Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs commence on-ice operations for the 2018-19 season this weekend. The piglets are opening their AHL slate in Cleveland, where they play Friday night and again Saturday afternoon. In the interest of getting you ready to take in the action at your respective bases of operation, here’s a preview of the upcoming weekend for the Blackhawks affiliate.

The Hogs dropped two straight to the Monsters to open 2016-17, a harbinger of miserable times to come.  Rockford split four games at Quicken Loans Arena last season, though the franchise is just 5-9-1-1 in Cleveland over the past five campaigns.

The Monsters should have a different look from the squad that finished dead last in the Western Conference by a wide margin. For starters, two of Cleveland’s top scorers from that club now don the Hogs head.

Jordan Schroeder (36 points) and Terry Broadhurst (32 points) were third and fourth, respectively, in scoring for the Monsters. I would expect both veterans to be in Rockford’s lineup this weekend. The only returning Cleveland player from the top of the score sheet is Alex Broadhurst, who was second on the team with 41 points.

Cleveland (again helmed by Hawks alumn John Madden) has several veteran players coming in that should more than make up for the loss of offense over the summer. Topping that list is former Penguins/Blue Jackets/Oilers center Mark Letestu. The 33-year-old hasn’t skated in the AHL since the 2019-10 season, when he had 55 points (21 G, 34 A) for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

The scoring load will also be shouldered by 31-year-old Nathan Gerbe, who has 398 NHL games under his belt. He skated in 24 games for the Monsters after signing with Columbus mid-season with four goals and 14 assists. He is a more than capable AHL scorer.

Tommy Cross, a 6’3” defenseman, is also new to the Monsters this season after playing in the Bruins organization. The 29-year-old has spent most of his seven-year career in the AHL with Providence. Cross had 12 goals from the blueline two years ago and finished 2017-18 with eight goals to go with 28 assists. He isn’t afraid to finish a check, either.

Oilers farmhand Dillon Simpson is a new addition to the Monsters blueline, which is made up of some big bodies. Dillon is set to begin his fifth season of AHL action. Former Notre Dame defenseman and Aurora native Justin Wade was signed to an AHL deal by Cleveland.

Along with Alex Broadhurst, who skated with Rockford for several seasons, Hogs skaters may see a familiar face in net this weekend. Jean-Francois Berube was assigned to Cleveland this week; he’ll probably face off against his former team at least once or twice this season.

 

Roster Moves

The IceHogs roster has been trimmed to 24 players headed into game one. Brett Welychka and Josh McArdle were assigned to the ECHL’s Indy Fuel Monday. Matt Tomkins followed suit the next day.

I expect that William Pelletier will not be available to begin the season; he was at the BMO for Friday’s Fan Fest with what appears to be an injured left thumb or wrist. I don’t believe he took part in any on-ice activities in training camp.

Right now, Hogs coach Jeremy Colliton should have 13 forwards on hand to use in Cleveland. There are eight defensemen on the roster; keep in mind that Colliton would often an extra skater on the blueline and go with just 11 forwards. With several rookie defenders on the team, it is an option Colliton may choose to employ again this season.

The unexpected call up of Collin Delia following an injury suffered by Hawks goalie Anton Forsberg makes for a bit of uncertainty between the pipes. Matt Tomkins was called up from Indy while Delia is with Chicago, joining Kevin Lankinen as the current net tandem.

If Delia isn’t needed past last night, perhaps he is sent back down to the Hogs and makes a start in the crease Friday or Saturday. I would guess that with two games less than 24 hours apart, Colliton was planning on using both of his goalies against the Monsters. It will be either Delia and Lankinen or Lankinen and Tomkins, depending on if Delia’s presence is required with the Hawks in St. Louis.

It is likely that I’ll be watching both IceHogs games vs Cleveland and might just fire off a tweet or two. Follow me @JonFromi for updates, thoughts and general foofooraw all season long.

 

 

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs had a bit of a revolving door when it came to the crease this past season. Injuries to some key personnel made for some vertical movement for several of the goalies in the organization.

As the first installment of some “in-depth” looks at the Hawks AHL affiliate, let’s cast our gaze squarely between the pipes and the four players that patrolled that area for Rockford in 2017-18.

 

Collin Delia-28 Games (17-7-4), 2.72 GAA, .900 Save Percentage

Timing is everything in the development of a prospect. Case in point…the rookie campaign of Collin Delia.

Delia earned himself an entry contract with some strong showings in the Hawks past two prospect camps. He began the season as quite the rambling man, working out with the Hogs staff and trekking to the Indy Fuel of the ECHL for game action.

It was not a successful formula for Delia.

Yes, the same 23-year old who stood so tall in the first two rounds of Rockford’s playoff run was flat-out terrible in Indy. In ten starts, he was giving up over four goals a game and sported an .887 save percentage. In a spot start for the Hogs in Iowa on November 9, he gave up four goals on 16 shots and looked completely overwhelmed.

When he was pressed into action against the Wild on December 28, Delia had not played a game in Indy or Rockford in over a month. At that point, he was only playing because the cupboard was bare. J.F. Berube was injured and Jeff Glass was in Chicago. The IceHogs had to go with Delia and Matt Tomkins in net and try like hell to limit quality shot attempts.

Again, with a veteran at Jeremy Colliton’s disposal, I doubt Delia would have had many starts in the two months that Berube missed. Opportunity was rapping at Delia’s door…and you know what? The kid responded big-time and began getting his act together.

It took several games (with the Hogs D playing a big part in limiting high percentage shots), but Delia began to look a bit more comfortable in the crease. He put up a 5-0-1 stretch from January 6 to the 26th, then took his game up a notch from there.

In his last 15 starts, Delia was 11-3-3 and limited opponents to three goals or less in 12 of those contests. His eight starts against Chicago and Manitoba in the Calder Cup Playoffs proved to be the high-water mark. Delia took over in the first two rounds, led the Hogs to the conference final and completed an astounding turnaround to his first professional season.

Delia’s style has him winding up on his backside quite a bit. It’s something I think he needs to address in Rockford this fall. However, I believe that Delia has shown the potential the organization saw when they offered him an NHL contract.

 

Jean-Francios Berube-15 Games (7-8), 2.37 GAA, .920 Save Percentage

The former Islanders farmhand helped get Rockford off to a strong opening, winning his first five starts. Berube then dropped five straight decisions, though he was playing solid in the net when he was called up for a week of backup service in Chicago.

Returning to the IceHogs December 8, Berube stopped 18 shots in the first half of the next night’s start against Grand Rapids when he suffered a knee injury that kept him out of action for the next two months. He came back in February, lost two starts despite playing well, then was moved up to back up Anton Forsberg the rest of the season.

That December injury was pivotal for several reasons. A healthy Berube would likely have gone up to Chicago when Corey Crawford went down later that month. Rockford would then have ridden Jeff Glass for the majority of the last four months of the regular season. Glass and his feel-good run with the Hawks may not have come to fruition.

Flip Berube and Glass if it pleases you, though Berube was by far the better candidate for a recall prior to his injury. Either way, there is no way that Delia would have been able to work his way into the role he enjoyed (and certainly deserved) in the latter stages of the season.

 

Jeff Glass-28 Games (15-9-2), 2.82 GAA, .904 Save Percentage

Glass had his own success story in reaching the NHL this season. In Rockford, he served as half of a pretty successful veteran tandem in net until Berube got hurt.

Starting in the second period of the game Berube was injured to when he was recalled to the Blackhawks, Glass had a 2.39 GAA and a .935 save percentage in six games, during which Delia was planted firmly to the bench.

Glass surrendered eight goals against Manitoba when the Moose were an offensive juggernaut in November and ten more in his first two games back with Rockford in February. Aside from that, he was a steady presence in goal. Glass held opponents to three goals or less in 23 of his 28 appearances and to two goals or less in 14 games.

Glass was also a much-needed veteran voice in the locker room who came into the Western Conference Final after sitting for a month and was tremendous in his four starts. I’m not sure how much interest he’ll draw as a potential NHL backup heading into this summer, but he is a solid addition to an AHL roster.

 

Matt Tomkins-Eight Games (1-4-2), 4.04 GAA, .871 Save Percentage

Chicago’s seventh-round selection in the 2012 NHL Draft was on an AHL deal after completing his college career at Ohio State. Tomkins was injured for six weeks early in the season while in Indy but was playing well for the Fuel when he was recalled to Rockford to form a rookie goalie platoon with Delia in late December.

The Chicago Wolves put up six goals in to spoil his debut December 30. His best start came against Cleveland January 19, when he stopped 32 of 35 shots and helped the Hogs rally from a 2-0 deficit to beat the Monsters 4-3.

Tomkins dropped his last two starts for Rockford before Berube’s return sent him back to the ECHL February 8. He did see action late in the season, losing a 4-3 decision to Texas April 7 as the Stars rallied for three goals in the final period.

Tomkins’ Indy stat line (11-9-2, 3.47 GAA, .912 save percentage) was about par for a Fuel squad that gave up 3.41 goals a game this season. He didn’t show enough to merit an entry contract from the Hawks, in my opinion, but who’s to rule out another one-year AHL deal?

 

So…How Does The Goalie Situation Look Like For 2018-19?

The two goalies behind Corey Crawford, as was the case last year, are Forsberg and Berube…at least for the moment. Both are under contract for next season, as is Delia and recently signed Finnish goalie Kevin Lankinen.

Unless one of these players are moved in a trade, it’s difficult to see Glass remaining in the organization. I’m guessing that the Blackhawks have seen what his ceiling is. As I mentioned before, Glass is a solid veteran at the AHL level but a Delia-Lankinen pairing in Rockford would be best for developing potential NHL talent.

The Ivan Nailimov situation could be an x-factor in the goalie picture. It has been reported that Nailimov, a 2014 sixth-rounder, wishes to be traded. Even from Russia, the 23-year-old can see a crowded crease behind Crawford in terms of securing an NHL job in Chicago.

Could Delia, one of the Hogs postseason heroes, find himself with the Fuel again this fall? In the present configuration, someone is destined for Indy. It’s hard to see Chicago signing Lankinen to throw him to the ECHL. Delia has proved he’s capable of handling substantial AHL minutes, but I don’t believe he’s vaulted over Forsberg or Berube on the depth chart.

To assume that Chicago maintains their goal-tending collection with no changes may be a bit foolhardy. The Hawks appear to want an upgrade at the spot behind Crawford (Carter Hutton, anyone?), which could further muddy the waters. Expect a deal involving Forsberg, Berube or Delia sometime this summer, or possibly after the three get a hard look in training camp.

Depending on how much baseball I find myself watching in the next few days, I’ll take a gander at the defensive landscape Monday morning and the forwards sometime after that. Meanwhile, follow me @JonFromi on twitter for any thoughts I can belch out over the summer.

 

 

Everything Else

vs.

RECORDS: Jets 51-20-10   Hawks 33-38-10

PUCK DROP: 6:00 p.m.

TV: NBCSCH

SOLID WALLS OF SOUND: JetsNation.ca

We’ve reached the end of the line. Tonight’s matchup between the second-seed Jets and the Chicago Post-Acid Emil Antonowskys will have all the vim and vigor of a midsummer Pony league game between two teams whose best players all went on a family vacation without telling the rest of the parents. There’s hardly been a game more useless than this, but she’s there, you’re there, and everybody’s there, and we’re in turmoil, as puzzled as can be. So let’s cut this vestigial tail one last time before the Hawks gather their clubs.

The Jets have won 10 of their last 11 (that’s allowed??) and are on a four-game winning streak. Their one loss in that time came via the 6-2 drubbing the Hawks doled out just one week ago. You might remember that as the Scott Foster game, one of the last beacons of fun we’ve had this year. With absolutely nothing to play for, being entrenched in the #2 spot and drawing the Wild in the playoffs, it’ll be a small miracle if we see anything resembling the A-team for the Jets. We’ll probably end up seeing Steve Mason—who last posted a 36-save, 90 SV% win over Montreal—or worse, because again, this game is absolutely meaningless to the Jets. The only thing they might do of note is continue giving Trouba his shifts as he shakes the rust off of his brown brain. Then again, this could be a nice little tune-up game for Hellebuyck, so who knows?

As for your Men of Four Feathers, the big story is that this may be will be Patrick Sharp’s final game as a Blackhawk, and perhaps final game full stop. There wasn’t much to expect out of him this year, but we’d all be remiss to forget the contributions he made to this team throughout his career. It won’t be a shock to see him play extra minutes tonight as one last sayonara, similar to last night. Given what an important cog he’s been in his Hawks career, I certainly wouldn’t begrudge the decision, especially since the only guys who came to play yesterday were Sikura and DeBrincat, anyway.

Tonight will also give Alex DeBrincat another chance to tighten his grip on his team lead in goals, which is about all there is to play for at this point. He’s been one consistent bright spot on this blighted potato of a team this year, and if I had my druthers, I’d want to see him, Eggshell, and Sikura as the top line, just for fun. But again, it hardly matters with a game as meaningless as this. After J-F Berube had another J-F Berube game, it’s likely we’ll see Jeff GL Ass out there once more to bolster his Masterton chase, which should be hilarious and fitting given that Keith has decided that he’s done playing for the year and Connor Murphy has been trying his hardest to make us look like big(ger), stupid(er) assholes for believing in him over the last two games.

The nightmare officially ends tonight, and no one will judge you for consciously missing this one. For the first time in, well, ever, we at FFUD leave you with our final Hawks preview during the regular season. It’s a strange feeling I don’t want to feel again next year, so savor the strangeness of it.

Thanks for reading this year, and stay tuned for the playoff coverage we’ll have and the postmortems we’ll do. I’ll never be able to bring myself to jump on the tank wagon, so one last time for the year:

Let’s go Hawks.

Game #82 Preview

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

Box Score

Hockey Stats

Natural Stat Trick

Like a day at the Robert Crown Center, this game leaves us cold, bored, and completely disenfranchised about things that are supposed to be fun. The good news is that none of it mattered, and it’s now almost over. To the bullets.

– This was less a hockey game and more a farewell to one of the most important Blackhawks of this era, Patrick Sharp. He got a nice video montage both before the game and in the third, and was slotted on the top line next to Kane, in hopes that he’d be able to recreate some of the magic of his younger years. While it’s no surprise that nothing really happened, it was a nice gesture from the organization. It hardly matters that Sharp was the worst possession player for the Hawks by far. Given that Colorado lost last night, the outcome of this game was window dressing, so giving Sharp a good sendoff was about as good as it was going to get.

It might be easy to forget just how good Sharp was for the Hawks in his prime, but I’m not going to take that away from whoever does his year-end wrap. All I’ll say is I’ll miss what Sharp once was and am glad to see him retire as a Hawk, which I assume is what he’ll do following tomorrow’s game.

– J-F Berube looked good until he didn’t, which is about par for the course. Crawford can’t come back quickly enough.

– One positive from this game was the chemistry between DeBrincat and Sikura. Sikura fed DeBrincat a few nice opportunities tonight, the best of which coming in the first period. Sikura took advantage of a Carter Hutton turnover behind the net and fed DeBrincat for a high-danger zone shot that Hutton managed to stuff. Then, in the second, DeBrincat returned the favor with a crisp pass through the Royal Road to Sikura, who also got stuffed by Hutton. The only real question is who’s going to center these two, because Ejdsell looks like a sore thumb out there with them. He’s going to need to progress by leaps and bounds if he wants to be the guy for these two.

– Duncan Keith had one of his worst games in recent memory tonight. He had three turnovers by the second period, and never looked comfortable on the ice. Again, this was a meaningless game, but watching Keith struggle as badly as he did is never fun. Like most of us, he’s obviously ready for this year to end.

– Connor Murphy also had a bad game, which makes two stinkers in a row for him. Only Duncan Keith had a worse possession night for Hawks defenseman, and what was worst about Murphy’s night was his regression into balloon hands in his own zone. He’s got a lot of potential as a defensive defenseman I think, but his struggles to exit his own zone are going to need to improve if he wants to stake his claim as the Top 4 guy we all think he can be.

– Outside of the Sharp farewell tour, this game was drudgery. The Hawks had 13 shots about midway through the third, and never looked alive at all out there. They finished with 20 shots, but I’d be hard pressed to describe any more than two. The highlight of the game was the two free chalupas and one cheesy gordita crunch I got in my Taco Bell order, which are currently calling my name from the microwave, the disgusting animal I am.

That’s it for the home games this year. In a game against a desperate rival, the Hawks rolled over, which doesn’t really deserve anything more than a shoulder shrug at this point. The last one’s tomorrow, and you should join Adam Hess for that one.

It’s been a pleasure writing for you all about this Hawks this year, despite the performances on the ice. We’ll be back at it for the playoffs and postmortems soon enough.

Beer du Jour: Dogfish Head Oak-Aged Siracua Nera.

Line of the Night: I didn’t catch the actual quote, but Brian Campbell suggested that the Hawks need a “character guy” like Andrew Shaw or Danny Carcillo during one of the intermissions. The perfect summary of this brat-fart season.

Everything Else

Box Score

Hockey Stats

Natural Stat Trick

This one was a real shit show, and that all started this afternoon before the game even started. I have some questions. Let’s get right to the bullets:

– So let’s get to the one that I think is the most glaring: what the heck was this lineup? Please don’t get me wrong, I know that with Toews out with an “upper body injury” aka getting his offseason started a bit early, there aren’t a lot of really good options available. But why aren’t you just top-loading then and putting Top Cat and Kane on the wings of Schmaltz? With Toews and Duclair out, you really only have 4 players worthy of top-six minutes – these three and Saad. You’re out of the playoffs already, and the league is trending toward the top-heavy lineups already. There’s no value in “depth” or “balance” in your lines at this point. Even though it’s just the Canucks, let your two young guns – who are the future of your forward group, by the way – take on the top competition with your best player and see what they can do.

– My next question: Why are we still trying this Oesterle thing? His contract is fine, of course, but that’s only because he had done jack and shit before getting here. He’s been actively bad all year. I guess I sorta see the goal in pairing him with Murphy, who has been good, and hoping it evens out, but I’m just not sure what Oesterle is giving you that Dahlstrom’t or Forsling didn’t, and those two are obviously going to be more integral to the future success of this team than Jordan Fuckin’ Oesterle. Nothing to play for, so why not just claim Keith is hurt, use an “emergency” recall for Forlsing, and use him in that role instead and see what happens? Yes I know Keith probably wouldn’t play along. Put some legos in front of his locker or something.

– Thirdly: what’s your best guess on career NHL games played for JF Berube after this season? Because teams often get desperate for backups, I’ll go optimistic and say he probably gets another two or so years to see if he can be that. Which will be hilarious for whatever team that is (it’ll be this one) because he is very clearly NOT that. I’m setting the over under for him at 55.5. What do you got?

– I’m out of questions, but I have some more thoughts. Sam put on Twitter tonight that sitting Toews is the best outcome for the pro-tank people, like myself. That’s pretty obvious. The only way it could get more tank-y would be to sit Keith as I said before, or maybe Kane, but I doubt either wants to play along, and I certainly am not about to give Kane any longer of an offseason than he deserves (don’t forget, we’re three years since his last act of menace, so we’re on pace for another one). But I’m not sure how much actual value is in that. Even if you get to 4th-to-last place, you’re only improving your draft odds by about 1.5%. Maybe giving Keith the rest is worth it, if he wants it, but I think even with him in the lineup this team is bad enough to slip, and teams like Detroit, Monteal, and Ottawa will probably fuck up by going on a run to close the year out. So basically what I’m after here is, leave Toews out, see if Keith wants to sit, and start praying to whichever diety you follow that the ping pong balls go our way.

– To close out on a high note, I want to wish my sincere congratulations and well wishes to Eddie Olczyk on him kicking cancer’s ass. Having a few family members who have done it, as well as a friend and co-worker here in Rose, it makes me happy as hell to hear every time someone tells cancer to get fucked. I am very happy for Edzo and hope for only good health for him in the future. And on a selfish level, the less Steve Konroyd we have to deal with, the better. Fuck Cancer.

Everything Else

Box Score

Corsica

Natural Stat Trick

Kent O’Brockman once said that on St. Patrick’s Day, “Everyone is a little bit Irish, except of course for the gays and the Italians,” which is why you’re stuck with me for the wrap of this horseshit game. Let’s get to it and keep it brief, as there’s drinking to be done. To the bullets.

– When it mattered most, the Hawks dropped all of the corned beef they’d been cooking. After a ho-hum first, the Hawks looked more like the Hawks we’ve paid for in the past than the Hawks we’re currently paying for, posting a nice 69+ CF%. But the wheels came off in the third, as the Hawks got pantsed in possession by the (now second) worst team in the league, getting pasted for a 37+ CF% at evens. I assume that like many of us, they were looking forward to doing anything but subjecting themselves to Blackhawks hockey, and it showed.

– On his special day, our Large Irish Son had what could best be described as a mixed bag of a game. Murphy found himself on the third pairing with Oesterle and looked spry early, leading the Hawks with three shots on goal in the first. He also ended the game with a 65+ CF% and looked to be more aggressive on the rush, crashing and joining the play deep more often than I’ve ever seen.

But he also found himself on the ice for all three of Buffalo’s 5v5 goals. He was partially to blame for the Sabres’s first goal, as he overcommitted on Reinhart on the far boards. This, coupled with Patrick Sharp getting caught staring at whatever it is washed up wingers playing to a three-fourths-full stadium in Buffalo look at, gave Reinhart a gaping lane through the Royal Road to Ristolainen, who swept a pass past Jordan Oesterle and onto Pouliot’s backhand for a messy goal. The other two came off tips from Nicholas “Don’t Call Me Jean” Baptiste, so it’s hard to blame him for that. Still, we’ll have to watch going forward to see what it is Murphy might be. I will die on the “he’s the best D-man the Hawks have” hill, but there are some questions that I have regarding his awareness and positioning. Certainly not giving up hope, but there are questions.

– Highmore–Schmaltz–Vinnie was world beating for the first two periods. Granted, it’s against Buffalo, but the speed and vision they showed was encouraging. Each ended well above the team rate in possession and showed a decent amount of chemistry together. They all need to add some meat to their respective asses if they want to compete against better teams in terms of possession, but with Vinnie’s speed and shot, Schmaltz’s hands and vision, and a sort of snarl that Highmore has shown over the last two games, this is a line to watch going forward, assuming they stay together.

– Brandon Saad’s woes continued today. He shanked a few opportunities right in front of the net and was trounced in possession, posting a 42+ CF% for the game (-12.10 CF% Rel). Again, he’s not one I’m willing to give up on, but it’s frustrating to watch him struggle. It doesn’t help that his linemates couldn’t be bothered to give a shit for the first half of the game, but it’s not an excuse.

– I was four beers in by the end of the first period, but even I couldn’t believe that Alex DeBrincat was playing with Stonehand Tommy and Stonefoot Artie for this one. Alex DeBrincat isn’t a fucking third liner. I know that he hasn’t had much offensive luck over the last 10 or 12 games, but how does putting him on the ice with a guy who can’t move and a guy who can’t stick handle solve that? I guess it’s hard to figure out where to put him if you’re committed to 20–19–88, but with talent like his, it seems like you’d want to nurture it, not dampen it.

– I seem to get every J-F Berube start these days, and I always say some variation of, “He looked good for a guy who allowed more goals than good goalies allow.” I’ll say it again about today. The first goal was more on Murphy and Sharp than him, the second was on a fluke bounce on the PK, and the last two were off high-traffic tips. I’m not sure what else he can do, and I’m curious to see whether he’s the guy backing up Crow next year. I’d want to look at more tape, but he just seems more in control when he’s out there than Forsberg.

– Toews scored his 20th goal today, which was off a big rebound from Every Fraternity Chapter’s President Chad Johnson. He’s been on a nice roll offensively lately, which is nice to see as the season winds down.

– Foley had all the energy and faith of a man who had just gotten pick pocketed at his church on Good Friday, which makes for interesting listening. Sort of like a high school football broadcast by a student whose crush rejected him for homecoming. But watching him froth over a picture of a Sabres’s fourth liner punching some other hockey player I can’t be bothered to look up in the face while stereotypical Irish music played in the background during a stoppage was the most hilarious thing about this game, hands down.

Just 10 more of these things to go. Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you all today, Happy St. Joseph’s Day to the rest of you for tomorrow. The end is mercifully near.

Beer du Jour: Guinness, because Italians don’t know how to make beer.

Line of the Night: “Let’s see how green his tongue is at about midnight tonight!” –Foley on Adam Burish

“Ehhhh. . .” –Konroyd’s response

Everything Else

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

Corsica

Let’s just be honest—the steaming pile of dog shit that was the first period tonight ended things just as they were getting started. Sure, they managed another goal but that did nothing other than temporarily hide how embarrassing the score actually was. To the bullets:

–So the aforementioned pile of dogshit…really the first was a comedy of errors. The first and third goals were squarely on Forsberg, who got pulled after giving up three goals on six shots, before they even reached the halfway point of the period. The second goal was a direct result of Kampf and Gustafsson just dithering over who would take the puck in the corner, and Armia stepped in and helped himself to it. Moments later, Wide Dick Arty got completely out-muscled at the blue line, which led to Roslovic’s goal (OK, so maybe that one wasn’t ALL Forsberg’s fault). Then with Berube in, a shitty change led to Little’s goal, and on and on it went.

–The saddest part is this all happened after Saad caught a break and they let his goal barely 10 seconds into the game stand, when it could have been called back for being offside. IMHO, in the parlance of our times, it deserved to be a good goal because there wasn’t indisputable evidence to overturn in (and you know we’ve dealt with this shit before), but I was truly surprised the dumbass war room didn’t overturn it in their infinite lack of wisdom. The fact that they couldn’t muster a camera angle that showed the entire blue line and thus had to give us the shruggy emoji as their explanation of the call is really a perfect metaphor for the league as a whole right now. But that excitement and stroke of luck was authoritatively crushed by the Hawks’ incompetence within minutes.

–That’s not to say that Winnipeg played badly; they didn’t. They led in possession all night, which kinda makes sense when you’re scoring a shitload but they kept it up in the second as well, ending that period with a 52 CF%. In the third both teams were even with 50, but again, by then the outcome was a foregone conclusion. And jeebus is Patrik Laine a beast. He only made the score sheet once with an assist, but he was rolling right past guys like they were standing still (well, in a lot of cases they pretty much were, but you know what I mean). He ended the night with four shots and a 66.7 CF%, and if you went by the eye test alone, he played even better than those numbers.

–Speaking of numbers, the top line actually tried to play, and they managed to be above water in possession and get six shots. Saad had flashes of what we’d been hoping to see this season, but Toews missed the net a bunch as usual and Kane’s give-a-shit meter was down around a 2.5. They were not the truly embarrassing part of the game, even though they weren’t that great.

–The defense was pretty embarrassing, as you might expect in a game where they give up a half dozen goals. Murphy and Keith were caught in that shitty change, Gustafsson’s turnover led to the third goal, and Oesterle and Rutta were mostly invisible. But those re-signings, THAT’S what they needed to do to improve the blue line.

–OK, one bright spot: Despite being thrown in unexpectedly and seemingly struggling at first, Berube looked mostly solid. Yes, he gave up two goals, but let’s pretend he started the game and had given up a total of two…that would be a decent performance for a back-up. By the second he had settled in, and he made some impressive stops in both the second and third periods. Unfortunately by then it was too late, but he handled 30 of the 32 shots he faced and finished with a .938 SV%. Although neither he nor Forsberg has really seized this opportunity to become a top-tier goaltender, he’s definitely made the stronger case for himself as a serviceable backup.

In a way I wished they had given up one more goal just so I could have posted the monkey-peeing-in-his-mouth video, because really that sums up the night quite vividly. Maybe next time. We only 10 more to go, guys!

 

 

Everything Else

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

Corsica

My all-time favorite movie turned 20 years old this week, and seeing as Our Special Boy was the one to score the game-winning goal tonight, it seemed appropriate to recall this piece of wisdom from the other Jeffrey Lebowski, the millionaire. To the bullets:

–The Hawks got killed in possession and shots tonight, so even those who played well (more to come on that) seemed like they had a dismal night if you just look at those stats (so don’t bother). We’re used to the Hawks dominating in those numbers while still managing to lose, but tonight they had a 37.5, 22.2, and 36.7 CF% in each period. Added to that, for most of the game the Canes had double or more than the number of shots that the Hawks did. The Hawks barely got to over half the amount of Canes’ shots, finishing with 24 to 40. Now, given the Canes’ consistency in giving up so few chances, I can’t say I’m exactly shocked by this. The fact that the Hawks only managed 24 shots but scored twice really drives home the point that Scott Darling has been quite bad.

–On that note, J-F Berube stole the show, and except for the one number that matters most, he led in every metric both qualitative and quantitative. I should point out that the first respective goals for each team couldn’t really be pinned on either goalie. Jurco tipped in a monstrous, classic Seabrook shot from the point, and a few minutes later Lindholm did exactly the same off Slavin’s own very Seabrookian shot. Redirects are tough to deal with. However, the second Hawks goal demonstrated what second-rate goaltending will get you. Sharp’s goal was all thanks to Duclair wresting the puck from under Darling’s pads, who then proceeded to completely lose his positioning which allowed a clumsily falling Sharp to put it in the open net.

Berube, on the other hand, finished the night with a .925 SV% after facing 40 shots. Williams just beat him one-on-one in the second, when today’s spotlight Justin Faulk sprung him the perfect pass as he left the box, and there also wasn’t much Berube could do on Aho’s power play goal off Finnish Jesus’ shot. All of this is to say that Berube’s positioning was far superior to Darling’s all night, and he had pretty saves throughout the game, with both the pads and the glove, which kept this from being an embarrassment. Notable among those were his stops in the third on Staal at point-blank range, and Skinner who, every time they said his name I just heard “Skinner, Skinner, faster than liiiiiightning…”

–Anthony Duclair had a strong performance, and I honestly was confused whether having Foley and Eddie say complimentary things about him during the broadcast was some kind of reverse-motherfuck, or if they were genuinely praising him and not following a script. This is how many strands are in old Duder’s head. But the point is, Duclair’s persistence in the crease led to the second goal, and he and Sharp had moments of chemistry. Granted, Duclair fumbled a pass at his feet when he had Darling one-on-one, and he botched a pass to Kampf in the same sequence. But, for being on the fourth line he was on the puck consistently, had a few shots and an assist. If you’re trying to work your way back up after a demotion, making Patrick Sharp look serviceable is a pretty nice feat.

–Of course Teuvo’s shot was the one that won the game. I know Aho is credited with the goal but it was yet another redirect. And it seemed destined to happen, but it still hurts.

The Hurricanes are fighting for a playoff spot, and with the exception of TVR, I can’t really root against any of the Parade of Former Hawks. So good for them, good for Our Special Boy, and good for Berube who still comes out looking decent from all this. Onward and upward.

Everything Else

Box Score

Corsica

Natural Stat Trick

This game adequately proved why the NHL will always be a Riot Fest porta-potty to the rest of the sports-watching world. On the 20th anniversary of The Big Lebowski, it’s appropriate to say that we’re all nihilists. We believe in nothing. To the bullets of this garbage display from the worst sports league on Earth.

– Let’s get to it. At first, the Saad no goal looked like the right call. He made a kicking motion. It was obvious. But our Fearless Leader made a good point over on Twitter dot com, saying that unless the NHL had conclusive evidence that the puck DIDN’T touch Saad’s stick, the goal ought to have stayed good. And that IS the rule. The call on the ice ought to stand unless there’s conclusive evidence otherwise.

All the original angles didn’t really give any indication. But living in Colorado, I had front row seats for the Colorado feed, which had an overhead angle of the goal. If you watch the video, it’s pretty clear that the puck touches Saad’s stick on its way over. So once again, the NHL can’t zip a pair of fucking sweatpants without getting its dick caught in a zipper that only they would have on a pair of fucking sweatpants.

But the most unbelievable thing about all of this is that THE NHL WAR ROOM DIDN’T HAVE THAT ANGLE. How the FUCK DOES THE WAR ROOM NOT HAVE THAT ANGLE? As a multi-billion dollar league. As a league that says over and over again that it wants to be taken seriously. As a league that waters down each and every team for the sake of faux parity to get casual fans to watch their Burger-King-toilet-after-a-cocaine-and-soft-cheese binge of a product because anyone who’s anyone knows what a burning orphanage the NHL is. How do you not have that angle?

This is a game with playoff implications for the Avalanche. Granted, the call ended up going for them, but isn’t the whole premise of the NHL that “our playoffs are the best”? And you want to overturn calls that shouldn’t be overturned because the people who make the decisions on that call don’t have the one fucking angle they need, an angle that the broadcasters for the Avalanche—who work out of the backroom of one of the 69,000 dispensaries we have on each and every fucking corner of this state—did? On what fucking planet is that acceptable?

The NHL’s integrity on things off the ice has always been a used condom dangling over a chicken-processing-plant’s open-top dumpster after a long, hard summer rain, so it’s fitting that its on-ice product, which when done right is as fulfilling as cunnilingus on top of an ice cream cake, has begun to reflect that. I hope the next strike never ends.

Fuck the NHL. Eat Arby’s.

– OK, now that that’s done, let’s talk about the Blackhawks. Connor Murphy had an exemplary game, and has supplanted Duncan Keith as the Hawks’s #1 D-Man in my view. His only boner was the penalty he took in the second that led to MacKinnon’s goal, and it was a bad penalty. But aside from that, he shut the MacKinnon line down, which is no small feat. He was also the calming presence on the ice, as Keith consistently found himself turning the puck over in his own zone. It’s neat and bittersweet to watch a changing of the guard on one pairing.

– We give Erik Gustafsson an awful lot of shit for sucking at defense, but I see offensive upside when he’s on the ice with Garbage Dick. On his goal, he was trying to make a saucer pass to Kane, who was wide open on the far side for a tip. It happened to go off Nemeth’s skate, but it also looked on target for Kane. Then in the second, he made another quality pass that Kane tipped and Varlamov managed to stick away. If you look at Gustafsson as an offensive defenseman, the extension might make a bit more sense.

– Brandon Saad was an unstoppable force tonight. Despite getting his dick punched on that shitty, inexcusable overturned goal, he was everywhere tonight. He drove the net with power several times, most noticeably in the first and second. He ended the night with a 58+ CF%, and the last time I checked in the second—because I was too goddamn furious to watch the third—he was hovering in the 70s or 80s.

– My Cousin Vinnie does just about everything except score these days. He was on the plus-side of the CF% ledger, and had two particularly good plays. The first was about midway through the first period. He took the puck through the neutral zone, then lost it. Instead of panicking, he skillfully lifted the defender’s stick, took the puck, and continued on like nothing happened.

In the third, he completed a gorgeous Spin-o-Rama to get the puck to a streaking DeBrincat, who caught some bad luck in Varlamov and couldn’t put it away. Still, you have to like what you’re seeing out of a confident Vinnie.

– J-F Berube was outstanding tonight. There’s not much he can do about MacKinnon’s goal, with MacKinnon being a Hart candidate standing alone on Seabrook’s side on the PK and Seabrook being Seabrook. He ended up with 33 saves on 34 shots against a team desperate for points on a playoff drive. He’s only had three games—two great and one statistical stinker—but hell if he’s not making a case to be the backup.

The NHL is a toilet. The officials are horseshit. The war room is an affront. But the Hawks won, and The Big Lebowski is on somewhere, so we’ll call it a win.

Beer du Jour: Tommyknocker Blood Orange, followed by straight pulls from the Jefferson’s bottle.

Line of the Night: “They had no overhead. At both ends . . . or one of the ends . . . so they can’t use it.” –Peter McNab, describing why Saad’s goal got overturned.

Everything Else

Box Score

Hockey Stats

Natural Stat Trick

Like a Crave Crate, the Hawks were great through the first five. The rest was a blackout of shit, snot, and puke. There’s not much to learn from a drubbing like this, but let’s see what we can find. Sometimes there’s a penny in those sliders. To the bullets.

– J-F Berube, despite giving up six goals through two periods, didn’t look terrible. The only goal that was really on him was Vlasic’s “fuck you” at the end of the second, but at that point, his confidence is shot. No use keeping him out there. He managed to look good when he wasn’t getting hung out to dry, but those moments were few and far between.

– Carl Dahlstrom looked like a guy who’s played fewer than 10 games in his career tonight. He was directly responsible for the Sharks’s first three goals. On the first, he made a questionable pinch with Schmaltz near the puck after Highmore Salvador Dali’ed a shot off the far boards, running into Schmaltz and kicking the puck straight to Pavelski, who started an unbelievably pretty passing cycle with Donskoi and Burns.

The second was a complete circus. Gustafsson passed into Vinnie’s skates, and while Gustafsson tried to recover, Dahlstrom got caught starting to leave the zone early. He then set a pick on Toews, allowing the puck to squirt past a falling Gustafsson for a 2-on-0 that Berube had no chance on. It was Dahlstrom’s bad positioning that set that goal up.

On the third, Dahlstrom took a shot from the blue line that Labanc blocked, then got out raced by Labanc. After the initial rush failed, Dahlstrom floated to his off side to cover after Gustafsson hit the ice to block Labanc’s original attempt, then seemed to fall asleep, letting Tierney behind him and Gustafsson, who slid a quick pass past a confused Gustafsson to a wide open Labanc.

I’m willing to write this off as simply a bad game from a young player, and I hope that Dahlstrom can grow into positional awareness. But tonight was not one for his reel.

– Dahlstrom was noticeably awful, but the Hawks’s D-corps looked bad as a whole. Keith took a retaliatory penalty late in the second after Sorensen overpowered him with a semi-slash. Connor Murphy fell down a few times and was embarrassed by Timo Meier’s speed in the first. Jordan Oesterle tipped a puck into his own net after a Goodrow pass attempt from behind the net. While Oesterle had some bad luck on that tip, no one on the backend stood out, and for a team that relies as heavily on plays coming from the backend as the Hawks do, this is about the result you’d expect out of the effort.

– On the plus side, Duclair looked spry, even though he couldn’t finish a 1-on-0 in the second or his penalty shot in the third. He had the worst 5v5 CF% of all Hawks though, for what that’s worth on a complete blowout.

– Alex DeBrincat continues to impress. He had a few prime opportunities that Jones stuffed him on, but it’s still a joy to watch him get to all the right spots. At some point, he’s going to play with Schmaltz and Kane regularly, which ought to start tapping into his potential more directly. You’d like to see it now, but Q’s line choices continue to be a mystery.

– Matthew Highmore debuted tonight and did about as much as you could expect. His far-too-wide shot in the first triggered the Sharks’s first goal following Dahlstrom’s misguided pinch, but he was also in decent position for a tip off a DeBrincat wrister from the high slot in the second. He didn’t make the tip, but he had the right idea. Not much to take away from him tonight, but he wasn’t a complete zoo.

Games like these make it hard to say “everything will be better next year when Crawford comes back.” While Corey definitely is the difference maker, the Hawks have some huge questions to answer on defense going forward. It’s frustrating to watch this team have no answers, but that’s the kind of year it’s been. Take it on the chin and move forward is the plan.

At this point, all you can do is look for development and improvement from the younger guys. Tonight saw DeBrincat look great, Schmaltz look good, and Duclair look outstanding at times. The rest may have been garbage, but there are positives strewn among this shit.

We’ve got 17 more games to see what we’re doing going into the off-season. Onward.

Beer du Jour: Jefferson’s Whiskey with a High Life back.

Line of the Night: “Quite a debut for Matthew Highmore. He won’t forget his first NHL game.” – Chris Cuthbert, with the Hawks down 7–1.