Hockey

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

Many of you dear readers have far better things to do with your Saturday night than watch the Blackhawks play the Stars in Dallas, and for that I sincerely envy you. I truly did not expect much from this game between these two teams, but this one turned out to be pretty intense despite the lack of scoring. I still have plenty to say about it and a few thoughts coming out of it. Dive into my mind:

THE BULLETS

– About 10 minutes into the game, there was still no score, but it felt like the Stars should’ve been up by 4. The night never really changed from that kinda feel, either, and in the end Dallas probably should’ve won something like 6-1. It never really should’ve gotten to a shooutout, let alone overtime. The Stars had notable whiffs on wide open nets from from Jamie Benn and Corey Perry, along with a few other missed opportunities – they registered TEN High Danger Chances in the first period but came away with just one goal. Those coupled with another strong game in the crease from Robin Lehner really kept the Hawks in a game they didn’t really deserve to be in.

– Kind of riffing off that first bullet as well, while the Hawks dominated the attempts in the second period and controlled most of the play, all that work still only resulted in six total scoring chances and just two of them being High Danger. All those shot attempts basically amount to empty calories if you’re not generating opportunities from them.

– I’d like to give a special nod to Coach Mayor Buttigieg for giving Erik Gustafsson and Brent Seabrook 16+ minutes of 5v5 ice time in spite of the Stars eating them up for breakfast lunch, and dinner. Those two finished with CF%’s of 39.29 and 38.46 respectively, which is impressively bad. Gustafsson also had an embarrassingly bad turnover that led to the open net chance I mentioned earlier that Perry whiffed on.

We are to the point with Gustafsson that each game it is getting more and more predictable that he is going to have a costly turnover, and he is finding new ways to turn the puck over each time. I really don’t want to become a broken meatball record with this dude, but he has to be gone. Soon.

– Let’s stick with Mayor Pete Colliton, though, because if the performance and playstyle of the team in the first month of the season wasn’t enough to get him fired outright, there were moments tonight that might be the final straw. The Hawks took bench minors for Too Many Men twice tonight, once in the third period and once in overtime. Those are just backbreakingly stupid penalties to take, especially in those moments, and the Hawks were lucky that *those* mistakes weren’t the ones that finally cost them. And maybe you can chalk the OT one up to a twitchy whistle from the refs on a change, but that still comes back to coaching and knowing when to send your fucking players onto the ice.

For all the talk of how fun the Hawks were in their winning steak when they went back to new-old system so that the skill players could open up the ice a bit more, we haven’t seen those efforts come to fruition in the last three games. The Hawks haven’t been playing terrible, but they’re still getting boat raced at various moments in games, which is just not something you can ignore. And with Toews all but calling Colliton a fucking dumbass for playing seven D against Tampa a few days ago, it’s still clear that the locker room is not a fan of this guy. It has to end.

– Hawks are off until Tuesday when they get a rematch with these Stars at home. Until then.

Hockey

It’s the dead time for Hawks coverage now. There’s almost no chance of a deal or signing now. The convention is over, so we sit and wait six weeks for training camp. Or five weeks for Travers City, depending on how thirst the desert of hockey summer has made you. So it’s these human interest-like stories on Brent Seabrook that you’re going to get before we basically adjourn.

The thing is, we’ve read this story before. Seabrook already got the best-shape-of-his-life treatment last training camp, and now everyone is trying to walk that one back saying a second summer with Paul Goodman will lead to the shape he was supposedly in last fall. It’s getting harder and harder to keep track. We’ll circle back to this.

Mark Lazerus goes to talk to Seabrook (a risk in itself), and Jeremy Colliton, and Paul Goodman, and Stan Bowman. And all of that is reasonable. It’s what they say that I quarrel with.

First Colliton.

“It looked to me like it was difficult for him,” Colliton said to me during a quiet moment at the convention. “You play one way for so long, and you’re just used to a certain style of coach, of system, all those things. It’s hard to change your habits on the fly. You end up thinking instead of reacting. And we just didn’t have enough practice time. You need a week or two weeks to get things in, or even just three days of practice. And we just didn’t have it. Once the schedule lightened up (the Blackhawks played 33 games in Colliton’s first 66 days as head coach), you saw the change in our play. We were much better. We’ve just got to spend time on it. And now we have that time.”

Some of that may in fact be true. But the overriding factor here is that no matter what shape Seabrook finds himself in, the “system” Colliton wants to employ is never going to suit him. If indeed Colliton wants his guys chasing forwards all over the zone instead of passing them off when they go high or leaving them be in the corner and boards, Seabrook is never going to be able to do that. In fact, neither will de Haan or Maatta, come to think of it. Seabrook can know and be as comfortable with the system as he likes, it will never mean he’s built for it. Unless Colliton is going to tweak this and let Seabrook play a game where things more come to him, it’s just not going to work. It’s not what Seabrook can do. I’m not sure it was ever what Seabrook could do.

Still, Colliton’s assertion that Seabrook got better in the back half of the season holds some truth. Both shots against and goals-against per 60 were down for Seabrook in the second half of the season from the first. But the attempts against and expected goals against were up, and by bigger margins than the others were down. Essentially he got bailed out by better goaltending and worse marksmanship. Colliton may have a nugget here, but he does not have a foothold.

The next section goes to Goodman, and even I would have to admit that working with one guy your whole life another can be an adjustment, as Seabrook did with his trainers. Still, we were remarking as far back as 2013 and especially ’13-’14 how sluggish Seabrook looked. We blamed the former on not playing during the lockout. We really bent over backwards (just wheel posed) to explain the following campaign away by citing the shortest summer possible, though as the Kings were slicing and dicing him into paste even that felt hollow. Still, it’s been at least three seasons where Seabrook has looked off the pace, and one summer just isn’t going to change that in his mid-30s. I mean, Goodman seems pretty sure it will, and I guess he knows more about it than anyone.

But that won’t fix a system meant for the exact opposite of Seabrook’s game.

Even Bowman was getting in on Seabrook’s physical condition, which tells you just how much of a problem everyone thought it was. From there we get all the normal rigamarole about leadership and his voice in the room, and that’s not to be totally discounted.

But what they really mean is that they need Seabrook on Colliton’s side, which we’ve already labored. Duncan Keith has already declared Colliton an idiot. Jonathan Toews will always try and make anything work because he’s the captain. Patrick Kane is harder to read, but is at least somewhat placated by getting 25 minutes per night. It’s not that Kane doesn’t care about whether the Hawks win or lose, but that’s a salve either way. It almost feels like Seabrook is a deciding vote. They have to have his back. Because even Toews isn’t going to try and swim against everyone else in the dressing room.

And then where would they be?