RECORDS: Hawks 9-12-5 Predators 17-8-1
PUCK DROP: 7pm
KISS MY GRITS: On The Forecheck
There’s no such thing as sympathy in the NHL, so even if you’re getting your dick knocked in the dirt night after night, the next team on the docket is going to be real excited to repeat the punishment. So it is for the Hawks, who head from one division favorite to another and the one actually on top, the Nashville Predators. And even in their beat-up state, you fear how quickly it could get out of hand if the Hawks don’t straighten the fuck up. So, cheerful, eh?
Let’s start with the Hawks. Henri Jokiharju will return after an illness, and looks to be paired with Duncan Keith again. The Keith-Forsling Axis Of What The Fuck? never really worked, though it didn’t work for the same reasons that the Keith-HarJu pairing has struggled at times. Both players are inclined to be aggressive and get up the ice, and only one is supposed to play that way. The HarJu is more defensively inclined than Forsling though, and overall this pairing has done ok this season. So it’s good and proper to have it back. But you can look forward to more tweets from us about Keith having to change his game when he gets caught outside the circles again.
Cam Ward looks to be the starter, which is fine because Crawford hasn’t been all that good and could use the extra day. The lines are going to pretty much stay the same, with Dylan Strome at least starting between Alex DeBrincat and Patrick Kane. Jeremy Colliton went away from it in the 3rd against the Jets but will give it another go. To maximize what they do well and to eliminate as much of what they don’t as possible, they really should only start exclusively in the offensive zone. Toews’s and Kampf’s line can do the defensive starts if need be, and you don’t want any of Kane, Top Cat, or Strome there either.
Right, the Predators. The headline, other than their marvelous and expected record, is that a good portion of their team is on a trainer’s table. Kyle Turris, Viktor Arvidsson, and PK Subban all will miss out tonight, and Arvidsson is a long-term casualty. It’s put a dent in their mojo, as they’ve lost three of the last four, including getting capsized at home by the Coyotes and getting trounced by the Blues. So if there was ever a time to catch the Preds, it would be now. If the Hawks were anything resembling a coherent outfit, that is.
If there’s a bone to pick with Nashville, is that they can look a touch short on scoring. With Arvidsson out, Filip Forsberg is the only player with more than eight goals in the lineup. Ryan Johansen has gone back to “Treat Boy” status, and Ryan Hartman isn’t going to continue to shoot the lights out forever. Subban was chipping in a bit from the back, points-wise at least, but he’s out now too.
Another quirk of the Preds is that their power play is just as bad as the Hawks’ somehow. It won’t get any better with Subban out, but then again there isn’t a power play that the Hawks’ kill can’t cure.
Given how the Hawks play defense, there’s no reason to think that Peter Laviolette won’t turn the Preds up to 11 and pressure them all over the ice. The Hawks simply can’t match their speed, though they played them pretty tough last year, going 2-2-0. Still, if the Hawks can find their way past what will be a furious forecheck (they can’t), they can get some rushes and chances in the open ice behind it.
Of course, waiting there is Pekka Rinne, coming off collecting his first Vezina and dead-set on getting a second. He’s your clubhouse leader, as he leads the league in GAA, SV%, even-strength SV%, and difference between his expected save-percentage and his actual. He’s simply been brilliant, so you can have a great game and still lose because you can’t pierce him. Which is great for a team like the Hawks that struggle to score.
It’s the Flames tomorrow night, who are playing some of the best hockey around. Which means if the Hawks can’t find another gear and some stability in their own end, they’d be a Top Cat miracle goal from losing seven in a row and 15 of 17. Not that 14 of 17 is that much better.
The season is on the very edge of the precipice. Maybe they should act like it on the ice…or perhaps they’ve already accepted their fate.
Game #27 Preview Suite