Hockey

VS

 

Records: Panthers 20-7-4 (44) Hawks 14-13-5 (33)

Puck Drops: 7:00 Both Nights (Tue/Thur)

TV/Radio: NBCSN and WGN 720

You Sure Do Got A Purdy Mouth, Boy: Litter Box Cats

 

Not much has changed for these two teams in the week that’s passed since they last met, other than the Panthers racking up 2 more points and the Hawks attempting to divide by zero. The Swamp Cats split with the Preds, and then lost a one shot against Tampa Bay on Sunday, giving up 3 goals in the 3rd when they’d had them on the ropes in the first two periods. The loss Sunday puts the Panthers 4 points behind the Bolts in the division, back with Carolina.

Sergi Bobrovsky was in net for both losses, as he continues his streak of uneven play. The win came on the shoulders of a 2-0 Chris Driedger shutout of Nashville, which while admittedly not a difficult thing to do, is still more than Bob has been able to accomplish of late. While the numbers between the two tenders continue to drift further apart, Coach Q still seems reluctant to turn the reigns over fully to Driedger, content to let Bob work things out on his own.

On the forward end of things, after I wrote about Aleksander Barkov last week, he proceeded to drop 9 points in 5 games, so at least for once it seems like I knew what I was talking about. 6 of those points came against the Hawks, who seemed completely unwilling or unable to do anything at all to slow him down in the slot, and he absolutely did not miss his chances.

The line centered by Barkov continues to be an unholy terror since Q added what apparently was the missing link in Carter Verhaeghe. The trio of Barkov, Verhaeghe and Anthony Duclair has been carrying the play at even strength at over a 63% clip. Add in a total of 19 points over the last 5 starts and you can see why Q is a fan. The speed and creativity that Barkov possesses compliments the North/South games of Duclair and Verhaeghe. Once they’re in your zone, they’re extremely hard to remove, especially when they’re backed up by Mackenzie Weegar and Aaron Ekblad on the blue line.

As for the Hawks, they continue to get beat down by the March schedule, dropping both games in Tampa last week. They couldn’t solve Andrei Vasilevskiy, and much as they’ve done all season the Bolts capitalized on every mistake the Hawks D made. Both Kevin Lankinen and Malcom Subban were given the chance to right the ship, but neither were able to do so, both being aided and abetted by the D in front of them. That brings the March record to an unsightly 2-6-1, and into a standings tie with Columbus, who’s managed to take 2 in a row from Carolina in the last week.

The reason behind the points drought is more of the same, as the Hawks are unable to carry the play for any extended length of time at 5 on 5 (with the 1st two periods last Saturday being the exception, more on that in a bit). When the power play suddenly runs dry and the goaltending has regressed to the mean this is what you get. We’ve spoken at great lengths about where the deficiencies lie with this Hawks team, and with Kevin Lankinen no longer able to paper over the possession issues things become even more glaring in the light of day.

As grim as it seems now, the Hawks are almost out of this Hell Month, and critical games against the Jackets, Stars and Preds await on the other side. We’ve reached the spot in the season where pretty much every point is desperately needed by the Hawks. They’ve allowed their lead to slip to the point where there’s no more margin for error at all, and for a young team like this we will really get to see what they’re made of. There’s definitely a spark there that shows at times what this team could really be.

There was a period in the game against Tampa this past Saturday when the Hawks looked like the possession monsters of old. The advanced stats bear this out, as in the 1st period the Hawks topped the CORSI list with a 58% share, and then went hog wild in the 2nd with a 69.57%. Sadly, Vasilevskiy was up to the task, and the Hawks entered the 3rd down 3-0. It’s something we haven’t seen since the 2nd game in the 1st series against the Jackets where the Hawks ended up with almost a 59% share for the entire game.

There have been flashes this season of the Hawks being able to carry the play for extended periods of time against higher quality teams like Carolina and Tampa. They key here is doing it on the regular against all of them. If a majority of the beat writers are correct, and this young team truly is “buying in” to what Colliton is selling then they’re going to have to show it now. Florida is a solid team from the blue line out, but Bobrovsky has been mediocre at best. If the Hawks can keep the play in their end at all, he’s ripe for the picking. We know that the Hawks D is paper thin, so the forwards absolutely have to convert when they get the chances. Time is running out, show us what you got.

 

Let’s Go Hawks

 

Hockey

Though it looks less likely that we’ll get more hockey this year with each passing day, that doesn’t mean the Hawks aren’t not doing anything. Here’s a weekend update about the goings on with the Men of Four Feathers.

– In an interview with Scott Powers, Rocky Wirtz said that there will be no front office changes in the near future. That means all your favorite stars like John McDonough, Stan Bowman, and Jeremy “Please Stop Saying I’m the Worst Coach in the League” Colliton are sitting pretty on the velvet couch of the Blackhawks Brain Trust, where you can suck for three years and still make bank.

With this decision, Rocky Wirtz has finally given us a morsel of what the plan is. And that plan is to continue being an abysmal defensive team coached by a stubborn putz whose system clearly doesn’t work with the guys he’s got, and generally managed (though we use this term in its loosest form) by a man whose solution to his bad defense was to make it slower and ouchie-er.

If we needed proof that Rocky doesn’t watch the games at all, this:

“Well, if I wasn’t confident, they wouldn’t be employed,” Wirtz said. “Yeah, I’m very confident. Like I said, we had a good run, but that doesn’t mean when you’re drafting 27th, 28th, 29th, 30th … You know it’s a young person’s game. You have to put work in there. Stan, right or wrong, after ’10, ’13 and ’15, you essentially had to trade half your team away. Yeah could we have been a dynasty if it was back in the Edmonton days? Of course. The 2010 team could have been around for a long time. But with the salary cap, you couldn’t do that. It is what it is. You got to work within the system.”

There you have it. In what’s becoming a theme around these parts, the Blackhawks brass is reaching back to the greatest hits to justify things they’re doing five years after the fact. If the whole point is “You got to work within the system,” what’s inspired confidence that Bowman’s been doing that effectively? Was it the Brandon Manning signing two years ago? Was it trading Jokiharju for Nylander the Lesser last summer? Was it signing Olli Maatta and Calvin de Haan who suck and have no shoulders, respectively, last summer? We know Bowman had to rip those championship teams apart. We were there. What does that have to do with what he’s done lately?

Rocky’s got some thoughts on that too, buddy.

“I’m very optimistic on some of the young players,” Wirtz said. “It’s the system we have in place to draft and then develop players I think is good. I think that’s what you’ll see. If the system’s right, then we’re going to be OK. I think that’s the key thing. So, I’m optimistic. I don’t do doom and gloom and stuff.”

The system they have in place is good and maybe right, he says. The same system that hasn’t produced a worthwhile defenseman since Nick Leddy. The same system that can’t find a spot for Dylan Sikura but has all the time in the world for Matt Highmore and Brandon Hagel. Kirby Dach has been a hit so far, yes. As has Top Cat. But who do they have down there who’s going to change anything who isn’t already here?

It’s one thing to be optimistic. It’s entirely another to be totally removed from what’s going on. But really, why should Rocky worry? People were still showing up in droves, after all. And what’s more important than packing the house and filling the coffers? Certainly not changing a system that clearly doesn’t work. Why do that when you can just not?

Rocky goes on to talk about players from Europe, such as Artemi Panarin and Dominik Kubalik, and he’s not wrong. The Hawks’s European scouting is outstanding. But to assume that guys like that will still just want to come play for the Blackhawks is dangerous and presumptive. It’s been three years since their last playoff appearance. Riding “We’re the Blackhawks” won’t have the same pull soon enough, especially with the most recent track record.

The last two years have brought us historically bad defense from the Blackhawks. It took them half a year to get Dominik Kubalik—now their second-leading goal scorer—out of the bottom six. Before Boqvist’s injuries and the season suspension, they were leashing the one kid who could drive play from the back end for . . . what? To improve his defense? You don’t get to say you care about defensive development when you’re icing Nick Seeler, Slater Koekkoek, and Dennis Gilbert at any time for any reason with a straight face.

But hey, at least now we know what the plan is. Just kind of hope shit works out. Rocky likes his guys. You wonder what Kane, Toews, Keith, and Crow think about that.

­– But it’s not all bad news with the organ-I-zation. Credit to Rocky (and Jerry Reinsdorf) for agreeing to pay all United Center game-day employees through what would have been the end of the regular season.

It would have been more of a surprise if the organ-I-zation hadn’t done so. If you’re cynical, maybe you look at this simply as good PR. If you’re optimistic, you see this as them simply doing the right thing. We’ll choose to be optimistic on this one.

On top of that, the Hawks committed to matching donations of up to $100,000 to the Chicago Community COVID-19 Response Fund. Both very good things to do, and both things that take the sting out of Rocky’s “We like our guys” oafery.

That’s it for now. Stay safe, stay isolated, and keep watching the skis.

Hockey

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

This was always going to be a tough one for the Hawks, especially the way the Stars are playing right now. While the Hawks do struggle with teams that are open and play fast, there’s a better chance they’ll leave the spaces the Hawks need to create and score. Teams like the Stars, which basically turn the whole surface into a mudpit (and the ice didn’t help), are less likely to leave gaps. That’s what you saw today. That game could have been four hours long and the Hawks probably don’t get more than that one goal.

Let’s to it.

The Two Obs

-The Hawks had one high-danger chance in the game. One. So while the shot totals might look even, the Hawks weren’t really close. And the reason for that is it’s hard to find a team that fights harder at each blue line than the Stars. They keep that third forward high and their d-men up, and they can double at the points to keep you hemmed in. When they can’t do that, they still stand up at their line with three, and they can do that because not only is their defense big, but it’s mobile. Only Oleksiak in today’s lineup would approach “plodder” status, and he’s actually mobile for his size. They don’t have to win the race to dump-ins that they force, they just have to be close enough to lean on you when you do. And that’s what they do. The Hawks don’t have a lot of puck winners, and aren’t built to grind out chances…which is how you end up with one.

And if you get through all that, you have to weave shots, passes, and bodies through an enchanted forest in the middle of their zone. The Hawks have one d-man who can fit a shot through in Boqvist, and they’ve robbed him of any confidence. They’re not going to bull their way through much either.

Now you may ask where the Hawks would be if they opted to collapse like that instead of whatever it is Colliton asks them to do. The Stars have two really good goalies and play to that. The Hawks have those, too. They wouldn’t be the Stars, they don’t have the mobility or size on their defense. But they would be better off than they are now.

It’s hardly galvanizing to watch, but it’s effective and the Stars stick to the system. Compare that with the Hawks running all over like kindergartners nearing the end of the school year and you begin to understand why there’s some 15 points between them in the standings.

-You don’t want to base much of anything on one game, but we can say we’d like to see Lucas Carlsson more on this trip. And it’s frustrating to see a team that lacks movement and skill on its blue line so badly wait this long to give someone like Carlsson a look instead of Dennis Gilbert Elmer Fudd his way around the ice. It’s unlikely Carlsson can prove that the Hawks don’t need additions beyond Ian Mitchell next season in these last 20 games (if Mitchell even signs), but he can at least take a shot at it or showcase himself. He’s got hands, he’s got feet. The Hawks sport three other d-men with both right now. One’s 36. One’s 19. Give us more and let’s see, because there’s nothing to lose.

-Meanwhile, it’s quite the message I can’t decode that Slater Koekkoek can take three penalties in a game and not get demoted in the lineup, whereas Adam Boqvist was benched for the third on Friday for…well I don’t fucking know.

Koekkoek was at fault for the first goal, as Keith stepped up to block a shot and Fetch decided the guy at the side of the net was more dangerous than Joe Pavelski loitering right in front of Crawford. That’s Joe Pavelski of the 368 career goals, 200 of which at least have come within five feet of the net.

Koekkoek has been fine most games as a third pairing guy because the Hawks didn’t have anyone else. But he’s not an answer for any team that means to be taken seriously. He’ll get to finish the season in the lineup thanks to the Hawks trade of Gustafsson to follow and Nick Seeler being a clod, but it shouldn’t be ahead of Carlsson.

-Putting DeBrincat in front of the net on the power play is one of the dumber ideas Colliton has had, and I realize the enormity of that statement. He’s 5-7. His main skill is as a sniper, which you can’t do with your back to the net from two feet away. And the guy in front also has to be able to get below the goal line to retrieve the puck in traffic. Again, he’s 5-7. It’s not a use of the things he does well. Just as it probably isn’t when Dach is stationed there. I’ve had quite enough of this. I’ve had quite enough of all of Colliton’s ideas.

Ok, that’s enough of this. We’ll talk again post deadline, when the Hawks will hopefully have a direction for the first time in three years.

Everything Else

In one sense, this is the easiest time to be Stan Bowman. Your draft position is set, the exit interviews are done, and thanks to the playoffs (both NHL and NBA) and baseball, no one’s really paying attention to you. Throw in the fatigue most Hawks fans had from watching and thinking about their team, and that’s even more indifference and apathy that keeps them in the dark. Nothing can really be done until after the Final is over. While the Hawks would prefer to win, I’m sure that if you asked them honestly they would tell you one silver lining of being bad now is the shroud of anonymity it’s provided them. These are people who would prefer to not be looked at too closely.

So it was again when Bowman granted the Sun-Times’s Jason Lieser a lengthy interview, and boy is there some Grade A horseshit in here. Even better it came out on a Saturday, to lower the odds that anyone would see it to just above nil. But it didn’t escape my eye. Nothing does. I am Sauron. Let’s dive in, shall we? And I want to start with the end of the article first.

“Having the opportunity to start the season with a training camp and to have the time to establish a standard, that allows you to be a little more direct and aggressive about enforcing how we need to play to win,” he said.”

This is a narrative I was sick of by March 1st, and it’s one that both Bowman and Jeremy Colliton are going to pedal until the next training camp to try and save their ass. Plain and simple, Jeremy Colliton was in the job for five months. He had 67 games. While he may not have been able to do everything he liked, the idea that he was trying to install Matt Nagy’s offense on the fly is just laughable. Yes there were changes made and it’s not totally simple but it does remain hockey and it’s not that hard.

If making changes is that hard midseason, why was Colliton allowed to switch the defensive system at all then? Because he did, and you saw the results. If he can perform this massive switch the moment he shows up, and provide us with Connor Murphy roaming around the blue line by design, then why couldn’t he tweak it in February and March when it was painfully obvious that the team couldn’t run what he wanted? Or if changes are so hard…why fire Quenneville at all?

You have to hope Stan knows, and this isn’t encouraging either, that he put together a blue line that was simply unacceptable and there was no saving it. But he can’t say that, otherwise he’d be signing his own pink slip if McDonough weren’t so busy either patting himself on the back or yelling at low-level employees or both. But you wonder if that’s what Stan really thinks when you get to this mess…

“That’s something people have a hard time grasping,” he said. “What was is not always a perfect indicator of what will be.”

He’s acutely aware of every team’s trajectory at all times, and just in case everybody hasn’t been studying the New York Islanders’ defense the last two years, he’s happy to offer a quick sketch: same defensemen, new goaltender, new coach — substantial improvement.

The Islanders were way out of the playoffs a year ago, but leapt to 48-27-7 and swept the Penguins in the first round last week. They went from dead last in goals allowed, shots against, penalty kill and five-on-five high-danger chances against to average or better in every category. They allowed the fewest goals in the NHL this season.

Their situation wasn’t that different than the Hawks’ other than they were slightly younger.

Their top seven defensemen this season were already in the organization, and the only newcomer was a rookie. The Hawks have Adam Boqvist, the No. 8 overall pick last year, in the pipeline.

Robin Lehner was second in the NHL in save percentage this season and was a major upgrade at goalie, but the improvement in shots against and high-danger chances didn’t have anything to do with him. The Hawks might get a similar boost if Corey Crawford stays healthy next season.

Bowman believes coach Barry Trotz was instrumental after taking over for Doug Weight, and the Hawks are heading into Colliton’s first full season running the team.

It’s not a step-by-step guide for the Hawks, but it’s plausible to Bowman that his team could pull off that type of transformation.

“People would say that sounds good but that doesn’t ever happen,” he said. “And my point would be that it can happen — it just did happen.”

I nearly passed out when I read this. Let’s see if we go through it together if we can survive or this becomes digital Jamestown.

To compare the Hawks to the Islanders is so incomprehensible I have to put my head through the drywall just to feel anything again. One, while the Islanders might not have any stars, Adam Pelech, Ryan Pulock, Scott Mayfield, now Devon Toews were all highly regarded prospects and already in the NHL or right on the doorstep (Toews). Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuck have been plus-NHL d-men for years. Thomas Hickey has at least been serviceable most of his career.

Who on the Hawks fits any of these categories that’s going to be on the roster next year for sure? Connor Murphy and Erik Gustafsson are solid NHL-ers, and maybe nothing more. Henri Jokiharju might be the prized prospect, except really all he did was look better than the trash heap Bowman foisted upon the world in some Joker-esque prank. Forsling and Koekkoek are simply not NHL players. Dahlstrom can maybe has a crimp-hold on being a #6-7. Brent Seabrook may not be an NHL player either. Duncan Keith gave up. What’s left?

Second, Barry Trotz has been coaching in the NHL for two decades and has made three different teams into solid defensive outfits. Jeremy Colliton has one season at the AHL-level and four-fifths of one at the NHL-level. You really want to bet your future on his transformational abilities?

Third, Trotz teams get their defensive prowess from basically stripping any offensive impulse and creativity from their system. You’re not going to do that here with the forwards you have. Remember, the Islanders had one player over 60 points. The Hawks had four and another in Strome who was just off a point-per-game pace since arriving. Those two simply don’t line up.

At the season wrap-up, Bowman swerved from a question on Seabrook’s play by pointing to Toews’ resurgence. The message between the lines was that the Hawks need Seabrook to have that type of offseason and come back somewhere near peak form.”

This is rich, considering the Hawks were pushing the “best shape of his life” stories on Seabrook last training camp and he still looked beached orca-like during the season.

I don’t want to rule out Seabrook changing his body and game for next season. Maybe professional pride kicks in, though it hasn’t in about four years. And Toews wasn’t out of shape, he was in the wrong shape. Toews kept bulking up for a game that was getting faster. The change he had to make wasn’t working harder or finding motivation. He just had to change how he went about it.

I have no idea what Seabrook’s offsesaon regimen looks like, if it even exists. But we’ve been talking about his sluggishness since 2013 and it’s been consistent since 2015-2016. I understand he can’t really go anywhere, at least in an organization that doesn’t seem to have any balls, but this is truly the most wishful of thinking.

This is from earlier in the article:

Playing the results, the Hawks could’ve used Panarin and Teravainen this season. But based on the circumstances at the time, Bowman doesn’t second-guess himself.

“The makeup of our team and the makeup of our competitors — you wouldn’t redo those deals,” he said. “I think we were one of the first teams — I guess you could say Los Angeles as well — where this became a big issue for managing your assets. There are some other teams that are bumping right up against it now.

“It’s hard to navigate that without something giving. The whole hope is that you can manage it well enough that you don’t flounder for a long time.”

I understand no GM is going to admit a mistake on a player currently on the roster, and I say this as Brandon Saad’s last remaining fan, but if you wouldn’t redo that Panarin deal then you’ve got the wrong combo of medication. And the Hawks can’t squawk about how much cap space they have now and then turn around and claim they never would be able to re-sign Panarin, combined with the half-hearted noise they’ve made about trying to do it this summer anyway. Same goes for Teuvo, though not wanting to badmouth Bryan Bickell is understandable.

Isn’t it fun to work in the dark?

Everything Else

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

Now that the Hawks games mean nothing, it’s hard to imagine getting worked up about these games in any way, and yet seeing them play their asses off and outplaying the Blues, I found myself sitting on my couch feeling like this guy. As a wrestling fan myself, I can empathize with feeling emotionally invested in something you know isn’t what it’s presented as, and tonight that was me, constantly battling this desire for the Hawks to not drop themselves farther down the draft lottery (which, they can’t climb much higher anyway, so that’s dumb too) and rooting like hell for them to beat the Blues. Some things are bigger than logic. Fuck you St. Louis. Let’s do this:

– Just about everyone at this here site was unavailable to some extent tonight, so I took up the sword but still missed the first period. When I got the game on with about 17 left in the second, I was pretty surprised by how competitive and hard the Hawks were playing in this game despite the games now being meaningless as I said before. It was clear from the quotes from Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane today that these guys are pissed off about missing the playoffs again, and they definitely channeled that into a desire to fuck over the Blues and their playoff seeding hopes. There were still plenty of gaffes in here on the Hawks end, and we will talk about a few of them, but seeing them respond was at least notable, I think. If only they had cared about this season a few months ago. Maybe they can actually carry this piss and vinegar into next year.

– It’s still hilarious to me that the Hawks got Dylan Strome for Nick Schmaltz. Not that Schmaltz wasn’t and isn’t a fine player (though now one that is WAY overpaid), but we definitely knew what he was by the time the Hawks sent him to the desert for Strome, who had barely gotten enough of a sniff of the NHL to have any conclusion that he couldn’t hit the ceiling that was once considered very high. And yeah, his shortcomings are there, and have been all year. But dammit if he doesn’t make up for it enough with the vision and hands, and the pass he made to Kane tonight on the third Hawks goal was just another example of that. The Hawks are definitely coming out on top of this one.

– Let’s talk about some gaffes. Firstly, Seabrook and Forsling were out there together again tonight. Not for long, but any shifts of those two together is too many. That’s the whole gaffe. Please stop that. EDIT– Forsling didn’t play tonight, I just stink at paying attention to who’s out there. I guess I’ve just been traumatized by 7-42 so often that I just expect it even when it isn’t happening.

– Now the elephant in the room, which at this point has now sat on and destroyed your couch, coffee table, recliner, and television: Duncan Keith could not give less of a fuck about playing hockey for Jeremy Colliton. Truthfully, I wish I could show the level of contempt and disinterest in my job that this guy does and still have the level of job security he does. We know the give a shit meter was already on zero, but he just about sent it negative tonight, particularly on the Blues third goal. To have little interest in playing well at this point can be understood, given that the Hawks are fucked, but to just have no intent to even feign effort at this point is almost impressive.

– And that brings us to an important thought – the Hawks might have to pick between the wife and the dog this summer. It’s clear that the wife (Keith, because he’s made our lives better for years and we never appreciate him enough) does not want the dog (Colliton, because he’s smelly and keeps shitting himself everywhere) around any longer. But as can happen, we may see this summer that the Hawks have overcommitted themselves to the dog. Perhaps these two will come to an agreement over the summer. Maybe an addition of a real defenseman that can partner with him will turn Keith’s give-a-shit meter back up. Maybe Colliton really will get motherfucked into becoming a good coach by this blog. Maybe neither happen and we’re stuck in a bad marriage with a stupid dog (I don’t hate dogs, I love them, but this one is stupid) and we will be miserable again for another year. Who knows! Eat at Arby’s.

– We almost made it, folks. Two more.

Everything Else

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

Corsica

Well, changing coaches hasn’t worked yet. Jumbling around the lines didn’t really either. Though Jeremy Colliton has his first point, a return of one out of six probably isn’t what management had in mind. Or maybe it was and they didn’t tell us?

Whatever it was, tonight was nothing we didn’t know. The roster is short, and there a couple veterans not carrying their weight. This team was probably calibrated on the hope that they would. I don’t know why you’d calibrate it that way, but here we are. At least I don’t have another explanation. If you do, feel free to share.

All right, let’s clean this up and get on with our lives.

The Two Obs

-Not sure where to begin, so I’ll unfairly begin with Duncan Keith again. While his glaring gaffe (alliteration, people) took place on the penalty kill, so I should probably just dismiss it as him getting the inevitable goal against out of the way early so the Hawks could get back to even-strength.

At some point this season, if Jeremy Colliton accomplishes nothing else this season but convince Duncan Keith that he’s no longer DUNCAN KEITH, I’ll call it a success. We went over this on Saturday. Duncan Keith was paired with Henri Jokharju to take that aspect of his game off his plate. It was meant to streamline his game, and keep him more efficient with what he can do. He didn’t listen. Maybe he can’t fight it, maybe it’s been too long.

Pairing him with Seabrook was only going to enforce that feeling, I guess. So there he was, chasing Andrei Svechnikov outside the circles, pretty well contained out there. But Keith can’t get there anymore. And Svechnikov, a budding monster, is going to walk him every time. He did it later in the game as well, So did Aho. But this is the one the Hawks paid for. Svechnikov has a clear path to the net, forcing Seabrook into basically Sophie’s choice. He could maybe do a little more than just amble over there while leaving a passing lane to Michael Ferland, but here were no good options.

Someone get Keith in front of a video screen with nothing but how Ryan Suter plays these days. It’s a super-efficient game, where Suter lets the game come to him and picks his spots when to get outside the normal parameters. Keith is still chasing the game and trying to bend it to his will, He can’t do it anymore. And the Hawks keep paying for it.

-That goal was off a Henri Jokiharju penalty where he braced for a hit at the expense of getting the puck. These are the kinds of mistakes we would normally live with, but now is about the time they have to stop. Hey, The HarJu isn’t going to survive too many hits in the NHL with the puck. But his hands are quick enough to move the puck along before getting hit. Chalk it up to the learning curve.

-Which will bring us to Nick Schmaltz. We generally like Schmaltz around here. Fine player. Clear problems. The refusing to shoot is getting really annoying. And Eddie correctly lit him up for ducking out of a puck battle/hit with Justin Faulk (though Schmaltz did cause a turnover a second later, but still).

And that kind of thing keeps happening. And it’s a tough sell to your fanbase and everyone else when you’re saying you basically did nothing in the offseason to keep your powder dry in big part to re-sign Schmaltz. Because he keeps looking like a second-line player, whether that’s wing or center. You don’t build around second-line players. I don’t want to know what kind of deals Stan turned down that included Schmaltz.

Schmaltz still has 60 games to turn it around and look like a real piece. But it’s year three now, you kind of know where he is. Are you tossing $6 million at this? Or are you hoping he keeps doing shit like this and we’ll have to agree to a bridge deal? And shoot the fucking thing already.

-Brandon Davidson and Jan Rutta got themselves in a tangle when the Canes were on a change and there was literally no forechecker in the zone and they couldn’t manage to pass between each other in the 2nd period. I can’t really sum the third pairing up any better than that.

-Other than the penalty, Goose and The HarJu weren’t a complete disaster, to the tune of a 68% and 64% share on the night.

-It’s nice that the Hawks fourth-line was so effective. But to review, when your fourth line is your most effective, that’s a problem.

Ok, that’s enough. It’s a point. Maybe it’ll be better to snap it against the Blues. Somehow, I doubt it.

Onwards…

Everything Else

 vs. 

RECORDS: Hawks 6-8-3   Hurricanes 7-7-3

PUCK DROP: 6pm

TV: NBCSN Chicago

YOU KNOW WHAT THAT MAKES YOU? LARRY!: Canes Country, Section 328

It has to end sometime, it has to end somewhere…

I can’t say that it’s totally encouraging that Jeremy Colliton is hitting the Quenneville Memorial blender in his third game in charge. I’m sure the constant line-shuffling was something that came to annoy the players in the end from Q. But Q drew a lot of water, and it could at least be construed that he was an experienced coach who was just experimenting, and who had earned the right. A coach in his third game in his second season in North America at all might look like he’s just throwing shit at a wall.

But according to the morning skate today, that’s what the Hawks might get. Brandon Saad didn’t skate, and he’s only a maybe to go, so that could confuse things even further. As of now, Patrick Kane and Nick Schmaltz have slotted up with Jonathan Toews in a definite “go-for-it” top line. Sure, fine I guess, Toews hadn’t produced much of late with Dominik Kahun and Top Cat. Then it gets silly.

What a line of John Hayden, Artem Anisimov, and Alex Fortin is going to do is really a mystery up there with the Bermuda Triangle and how Ricky Jay ever had an acting career. Top Cat-David Kampf-Kahun is at least worth seeing as it’s really fast and active. I guess. I don’t know really what I’m supposed to say here. The fourth line doesn’t matter and is basically “Eat Arby’s” territory like the third-pairing.

The changes don’t stop there, as there’s been a shuffle in the top-four on the blue line. Marlboro 72 has been reunited, because apparently they weren’t bad enough separately and can really reach a new level of suck together. Erik Gustafsson paired with Henri Jokiharju only exacerbates the problems that pairing The HarJu with Keith created, in that the Finn has to play free safety for his partner’s directionless wanderings instead of pushing the play and getting involved in the offense which is supposed to be his calling. We know Gustafsson needs a GPS and a guide-dog in the defensive zone.

Let’s get nuts!

I suppose when you’ve lost seven in a row you have license to try anything. Consider that license used. Cam Ward will get the start in his return to Carolina, and hopefully doesn’t decide to relive the old days by giving up four or five as he so frequently did while adorned in the warning flags of Raleigh.

As for the Hurricanes, they’re coming off blowing a two-goal lead to the Red Wings and losing in overtime, somehow. Not that anything could have changed all that much from last Thursday, so you know the drill here. They have great possession numbers, they generally maul teams at even-strength, but there’s no one around here to finish all those chances consistently and Scott Darling (unless he’s playing the Hawks, obvi) can’t make enough saves to let them get by with their sneeze-like finishing. This is why they’re the leading contender for William Nylander, should the Leafs decide they don’t need a dynamically talented forward.

This will sound stupid, and it very well may be. The Hawks have rolled both the Canes and Flyers in the first period of Colliton’s two games. They got stoned by goalies who are supposed to be nothing much more than construction horses. Then they do something stupid to get behind and they lose all their zest. But that luck should turn. If the Hawks can get the same kind of start they’ve gotten, even with this pile of goo lineup, they will get goals. Get a lead, start to relax, get your feet under you, and maybe we can see what this team could look like with Colliton.

Then again, given the defense, the chance of doing something stupid to undo all your good work at the other end is always extremely high. But let’s hope for the best, because there’s not much else to do.

 

Game #18 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built