Hockey

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Game Times: 6:30PM (4/15, 4/17)
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago (4/15), NBC Sports Chicago+, NHLN (4/17), WGN-AM 720
White Boy Rick: Winging It In Motown

With the trade deadline having now passed, both the Hawks and whatever is left of the Wings right now are hoping to get a look at what is on their roster that could possibly be useful in the future, with the added bonus of the visiting Hawks desperately needing both of the games this weekend in regulation in order for next week’s three game set with Nashville to mean a damn thing as far as any playoff aspirations are concerned.

Everything Else

 vs 

RECORDS: Detroit 21-27-7   Hawks 22-24-9

PUCK DROP: 2:00PM CST
TV/RADIO: NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720
JUGGALO HOMIES: Winging It In Motown

 

If there has been one schadenfraude-drenched upside to the last two years of the Hawks tripping over their own dicks at every conceivable juncture, it’s that the Red Wings have been equally inept, if not more so. Yes, most of the old wounds have healed, as silver tends to do that, particularly when eliminating them on the way to one, but anyone looking for emotional maturity has clearly been reading the wrong publication for over a decade now.

Entering today’s matinee, the Wings sit 14 points back of a wild card spot with a month and a half to play, essentially left for dead in the Eastern conference they so desperately wanted to play in. Just yesterday they lost another afternoon tilt in Buffalo, their second straight. One of the lone bright spots for the Wings has been Jimmy Howard, who’s had a bit of a renaissance this season with a .914 overall and an excellent .930 at evens, his best since the aforementioned abbreviated 2013 season, but he went yesterday in Buffalo. That means that Jonathan Bernier is likely to get the start today, and suffice it to say that Bernier is a step down from Howard, boasting an .898 overall and a .900 at evens. Even with goaltending taking a downturn league-wide, that’s still not enough from a backup.

In front of Bernier is a blue line that is somehow even more barren and desolate a wasteland than the Hawks. With no morning skate today, based on yesterday in Buffalo, the Wings will be trotting out a top pairing of Niklas Kronwall and Mike Green with a straight face in 2019, not 2009. Kronwall was always overrated and dirty, and now he’s lost more than a step and a half at 38 years old. Mike Green could probably still make a decent living as a third pairing bum slayer and power play quarterback, but he’s always been an adventure in his own zone and he can’t outscore those problems anymore. Danny DeKeyser is never going to be anything more than “a guy” no matter what the drunk dick from Perth Amboy at the bar shouts, and Jonathan Ericsson makes Seabrook look downright nimble these days. Unfortunately, Trevor Daley is hurt so he won’t be able to be recognized on the UC jumbotron during the first TV timeout.

Up front for the Wings, there are some decent pieces, but it’s just simply not enough now, particularly in the wake of Henrik Zetterberg‘s retirement. Dylan Larkin is the de facto #1 center right now, flanked by two of the worst contracts in the game in Justin Abdelkader and Gustav Nyquist. Larkin hasn’t quite grown into a true #1 yet, but he’s producing nearly a point per game (51P in 53 games) and certainly has all the talent to put it together by the time the Wings think they’ll be competitive again, and he’s still not even 23. Frans Nielsen centers the second line which features a somehow still employed Thomas Vanek back for a second tour of duty in Detroit (because the first time went so well) and Anthony Mantha on the other side, appears to basically be a Quebecois Hayes brother, providing 20 useless goals a season from a giant frame that intimidates no one. One of the best nicknames in the league and one of the fastest sets of wheels, Greece Lighning, Andreas Athanasiou continues to languish on the third line with known bums Luke Glendening and Darren “Ambulance 43” Helm. The Red Wings also have a fourth line.

As for the Men of Four Feathers, Thursday night marked their sixth win in a row, which no one is sure if it means a goddamn thing yet. They did so giving up 40 shots to the equally putrid Canucks and had to get to the bullshit that is 3-on-3 to decide things. But points are points, considering that A) this draft isn’t that deep past Jack Hughes, and B) the league is going to rig that he plays for his home town team anyway, which just happens to be the Hawks’ opponent today. The one thing that continues to hum along for the Hawks is the power play, and fortunately the Wings’ PK is only marginally better than the Hawks’, though Jonathan Bernier has been relatively respectable on the kill with an .883 save percentage.

Lines from Saturday’s skate appeared the same as the last game, but it was notable that Corey Crawford briefly took the ice and partook in team drills if only for about 20 minutes sharing a net with Collin Delia, which would seem to indicate that Cam Ward would get the start. What a time to be alive.

The Hawks didn’t get any favors from the Blues on Thursday or the Wild yesterday, but it’s still too goddamn early to be scoreboard watching in that regard. A tank is basically out of the question at this point, and it’s better for the players already on this roster to develop by winning, particularly against eminently beatable teams such as this Scum bunch. Take care of business. Seven is better than six.

Game #56 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

Now that we’ve had our say on what the Hawks are going to do at goalie, and hence making this post somewhat moot, let’s explore the options we’ll be bitching about when Cam Ward is throwing up odd colors in the United Center crease as the Wild traipse off with yet another undeserved 3-1 win in December.

I’m always about taking on a goalie that Toronto threw out with the bathwater, because nothing entertains me like watching Leafs fans tie themselves into an origami crane over players who leave and they then claim they always liked. James Reimer has been perfectly serviceable in Florida splitting starts with Roberto Luongo, but hey, I’m here for more Freddie Andersen Game 7 meltdowns.

Which brings us to Bernier, who was drummed out of Toronto for Andersen and has spent the past two years backing up either John Gibson in Anaheim or Semyon Varlamov in Colorado. Thanks to both being ouchy, he’s had to make over 30 starts in each of the past two seasons.

And his even-strength SV% in those two years is .923 and .924. Now, doesn’t that look a whole lot better than Cam Ward? He’s even been decent enough on the PK, with SV%s of .892 and .886 the past two seasons. He’s just been comically bad when facing short-handed chances, which is basically noise and due to systems or whatever. It’s not make-or-break.

Bernier isn’t the biggest at 6-0, 184, and we know the Hawks prefer their goalies to be bigger. Hell, pretty much everyone does. But that hasn’t stopped him from being a decent NHL goalie, and the Hawks need “representative” behind, and possibly next to, Crawford.

Bernier may want a chance to start somewhere, but at 30 when the season starts and doing this role for the past two years, the die may have been cast. There aren’t that many starters jobs open either. Vancouver? Do you want to go there? If you want to eat shit in Ottawa for 80 games that’s probably available to you. The Islanders are one. St. Louis might be another. With Crawford’s status a complete mystery, the Hawks would probably be in that second-tier of teams for a goalie where there’s a good chance they might need you for 30-40 games instead of a backup’s normal 20-30.

The one problem is Bernier’s high-danger SV% is not good, basically .778 the past three seasons. And we know the Hawks are going to give up more than their fair share of high-danger chances. For comparison, Ward was at .804 last year, Hutton .787, and Lehner at .778. Basically, what separates starters from backups is how they do on these. The Hawks aren’t going to find another Crawford, and Bernier is about what you can do.

He’ll be more expensive than the $1M Ward is reportedly going to get. He made $2.7M last year, but coming off two years as a non-starter and not really looking like one in waiting, he can’t really expect to get much more. The extra $1.5M would buy the Hawks a lot more security than Ward would. But they’ve apparently made up their mind.

And now we can stop wasting our time.

Everything Else

 at 

Game Time:  9:00PM CDT
TV/Radio: CSN, NBCSN, WGN-AM 720
Ixnay On The Hombre: Anaheim Calling

Like a buoyant High Life hangover turd in a port-o-john at a summer street festival, the Anaheim Ducks have somehow floated their way to the top of the Pacific Division, and have an opportunity to clinch the division yet again for the fifth straight year should they win in any fashion tonight and San Jose beats the Oilers. What a time to be alive.

Everything Else

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

Well that’s a funny looking strike.

These are the games that really annoy fans like you and us, and not because the Hawks got goalie’d by the Ducks backup. That happens. It’s hockey. This is why it should have been Andy Warhol’s favorite sport, because any jamoke in the gear can have his night. Bernier’s actually been really good the past few appearances, so whatever.

No, what’s annoying is you’ll see a bunch of utterances and belches from players and coaches about how they didn’t get traffic, or didn’t get the greasy goal, or their shot selection is off, because no one can ever admit the guy in the other crease was just better than everyone else. There was nothing wrong about what the Hawks did tonight. They had traffic. They had chances. Another night, they go in. This was not another night. Move on.

Anyway, guess we’d better clean it up.