RECORDS: Detroit 21-27-7 Hawks 22-24-9
PUCK DROP: 2:00PM CST
TV/RADIO: NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720
JUGGALO HOMIES: Winging It In Motown
If there has been one schadenfraude-drenched upside to the last two years of the Hawks tripping over their own dicks at every conceivable juncture, it’s that the Red Wings have been equally inept, if not more so. Yes, most of the old wounds have healed, as silver tends to do that, particularly when eliminating them on the way to one, but anyone looking for emotional maturity has clearly been reading the wrong publication for over a decade now.
Entering today’s matinee, the Wings sit 14 points back of a wild card spot with a month and a half to play, essentially left for dead in the Eastern conference they so desperately wanted to play in. Just yesterday they lost another afternoon tilt in Buffalo, their second straight. One of the lone bright spots for the Wings has been Jimmy Howard, who’s had a bit of a renaissance this season with a .914 overall and an excellent .930 at evens, his best since the aforementioned abbreviated 2013 season, but he went yesterday in Buffalo. That means that Jonathan Bernier is likely to get the start today, and suffice it to say that Bernier is a step down from Howard, boasting an .898 overall and a .900 at evens. Even with goaltending taking a downturn league-wide, that’s still not enough from a backup.
In front of Bernier is a blue line that is somehow even more barren and desolate a wasteland than the Hawks. With no morning skate today, based on yesterday in Buffalo, the Wings will be trotting out a top pairing of Niklas Kronwall and Mike Green with a straight face in 2019, not 2009. Kronwall was always overrated and dirty, and now he’s lost more than a step and a half at 38 years old. Mike Green could probably still make a decent living as a third pairing bum slayer and power play quarterback, but he’s always been an adventure in his own zone and he can’t outscore those problems anymore. Danny DeKeyser is never going to be anything more than “a guy” no matter what the drunk dick from Perth Amboy at the bar shouts, and Jonathan Ericsson makes Seabrook look downright nimble these days. Unfortunately, Trevor Daley is hurt so he won’t be able to be recognized on the UC jumbotron during the first TV timeout.
Up front for the Wings, there are some decent pieces, but it’s just simply not enough now, particularly in the wake of Henrik Zetterberg‘s retirement. Dylan Larkin is the de facto #1 center right now, flanked by two of the worst contracts in the game in Justin Abdelkader and Gustav Nyquist. Larkin hasn’t quite grown into a true #1 yet, but he’s producing nearly a point per game (51P in 53 games) and certainly has all the talent to put it together by the time the Wings think they’ll be competitive again, and he’s still not even 23. Frans Nielsen centers the second line which features a somehow still employed Thomas Vanek back for a second tour of duty in Detroit (because the first time went so well) and Anthony Mantha on the other side, appears to basically be a Quebecois Hayes brother, providing 20 useless goals a season from a giant frame that intimidates no one. One of the best nicknames in the league and one of the fastest sets of wheels, Greece Lighning, Andreas Athanasiou continues to languish on the third line with known bums Luke Glendening and Darren “Ambulance 43” Helm. The Red Wings also have a fourth line.
As for the Men of Four Feathers, Thursday night marked their sixth win in a row, which no one is sure if it means a goddamn thing yet. They did so giving up 40 shots to the equally putrid Canucks and had to get to the bullshit that is 3-on-3 to decide things. But points are points, considering that A) this draft isn’t that deep past Jack Hughes, and B) the league is going to rig that he plays for his home town team anyway, which just happens to be the Hawks’ opponent today. The one thing that continues to hum along for the Hawks is the power play, and fortunately the Wings’ PK is only marginally better than the Hawks’, though Jonathan Bernier has been relatively respectable on the kill with an .883 save percentage.
Lines from Saturday’s skate appeared the same as the last game, but it was notable that Corey Crawford briefly took the ice and partook in team drills if only for about 20 minutes sharing a net with Collin Delia, which would seem to indicate that Cam Ward would get the start. What a time to be alive.
The Hawks didn’t get any favors from the Blues on Thursday or the Wild yesterday, but it’s still too goddamn early to be scoreboard watching in that regard. A tank is basically out of the question at this point, and it’s better for the players already on this roster to develop by winning, particularly against eminently beatable teams such as this Scum bunch. Take care of business. Seven is better than six.
Game #56 Preview Suite