Hockey

To a certain extent it’s a mild relief that now the Hawks are losing games where they’re simply outgunned as opposed to looking like they’re playing a completely different sport than the opposition, or at best there like was a gas leak in their locker room (which would have explained Coach Jeremy Trestman hiding in the stalls). But regardless of who is coaching it, and that’s still currently up for debate seeing how much more of a role Marc Crawford has taken recently who is now playing the part of Dick Cheney in the Derek King administration, this team still really can only get goals from like 3 players even when things look how they’re supposed to. Basically if Alex DeBrincat and Garbage Dick don’t score, they’re not really going to, especially since the power play has completely dried up. Dylan Strome gets back into the lineup and back onto the first unit this evening after being healthy scratched for a while, and he STILL has their last power play goal that happened over two weeks ago. But with what Toews can contribute still a mystery, Dominik Kubalik still trying to gain his footing after having his ice time messed with by Kelvin Gemstone, really past the top 2 wingers there’s a big yawning void only occasionally filled by Brandon Hagel. Kirby Dach hasn’t scored in over a month, much of that spent between two guys with 40 goal potential, and that’s simply unacceptable for the third overall pick and who the Organ-I-Zation says the future is entrusted to. If that doesn’t turn around in a big way and in a hurry, there are going to be some extremely bleak and uncomfortable situations concerning the post-Toews era.

12/2 at Washington

Game Time  – 6:00PM CST
TV/Radio – NBC Sports Chicago, SportsNet, WGN-AM 720
Bulldog Front – Russian Machine Never Breaks

Look, the Hawks are going to lose this game. They literally have not won in DC since 1998, and the Caps are just better even without plenty of key pieces (Backstrom, Oshie) in their lineup, even though it does appear that Justin Schultz is supposed to return. When watching this game, just seriously take time to appreciate what Alex Ovechkin is doing right now. Yes he’s creeping up on the all time goal list having passed Brett Hull this season (Hull himself was gracious, his Garbage Son was not) in a race against time to possibly catch Gretzky. All things considered factoring in eras and equipment and style of play, Ovie already is the greatest goal scorer in the history of the league, but having that number to prove it would be something to behold, especially after it was once thought that literally no one could every ascend to Gretzky’s totals. But the fact that he is second in the league in goals and third in the league in points (19 and 37 respectively) through 23 games in his age 36 season is truly incredible. He’s on pace right now for 68 goals, which would put him just two shy of Gordie by year’s end. And even if that pace flattens out a bit, he still might be the oldest player to score 50 goals ever, passing Johnny Bucyk 50 years ago. And Ovechkin isn’t just camping out at his spot on the power play. Twenty four of his 37 points have come 5v5, 27 at all even strengths. The Hawks have 26 goals AS A TEAM at five on five.

12/4 at MSG

Game Time – 7:00PM CST
TV/Radio – NBC Sports Chicago+, WGN-AM 720
NUMBA ONE BAYBEE – Blueshirt Banter

After completely overhauling their front office and coaching staff where they decided they needed to get more rock-headed in launching Jeff Gorton and David Quinn for first timer Chris Drury as GM and red ass Gerard Gallant behind the bench, the team promptly announced that as a roster they intended to be stupider by trading for Ryan Reaves. Of course, this roster was already promising enough with a surprise Norris from Adam Fox last year, as well as Mika Zibanejad flourishing alongside Artemi Panarin, but it appears that they’re poised to make a return to the post season with 31 points in the airtight Metropolitan division. Chris Kreirder has cannonballed his way into 16 goals already, on pace to obliterate his career high of 28 – though shooting 26.2% against a career average of 14% probably helps with that quite a bit. There’s no one thing that this team does exceptionally well, they’re in the middle of the road statistically in pretty much everything, but Gallant teams always play fast and hard, and Igor Shesterkin’s .936 5v5 and .935 overall are certainly good to make it all stand up. Given the expectations set by the start and the new management, don’t be surprised if they try to make a big splash at the deadline.

12/5 at Belmont

Game Time – 6:30PM CST
TV/Radio – NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720
A Headache With Pictures – Lighthouse Hockey

Apparently the limits of Barry Trotz’s occult coaching wizardry are finally breached by a 13 game road trip to start the season, injuries, and a COVID outbreak that forced the Islanders to postpone three games last week. Perhaps playing in the the charmingly revolting toilet that was Nassau Coliseum is where those dark forces that allowed the Isles to reach two straight final fours/semifinals/whatever in modified playoff years, because their brand new UBS Arena at Belmont Racetrack has not been so kind to them to this point, as they’ve lost all four games they’ve had there in regulation. They’re currently in the midst of an 8 game losing streak, and will face the somewhat surprising Sharks tonight at home before they see the Hawks again, so that may very well reach nine. They’ll at least have the benefit of getting the Hawks on the second half of a back to back, but given the offensive struggles of both of these squads, it’s not likely to be a Sunday evening track meet.

Hockey

With the opening three games on the road going about as balls-up as could have possibly been imagined, the Hawks return home with some serious heat on them after a roster overhaul and reassurances that yet another Magic Training Camp would make things different. But things have not been different, and cries that “It’s only X games” into the season are largely meaningless when the same disorganization and bleeding of chances has been on display for nearly 200 games since almost three calendar years ago with Coach Vinny Del Colliton’s hiring. An underreported event that has somehow slipped through the cracks in all of this was Marc-Andre Fleury’s meltdown in the tunnel following getting yanked in his “homecoming” against the Penguins on Saturday night. For all the pear shaped playoff games he spat up in Pittsburgh to getting his job taken both there and in Vegas, there has never, ever been one reported instance of him losing his shit in such a fashion, and yet it took less than four periods here enduring the barrage he’s been subject to. It could just be a prideful professional feeling embarrassed in a place he called home for so long, but he hasn’t gotten the reputation as being one of the best locker room guys in the league for a generation and a half now because he takes shit like that to heart. Truly something to monitor as he makes proper home debut tonight against the Isles.

10/19 vs. Islanders

Game Time –  7:00PM CDT
TV/Radio – ESPN, WGN-AM 720
Profane Geometry  – Lighthouse Hockey

The Isles hit the West Side tonight looking for their first win as well, though their losses came against actual teams in the Canes and Cats, and on the road, as they wait for their brand-new non-charming-scum-bucket arena at Belmont Racetrack to get the finishing touches on it prior to its grand opening. One time Hawks flirtation Anders Lee is back after missing all of their second consecutive ECF run with a torn ACL, and Lou has brought in the remnants of Zdeno Chara and Zach Parise to do….things. And while the Islanders have more skill than their reputation indicates with Mat Barzal, Brock Nelson, Anthony Beauvillier, and Kyle Palmieri who will give you 22 goals whether you need them or not, the story as always here is the structure in which Barry Trotz has this team playing, as they will rarely beat themselves. What’s been uncharacteristic so far has been their goaltending allowing 5 goals in each of the first two games, with Ilya Sorokin getting off to a tough start. They’ll be looking to correct that this evening.

10/21 vs Canucks

Game Time – 7:30 PM CDT
TV/Radio – NBC Sports Chicago, SportsNet Pacific, WGN-AM 720
Diaper Time – Nucks Misconduct

After the back half of last year’s abbreviated season had the team absolutely beset by covid running wild through their dressing room causing the team to hilariously play meaningless games after the playoffs had started elsewhere, this Canucks campaign threatened to start equally as auspiciously with Young Go-Hards Elias Petterson and Quinn Hughes not getting their second contracts signed until camp in Vancouver had already opened. But after much rending of garments in the streets, both were ready to be in the lineup on opening night. This is another team that got an overhaul that likely isn’t going to accomplish much, with long time blue line fixtures Chris Tanev and Alex Edler (and his elbows) now gone in favor of whatever might be left of Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Conor Garland also came over in that deal, and was likely the centerpiece of it and taking on OEL’s increasingly smelly contract was the cost of doing business. In the process they were able to jettison Loui Eriksson and Antoine Roussel, so it kind of all comes out in the wash. The Pacific division is a complete moldering corpse, so this team might make it in by default, but it will certainly help their chances if JT Miller continues to play at a Selke level to take some responsibilities away from Petterson. However, this team did most recently lose to the loose conglomeration of the Detroit Red Wings, so anything is possible.

10/24 vs Red Wings

Game Time – 6:00PM CDT
TV/Radio – NBC Sports Chicago, NHL Network, SN1, WGN-AM 720
This Is Me Breathing – WIIM 

Speaking of which….those same Red Wings come to town on Sunday night. In a perpetual rebuild that has somehow not yet cost Jeff Blashill his job, the Wings once again have next to no expectations this year, and still basically only have Dylan Larkin to be concerned about. That being said, that doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of blowing this Hawks team’s doors off in terms of burying them in shots as they did a couple times last year and as recently as a couple weeks ago in Detroit. The blade sharpens….

Everything Else

vs

Game Time: 7:30PM CST
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720
Maybe The Dingo Ate Your Baby: Lighthouse Hockey

It’s been spoken of many times previously on our various stops along the information superhighway, but the long held Boxing Day (and now Day After Boxing Day thanks to the CBA) quasi-tradition of the Hawks playing at home generally tends to be one of the more energetic affairs on West Madison, even dating back to the dark ages of the late 90s (entirely different era). UC denizens are generally stir crazy from a week cooped up with relatives and/or early hungover wakeups to see what Santa brought, so the opportunity to get out of the house and just yell shit at hockey players offers a decent catharsis. However, with Barry Trotz’s visiting Islanders in town, the action on the ice may in fact feel more like a noose tightening around the necks of those present.

Everything Else

If the Hawks basically sat out the free agent period, let’s spin around the league and see what’s what now that the important stuff has shaken out.

-Clearly the biggest story of the upcoming season is going to be the Toronto Maple Leafs, and not just in the heads of their fans and media (which is really the same thing anyway). Whatever you might think of “Computer Boy” Kyle Dubas or their enclosed world view, this kind of “Fuck It I’m Throwing Deep” move is really rare in the NHL. Steve Yzerman gets praised for doing it, and really all he’s done is trade for Ryan McDonagh (though he might get Karlsson which would really be a one-up on the Leafs and send a good portion of their fanbase into their toy-filled basement…oh wait they never left there).

The question is how much better does this make them. Because they’ve lost Tyler Bozak and James van Riemsdyk to accommodate John Tavares, and that’s some 50 goals or more going out the door. Sure, Tavares improves whatever winger he’s with but almost certainly not to the level of the departed JVR.

And the Leafs still don’t really have anything on defense, though that unit was improved by stripping it of Roman Polak because Mike Babcock will play him. They’re still counting on a step forward from Morgan Rielly, but I think we know what he is at this point which is a pretty good rhythm guitarist but not a lead. Maybe a similar leap from Travis Dermott fills in these gaps, and as the Penguins and Knights have proven you don’t have to have a star-studded blue line to win, just one that gets it up to the forwards quickly and doesn’t wet itself in its own end.

Of course, those teams has top-end goaltending, and I don’t know how many Game 7 meltdowns people have to watch Freddie Andersen have before concluding he’s just good enough to break your heart. He’s only 28, and I suppose this is the time where he would  turn the corner if that’s going to happen. Still, you’re not getting past Tampa or Boston without goaltending, you’d think they’d know that already.

-Meanwhile, a little closer to home the Blues have also been aggressive, taking the ballast from the Leafs’ ship in the form of Tyler Bozak and trading for Ryan O’Reilly. This makes the Blues the most solid down the middle team in the division this side of Winnipeg. And yes, even more than Nashville because Ryan Johansen is facedown in a pile of ding-dongs right now and Kyle Turris just has that same bewildered look on his face. The Blues will still self-destruct trying to prove once again that Jay Gallon won’t shoot them all in the face accidentally, but they’ll probably rack up 100+ points before that happens. The Perron contract is stupid because he’s not spasming that season again and he’ll just fold under all the selfish penalties he takes, but they’re getting Fabbi Robbri back and if they can keep something from falling off Jaden Schwartz again they’ll be pretty dynamic. Sucks when they show more urgency than the Hawks do.

-Meanwhile, in the darkened and abandoned garage that has been the state of the Islanders for a good 30 years now, Lou Lamiorello continues to piss on his Hall of Fame pedigree by taking a team backwards. It’s one thing to lose out on re-signing Tavares, because hey that happens. But then to back it up by bringing in the stone-handed and stone-headed combo of Matt Martin and Leo Komarov, and then complain that every player is overpaid, sets this team back even more. As we’ve stated, Nofera-Lou hasn’t done anything in a decade to convince anyone the game hasn’t passed him by, and once he’s done turning into the Isles into something so foul they stop construction on the new arena halfway through maybe everyone else will realize.

Contrast that with Stan Bowman actively cheering Artemi Panarin to hit his bonuses in the press even though it would cause him a headache, or how the Hawks and other teams are so happy to pay their players, and maybe you start to see why most think working for Lou is a miserable experience. But it’s the Islanders, so is anyone really going to notice?

Everything Else

 vs 

Game Time: 7:30PM CST
TV/Radio: WGN Ch. 9, WGN-AM 720
You, In Weird Cities: Lighthouse Hockey

There are Long Island residents in town tonight on somewhat of a roll recently, and it’s not Jeff Rosenstock playing the Metro tonight, although anyone interested in the robust LI hardcore and post-hardcore scene would do well to go to the show rather than watch the game, or at the very least pick up Rosenstock’s excellent record Worry. which topped about a zillion best-of lists in 2016. But that digression aside, the Islanders are at the UC tonight in desperate need of points after a comeback win last night in Dallas.

Everything Else

evil empire at RI_Poster.indd

Game Time: 6:30PM CST
TV/Radio: CSN, NHLN, WGN-AM 720
Drones Over BKLYN: Lighthouse Hockey

The Hawks may have believed that Wednesday night was ripping the band aid on their horrendous offseason, but the true test of mettle begins tonight. This will be the first time Garbage Dick will have to face not only an audience who isn’t outwardly and wrongly sympathetic to his “plight”, but one that could very well be baying for blood every time he’s on the ice. There will be no banner ceremonies and coddling emcees to hide behind.

Add to the mix tonight being the home opener in a new building for a team with expectations of its own, in a city not exactly known for being subtle, and things could go sideways in a hurry.