Hockey

Since about 30 seconds into Game 1 of the season where it became glaringly obvious that this year’s Hawks team would not be competing for jack shit, this week arguably became the most important stretch of games of the year in the leadup to the trade deadline. Particularly now with a new GM steering the ship, it might have ended up being an indicator of GM Kyle’s mid and long term vision for the club. But overall, with a few wrinkles here and there, things shook out about how they could have been predicted, with the Hawks recouping some assets and also looking like shit on the ice.

3/15 – Bruins 2, Hawks 1 (OT)

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The Hawks were pretty well fucked from Jump St. in this one with the Bruins being the best team defensive team in the league by a lot of metrics while having almost no finish to speak of aside from two guys on the roster. Marc-Andre Fleury was at his acrobatic best throughout the game and was literally the only reason this game was not a complete dong-whipping. He made every kind of vintage save you could as of anyone, let alone a 36 year old with the mileage he has on him. In an ideal world he would have been traded at the second intermission when his value was at its absolute peak, but there were clearly other factors at play. The Hawks managed to get this one to OT, where the fun predictably ended quickly.

3/19 – Wild 3, Hawks 1

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A matinee played in St. Paul in the immediate aftermath of the Brandon Hagel trade saw the Hawks put forth a half assed effort at best, even by day hockey standards which this outlet is on record many times over as being an affront to the lord. Kevin Lankinen got the start on the front end of a back to back and is still somehow struggling with rebound control somehow, but made enough saves to keep it close until the very end, where the erstwhile LOCAL GUY Ryan Hartman put the Wild ahead. Toews’ comments after the trade were frankly those of a crybaby, complaining about someone being traded. As a long time captain in this league having seen guys get moved over and over and over again for cap purposes, having Brandon goddamn Hagel of all people be the one where he opines openly about his GM’s choices is certainly curious, especially without having done a goddamn thing in the post season in going on 7 years now. Sorry Jon, but you don’t have a leg to stand on whatsoever with regard to who stays and who goes. And clearly the team let this pouty piss pants attitude cascade down through the roster from their captain.

3/20 – Jets 6, Hawks 4

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Regardless of who had the final say in it between Kyle Davidson or Derek King, the decision to start Marc Andre Fleury in a game less than 24 hours before the trade deadline was curious at best, and professionally negligent at worst. On top of it being a back and forth game where neither team was interested in playing much defense and Fleury and fellow Vezina winner Connor Hellebucyk were hung out to dry early and often, the situation became that much more harrowing during a sequence wherein Fluery lost is glove, and still instinctually tried to make a save with that hand during a scramble in front of the Hawk net. Mercifully the result was merely a goal against and not a hand shattered into dust rendering the netminder untradeable, or worse at the end of his career. The Hawks would claw their way back with the help of a solid game from newcomer Taylor Raddysh (with a Y), and at least there was a little bit more jump to their game after going down after apparently getting their tantrum game out of the way the previous afternoon. But after all of that, the result was still the same, and the Hawks are now left to play out the string in what will surely be outstanding performances from Kevin Lankinen, Colin Delia, and Arvid Soderblom.

TRADE REACTIONS

  • First on the docket is arguably the most valuable chip the Hawks had in Brandon Hagel, with his cost controlled $1.5 million against the cap for two years following the end of this season, and will likely flirt with 30 goals by this year’s end. While yes, Hagel has been a fun middle six forward who plays with physicality and has a bit of a goal scorer’s touch, given the distance between what the Hawks are against teams with actual aspirations like the Bruins (where Hagel played and scored the Hawks’ lone goal), even the most optimistic projections would have the Hawks ready to take a step right as Hagel would be due a substantial increase in pay. Not to mention, with no disrespect to Hagel or any players of his ilk, but there should be at least two guys with the potential to be this in every team’s system. Andrew Shaw was this until it was time to pay him significantly, when the Hawks correctly identified that Ryan Hartman could fill that role. So the Hawks got about as good a return as one could have been asked for Hagel in two middle-to-bottom six forwards who can play right now as well as two first rounders, albeit delated and will assuredly be late in the round because they’re Tampa’s. And the fact that the trade pissed off some aforementioned players on the roster only reaffirmed that it was the right thing to do.
  • While the Marc-Andre Fleury trade seemed inevitable from the moment he actually decided he wanted to play for this calamity of an organization, it took til basically the last minute to get there for a variety of reasons. With having a full no move on top of uprooting his family here mere months ago, it extremely hamstrung Davidson’s options, and having a shit defense in front of him deflating his Vezina numbers from last year certainly didn’t help things. The Hawks eating half the salary for the remainder of the year is immaterial, but one can’t help but wonder if they could have gotten a true first round pick instead of just a condititional one had they pulled the trigger sooner and not exposed Fleury to a potent forward group and potential injury one last time before getting shipped out.
  • Ryan Carpenter was moved along to Calgary for a 5th rounder, and if there was ever a match made in hockey shot suppression hell, it’s Ryan Carpenter and Darryl Sutter. With Brad Treveling taking one of Sutter’s toys away in waiving Brad Richardson, he promptly gave him a younger version in the form of Carpetner who is a reliable worker who won’t let anyone down on the PK or the dot, and should never, ever be asked to be on the first PP unit ever again. Having a a solid bottom 6 versatile forward is a complete luxury that bad teams don’t need, like a closer on a shit baseball team, or a huge LCD infotainment screen in a run down 1988 powder blue Ford Taurus. So getting a fifth round pick is just fine for moving Carpenter along.
  • Calvin de Haan stayed put, because that’s just generally what he does these days, and there more than likely wasn’t a market for him even if it would have been at half price. Erik Gustafsson also had no takers, which just makes the fact that he was ever brought in here to take minutes away from any of the kids on the blue line even more short sightedly stupid from the previous regime.
Hockey

Perhaps it was always too big of an a request to be rescued by the Bruins again, first in 2011 from a revolting Canucks team, no one from whom has gone on to have his name etched in silver, and this past summer from quite possibly the most underwhelming assemblage of players to ever end up having hoisted the Cup in the moldering St. Louis Blues. It was a true exhibition in monkey paw wish fulfillment, or at the very least a real life tale of punishing Irish Catholic irony worthy of Sean O’Casey, that Brad Marchand would finally be exposed as the absolute fraud of a player that he is only to give the Blues their first ever Cup. There are sins going on here both big and small that will never, ever be forgiven.

2018-2019

49-24-9 107 Points, 2nd in Atlantic
3.13 GF/G (11th), 2.59 GA/G (3rd), +44 GD
53.04 CF% (6th), 52.77% xGF (7th)
25.9% PP (3rd), 79.9% PK (17th)

Goalies: Last year was a bit of a resurgence for longtime B’s netminder Tuukka Rask, mostly due to the fact that the rest of the league seemed to drop down to the rate Tuukka had been playing at for the past couple of years, at least in the regular season. His .912 overall is about league average, but the underlying numbers suggest that at evens he was as solid as could be expected with a .925 against. The problems came during special teams, where Bruce Cassidy’s more uptempo, more loosely structured system came with its own risks and rewards. The Bruins had a top flight power play, but with only a single high defenseman, and that defenseman being either Tory Krug or Charlie McAvoy, that left Tuukka on an island, and the B’s allowed a league worst 15 shorties against. Similarly, their PK wasn’t as tightly structured behind the obvious top manned unit of Patrice Bergeron, and their kill was decidedly middle of the road, a serious dropoff from the Julien era. All of this is a longwinded way of saying that Tuukka may not be an absolute brick wall anymore, but he’s still in the upper echelon of goalies, as he proved by turning in a Smythe worthy performance with a .934 overall in the post season. He’ll once again be spelled by Jaro Halak, who always seems to fare better as a 1B or a backup, and was more than acceptable with a .922 overall and .934 at evens last year in 37 starts. He’s more than capable of providing Rask with a break to preserve him for the post-season or even stepping up in the event of injury. Overall, the Bruins have one of the better goaltending situations in both the conference and the league.

Defense: One of the big, and stupid misconceptions about the Cup final matchup was that both of these teams were huge, lumbering, rough and tumble heavyweight teams, based solely on reputation and the fact that Regis “Pierre” McGuire is a moronic pecker who never shuts up. The fact of the matter is that while Zdeno Chara is still lurching around Fangorn Forest at 42 years old (43 in March), this blue line is built to get up and go, and is somewhat undersized, Charlie McAvoy’s absolutely huge face notwithstanding. Chara played center field for McAvoy for the majority of the year, but they weren’t taking the toughest assignments or zone starts. McAvoy is still unsigned and was on pace for 40+ points at age 21-22, so it’s likely the B’s opt for longer term instead of a bridge deal because the offensive upside is clearly there, but he’s still a dervish in his own end. Brandon Carlo also remains unsigned, and was tasked with some of the tougher assignments in the post season, as he certainly has the 6’5″, 220lb frame to take that on. John Moore is here for another three years much to the delight of all the Devils fans who hate him, and Tory Krug still needs to be kept as far away from the offensive zone as possible. There’s not a lot in the Bruins’ system on the blue line that they’re waiting with baited breath for, so assuming that McAvoy and Carlo eventually get signed, as both are restricted and have no leverage, they’re basically running back the same unit as last year.

Forwards: This is well worn territory yet again, but it always bears repeating. The Bruins boast arguably the best line in the game with Patrice Bergeron centering David Pastrnak and the detestable Brad Marchand. Bergeron is an absolute legend, and is doing things at both ends of the still when his contemporaries in Anze Kopitar and Jonathan Toews have basically had to choose offense or defense at this point and just stick to one of them. Bergeron is a possession dynamo, one of the smartest players in the game, and will take an absolute pounding night in and night out, he is an instantaneous hall of famer. David Pastrnak is young, dynamic, and has an elite set of hands even if his skating stride isn’t necessarily the prettiest. He has a top flight release on his shot, but isn’t afraid of the corners. Brad Marchand is a slightly more talented Andrew Shaw who has failed miserably every time Patrice Bergeron has been injured or seriously limited by injuries on the ice, and has built his whole career on Bergeron’s back. He showed his ass in the above highlight by doing his best Roger Dorn OLE at the blue line, and still ended up going for a change as the Blues entered the zone. Mites are taught to never change on a back check, let alone after allowing free zone entry while flatfooted. He is an unrepentant dickhead who intends to injure opponents, and if the NHLPA were an actual union invested in the well being of its labor force instead of a loose conglomeration of millionaire 7th-grade-educated hillrods with CTE and coke hangovers, they’d railroad Marchand’s ass right out for endangering the rest of the union’s ability to earn. The day he inevitable wraps his sports car around a tree in Dorchester at 4AM (as is hockey player tradition) cannot come soon enough.

Elsewhere, David Backes getting double-owned by losing a Game 7 Cup final, and to his former team the Blues would be pretty hilarious, again, if it hadn’t been the Blues winning. Charlie Coyle came home in a curious trade and somehow turned into a playoff dynamo, but it remains to be seen if he can provide consistent second-tier scoring behind the top line for a full 82. David Krejci remains under appreciated, but at 33 his production has begun to slip. Danton Heinen, Jake DeBrusk, and Sean Kuraly will all be expected to take the next step in their respective developments, with DeBrusk’s ceiling being the highest. It’s not a bad group to try throw out there again, but the B’s are far from capped out and have always been top heavy with this group, so it’s curious why they haven’t tried to augment their scoring a little bit on the margins. But it’s doubtful any of the 29 other fanbases are going to be heartbroken if throwing this same group out there again just isn’t quite good enough to win in June.

Outlook: The Atlantic is a far tougher draw than whatever the Metro is right now, and that’s even with the Leafs still thumb-blasting themselves in the Mitch Marner situation and having a bad blue line. What happened to Tampa was a fluke, and they’re certainly not going anywhere and could have a sizeable chip on their shoulder. The Panthers may finally get it together, but that’s a big if, and the rest of the division is willfully shitty. It’s basically a given that the Bruins will have one of the three guaranteed spots, it’s just a matter of seeding, and in which round they inevitably beat the Leafs, and then in which subsequent round they implode.

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