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It had to happen sooner or later, but who would have ever guessed the Hawks’s seven-game win streak would end at the hands of a team that can do more than just feign competence on the ice? Oh, you did? The Bruins ran over the Hawks from start to finish, who were a complete open sewer in their own zone tonight (more so than usual, even). Compound that with a relatively weak showing from Delia and the fancy stats finally match up with the outcome. Let’s dig around this one.

– None of us here at the Program are too wild about this man-to-man defensive scheme Colliton is dead set on making happen. Tonight is a perfect example of why that is. The Hawks posted an embarrassing 34+ CF% at 5v5. They didn’t end a single period on the positive side of the ledger. Sikura and Seabrook (?!) were the only two Hawks who had a positive CF% on the night. Over and over, the Hawks were caught double teaming because they either can’t or won’t communicate with one another when someone loses their man, which is often, because as a team they’re so goddamn slow.

This was evident on Boston’s second goal, when Murphy got caught playing Bergeron too far out along the far boards. Toews came over to cover along with Murphy, leaving Dahlstrom hanging out to to dry against Marchand and Heinen. Either Murphy needs to stick with Bergeron all the way, leaving Toews to cover Chara at the point (which is where Bergeron threw it after reading the double cover, and which doesn’t really solve the problem of who’s covering one of Marchand or Heinen down low) or Toews needs to call Murphy off and let him retreat. They did neither, and Chara had all the time in the world to throw the puck down low to two open skaters.

This was evident on Boston’s third goal. Delia gave up a comically bad rebound right in front of the net, which looked like how a dense and painful fart sounds. Of course Gus and Gusser were on the ice for that, covering absolutely no one and giving Heinen and Marchand all the time in the world yet again.

This was evident on Boston’s fourth goal (are you sensing a pattern?), with Murphy coming out way too far to cover Krejci on the near boards, leaving Jake DeBrusk all alone in front of Delia for an easy tip. This one’s a bit more excusable, since it was at the end of a PK, but still, Murphy doesn’t need to skate almost entirely past the near-side dot to cover Krejci from that bad an angle.

Those three goals were all a result of someone losing their coverage and no one covering his ass. Whether they’re communicating or not (they’re not) doesn’t really matter, because even if they are (and again, they aren’t, as evidenced by how profoundly open these goal scorers were), this team simply doesn’t have the speed to cover when coverage is blown. You’d think those thick rims Colliton borrowed from Rivers Cuomo’s dumb ass would help him see that, but here we are. This system will not work for this team as presently constituted, especially against teams who are better than “gas station toilet overflow,” which Boston decidedly is.

– This was probably Connor Murphy’s worst game of the year, and if he’s not playing well, they’re fucked. He was caught out of position more often than not and took that terrible cross-checking penalty that ended up leading to Boston’s fourth goal, which, surprise, Murphy’s poor positioning capped off. They can’t all be winners.

– Forsling and Gustafsson were festering scabs tonight too, each with a 22+ CF%. On Boston’s third goal, Forsling did that thing where he’s facing his own goaltender when his opponent scores, which is a very normal thing for an NHL defenseman who’s being showcased to do. There’s not really anything Forsling does right out there, but when your alternative is Slater Koekkoek, all you can do is wait for the sweet embrace of death to blot out the misery, because Chiarelli can’t save you anymore.

– The PK was a urethral wart tonight too. Sure, they technically killed off a 5-on-3. But Caggiula’s awful positioning on the first PK led to Boston’s game-tying goal. Then, in the third, Torey Krug drew both Kruger and Dahlstrom along the near boards, leaving Murphy alone against Heinen and Cehlarik. There’s no reason for a D-man to fly to the near boards on the PK like Dahlstrom did.

John Hayden sucks, and the sooner they trade him to whoever takes over Peter Chiarelli’s mantle as head dumbass, the better.

Brendan Perlini played seven minutes at 5v5 and had 0 CF and 15 CA for a 0% CF on the night. That’s fucking something. I’ve never seen it before and never want to see again.

– Kane keeps his scoring streak alive at 15 games, dropping a nifty pass to Keith, who then handed it off to Gustafsson on a 4 on 4, allowing Gus to RuPaul his way toward his 12th goal. Other than that, though, Kane was a ghost, but given how he’s quite literally carried this team over the last several months, you sort of get it.

– Watching Brent Seabrook lose the puck to no one and have to take a tripping penalty as his recovery—which led to Boston’s first goal—was very on brand.

This is what this team will look like against anyone who’s actually sniffing at the playoffs, not simply the beneficiary of the NHL’s lust for faux parity. They aren’t fast enough to play man and aren’t smooth enough to recover against teams that pressure them. Fortunately, the only marginally good teams the Hawks play for the rest of the month are Dallas and Columbus, so it’s possible they keep this playoff-run farce up for a bit longer. That would be OK, because the winning was fun, like trying to eat four dipped combos from Al’s in one sitting.

Onward. . .

Booze du Jour: Makers 46 and Pedialyte (The De-Rehydrater)

Line of the Night: Hung out in the Mute Lounge tonight.

Everything Else

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Natural Stat Trick

Corsica

This was a bizarre game and I am still not sure I fully understand what happened. Let’s attempt to parse through it together, shall we? The Bullets:

– The first period started out making this one feel like it was set to be a big time ass whipping by the Sabres. They ended up closing the period with an almost 60% CF and just watching it go down was painful. The Sabres aren’t great, but are definitely better than the Hawks, and it seemed like they were ready to flex on them. Then Gustav Forsling made a great play – broke clocks are bound to be right at least once a day – to feed Drake Caggiula in front of the net all alone, and the Hawks had a 1-0 lead. And from there, it just felt a bit like the Sabres started chasing a game they were controlling. It wasn’t really the result of anything the Hawks did, which is what made it feel so weird.

– Let’s stay on Forsling for a second. I wrote a few weeks ago that as much as I wanted to hold out hope on him, it wasn’t possible anymore. But the play he made to set up Caggiula was another sign that there is maybe a good hockey player in there that is just being suppressed. It’s like Get Out – the good hockey player is in the Sunken Place. The problem is, flashes like that are only worth so much. Later in the game he blew a defensive assignment that resulted in a flurry of chances for the Sabres. Part of that is out of his control – Sam pointed on Twitter how in this system that CCYP is running, any blown assignment is a disaster regardless of who’s there to try and help. But blowing the assignment was terrible. He’s still young, so maybe he can take a giant leap forward next year, but this is probably what he is.

– Cam Ward was good tonight. It was another strange thing to behold. He made a ton of saves he shouldn’t have and none of the three Sabres goals were on him. Hopefully he waives that NTC and they can get someone to take him.

– Patrick Kane is still really good. Brandon Saad is still good. They were both excellent tonight. I wish they were playing well for a good team. Hopefully there will be a blue line solution and a Jack Hughes here next year and they can do this again for a good team.

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The Blackhawks were lucky this shitfest went to overtime. I am no Pullega so let’s just bullets it:

-The Blackhawks being beaten by a guy named Toews is kind of a hilarious cherry on top of this season, to me at least. Finally Hockey Twitter is right and a Toews was the downfall of the Hawks.

– So, Collin Delia might be an actual thing. Like I said, the Hawks were lucky they even got to overtime in this one, and it was solely on the play of Delia that they got there. He stopped 47 of 50 total shots and was locked in the whole time, save for some slight rebound control issues early on that aren’t exactly surprising given this is his fifth career NHL game. He’s been aces for them and might just end up fucking up the quasi-tank they have going on here. But given the status of Crawford, if he proves to be a franchise goalie, that’s way more important than Jack Hughes would be so it’d be fine. Moving forward there is no reason he shouldn’t be started every game that isn’t a back-to-back, and since the Hawks have just one of those in a light January before the bye week at the end of the month, he needs to be between the pipes this whole month so we really see what we have here.

– I have been very wary of giving up on Gustav Forsling, in large part because I felt like I really saw something in him that proved he could be a good defenseman in the NHL. He has the smooth skating stride, the puck control, the passing that you want to see from a mobile defenseman. The problem is he can’t for the life of him put it all together, and I don’t think they ever taught him what defense actually looks like in Sweden. He has been downright bad for a while now and I have finally come to grips with it. At this point the best case is maybe that you find a team willing to gamble on his upside.

Side note – based on the reports I’m hearing from the WJC and some of the earlier scouting reports, I might be starting to be a little worried about if Adam Boqvist is actually gonna be able to play defense, or if he’ll just be Forsling with better tools.

– The Jonathan Toews “Fuck You Tour” continued tonight, as even in a game in which the Hawks got shitpumped and skull-fucked simultaneously in the possession game with a hilariously bad “are you sure you even tried” 36.89 CF%, Toews dominated to the tune of an individual CF% of 60. Brandon Saad and Dominic Kahun were flanking him and were the only other two Hawks above 50%, with 58.64 and 54.55 respectively. That’s a dominant night from that line that basically went for naught, save for Kahun getting the opening goal of the game.

– Speaking of “Fuck You” tours, this time of a different variety, Duncan Keith was ass again tonight with a 37.14 CF%. I’m sad but also tired of it.

– I had the national NBCSN feed streaming on my computer, because for some reason NBCSN wanted to subject the nation to this monstrosity, but in the end it turned out that the real monstrosity was the broadcast. I don’t know who the announcers were for the broadcast, but they were boring as hell. One of them was a woman who’s analysis was good for the most part save for a few cheap praises of a Hawks team that played like utter garbage, but even with that they were not exciting at all. It also sounded like Nassau Coliseum was dead. And then in the intermission reports, Kathryn Tappen (who is normally very good) butchered Delia’s name to an extent that I did not think could be possible, though I can’t exactly blame her because he’s a relative unknown and she’s on the national level so she probably learned his name today. Then Roenick had the audacity in the postgame to say the Hawks played “good tight defense” and that’s why Delia was able to keep them in it, and I was done. I need to go back to the Mute Lounge.

– GO BEARS BITCH.

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Another Winter Classic, another loss for the Hawks. The Hawks played decently for the most part, which makes this loss a bit more frustrating than usual, but you can’t put Boston on the power play and expect them not to score. Still, there’s some good to take from this game. Let’s do the bullets.

– After my total psychotic breakdown about Cam Ward starting, Cam Ward was probably the best Hawk on the ice today. None of the goals he gave up were goals he had a chance on. The first was the result of a bad clearing attempt by Kruger after a weak and off-balance pass from Dahlstrom. Bergeron just picked Kruger’s pocket at the point and swept a pass to a wide open Pastrnak, past an off-kilter Dahlstrom. The second came off an unfortunate deflection off Seabrook’s skate on the PK. With Pastrnak trying to thread a pass to DeBrusk in the blue paint, the puck ricocheted off Seabrook’s skate and directly to Bergeron in the slot. The third was a result of Gustav Forsling being a giant bag of ass. It’s clear that the predictive success of Fels Motherfuck is directly proportional to how red and nude we get toward the person we’re motherfucking, because Ward was really, really good today.

Brendan Perlini and Dylan “Stop Fucking Calling Me Tyler, Eddie” Sikura looked great early on. Perlini’s goal while open in the slot was a relief, and the way it got set up was really fun to watch. Dahlstrom was on the far boards with the puck and fell down, only to recover and tip the puck to Kampf. Kampf pushed it to Sikura who shot it wide left. Krejci tried to corral it behind the net, only to run into Kampf, who stole it away and fed a perfect pass to Perlini. Perlini saw a whole lot less time later in the game, and it’s hard to understand why, given how noticeable he was early.

Jonathan Toews had himself a nice game. You can trace Kahun’s goal in the second to Toews’s effort behind the net. After getting tripped, Toews recovered quickly and shoved a strong pass from behind the net to Gus at the point. Gus’s point shot ended up behind Rask thanks to Kahun’s high-slot tip, but none of it happens without Toews showing off some Old Man Strength. He also hit the post late in the third, coming just inches away from tying it up.

David Kampf had a good game throughout as well. His steal and pass to Perlini in the first was high art, and he had an exceptional break up at center ice with the Bruins on a 5-on-3 PP in the third. The fancy stats don’t flesh it out, but Kampf looked to be in all the right places at all the right times.

– You could not say the same about Gustav Forsling. The game-winning goal was a clinic in why we think Forsling sucks. First, he failed to clear the puck because he was busy getting smashed into the glass by Chris Wagner. He struggled to recover, which put the Blackhawks way out of position up top, forcing Martinsen to try to traverse the length of the ice to cover the far side. Once Forsling finally got to the area code where he should have been, Kuraly simply beat him to the rebound.

You’d be less upset about this if Forsling were delivering the puck movement and offense he’s supposed to provide, but he doesn’t even do that. He was directly responsible for suffocating two Hawks drives because of poor shot choices. If he’s not delivering offense and he clearly sucks on defense, what is it he does here?

– We’ve all had enough of Artie, whether on the second line or in general. His trip led to Boston’s first PP goal, and he couldn’t keep up with play at all. He and Keith brought up the rear with a 41+ CF% in a game in which the Hawks controlled possession with a 55% share.

– That Weezer song about ride-sharing is worse than I could have imagined.

The Hawks put together a decent effort, but they couldn’t overcome the Marchand–Bergeron–Pastrnak line. It’s hard to be mad about this loss, considering how much worse it could have been. It’s over now, and God willing we’ll never have to do another Notre Dame tilt again.

Onward . . .

Booze du Jour: Cruse champagne (they were out of Andre)

Line of the Night: “Anisimov, not moving his feet.” – Pierre, stating the obvious

Everything Else

OK, so it wasn’t exactly like their performance against the Avalanche last week but it was enough. The Hawks have five wins in their last six games, and even more shocking, they have seven power play goals in that time. What a world. To the bullets:

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– The Hawks started strong yet again, and if there is anything that makes watching them bearable, it’s them NOT finding themselves in a 2-0 hole by the five-minute mark. In fact, the Hawks were the ones up 2-0 relatively early, thanks to the functional power play and overall good puck movement in the first 10 minutes. Alex DeBrincat scored the PPG, which brings his scoring streak to five games, and as a whole, the power play continued to be a legitimate offensive weapon for the Hawks. Not long afterwards, Kane added a goal, putting him on a seven-game scoring streak as well. Things were looking up.

– Then, Gustav Forsling went all Gustav Forsling all over everything. He took a dumbass penalty late in the first which led to Rantanen’s goal. And while Foreskin’s tripping penalty set things up, his was not the only defensive failure at this point. Keith and Seabrook were on the PK and I swear to you they stood still and watched as Gabriel ThisLandIsYourLand walked up to the net and scored. It was patently absurd.

– But he wasn’t done yet! Forsling managed to do the exact same thing at the end of the second period, although Nathan MacKinnon had already scored on…wait for it…a delayed penalty just seconds prior. Forsling repeatedly passed to no one and went around tripping people and yet, he had a 72 CF%. Hockey is weird.

– Speaking of weird, the Hawks’ power play has been, as we’ve mentioned, downright functional as of late. But in the third when they had a 5-on-3 the Hawks completely shat the bed. They went right back to everyone standing around waiting for Patrick Kane to do something. When Kane did get a shot, it was a crazy deflection off the post and into the crowd on the other side of the ice. It was impressive in its own way. But that didn’t make up for the fact that with a 2-man advantage and one defender with a broken stick—so basically a 2.5-man advantage—the Hawks receded to their bad habits of not moving themselves or the puck.

– They made up for it by scoring on a power play right at the start of OT, thanks to Connor Murphy once again getting his face demolished, this time by Landeskog. He ain’t pretty no more (he was never pretty anyway), but who cares, we’ll take whatever help we can get. Toews batted down the puck with a suspiciously high stick and fed it to Kane, exactly the quick puck movement that they needed. Luckily the refs were as done with the game as anyone, so no one bothered to review if Toews’ stick really was over the crossbar. Again, we’ll take whatever we can get.

– In other news, Collin Delia looked really good once again. Neither goal can be pinned on any mistake of his; the first one, his defenders sat on their asses and watched, and the second was in the midst of a defensive breakdown and scramble. In fact, he was the sole reason the Hawks didn’t get brained late in the first and through most of the second. His positioning and composure were both exactly what the Hawks needed, particularly with the Avs top line having their way with whoever was on the ice at the time. Delia ended the night with a .938 SV% and had better get the god damn start on New Year’s Day.

– Alex DeBrincat is not a fucking third liner. Why can’t Coach Cool Youth Pastor see this? What more must this guy do?! FUCKING SHIT

Dylan Strome had two assists and continues to be eminently useful. Meanwhile Artem Anisimov is still 10 steps slower than Strome and Kane on their line, and it’s beyond frustrating to imagine how many goals a DeBrincat-Strome-Kane line would have. Anisimov stumbled over or lost the puck in his feet at least three chances tonight. It seems so obvious.

Another win so we’ll have to just shut up and deal with our line combination complaints, and hope that Forsling can benched or traded or teleported to the land of wind and ghosts ANYTHING JUST MAKE IT STOP. But there’s no better way to go into the Winter Classic, such as it is. Onward and upward.

Everything Else

It’s time once more to take a look at the good, the bad, and mildly acceptable in all things Blackhawks. And in the spirit of the holidays, let me give you one more gift: Dear Santa Claus, Go Fuck Yourself will be the best thing you watch this week; this is just one clip but go find the whole thing. You’re welcome.

The Dizzying Highs

Dylan Strome: We are officially fans of Dylan Strome around here. In addition to a three-point game last night against the Panthers (in what was otherwise a full body dry heave thanks to Cam Ward), Strome has been part of a power play that is resembling something functional and playing like the actual 2C that the Hawks so desperately need. And he’s doing this while saddled with Wide Dick Arty who has no business being anywhere other than the pressbox, much less on the second line. Strome has looked good with DeBrincat when they’ve had chances to play together (duh of course) so it’s extra annoying that Coach Cool Youth Pastor still feels the need to play Anisimov with Strome and Kane, but Strome is making it work and we’re here for it.

Alex DeBrincat. On a related note, Definitely-Not-A-Third-Liner Alex DeBrincat has six points in his last five games, including a three-point performance against the Stars. He’s also a part of the sort-of functioning power play, and he and Dylan Sikura seem to have something going. His possession numbers aren’t bad either—a 51.5 CF% although admittedly with sheltered starts (nearly 59% in the offensive zone). We may bitch and moan about where he’s at but point is we need him scoring, wherever he plays. And that’s happening as of late and we’re here for it.

The Terrifying Lows

Gustav Forsling. This guy sucks, there’s not much else to say about it. He was pretty much solely responsible for the Avs only goal last Friday when he just stood there watching Compher score. In fact Forsling excels at standing around sort of near the goal watching guys score when he should be pressuring them. His CF% is underwater at 48.4 right now, and don’t be fooled by the goal he scored against the Predators last week—that was a pure Fels Motherfuck and the rest of the night he was awful and looked lost. I’m not suggesting Forsling should sit and be replaced by Brandon Manning, who is actually even worse if that can be believed. But I really want the Hawks to find some moron GM on whom to dump this pile of crap because I am done waiting for him to be something. He will not be anything.

The Creamy Middles

Erik Gustafsson. Cowboy Gus is quarterbacking the first unit of the aforementioned power play and even got a goal on the man advantage against Dallas, which alone qualifies him to be on this list. Perhaps even more impressive is that he’s a defenseman generally playing competent defense (we see you, Connor Murphy, but let Gus have his day). He saved a goal in that same Dallas game and his CF% stands at 51.7% (again, sheltered starts but whatever). He did stop giving a shit when the Panthers game really got out of hand, so he’s not THAT great. But at this point we’ll take generally competent.

Dylan Sikura. OK, he’s only got two points in seven games but he’s looking like a decent third-liner. Playing with Alex DeBrincat definitely helps that, but Sikura doesn’t look lost or useless, and really that’s where we’re at in terms of requirements right now. He even had four shots last night against the Panthers. Merry fucking Christmas.

 

Everything Else

The Hawks played well tonight…I’m struggling to believe I typed those words…they played better than a team that is demonstrably more talented and a legitimate Cup contender or at least conference finalist…and so I will try to make sense of this. To the bullets:

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– Right out of the gate, the Hawks had a step on the Predators. Maybe this is a consequence of the Preds being on the second night of a back-to-back. You wouldn’t think that would necessarily be the case, given that Nashville is just plain better but whatever. I don’t know and I don’t care. In particular the top line had a number of quality chances and good puck movement early on, and the second line was right there with them. By the end of the second period the Hawks led in shots 28-18, and they had a 57 and 58 CF% respectively in the first two periods. They were faster to the puck, defensively competent, and they even scored a power play goal. A power play goal, guys! I don’t even know what to say!

– Related to the whole top-line-playing-well-thing is Brandon Saad, who once again had an excellent night. He ended the night with 4 shots and 56.7 CF%. In fact he had three shots on goal barely more than 5 minutes into the game. No, he didn’t score so there was a lack of finish, let’s just get that out of the way, but he played an effective two-way game all night. He was robbed via a desperation play on a short-handed breakaway that happened because he just wanted the puck more, Rinne made an outstanding save on his point-blank chance mid-way through the third, and defensively he was spot on. Saad may not have scored but his play directly impacted the Hawks’ possession and chances. If he can keep this up I won’t even bitch about him not scoring.

– Speaking of defense, that which usually scorches your face and melts your eyeballs like the opening of the Ark of the Covenant did not do that tonight. Connor Murphy and Carl Dahlstrom are just a random pairing that’s making it work somehow. They had a 57 CF% and looked, well, competent, including the final two-minute scrum when Rinne was pulled. I even saw Duncan Keith make a couple good plays to clear the puck out of the zone. Oh, and our defensemen did the scoring. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but there is this thing called the Fels Motherfuck, and it’s real and it’s a force to be reckoned with. Tonight Gustav Forsling was the embodiment, and after sucking out loud he potted one past Rinne who had been unflappable to that point. And then Cowboy Gustafsson had the aforementioned unicorn, a power play goal. Up is down, black is white.

Cam Ward isn’t better than Pekka Rinne, and that’s evidenced by the shots Rinne stopped tonight, including some excellent chances by Saad in particular but also Kane and a bunch of the other schlubs. Ward also gave up a fairly weak goal in the last minute of the first period after the Hawks had played really well, and I was honestly convinced that would be the end and the Hawks would shit the bed as soon as the second started. But tonight Ward WAS better. He is not objectively a better goalie but at least in this one instance, where it was clear Rinne was going to fuck us over, he was. Of course this means Collin Delia and his superfluous L will not get the chance he deserves (at least not for now), but fuck it, it’s a win.

– The second line of Strome-Anisimov-Kane was not as bad as I expected it to be. Before I go any further, do NOT take this as an endorsement of this being a line! I’m just saying that I expected a dumpster fire and instead for some reason Patrick Kane‘s give-a-shit meter was higher than usual tonight. He and Strome had multiple good sequences with shots and puck movement in the slot, from the circles, near the crease, everywhere you want them to be. Kane bulldozed over Anisimov in the first when his slow ass couldn’t get out of the way, and Anisimov was perennially a step behind his two linemates, but he wasn’t as much of a liability as he could have been. I still think that DeBrincat-Strome-Kane is as clear to see as the bulbous nose on Barry Smith‘s face, but at least tonight this worked.

– I won’t dwell here but Ryan Hartman should have gotten an elbowing penalty for embedding Marcus Kruger‘s mask into his face. No he didn’t jut his elbow into Kruger, but when he saw Kruger coming, Hartman definitely positioned it in such a way that Kruger would have to run into it. It’s kind of like an older sibling asking why you won’t stop punching yourself. Hopefully Kruger is OK soon enough.

The Hawks beat a better team in their division and did so in regulation, by holding onto a one-goal lead. I said it before but I have to reiterate—I can’t believe I just wrote that sentence. Does this mean the season is saved? Absolutely not. But it does mean that maybe they’re not an irredeemable mess EVERY night. We’ll take whatever breaks we can get, wherever we can get them. Onward and upward.

 

 

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Through the first four minutes, this game had all the feel of a sudden onset of diarrhea after your morning shower, punctuated by slipping off the toilet seat because you didn’t have time to dry your ass off. While things got marginally better and there were some bright spots, the song remains the same: a flaccid start and a broken heart at the end of it all. Let’s clean it up.

– We don’t condone fighting usually. We get red and nude when anyone in the broadcast booth starts alluding to physicality and barbaric dickery (more on that later). But it’s not hard to understand Duncan Keith completely losing his goddamn mind and assaulting Miikka “I let a cat walking across the keyboard name me” Salomaki early in the first. It was a blindside hit along the boards. I’m sure people will try to argue that the hit came from the side and THIS IS HOCKEY and all that happy horse shit. Those people are wrong, and the Venn diagram of people who defend that hit and who own more than zero piss-yellow Mike Ribeiro sweaters is the same fucking circle.

Along the boards at an angle that Linda Blair would have had a hard time twisting to see, let alone Keith playing the puck, is inexcusable. I’m not going to defend Keith trying to piledrive Salomaki and getting the match penalty for it, but I sure understand it. There aren’t many good tit-for-tat arguments, but if you wanted to make one for Keith after the no call, I’m open to it.

Gustav Forsling is still only 22, and he missed a good portion of last year to injury. But with each game, it gets harder and harder to figure out how he fits in among a D-corps that you couldn’t trade for a cup of coffee along with the two dollars in your pocket. When he’s not getting overpowered (by Ryan Johansen on Goal 1 and Kevin Fiala on Goal 3), he’s freezing up in his own zone (Craig Smith, Goal 4). His vision is questionable at best, and are we really sure he has the skill to be the breakout D-man we thought he was? At this point, you let him shit his pants, dive in, and swim, but you wonder if the clock is starting to tick on whether he’s a guy they keep long term.

– A quick word on Erik Gustafsson: You might be able to capitalize on whatever offensive potential he has when Connor Murphy gets back. Maybe. But he’s just as bad as Forsling in his own zone, if not worse. You’d excuse that if he’s a point per game D-man, but he’s playing more like an eleven-year-old with a mustache who thinks running head first into a wall is a good way to impress girls.

– There were some positives here. Brandon Manning was by far the best D-man the Hawks had out there tonight. All of his metrics flesh it out: He had a 55+ straight CF%, a 51+ CF% SVA (score and venue adjusted), and contributed offensively. His assist on Artem Anisimov’s goal was flat-out gorgeous, splitting traffic in the slot and allowing Wide Dick to just be there. He also hit the crossbar off a Henri Jokiharju rebound in the second. You hope that this kind of play continues from Manning, because he’s exactly the kind of guy you can trade for a young flyer or mid-round draft pick later down the line.

Brent Seabrook flashed some of the old style of play too. Outside of his terrible turnover that led to the Preds’s second goal, he was, for lack of a better word, crafty with the puck. He nearly set up David Kampf with a semi-breakaway off an area pass, and managed to juke Roman Josi out of his skates with a fake shot in the third, which led to a quality chance for Dylan Strome off a Forsling point shot rebound.

Brandon Saad—who has more goals than Artemi Panarin on the year, thanks—did that voodoo that he do so well again. When Saad gets a full of head of steam along the boards, there aren’t many people who can stop him. And he managed to overpower both Ryan Ellis and Pekka Rinne on his goal, swatting his own attempt out of mid-air. Anyone who doesn’t want to admit that Brandon Saad fucks is a jerk.

– I don’t want to see Alex DeBrincat fighting. In the moment, it’s fun, but let’s not make that a thing in the future.

– We rag on the broadcast for falling back into the MORE PHYSICAL trope all the time. And while Eddie was guilty of it a few times tonight, nothing was quite as weird as Steve Konroyd after the first intermission. I get being mad about the Keith hit, but Konroyd went so far as to say that a guy like John Hayden should “go after one of Nashville’s smaller guys” to “help bring them [the Hawks] together.” Motherfucker even acknowledged that “that may not be right” and called his own idea “kinda barbaric,” then proceeded to justify it as something to bring the team together. It may not seem like anything more than Konroyd tossing meat to the worst kinds of hockey fans, but this kind of mind-set contributes to guys like Tom Wilson constantly having the chance at gainful employment in the NHL. It’s fucking gross to imply that someone should put a horseshit hit on an opponent as a team-building exercise. Stuff your mouth with my dog’s fart blanket with that suggestion, Stevie K.

The Hawks get a heaping helping of mulligan stew with a tilt against Calgary tomorrow. If they play anything like they did in the second period tonight, it’ll be fun. But at this point, any wins the Hawks get should be considered gravy, because even if the brain geniouses in the front office won’t admit it, this team is in rebuild mode.

Onward. . .

Booze du Jour: Four Roses and Eagle Rare

Line of the Night: “The Mute Lounge was conceived for nights just like this one.” –Matt McClure

Everything Else

 vs. 

RECORDS: Blues 6-6-3   Hawks 6-8-4

PUCK DROP: 7pm

TV: NBCSN

EVERYTHING IS EVIL: St. Louis Gametime

No matter where you are in life, or how things are going, there is sadistic joy in looking around and seeing that someone else has it worse. Or at least it provides perspective. In sports, it’s joy. The Germans didn’t create the word, “schadenfreude” out of thin air, folks.

So while the Hawks have fired a coach, and yet still looked pretty helpless, and the season very well might get away from them before Black Friday, they could be the St. Louis Blues. And they should be intimately familiar with what the Blues are now, because we all are, because this will be the fourth fucking time these two have seen each other in a six-week-old season. Thankfully for everyone, they won’t do this again until April. We have enough trash here, thanks. Don’t constantly need to double it up. We could all use the break.

It was something of an outside shot that the Hawks fired their coach before the Blues did, because Mike Yeo showed up at training camp with a noose instead of a whistle. The players have had it out for him since just about the time he took over for Ken Hitchcock, whom they also hated, so it’s a real positive atmosphere down there. Unlike the Hawks however, the Blues went all out this summer to be something, trading for Ryan O’Reilly and signing Tyler Bozak. It has not worked, at least not yet. Maybe the next coach will be the one to unlock the mystery. Just like the last one was. Or the one before that. Or the one before that. And then there was Davis Payne.

And maybe it’s not going to. As we keep saying, and they keep ignoring, this was a castle built on sand. We’ve been over and over the Jay Gallon saga, which once again appears to be turning into him surrendering the starting role to a backup–in this case Chad Johnson. It doesn’t matter what work you do anywhere on the ice if it results in your goalie waving at pucks going by him like an acid head waving at imaginary, friendly flying rabbits toddling off into the sky. For some reason, even though Johnson has been pretty ok of late, Allen will get the start.

But it goes deeper. This defense isn’t good. It hasn’t been for a while. In a league that gets faster and faster and more aggressive, the Blues have become entrenched with a top four that can’t move and can’t think. Alex OrangeJello has limited mobility. Joel Edmundson has limited IQ. Same with Colton Burpo. Jay Bouwmeester is dead, and when it’s not him it’s Carl Gunnarsson who is essentially the same as Michael Cera’s girlfriend in “Arrested Development.” Way to plant, Carl! The Blues defense is like the worst house cat. It’s like having nothing, and they probably don’t even clean themselves.

So where are the Blues going with their improved forward group if they’re constantly pulling the defense out of the ditch they just backed into in their own zone? Into the basement, where they currently reside (though it should be mentioned they’ve played three less games than the Hawks and when that gets made up, it could see the Hawks with the wooden spoon).

The Blues aren’t going to trade for Justin Faulk or the like to try and correct this. They’re just going to fire another coach and then pray that their players finally start pushing up the mercury on the give-a-shit meter. They haven’t in three years but hope springs eternal! Anyway, that’s the mess that arrives at the United Center tonight.

As for the Hawks, the big story is that Gustav Forsling will make his season-debut tonight. And when that’s your story, you know there are issues. At least it will be in place of Jan Rutta, who is also in plant-area as far as usefulness. The Hawks are screaming for more mobility and spice on their blue line, and this will be Forsling third (and last) chance to grab the NHL brass ring. Now he’s got a coach who believes in him and worked with him extensively last season. It’s now or never, and he should get bum-slaying opportunities at home and on the third-pairing with whatever member of the Eat Arby’s Trio’s number is drawn (it’s Brandon Manning). As the other two puck-movers are barking at each other in the second pairing, this could be welcome.

Other than that, Alexandre Fortin is going to sit so Eddie O can wax lyrical about Andreas Martinsen and John Hayden some more, before turning on Hayden for not shooting from outside the circles. Whatever. Corey Crawford is your starter.

If the Hawks are going to pull out of this, it kind of has to be now. The Blues suck, the Kings are way worse, and you can show me the Wild’s point totals all you like but I just won’t buy it. There’s a three-game road trip either side of Thanksgiving that’s not as daunting as it looks on first glance, even with the expected thwacking by the Lightning. But then it gets real hard, real quick. Points are needed now or the Hawks could very well be buried by Christmas.

No better way to get started than against this lot.

 

Game #19 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs, AHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks, are hitting the weekend on a two-game win streak. Coach Jeremy Colliton will hope to extend the winning ways as the IceHogs host Cleveland and Manitoba.

Rockford bested a scuffling San Antonio Rampage club at the BMO Wednesday night, but looked a little sloppy doing so. The IceHogs put together 15 minutes of real good hockey Wednesday; that got them by a struggling opponent who now have lost seven straight. Beating Cleveland will require a more complete performance.

With a record of 4-2-1 heading into this weekend, Rockford sits in fourth place in the AHLs Central Division standings. Two wins would keep the Hogs within reach of the Milwaukee Admirals, Chicago Wolves and Texas Stars, the teams ahead of Rockford.

 

Roster Moves

Defenseman Gustav Forsling was sent to Rockford on Monday, having recovered from wrist surgery over the summer. He went right into the lineup Wednesday night.

Tuesday, goalie Anton Forsberg cleared waivers and was assigned to the IceHogs. For the moment, Rockford is carrying three goalies. How long will this remain the case?

Both Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen have played well for Colliton in the early going. Both may figure into the future for the Blackhawks. It doesn’t appear that Forsberg fits into those plans. On the other hand, he does have experience in an NHL net in case of an injury.

Forsberg is a very good goalie at the AHL level and will need to showcase those skills if the Hawks have designs on moving his contract. Colliton hinted that Forsberg could get a start for Rockford this weekend. From there, we may see a move made to thin the herd in the crease.

Also on Tuesday, Luke Johnson was recalled to the Blackhawks. This comes after a solid weekend of action with the Hogs in Tucson this past weekend.

 

Tomkins Shines In Indy

Matt Tomkins, who is on an AHL contract with Rockford, is playing well to open the season for the Indy Fuel. Tomkins was named the CCM/ECHL Goaltender of the Week for the week of Oct. 15-21. Tomkins earned the honor for the second time in his career, previously winning the award the week of Dec. 4-10, 2017.

The former Ohio State goalie turned away 72 of the 76 shots he faced last weekend, winning both games he started for the Fuel. Overall, Tomkins is 3-1 with a 2.76 goals against average and a .926 save percentage.

 

Recap

Wednesday, October 24-Rockford 5, San Antonio 2

Rockford broke out with four second-period goals, overcoming some uninspired play in the first and third frames to pick up the win over the Rampage.

There wasn’t much action in the opening period. Rockford had three shots at the power play but couldn’t put much together in the way of scoring chances. The same was true when the Hogs were at even strength. It was a different story, however, when the teams hit the BMO Harris Bank Center ice for the second stanza.

The first of three IceHogs goals in the opening minutes of the period came at the 1:17 mark. Darren Raddysh and Matthew Highmore moved the puck along the right half boards and into neutral ice. Viktor Ejdsell collected the puck and skated it all the way to the right dot. His shot made it past Rampage goalie Ville Husso for a 1-0 Rockford advantage.

Less than a minute later, Raddysh lifted a puck out of his zone. It was gathered in by Anthony Louis, who skated into the San Antonio zone with teammates in tow. Louis sent a nice saucer pass to Henrik Samuelsson skating toward the right post. The glove-side shot kissed cord at 1:58 of the second and made it 2-0 Hogs.

Rockford went up 3-0 a few minutes later after Terry Broadhurst sprung Highmore on a breakaway chance. Highmore lost the handle on the puck as he prepared to fire on goal. Fortunately, Ejdsell was following the play and knocked the loose biscuit into Husso’s basket at 4:11 of the second.

Dylan Sikura got a chance to showcase his speed after swiping a pass from Robby Fabbri just inside the Hogs blue line. Sikura the Younger zipped across the neutral zone and made a beeline for the San Antonio net. The shot slid between Husso’s pads at 14:26 and it was 4-0 Rockford.

A broken Plexiglas panel forced an early second intermission. The last 3:28 of the second period was played, followed quickly by the third period. This delay marked a shift in momentum as the visiting team was allowed to get back in the game.

Just 1:43 into the final frame, Trevor Smith took a rebound off the end boards and found the back of a wide open net from the left post to get the Rampage on the board. The Rampage closed the gap to 4-2 on a shorthanded goal by Fabbri at the 9:56 mark.

That’s as close as it got, however. Hussa was pulled to attempt a two-man advantage with Louis in the box for sending a puck over the glass. Tyler Sikura forced a turnover that Highmore deposited into the Bank of Empty Net at 18:40 of the third period, earning frozen custard for all at the BMO.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Mattheson Iacopelli-Graham Knott-Nathan Noel

Terry Broadhurst (A)-Matthew Highmore-Viktor Ejdsell

Dylan Sikura-Jacob Nilsson-Jordan Schroeder

Anthony Louis-Tyler Sikura (A)-Henrik Samuelsson

Blake Hillman-Carl Dahlstrom (A)

Gustav Forsling-Darren Raddysh

Andrew Campbell-Lucas Carlsson

Collin Delia

Power Play (0-7)

Sikura-Sikura-Schroeder-Samuelsson-Raddysh

Louis-Highmore-Broadhurst-Nilsson-Dahlstrom

Penalty Kill (Rampage was 0-5)

Nilsson-T. Sikura-Dahlstrom-Hillman

Highmore-Knott-Forsling-Raddysh

Broadhurst-Samuelsson-Campbell-Carlsson

 

Previewing The Weekend

Cleveland-Saturday, October 27

The Monsters are 5-3 on the season and in second place in the AHLs North Division. Like San Antonio, Cleveland will be coming off a game in Milwaukee Friday before taking on the Hogs Saturday at 6:00 p.m.

Zac Dalpe paces the Monsters with nine points (6 G, 3 A). Rookie Eric Robinson has gotten off to a strong start as well, with four goals and three helpers. Both were instrumental in handing Rockford a pair of defeats in Cleveland to open the season.

The IceHogs will need to stop Dalpe and Robinson this time around, as well as captain Nathan Gerbe (1 G, 5 A) and speedy rookie Vitaly Abramov (2 G, 2 A). Forward Alex Broadhurst (1 G, 4 A) has also been tough on his former team in recent years.

One player that Rockford will see for the first time is defenseman Gabriel Carlsson, who leads the Monsters back end with a goal and three assists. J.F. Berube, who beat the Hogs in the season opener, has taken most of the turns in net. In his last start Wednesday morning, he gave up five goals in Chicago in a loss to the Wolves.

 

Manitoba-Sunday, October 28

The Moose make their first visit to the BMO Harris Bank Center Sunday afternoon for a 4:00 p.m. start. Manitoba is 3-3 heading into their game Saturday night in…you guessed it…Milwaukee.

Last weekend, the Moose took a pair of games at home from San Antonio. After scoring just five goals in their first four contests, Manitoba exploded for ten goals against the Rampage.

Manitoba is led in scoring by last year’s AHL Outstanding Rookie, Mason Appleton. The big winger is off to a solid start, with eight points (4 G, 4 A). He’s coming off a hat trick on October 21, when he had a five-point game against San Antonio.

Rookie C.J. Suess tops the Moose with five goals. He has found the back of the net in four of Manitoba’s first six games. There hasn’t been much scoring throughout the rest of the lineup, save for veteran Seth Griffin, who has chipped in a pair of goals and two apples. Griffin played with Rochester, where he posted 41 points (15 G, 26 A) a season ago.

Sami Niku is a dangerous scoring presence on the blue line, though he’s yet to light a lamp this season. Former IceHogs defenseman Cameron Schilling had a career-year for Manitoba last season (6 G, 26 A) and is back for the Moose.

Other familiar faces include J.C. Lipon, who’s starting his fourth season with Manitoba, and former Milwaukee and San Antonio forward Felix Girard. Girard has two goals for his new team so far.

The tandem in goal is led by Eric Comrie, who has three seasons under his belt with the Moose. In five starts, Comrie is 3-2 with a 2.80 goals against average and a .917 save percentage. His backup is former Devil’s farmhand Ken Appleby, who gave up six goals to Iowa in his last start on October 13.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for game updates and commentary on the IceHogs all season long.