Hockey

The Dizzying Highs

Jonathan Toews – We haven’t really taken a step back to marvel (get it?) at what Toews has done this year. And maybe because if we do we’ll just get depressed that another stellar effort from the captain–and we need to remind everyone this is the second season he’s done this after being dismissed as finished–is going to go to waste. He piled up five points this week in four games, and since his slow October he’s put up 42 points in 45 games. That would be a 77-point pace over a full season, which would be the second-highest mark of his career (though in the Season In A Can he was over a point per game). Toews has led from the front, and his metrics have also slowly improved throughout the season. And somehow he remains under the radar a bit. Maybe it’s because we just take him for granted. But it’s Keith who is nominated as the one who could leave or be traded, even though he’s been clear he isn’t going anywhere. It’s Kane who takes the headlines and most of the marketing drive. And yet do we doubt if Toews asked out tomorrow there wouldn’t be a host of teams trying to acquire him, despite his contract? It’s just as much of a given that Toews will be here for life as it is for Kane. And even though we’re pretty sure Toews knows his coach and possibly GM don’t have any idea what they’re doing, he’s still trying to hold the ship together. It’s what he does. It may be one of those things where we think we appreciate what we have here, and but won’t really until it’s not here anymore.

The Terrifying Lows

Alex DeBrincat – Yeah, it seems piling on. And he did finally break his slump in Calgary. But that didn’t change the fact that he’s got two points in his last eight games. He’s got five even-strength goals. He was terrible in the first game in Winnipeg, and he wasn’t much better last night. It’s clearly getting to him, as he’s fumbling the puck every which way. What would Strome’s numbers look like if Top Cat was having a normal season? Would he still be shunted out to a wing where he doesn’t belong?

The sobering thing here is that if Top Cat were shooting merely his career norm of 14%, he’d have 24 goals. Or 10 more than he’s got now. What would those 10 goals mean to the Hawks in the standings? It’s probably three-to-four more points. That would have them right on the cusp. And the unfortunate thing for DeBrincat, as this is all mostly just bad luck, is the Hawks will use that fact as a crutch to justify inaction either this week at the deadline or over the summer. They’ll say that if only Top Cat goes back to normal, everything will be fine. And that’s far too much to put on him.

The Creamy Middles

Corey Crawford – The past six weeks have seen Crow put up a .925 while seeing about 31 shots per game. He hasn’t given up more than three in any game. Meanwhile, Robin Lehner in that time has put up a .905 seeing 33 shots per game. Since Nov. 1st, Crow’s SV% is .916. Lehner’s is .917. But please, keep telling me how it’s Lehner that simply must be re-signed for significantly more money than Crow will probably require for a shorter period of time for a team that needs a lot more than goaltending. I want to hear all about it.

Hockey

The Dizzying Highs

Robin Lehner – This might be a touch weird to put a goalie who merely went 1-1 over the week here, and even the good “1” was an OT win against an unimpressive Ducks squad. But Lehner stopped 84 of 89 shots he saw in two games…let’s let that marinate for a moment…and had he not been at the top of his game the Hawks would have been on the ass end of an embarrassing result that would have had the whole league talking for a week. Even last night he held off a charge from the Ducks that could have resulted in the Hawks leaving SoCal with just one point instead of three.

Strange fact I learned yesterday, in the past four seasons Lehner has the third-best SV% of all goalies. Better than Vasilevskiy and right behind John Gibson. And that’s with a couple different teams, so he can’t be called a systems-goalie. He got that label by playing for Barry Trotz for a year, and the Hawks were able to use that as cover for a pretty good bargain, and getting better as their defense continue to turn every offense they see into the Bolivian army while Butch Lehner and Sundance Crawford reload in the corner of the building. The Hawks couldn’t be much worse off than they are, but they would firmly have their face in the toilet if it wasn’t for Lehner.

The Terrifying Lows

Andrew Shaw – We obviously had some trepidation when Shaw was reacquired, because it smacked of A. once again subpar pro scouting from the Hawks who again defaulted to “Hey I know that guy!” and B. wanting to cash in and sell tickets to the nostalgia crowd, even though they also say every ticket is also sold. Still, Shaw’s underlyings playing with Max Domi and Brendan Gallagher last year were good, and he has a skillset that the Hawks, in theory, could really use. Yes, signed for multiple years, but we could squint and see it if we ignored the name and number on the jersey.

Guess we know who was doing the real work in Montreal.

Shaw hasn’t been anything he was supposed to be–he hasn’t been a puck-winner, he hasn’t shown what used to be nifty hands around the net, and he hasn’t even really been an irritant to anyone except his own team and fans. The only thing that we recognize are the dumb, lazy, offensive zone penalties that seem to be cropping up because Shaw can’t keep the pace. He’s been a black hole, culminating in playing just seven minutes last night on the fourth line, where he managed a 30% Corsi and a 7(!) xGF%. Seven.

Clearly Coach Cool Youth Pastor has had it, and rightly so. But that’s ok, Shaw’s still signed for two more years to remind people of that time he bled from the face in Boston and played after getting knocked out cold, which is a totally healthy and responsible thing for a player to do and a team to let him do.

The Creamy Middles

Alex Nylander – Though it’s going to cost me a Greektown dinner in the spring, Nylander has been solid in California after being a horror-show in Tennessee. Though none of his teammates could escape that moniker either. Two assists in the two games, earning his way to play with the big boys, and one of the few Hawks who look like they can play at NHL speed. Getting better at making plays in traffic and not just needing space to do it. Now that we’re out of October and the grind starts to set in we’ll get a better idea, but solid production is needed from more wingers and he’s provided it.