RECORDS: Hawks 12-19-6 Avalanche 19-10-6
PUCK DROP: 8pm
TV: NBCSN Chicago +
JOE WALSH SAID IT WAS COOL: Mile High Hockey
Complaining about the schedule usually seems on the petty side. Everyone has rough stretches and back-to-backs against a team that’s been waiting for them. They tend to even out. That said, the second of a back-to-back and in the middle of a three-in-four at altitude against an Avalanche team that didn’t play last night seems excessive. Maybe flying in late at night and playing straight away can be one of those things where you’re out before you notice the air is thinner. Anyway, complaint department closed. The Hawks try to keep this mini-streak of competence going against the best line in hockey. Joy.
There’s really no point in talking about the Avs beyond that top line. That’s what they are. Mikko Rantanen, Nathan MacKinnon, and Gabriel SapsuckerFrog are putting up boxcar numbers, with Rantanen and MacKinnon especially on pace for things the NHL hasn’t seen in a long time. Not only are they highly-skilled and jet-heeled, they’re big and can play with an edge. They’re an absolute nightmare. They’re underlyings aren’t that great, but they don’t have to be. Much like we discussed with Patrik Laine when the Jets were the foe, this is a line that’s always going to outshoot whatever the numbers suggest they “should” score. So good luck, Connor Murphy and Carl Dahlstrom, especially after both took one upside last night.
The problem for the Avs, such as you can call it that, is that they haven’t found much under that line. It doesn’t matter when they’re scoring at this pace, but it could be a problem down the road. Only one forward after the top three has more than 20 points, and that’s Carl Soderberg, who is pretty much here to make up the numbers. Tyson Jost or Alex Kerfoot or J.T. Compher have not grabbed the brass ring yet, and one day the Avs will need that if they’re going to make serious noise when it counts. Otherwise you just have some competent foot soldiers here, convenient as the Avs have a big foot on the shoulder patches, like Matt Nieto or Colin Wilson or Sven Thank You Very Much Andrighetto.
On the blue line, one of their bounties for Matt Duchene has come good, and that’s Samuel Girard (always listen to the Big Dog because the Big Dog is always right). He has combined with Golf Cart Hero Erik Johnson to give the Avs a genuine shutdown pairing. Something they haven’t had since…Obi-Wan was merely a trainee himself. Tyson Barrie continues to do just enough to make you think he could be doing more, and Ian Cole is still wildly overrated. It’s a better blue line than it’s been, but it still has some miles to travel.
Phillip Grubauer was supposed to grab the #1 role from the soon-to-be-departed Semyon Varlamov, but it hasn’t happened. Varly is in a contract year, so it figures he would not be so easily displaced. That said, he’s been woeful in December, to the tune of .886. Grubs was excellent against the Canadiens last out, and he might get the chance to back it up tonight.
For the Hawks, you doubt there’d be too many changes. But there were rumblings that Colliton might roll Cam Ward out again, which would be a mistake. The Hawks have something of a glimpse at Collin Delia, and they should take it. If he’s your guy of the future, get every look you can. If it doesn’t work, hey he was just an injury-fill-in and return him to Rockford. If he takes it and runs, well then, you’ve got yourself something. Also Ward is going to turn back into Cam Ward at any moment, so why push it? Fuck, give Delia the next two. Remember what you are, and that’s a team that’s seven games under .500. You’re not getting back into this, so find out what you have when you can.
It’s a challenge given they played last night. Let’s see how up for it they are.
Game #38 Preview Suite