Hockey

With the calendar soon to turn to April, the NHL lumberingly rounds its corner into the true home stretch, with this Blackhawks season mercifully coming to an end in just 16 more games. As a general rule, the post-deadline undead period for those teams who have stripped the roster for parts such as the Hawks should in theory offer a look at some of the youth that has been toiling in the AHL for 6 months now. But as has been apparently for years now, the Hawks don’t necessarily follow conventional wisdom. The only forward worth giving a shit about, Lukas Reichel, is being artificially held back for contract purposes, as exceeding 9 games in the show will allow his first pro year to slide til next year, and if this team were going to be competitive, it could sort of be understood. But there is a very real chance that we are all also observing the final games of the franchise pillars in Hawks uniforms, and Alex DeBrincat certainly has no reason to stick around beyond next season if they don’t. Add to the fact that none of the defensemen that had ARRIVED last season under Coach Jeremy Bevington can seem to break the lineup here even beyond the trade deadline and with Connor Murphy hurt, and things are beyond desolate. There is literally no reason for Connor Murphy not to be shut down after being knocked out cold, or for pending UFAs Calvin de Haan and Erik Gustafsson to be on the ice anymore, yet the general public is subjected to them on a nightly basis because Derek King and his Sith Master Marc Crawford are laboring under the delusion that they could be brought back for next season. Which is to say that this is an entertaining product and can’t-miss television.

3/28 – vs Buffalo

Game Time: 7:30PM CDT
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago+, WGN-AM 720
The Pegulas Are Vile – Die By The Blade

Given the slow-motion Armageddon that has been the past two calendar years and the commensurate scheduling considerations, this will be the Sabres first visit to the UC since 2019. And for them, not much has changed other than sending their malcontent captain Jack Eichel to Vegas for Alex Tuch and some magic beans. To be fair, the Hawks are probably about the same level of bad as they were at that time two, but it’s been a far more eventful and circuitous path getting there. To their credit, LOCAL GUY Don Granato at least has this team playing hard even if they don’t do anything particularly well, and will occasionally jump up and bit a contending team in the dick as they did outdoors against Toronto, or just this past week against both Calgary and Pittsburgh while needing extra time to do so. The Sabres are finally getting something out of the lumbering and unfortunately named Tage Thompson, who originally came over in the Ryan O’Reilly deal and is likely to hit 30 goals while currently sitting on 27. It of course remains to be seen if this is something he can sustain at the NHL level or this is merely a function of SOMEONE having to score on a bad team. Former #1 overall pick Rasmus Dahlin is still here and doing well enough to apparently make the all star game, but again, it was mandatory the Sabres be represented. LOCAL GUY Craig Anderson will be 41 in May and somehow he has the most starts for the Sabres at 22 (along with Dustin Tokarksi), and has 12 of the Sabres 23 wins. He played yesterday afternoon against the Rangers so who knows if he’ll get one last hometown start or not, but it’s no guarantee he’ll be done after this year either.  These are two evenly matched bad teams, so it’s likely they pull off an improbably entertaining game this even as has been the case with the Hawks all year, but it means nothing to either team.

3/31 – at Panthers

Game Time: 6:00PM CDT
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, TVA-S, WGN-AM 720
Bienvenidos A Miami – Litter Box Cats

The Cats probably spent the most capital to fortify themselves for a long cup run in acquiring both Ben Chiarot from the Habs (for what reasons is anyone’s guess, he’s never been anything more than A GUY), and landing the prize of the deadline in prying Claude Giroux away from the Cold Ones about 10 seconds after his 1000th game with the club ended. Since the trades they’ve gone 2-1, most recently losing in Tronna to the Leafs 5-2, but beating the woeful Habs and Sens. While obtaining both of Chiarot and Giroux are nice additions to an already potent offense, they do nothing to address the two biggest issues that would preclude a deep Cats run – 1) how healthy is Aaron Ekblad going to be, and 2) will Sergei Bobrovsky shit himself again in the spring or not?

4/1 – at Tampa

Game Time: 6:00PM CDT
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, TVA-S, WGN-AM 720
Feel The Void: Raw Charge

Will Jonathan Toews give Brandon Hagel a tearful, emotional embrace at any point during the game, similar to any of the 45 times Frodo and Sam are reunited throughout the course of the Lord of The Rings? Tune in and find out! Do not tune in to find out if the Blackhawks will win or not, however, because they are not going to.

4/3 – vs Arizona

Game Time: 6:00PM CDT
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720
Evicted Dogs: Five For Howling

So the Arizona Coyotes are basically a Ponzi scheme organization who have been evicted from their current arena in Glendale come season’s end and will have to rent time out of Arizona State’s new arena, which seats approximately 4-5K. They have been a Troubled Asset Relief Program for years where teams send millstone contracts of elderly players who are effectively retired but only exist as basically a no show job on their roster, like so many retiree “residents” of the state. They have been willfully trying to lose for years on a minimal payroll in order to maximize the profitability of league revenue sharing and taking advantage of Gary Bettman’s seemingly pathological need to keep this franchise afloat and in Arizona despite every shred of evidence they need to be relocated. As of the time of this writing they have the exact same number of regulation wins (15) as the Chicago Blackhawks, whose previous GM made moves last off season thinking they were going to be in the playoff picture.

Hockey

Look, it’s difficult enough to get in any way fired up for mid-February, post-All-Star games against non-marquee opponents when a team is good, but it’s been a good goddamn long time since the West Side Hockey Club could make that claim, which makes this stretch even more of a grind than usual. About the only thing left to be determined for this season with this team is who is going to get the privilege of being shipped elsewhere in the coming weeks, and even that can’t really happen until a new general manager is hired in THAT protracted process. Throw in the fact that these are makeup games to begin with and the weather is shitty, and it’s not exactly a recipe for scintillating hockey. The fact that the Hawks’ roommates are now on their all star break certainly helps ease some of the scheduling conflicts that the Covid postponements could have caused, but that’s still put a very quick 3 games in 4 nights on the table for the Hawks, starting this evening.

2/17 – vs Columbus

Game Time – 7:30PM CST
TV/Radio – NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720
Justin Fields. That’s It.  – The Cannon

At long last, Amy’s Oldest gets his “reunion” against his old Q-pilled brothers in arms in Columbus, having missed the first encounter at Nationwide as a last minute Covid scratch. Whether or not any of that matters between these two go nowhere teams is up for debate, but at least there might be slightly more juice to this one at least to start. Arvid Soderblom gets the start tonight out of necessity given the back-to-back, and it will be the first non-Fleury start since he returned from the Covid list after the Holiday Break/Pause. Soderblom predictably looked like a deer in headlights having to spell Colin Delia in his first ever NHL appearance, but settled down a bit the following night against Calgary, where he made 37 saves on 41 shots, getting done no favors by the team of front of them. Coincidentally, the Jackets are arriving in town having most recently caught a beat down in Calgary with their new acquisition Tyler Toffoli, but had won 5 of their last 6 games, the loss being the Panthers hanging 8 on them. This Jackets group isn’t any damn good and has really no finishers other than Patrik Laine when he’s interested, but there’s enough of a floor here to beat bum ass teams, and a getting a rookie goalie in his second ever start would seem to fit that bill.

2/18 – vs Dallas

Game Time – 7:30PM CST
TV/Radio – NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720
Southfork Ranch – Defending Big D

So with Ben Bishop finally calling it a career after something like 14 backiotomies, the Stars now only have to split time between the three somewhat useful goalies they have in net in Braden Holtby, Anton Khudobin, and Jake Oettinger, though Khudobin has been buried in the minors for some time. Between Holtby and Oettinger, both have nearly identical save percentages at 5v5 (.923 and .922 respectively), which is a nice rebound for Holtby after his disastrous turn in Vancouver. Neither of them are signed past this season, so that leaves Hall of Famer Jim Nill with some decisions to make. The obvious choice is to cash in on Holtby at the deadline for a team looking to solidify their crease situation into the spring and then plan on giving Oettinger the full workload next year. But the conundrum lies in the fact that the Stars are only a point out from the last wild card spot, and have games in hand on the Kings and Ducks ahead of them, as well as the Preds whom they’re 3 points behind. It’s difficult to see this Stars team as presently constituted as on track for anything but an ass waxing in the first round against the Avs, Knights, or possibly even the Flames, but this group is living proof that goofy shit happens in the playoffs. It’s just not necessarily wise to bank on it.

2/20 – vs Florida

Game Time – 2:00PM CST
TV/Radio – NBC Sports Chicago, SportsNet 1, WGN-AM 720
Cruisin’ Like A Fanboat On The Glade – Litter Box Cats

The Panthers are very good. They are second in the league in points behind only the Avalanche, and they just beat the Canes in their own building last night. And Sasha Barkov did this devilry. There may be a hope that the Cats get into the city on Saturday night and hit it hard prior to the matinee and the fact that the Hawks are pretty bad, and if the Hawks stay disciplined in limiting chances they might be able to keep it close. But those are very big ifs and a wholly incongruous matchup where the Panthers shouldn’t ever have to get out of 2nd gear.

Hockey

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Game Time: 7:00 PM
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago+, WGN-AM 720
Touchdown Tom: Raw Charge

It seems fitting that the Hawks and Bolts will close out their season series exactly where it was projected that both teams would, with Tampa able to clinch their playoff berth with a victory of any kind tonight, and the Hawks all but mathematically eliminated, could very well be a mere 2 points away from doing so by night’s end depending on the results of the Stars and Preds’ games, who are both in action against the Canes and Cats respectively.

Hockey

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Game Times: 7:00 (3/4, 3/5), 1:30 (3/7)
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago (3/4, 3/5), NBC (3/7), TVA-S (3/7), SportsNet (3/7), WGN-AM 720
Bottomless Seas: Raw Charge

After spending the majority of February floating above the detritus of the makeshift Central Division by virtue of MVP and Calder/Vezina caliber performances, the Hawks now begin March on the West Side finally facing again a Tampa Bay Lightning team that has not slowed down since dongwhipping the Hawks in the opening series, or even their playoff run in the bubble last year. “In Like A Lion”, indeed.

Hockey

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Game Times: 7:00PM (1/13) & 6:00PM (1/15)
TV/Radio: NBCSN (1/15), NBC Sports Chicago (1/15), WGN-AM 720
Tonight We’re Gonna Give It 35%: Raw Charge

Despite every indication that this shouldn’t be happening from both the world at large given that pestilence still ravaging this country, and the fact that the league itself has said that they’d probably be better off simply NOT playing, the NHL regular season (such as it is) begins tonight. And the Tampa Bay Lightning will raise their championship banner in front of no one while an already decimated Hawks team looks on at a vague reminder of what once was and now seems so desperately far away.

Everything Else

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Schedule:  G1 Thursday, G2 Saturday, G3 April 16th, G4 April 18th

After a serious push and some back and forth from the Bruins in the Flortheast division, ultimately the division and the top record in the east were held by the favored, well-rounded, and supple Tampa Bay Lightning, doing what they were supposed to do during the regular season. Their opponent, however, is somewhat unexpected in the New Jersey Devils, who managed to fall ass backwards into a playoff spot after a hot streak that saw them leading the Metro division even around Christmas time even in the middle of a supposed rebuild.