Penetrating the middle of the Stars zone will be the order of the day for the Hawks, but that’s much easier said than done.
It’ll be a stripped down Hawks team soon. They’re only playing for the future. But hey, maybe that’s when you find something.
Since Prince’s untimely death, there hasn’t been a redeeming quality to speak of regarding Minnesota. And for the first 50 minutes tonight, all was as it has ever been since then. But a flutter puck and bad-angle goal later, the Hawks were on the brink of being one point back for the second wild card spot. They managed a point from it all, and they were fortunate to get even that. Let’s clean it up.
– Bruce Boudreau has made a career out of winning games that his opponents can’t be bothered to play during the doldrums of the season. Tonight’s first 50 minutes was a master class in that style. The thing is, the Hawks don’t have the luxury of falling prey to a team that’s playing like it’s the last week in April with a spot on the line. But there they were, dragging ass and just hoping that Crawford would pull them out of the sling, which he almost did. It’s hard to find an excuse for it.
Through the first two periods in fact, just two Blackhawks had CF%s that weren’t in the negatives: Gustafsson and Murphy. The Wild kept the Hawks on the perimeter as is their wont, and the Hawks 10,000-pass setups were even more useless than they usually were.
– If the Hawks are going to rat fuck their way into the playoffs—and I still think they will—it’s going to take the kind of small miracles we saw from Boqvist and Maatta. Adam Boqvist was having a putrid game until his goal. He and Keith got clobbered in possession, but more worrying was how tentative Boqvist looked on the power play again. After the Koivu trip on Kane, Boqvist looked like he was going to charge through the neutral zone ass ablaze, only to just stop along the far boards in the neutral zone and nearly turn it over. When the Hawks finally got the puck in, Boqvist did end up turning it over anyway.
Boqvist occasionally flashes a charge only to curl back, and you have to imagine it’s by design. But we’ve seen what happens when he’s tentative, and it’s not pretty. When he just says “fuck it,” like he did on his wrist-shot goal, good things tend to happen. His wrister was more of a floater than a snapper, but he’s got a real weapon with it regardless.
– Olli Maatta was also having a terrible, terrible game prior to his goal, which is one of the more absurd goals we’ve seen this year. He was on the far boards and managed to pot the shot far side. Sometimes it doesn’t need to make sense.
– Alex DeBrincat needs a fucking hug. He had two or three quality chances snuffed or overshot, and you can see it’s really taking a toll on him. On his near breakaway off the Donato turnover in the first, Top Cat had a couple of steps on Donato. But as the play developed, it looked like DeBrincat was skating through sand. Donato managed to catch up and bother DeBrincat while he shot, ruining the chance. Him coming around in these last two months is going to be crucial to any playoff hopes the Hawks will have.
– Kirby Dach makes me forget about Bowan Byram sometimes. He was a beacon light in the third period, and nearly scored a highlight-reel goal after completely breaking Jonas Brodin’s ankles in the near circle. There’s such fluidity to his skating and puck handling. Plus, he’s now on a four-game scoring streak (1 G, 4 A) after going 12 games without. He’s going to be special; it’s just a question of whether it’ll be here when it all comes together and whether it will matter when it does.
– Connor Murphy was outstanding tonight. He broke up a Foligno breakaway halfway through the first and should have had a primary assist late in the second, if not for Brandon Saad passing up a gaping net to pass to a heavily covered Patrick Kane in the crease.
– Erik Gustafsson had a stereotypical Erik Gustafsson game. His fancy stats were nice (65+ CF%, 75+ xGF%), he tallied an assist, and then he turned the puck over in OT, leading to the loss. He hasn’t been an open sore lately, but we also had 10 days off, so that’s probably factoring into the memory of him.
You’ll take the one point because they really didn’t deserve any. A win tomorrow could put them within one point of the second wild card spot. What a world.
Beer du Jour: Michter’s Small Batch
Line of the Night: You best believe this was a Mute Lounge Game.
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.
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
Afternoon hockey always has the agonizing sting of digging out an ingrown hair from your inner thigh with a hot pin and missing. And for the first 40 minutes, it remained a tradition unlike any other. But a tip here, and a couple of redemptions there, and the Hawks come out of Columbus with two points. We may have learned all the same lessons we knew, but it was fun, and that’s all we ask. To the bullets!
– Erik Gustafsson scored the game-tying goal, and that’ll probably be all that matters. That’s a good thing, because before that goal, Gus had had one of his most embarrassingly bad games of the season. Just look at his positioning on the Murphy penalty:
First off, any defensive structure that makes Alex Wennberg look like Wayne Gretzky is fucking bad. There’s no reason whatsoever for Wennberg to have that much time and space on what’s essentially a 2-on-4. Yet, here we are. But after Gus fails to clear Wennberg’s botched shot, look how far out he goes to defend Ryan MacInnis. This is a low-danger spot. Yes, Matthew Highmore sucks and shouldn’t be behind the play. (Notice that he couldn’t even skate backward trying to keep up with Wennberg as the play developed, which is definitely something you should see happen at an NHL level.) But there’s little point in meeting him out there, especially when Wennberg ends up occupying the spot you just vacated to cover a low-danger chance.
Gus was also directly responsible for Columbus’s second goal. His turnover pass into the slot in his own zone is the kind of mistake Gus makes all too often. Toews was nowhere near where the pass ended up, and so Dubois had nothing but time and space to set up the shot that led to the rebound that set up his goal.
Despite these boners, Gus managed to tie the game with a knuckling slapper past a good Carpenter screen, which is enough to get you a second star in this Late Rites of a hockey game.
– The DeBrincat–Dach–Strome line was dominant in possession, with respective 68+, 64+, and 66+ CF%s. DeBrincat is having a terrible season shooting the puck, with his S% sitting at around 8%. His two previous years produced 15+ and 18+. With Dach and Strome’s passing skill, and especially Dach’s constantly improving and impressive vision, you should expect that to jump at some point. Today simply wasn’t that day. But it looks like Colliton might have found something nice with this, even if it means putting Kane with Nylander and Carpenter.
– Ryan Carpenter was a good signing. He was toward the top on the possession ledger and had an excellent fly-by screen that contributed to Gus’s game-tying goal. He probably shouldn’t be playing with Toews and Kane regularly, but when asked to step into an outsized role tonight, he did well.
– Duncan Keith also had himself a pretty strong game, aside from getting blown away by Seth Jones in the third. His positioning and anticipation were good throughout. Playing him with Boqvist seems to bring something out of him.
– We can only wish the converse were true. Adam Boqvist is only 19 years old, but he’s already looking concerningly tentative. While QB’ing the PP1, Boqvist turned the puck over in his own zone to start, then spent the rest of his time demurring, relying on Kane to set everything up. You get it, but that’s not why you’re up here. He did have an excellent one timer that Korpisalo almost let get by, but outside of that, he looked lost and scared. At some point, he’s got to let loose on the offensive side. How he can do that when he chooses to defer as his first option is hard to see.
– We understand that there are lots of injuries and not many options on the blue line. But Slater Koekkoek is not, has never been, and never will be an answer to any question other than “Which player would you ice if you were actively trying to lose a hockey game?” He doesn’t ever do anything right. Look at this positioning on Nash’s goal:
Why cheat to the outside when you have Gilbert covering that spot? How are you letting Riley Nash break your ankles on an inside move? Why are you giving him that much space in the first place? So many questions, and the only real answer is that he’s not an NHL-caliber player. Yeah, Robin Lehner should have had that, but he was likely distracted thinking about what he’d say to the media about Koekkoek’s positioning after the game, because he’s SUCH A GOOD QUOTE or whatever. And yeah, it went off his skate. But if he closes the gap earlier and doesn’t cheat to the outside for whatever reason, we probably don’t see that shot.
– Dennis Gilbert is high comedy at the very least. Getting bulldozed by Nathan Gerbe is an all-time laugher, as was his missed hip check in the third.
– Robin Lehner won in a shootout because hockey is the beautiful game. And if Torts isn’t lighting his own pubic hair on fire in front of Gary Bettman after losing his goaltender because of a shootout, it’ll be a first. What a stupid gimmick.
They made it fun and got two points to boot. Not a bad way to close out the penultimate game of 2019. Flames on NYE.
Beer du Jour: Zombie Dust
Line of the Night: “You know, the players can’t hear you.” Eddie O doing his best Neil DeGrasse Tyson impression about fans who slap the glass.
So the Hawks managed to come back and win against a good team the other night, only to turn around and get their asses handed to them by a bad team. Such is life these days with this team. Let’s get through it:
–The first period was the Devils personifying why their state has a reputation for trashiness. They took a grand total of seven penalties in the first, including a nasty boarding on Kirby Dach, Wayne Simmonds slashing Crawford, and that’s just what got called. There was another dangerous hit on Connor Murphy that went apparently unnoticed by the officials. The Hawks should have come out of the first with a commanding lead, but instead they were tied at 1. Why? Mostly because our power play was clown shoes, and the Hawks were just as messy as the Devils were malicious. Dennis Gilbert made a STATEMENT with a useless fight against John Hayden (who would have the last laugh with a goal that made it clear the game was getting out of reach). And of course, the broadcast was ejaculating all over the fight but it did absolutely nothing to help the Hawks win a period they should have owned.
–And Adam Boqvist got hurt, so there’s that. I’m honestly not even sure which play it was but given the Devils’ shittiness physicality it could have been a few different ones. That doesn’t matter at this point; what matters is that our co-top prospect now has a bum shoulder, which is the same issue as Calvin de Haan is dealing with so the timing really couldn’t be worse. Hopefully it’s not that bad, and given Boqvist’s tender age he has a chance at healing quickly, but it’s literally the last thing the Hawks needed to deal with tonight.
–Just when you thought the first period was bad…then the second period happened. The Hawks were just completely outplayed, and yes, by the New Jersey fucking Devils. They gave up 23 shots in the second (not a typo). After leading in possession with a 62 CF% in all situations in the first, the Hawks plummeted to a 37 CF% in the second (using all situations because of the rampant power plays and 4-on-4’s). Oh and they gave up four goals, leading to Crawford getting pulled (when it was 4-1, and Lehner gave up one more for good measure). The numbers will tell you the story, but for those of us watching it in real time it was painfully clear the Devils were in control the whole time. Dumb shit like Alex Nylander making a blind backwards pass that was nearly a goal, Gustafsson nearly giving up an own goal, the defense screening Crawford leaving him helpless—it was a completely lopsided performance.
–And about all those power plays, can we just agree that Erik Gustafsson is terrible as the QB? He really shouldn’t be on the top unit, but now with Boqvist (the natural replacement) injured, the Hawks are truly fucked. Anyway, Gus was either too slow with a shot or making a bad pass or turning it over, as is his way. Never forget—they could have traded him last year.
–Hearing the crowd cheering as Robin Lehner came out to replace Corey Crawford just broke my heart. I don’t even know what else to say. Yes Lehner has been great lately but Crawford kept them in this game as long as was humanly possible. The Severson goal he should have had, I’ll give you that. It was a fairly soft five-hole goal. But that came after a crazy sequence where he made about four highlight-reel saves while the rest of the team stood around holding their dicks looking confused. His own defense screened him on the goal prior to that (I believe it was the one prior, if not, it was the prior prior one). I know Crawford is the least appreciated player by the press and the general hockey world, but it kills me when our own fans don’t know better.
–And besides, Lehner gave up a goal on the first play of the third period, so everyone cheering for him can fuck off. The shorthanded goal he gave up late in the second wasn’t really his fault…this team is really, really bad at defense.
Alright, this one was ugly. It was the counterpoint to what was probably their best game, and definitely their best third period, against Colorado the game before. But inconsistency is par for the course right now, so let’s all take a moment, enjoy Christmas if you celebrate it, and find out which Hawks team is showing up on Friday against the Islanders. Onward and upward…
Line of the night: “Give me a soft serve swirl and you’ve got a happy Irishman.” —Pat Foley, with the best possible phrasing to make birthday treats sound incredibly X-rated.
Don’t worry, this won’t be just hair-pulling and complaining about the terrifying lows…I mean, I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t thought about it, but I wouldn’t do that (yet)…
The Dizzying Highs
The Kubalik-Toews-Saad line. This has been working, when so little else has been. Brandon Saad in particular has been playing well lately, including not one but two goals in the eventual collapse to the Blues on Saturday night. Dominik Kubalik has also been setting up Jonathan Toews pretty nicely and is proving that he does in fact belong on the top line. Going into Sunday night’s game this line had a a 52.6 CF% and an xGF% at a healthy 55.8. And they’ve been doing the basics like winning puck battles, hanging onto it, making good passes, etc., not to mention they scored the go-ahead goal against the Wild. This one line isn’t enough to solve the Blackhawks’ many, many woes right now, but they are still a functional top line.
Whoever decided to let Boqvist play 10 games. Having played 10 games, the first year of Adam Boqvist‘s contract is now officially in force. This means that he will likely play only here with the top club, which is exactly what needs to happen, not any contract chicanery for some imaginary future state. No, Boqvist isn’t some kind of savior, and he hasn’t been playing all that impressively quite yet, but the only way for him to develop into a reliable NHL-level player is to play in the fucking NHL. The Hawks cannot pull any Jokiharju-level nonsense this time: no sending him to the World Juniors to beat up on other children, despite whatever “confidence boost” people say that will have. You know what’s good for a kid’s confidence? Telling him, “you’re an important part of our future and good enough to play at the highest level.” How is no one else mentioning that? Besides, with the defense literally in shambles there is no other choice, because if the Hawks really don’t care about this season and consider it lost, they need Boqvist to develop and get better so that things don’t stay this way. Or, if they really do believe their own marketing slogan and think they can claw their way back into the playoffs this year, they absolutely need a fast, puck-moving defenseman who can also be on the power play. Either way, contract timing should not be the deciding factor and I’m relieved that it no longer is.
The Terrifying Lows
Dennis Gilbert. Whatta jamoke. This fool spent half the week taking dumbass GRITHEARTFART penalties that directly led to goals against them. About a week ago it cost the Hawks the game, leading Adam Burish to ever greater levels of dumbassery on the broadcast to defend these meatball tactics. By this past Saturday Gilbert was almost not offensive to the eyes, but then he got paired with Seabrook (not his fault but still) and was on the ice for both the second and the game-tying goals by the Blues. In fact, in his first nine games he was on the ice for just one goal but also out there for 11 against the Hawks. He is not an NHL player. Full stop.
Alex Nylander. Fuck this idiot, seriously. Well, actually let’s say fuck the stupid front office who traded a talented young defenseman for this idiot.
Erik Gustafsson. So many options for the Terrifying Lows this week, amirite? Gus was particularly awful against the Coyotes earlier in the week and really just couldn’t accomplish basic defensive coverage, stickwork, what have you. Oh wait, but then there was the pass to Mark Stone in the Vegas game (technically a turnover but felt like he just forgot which team he was on). And fucking up on the Knights’ short-handed goal that same game. Really, too many terrible moments to choose from.
The Creamy Middles
Connor Murphy. Connor Murphy is fast becoming the Rodney Dangerfield of this team and I am not having it. He is the only actual defenseman the Hawks have right now—and he’s been playing as well as the lone d-man on a bad team can. He’s leading the defense in CF% (51.3), and has been trying to cover for Gustafsson’s stupidity, which is quite the unenviable task. So he’s been on the ice for a lot of shots and scoring changes against lately (29 and 33, respectively, going into Sunday), but he’s still managed to be one of the only decent players on a regular basis. And he even had two assists last night against the Wild—one on a shot that Kampf redirected for the third goal, and another shot for a bizarro redirect that became the winning goal. Also, did I mention he’s the only actual defenseman they have?
Corey Crawford. The numbers won’t show it, but Crow has been keeping the Hawks in it over his last few games. Against Vegas his SV% was just .865 and against the Blues it wasn’t much better, at .895. But if you saw any of it, you know that Crawford has been one of the few reasons why things aren’t even worse, and his play is largely how the Hawks aren’t losing by a touchdown on a regular basis. Also please note this is not to say Lehner has been bad, but Crawford has borne this burden with class and a lack of appreciation, as always, so he gets the shout out.
As has been the way under Jeremy Colliton, whenever the Hawks get entangled with a team they’re supposedly tussling with for a playoff spot, they scream at their shoes. The Knights are much better than the Hawks, but they have a wildcard spot the Hawks claim they want. They crushed the Hawks. The Yotes are likely to be in or near the wildcard spots. They have now beaten the Hawks twice in a week, and pretty much ran them over tonight. Continuing theme.
It’s obvious the Hawks cannot handle the absences of Duncan Keith and Calvin de Haan. Without them, they have exactly one guy who plays defense at an NHL level. That’s Connor Murphy. Clearly he can’t do it all himself. They will continue to get shredded until those two return, and no team should ever depend on those two players so much.
I guess the best way to view the Hawks from here on out is both in a redevelopment fashion and a win-now one. Since we don’t know which path the Hawks have chosen, and they very well may not have chosen either, it’s kind of our only choice.
-An up and down night for Adam Boqvist. Dominant possession-wise, which is why he’s here. But an iffy pinch led to the first Coyotes goal, though Gustafsson could have had a better angle and Lehner could have made a save. He and Gilbert were split for Keller’s breakaway, and I don’t know how playing either with the other is going to help one of them at all. But this is how you learn.
-Um…Kirby Dach looked threatening at times, and the training wheels of playing him on the fourth line have to come off now, because the Hawks need goals.
-Strome had a power play goal. That’s nice.
-It’s hard to figure out what is Jeremy Colliton’s fault and what isn’t. But you’ll notice when a Hawks puck-carrier is under any pressure, be it on the blue lines or along the boards, do the other Hawks come close to give him an option or do they fade behind opponents just hoping the puck will find them in space? You’ll see it’s the latter more often than not. That’s cheating. That’s playing for yourself. And that speaks to a team with no structure. The Hawks are trying to manufacture transition by having their forwards cheat out of the zone instead of just being fast out of it. That’s a good deal on the coach, and the lack of talent too. It’s all a problem.
-The give-a-shit meter was on absolute zero for Kane tonight, which isn’t surprising and understandable. It was kind of a piss poor effort on the Schmaltz goal, and he seemed to be taking the easy option most of the time. I don’t expect Kane to be on high alert for all 82, but just know the Hawks will never create enough when he’s not.
-Erik Gustafsson is simply awful.
-The power play only scores when DeBrincat move the puck quickly, either to the net or to the open man, or if Kane makes his James Harden routine work. The latter is not a tactic they should be using. Kane needs to be a threat for a one-timer coming from the other way than the teams cheating to DeBrincat. Until that happens, you’ll get this choppiness.
-Any team, especially when they’re ahead, that is well coached enough to follow the plan of simply standing up at their blue line has the Hawks buffaloed. If the Hawks have to dump the puck in, they’re simply not fast enough nor have the players who can win the puck back consistently. The ones who can are all on one line, and Toews isn’t quick enough anymore to get there. They also don’t have enough creativity to break through that kind of defense, which is why Boqvist’s possession numbers are among the best on the team tonight because he’s the only one who can.
-Did I mention that Gustafsson is awful?
-The season very well could be over by the weekend. Maybe it’ll force the Hawks into real decisions.