Hockey

vs.

RECORDS: Ducks 17-22-5   Hawks 19-20-6

PUCK DROP: 7:30

TV: NBCSN Chicago

OC GANGSTAS: Anaheim Calling

After dropping yet another two games against teams they want to catch to barely hang on to the playoff chase, the Hawks get a rare Saturday night home game against one of the few teams in their wake. The Anaheim Ducks are in the middle of the rebuild the Hawks won’t allow themselves to take on, transitioning from the Getzlaf-Perry era to whatever Sam Steel and the rest of the kids can produce.

We’ll start with the Hawks, who are once again trotting out this mess of a lineup. As we said in the lineups post, yes the Hawks have injuries. And yes the roster wasn’t very good to begin with. But this is as mangled group of forwards as you’re likely to ever see. David Kampf is not a winger, much less a scoring winger, and has no business playing with Dach and Top Cat. Patrick Kane is a third-liner with one worker bee in Ryan Carpenter and one dunderhead in Alex Nylander. Dylan Sikura, still better than any of Nylander, Highmore, or Quenneville, has whatever confidence he might have gleaned from breaking his duck (sorry again) by sitting for another game. John Quenneville, whose next contribution that you’d notice will be his first, remains on the top line with Kubalik and Toews.

This is a one line team right now. So make it one. Put Kane up there with Toews and Kubalik and play them 22 minutes. Pair Sikura with Top Cat and Dach to give them speed and something of a puck-winner with skill. Use Kampf and Carpenter and Caggiula as a checking line. Mash a fourth line together and play them sparingly. The answers are simple. None of them have been taken, and it’s no wonder these players refuse to bother until they’re on the verge of getting embarrassed.

Anyway, Lehner starts even though he missed the morning skate as he’s over his knee- or ankle-knack.

Right, to the Ducks. Who suck. Truly down in the muck. Not sure why you should give a fuck? If you’re looking to us for help, you’re out of luck. You’ll see as soon as they drop the puck.

Let us have our fun.

Much like the Hawks, the Ducks are a top-heavy team. When Getzlaf and Silfverberg (who’s hurt anyway) and Henrique are out there, they can control the play. When they’re not, they get crushed. There’s a fair amount of kids out there now, like Steel, Comtois, Jones, Larsson, Ritchie (also hurt) and one or two others. The Ducks have admitted one era is over and it’s time to find the next one.

It’s still a pretty solid blue line with HAMPUS! HAMPUS! and Cam Fowler and Josh Manson (he’s mad…he’s bad…), despite Erik Gudbranson’s best efforts. Jacob Larsson is the kid back there that they will hope rises to meet the other three one days soon.

What the Ducks haven’t gotten is Vezina-level goaltending from Josh Gibson like they did for most of last season before he gave in to exhaustion. Ryan Miller hasn’t been much better, sending him back to his My Bloody Valentine records. Gibson has had it especially rough of late, so maybe Miller gets the start.

The Ducks don’t do anything especially well, but they might be eager to get out there in what could be a rare road win for them. It’s really about keeping their top six from going totally off, and you can do that through matchups if Colliton were ever bothered (he’s not). Toews has almost always caused Getzlaf to shrivel and give up, and probably can still in both of their advanced ages.

And if the Hawks can’t get this one before heading out on the road…well, that’s probably it. It’s probably it anyway.

Baseball

vs.

RECORDS: White Sox 7-10   Tigers 8-9

GAMETIMES: Thursday 12:10, Friday 6:10, Saturday and Sunday 12:10

TV: WGN Thursday and Sunday, NBCSN Friday and Saturday

SPARKY’S SPAWN: Bless You Boys

PROBABLE PITCHERS

Ivan Nova vs. Tyson Ross

Carlos Rodon vs. Jordan Zimmerman

Ervin Santana vs. Daniel Norris

Reynaldo Lopez vs. TBD

PROBABLE SOX LINEUP

Leury Garcia – CF

Yoan Moncada – 3B

Jose Abreu – 1B

Yonder Alonso – DH

Eloy Jimenez – LF

Tim Anderson – SS

Welington Castillo – C

Yolmer Sanchez – 2B

Ryan Cordell – RF

PROBABLE TIGERS LINEUP

Josh Harrison – 2B

Nick Castellanos – RF

Miguel Cabrera – DH

Niko Goodrum – 1B

Jeimer Candelario – 3B

Dustin Peterson – LF

Gordon Beckham – SS

Grayson Greiner – C

Jacoby Jones – CF

 

The Sox are seeing the two other sides to the rebuilding troika of the AL Central this week. After taking two of three from the Royals at home, the Sox will head to Detroit for the first time on the season. The Tigers are supposed to be a year or two or three behind the Sox in their recycle, yet are a game ahead of them in the current standings. But nothing other than the Marlins being an affront to nature is working out as it was supposed to yet.

The Tigers though are at least speeding to where they’re supposed to be. They’ve lost four in a row and five of the last six, after getting off to a hotter start than anyone would have guessed. And the offense would seem to be the big culprit. They’re last in all of MLB with their 45 runs scored, or just over two per game. There are only three semi-regulars producing at even above average at the moment, and one of them is Gordon Beckham and his hair that can never die. Niko Goodrum is taking advantage of his first everyday role, and a pretty high walk-rate of 15%. But other than that, there’s nothing here. Even Ervin Santana might find safe-haven here working through this lineup. Miggy Cabrera just might make you cry…well, Sox fans will probably really enjoy the decrepit version of one of their greatest tormentors. Josh Harrison literally has a wRC+ of 0. He technically doesn’t exist. The Tigers would be just as good sending no one to the plate as they are sending Harrison right now. It would be equal. He’s already been worth -0.5 WAR. In 17 games. That’s….that’s just amazing.

The rotation has held it together for now, but is taking some serious hits. Matt Moore was lost for the season a few days ago with knee-knack, and Michael Fulmer never made the bell. Jordan Zimmerman takes up space as he kind of always has the past five years, and Tyson Ross is also here in his role of “Official Seat-Filler For Subpar Teams’ Rotations.” The Sox will miss either or both of Matthew Boyd and Spencer Turnbull, who have done most of the good work so far, though one could go Sunday. Daniel Norris, who is somehow only 25, will slide back into the rotation after coming out of the pen for the start of the year. If you can’t tell Norris, Ross, and Zimmerman apart, no one will blame you. If you can…well, you may want to think about some changes in your life.

The Tigers are carrying the third best bullpen ERA in the AL, even though they have the 10-lowest strikeout-rate and middling walk numbers. You can go up to get a beer when Daniel Stumpf comes in, as not much will happen. He’s striking out nearly 15 hitters per nine innings, but he’s also walking nearly five. The fielders can all work on their arm-balances when he comes jogging in.

As for the Sox, they’ll begin their post-Daniel Palka era in right field, which we know you’re excited for. Palka was punted back to Charlotte after his only good game, which seemed a tad cruel but entirely justified. Ryan Cordell will be the first to start out there, and 27-year-0lds coming up from the minors are definitely always worth paying attention to. Carson Fulmer is also up to replace Lucas Giolito on the roster.

Grey weekend in Detroit. Just seems right.

 

Everything Else

vs.

 

RECORDS: Senators 22-31-5   Hawks 24-26-9

PUCK DROP: 7:30

TV: NBCSN Chicago

BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT: Silver Seven Sens

There will be some, perhaps lots, who look across the ice tonight at the Ottawa Senators and wish the Hawks had taken their path so far, or at least their path forward. For the Senators are already at the bottom of the league, and will soon discard Mark Stone, Matt Duchene, and Ryan Dzingel (or should), and the end of their season will almost certainly be something resembling whatever that was at Daytona yesterday. Except instead of hilljacks it’ll be….Canadian hilljacks, and more Timbo’s. And the Senators will end up in the bottom three of the lottery, where they would have a great chance at a franchise-turning player in the draft.

Except they don’t have a first-round pick, so that’s the part Hawks fans wouldn’t want.

Meanwhile, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, with help from Erik Gustafsson and Alex DeBrincat and possibly Dylan Strome, will keep the Hawks from bottoming out. And whether it’s a reality or not, they’ll continue to chase a playoff spot that the Western Conference as a whole keeps trying to pass around like it was waiting at a highway-offramp. And they’ll end up with anywhere from the 7th to 16th pick, all the while not doing themselves a whole lot of good. Who will be better off when it’s all said and done? Well, the Hawks because they’ll actually have a pick. But you get it. It could be argued they’d be better long-term if they were where the Senators are.

But you didn’t come for hypotheticals.

Anyway, the Senators have been able to only put it together recently when playing the Jets, whom they’ve beaten twice in a week for some reason. Other than that, they’ve lost five of their other six games in February. Their lone win came against the Ducks, because you cannot lose to the Ducks no matter how badly you might like to or even try. It’s akin to Tommy trying to lose to Begbie in Trainspotting. And yes, the image of the Ducks as a whole cowering in a corner trying not to piss themselves works pretty well, I think.

That hasn’t kept Duchene, Stone, and Dzingel from trying to play their way into happier situations, and all have been hot of late. Dutch would seem a perfect fit for the Predators, which is goddamn annoying, which means the Jets are then also interested in that Central arms race. The Flames have been most hotly connected to Stone, but he will have no shortage of suitors either. If they can get a bidding war going for them they could end up with a decent enough haul. Or they’ll end up watching Eeli Tolvanen do nothing for years despite claims he was going to be the greatest Finn every to grace this league since the lovechild of Selanne and various Koivus. It’s the Senators, you won’t bet against anything.

As for the team that’s on the ice now, like the Hawks they are woeful defensively, among the worst in overall Corsi or xGF%, and in attempts and expected-goals against. When Thomas Chabot isn’t on the ice, the other pairings simply get steamrolled into their own end. While there is more than a touch of offensive talent at forward between the trade bait and Chris Tierny, Bobby “I Swear I’m Not The Dumbest Person Alive” Ryan, and Colin White, it doesn’t matter much when it’s backing up.

Craig Anderson is now too old to hold up under an avalanche, and Sens fans can thank him for extending noted-genius-in-his-own-mind Guy Boucher’s reign of boredom much longer than it should have gone thanks to a goofed East Final Game 7 appearance two years ago. Boucher’s “system,” such as it is, requires a goalie to throw a .925 or better at the world, and if they don’t his teams suck. And they almost always suck. Anderson is hurt, as 37-year-olds tend to get, so Hawks legend Anders Nilsson will be in net. He had a hot-streak upon arriving in The North Capital, but has flattened out of late.

For the Hawks, small changes around the edges. Collin Delia will slot back in, trying to come correct after a touchdown surrendered to the Bruins. Gustav Forsling will once again exhibit his modern art representation of sadness in place of Carl Dahlstrom, who was a splatter-painting himself on Saturday. Brendan Perlini will replace Chris Kunitz.

For whatever this is, the Avs and Yotes are also in action today, though both have tough assignments in the Knights and Flames, respectively. Should those results go the Hawks way and the Hawks get one over the Sens, they’ll be within one point of the last playoff spot. A playoff spot that the Wild clearly are treating like it needs disinfecting and have no interest in keeping. As dumb as it might seem, one point is one point, especially with the Wild beating a hasty retreat from the world at large.

You can’t say that the Hawks “should” beat anyone, given their status. But if anyone’s that team, it’s the Senators. And it’s also the Wings, who are on the docket Wednesday. And the Avs on Friday have been backing up for a couple months. Honestly, come Saturday night this could all be very real, no matter how stupid.

Ride the snake.

 

 

Game #60 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

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