Hockey Live From The Five Hole

So this is a scattershot episode featuring elephant shit, the Hawks’ comeback against the Preds, plenty of soccer talk, and Guy Fieri to round it out. But we had fun, and we think you will too. Give a listen, and also buy Dinosaur Jr.’s new record. Also please pardon the missing piece that somehow got eaten by the internet. You’ll pick it up from context clues.

Hockey

Box Scores

Game 1 / Game 2

Natural Stat Trick

Game 1 / Game 2

 

This series was a perfect microcosm of the Blackhawks season thus far, showing exactly what happens when the team:

A) Does or does not get excellent goaltending and

B) Is or is not able to create offense via the power play

Game one showed us very clearly what happens when the Hawks get mediocre or below goaltending (much like the last Detroit series) and is not able to cash in on powerplay chances, and game 2 was the exact inverse of it. Watching game 1, it was pretty clear the Hawks “Give A Shit” level was next to zero, as they were dominated by Dallas almost as soon as they stepped out of the team hotel. While in a 82 game season you’re always going to get games like that (especially in February and March), the wonkiness of this year doesn’t provide much cover for stinkers like those. It’s magnified by the fact that the Hawks are attempting to put as much distance between themselves and the Stars as Dallas attempts to climb out of it’s own grave.

Game 2 continued the season long trend of the Hawks thumbing their noses at advanced stats, getting dongwhipped in CORSI up and down the scoresheet. Yet as he has done most of the season Kevin Lankinen stood tall and kept the Stars off the board until the 3rd period, allowing the Hawks offense to build up an almost insurmountable 4 goal lead (not that they didn’t try and allow the Stars back in the game, more on that later). While not in the area of a “Must Win Game” for the Hawks just yet, it might have been for Dallas. Keeping the Stars exactly where they were before the series started was the bare minimum for our Men of the Four Feathers, so in this aspect game 2 (and the series, I suppose) was a success.

TO THE BULLETS!

NUMBERS DON’T LIE

 

-I really might need to come up with a new subtitle and image there, as the Hawks have changed their season motto from “One Goal” to “Advanced Stats Can Eat Shit.” More often than not the Hawks are getting nuked in the possession metrics, yet rolling on to victory. Game 2 was the penultimate example of this, as in the first two periods Dallas had an even strength CORSI of 75% and 70%, and a shot advantage of 22 to 8 and yet the Hawks led 4-0.  Anton Khudobin had a cool .500 save percentage before he got yanked in favor of Jake Oettinger, which I’m being told is not very good for a goalie to have, but great for a team to have shooting percentage wise.

-Seriously, just look at the Gameflow chart from last night. If you had no idea of the score and saw that, you’d assume that the Hawks were the team down 4-0 and not the other way around. It boggles the mind. If the Hawks were a baseball team, they’d have a BABIP of about .654.

-As long as Kevin Lankinen continues to keep the Hawks in games like he did, the Hawks have enough weapons offensively to continue to get points. If that well dries up anytime soon, things are going to get itchy as far as the playoff race is concerned. Honestly, the Hawks entire postseason hopes rest on his shoulders because the team is a clown rodeo in it’s own end. On the first Stars goal last night there were not 1 but 3 different Hawks below the goal line. I don’t know if that happens due to a lack of communication, lack of defensive structure, or some other deadly combination but it cannot continue.

-Speaking of things that need to stop, Dominik Kubalik got a whopping 12:30 of ice time last night despite scoring a goal 2 minutes into the fucking game. What exactly does he need to do to get on the ice more? He’s 3rd on the team in both goals and points behind Kane and Top Cat, and yet he plays on average 40% less than those two. Meanwhile Kampf, Soderberg, Janmark and Carpenter all played at least 3 more minutes than Kubalik. Those four guys are nice players, but none of them can even come close to doing what Kubalik can do with the puck. THIS HAS TO STOP, but we all know it won’t.

-Adam Boqvist is going to be a world killer someday, but these last few games he’s shown just how unrefined he still is on the defensive end. His ill-timed jump into the play and subsequent confusion as to which man was his after Duncan Keith played the puck carrier lead directly to the Stars first goal in game 1. He was also one of the 3 Hawks defenders below the goal line leading to Roope Hintz (who’s name can be rearranged to spell Zither Poon) being all alone in front of Lankinen. Once he can fortify this part of his game he’s going to be pretty unstoppable, because his offensive abilities are otherworldy.

-Carl Soderberg might not be the second coming of Thomas Holmstrom, but as long as he continues to park his ass directly in the opposing goalie’s line of sight on the power play I’ll take it. His screen of Khudobin on DeBrincat’s power play goal in the 2nd was picture perfect, and it’s probably the most underrated part of his game.

-Game 1 was a mess, and the less said about it the better. Kane’s 1,000th game was only memorable for all of the video tributes shown throughout, highlighted by a message from The Captain himself, Jonathan Toews. I’m not going to speculate on what he’s fighting with, but I was very glad to see and hear from him again. The Hawks could definitely use his experience at the dot, as they got smoked at the faceoff circle 61-39 and 54-46 in the series. Get well, Cap.

-The split in the series puts the Hawks at 14-9-5 (33 points), putting them 7 up on Columbus after they farted away a 2 goal lead to the Panthers last night. They’re also 12 points up on Dallas, which burned through 2 of their games in hand.

-Next up for the Hawks in their stretch of difficult March games is Coach Q’s Panthers, the team 5 points ahead of the Hawks in the standings. If the Hawks can take half the possible points in each series for the rest of the month, it’ll be hard for anyone behind them in the rankings to catch up. Let’s hope Lankinen’s joints are up to the task. No pressure.

Let’s Go Hawks.

 

Hockey

In somewhat of a stunner of an announcement this morning, in a joint statement, Jonathan Toews and the Hawks let the public know that he will not be reporting to Magic Training Camp on January 3rd and there is no timetable for his return due to ongoing chronic fatigue that Toews has been experiencing for a while with no clear diagnosis.

In Toews’ own words:

“This offseason, I’ve been experiencing symptoms that have left me feeling drained and lethargic. I am working with doctors so I can better understand my condition.

Until I can get my health back to a place where I feel I can perform at an elite level and help my team, I will not be joining the Blackhawks for training camp. I do not have a timetable for when I will rejoin the team. I am extremely disappointed, but it wouldn’t be fair to myself or my teammates to attempt to play in my current condition

I am grateful for the continuous support from and ongoing communication with the Blackhawks organization. Stan Bowman, Rocky Wirtz, Danny Wirtz, Jeremy Colliton and my teammates have been nothing but understanding of my situation, and I appreciate them standing by me.

To Blackhawks fans, I will continue to do whatever I can to get back on the ice and return to play the game I love for the team I love. I will not be making any further comment at this time and ask everyone to please respect my privacy as I focus on my health and recovery.”

Obviously Toews’ health is the top priority here, especially in the wake of the sincerely scary news of Henrik Lunqvist’s imminent open heart surgery. Hopefully Whatever is ailing Toews is something that can be managed so that he can have a normal life, even if that life is now away from hockey. And on the heels (or wrists) of Kirby Dach’s ostensible season-ending surgery from the broken wrist he sustained in an exhibition match in the International Unpaid Boy Exhibition, the Hawks season seems like a foregone conclusion of being abjectly awful, even if they were long odds if everyone was reasonably healthy. This begs several questions, namely just how long Keith and Garbage Dick are going to endure what is sure to be an incoherent mess on the ice and in the locker room with no Toews to buffer between the players and the incompetent and justifiably outwardly disrespected Jeremy Bevington. And naturally, this will give President Stan even more cover to stay with Beto O’Colliton’s ineptitude despite what may very well end up being the worst record in the league because his top two centers were completely gone.

Either way, it’s time everyone involved strapped in and adjusted expectations, as this situation is rounding the corner from “frustratingly inept” to “Fun Bad” at a breakneck pace, and even if Toews is feeling better by the midpoint of the season, there should be no reason for him to come back early and risk injury and covid exposure. Sit tight and get well.

Hockey

A completely fucking banner 96 hours for Stan Born on Third. Bowman dug deep into his throbbing Krang’s-body brain to:

1. Cut his franchise goaltender with nary a negotiation.

2. Trade a solid top-6 LW for a defenseman whose greatest contribution to the sporting world tops out at “piques Vince McMahon’s interest.”

3. Piss off the guys who sell the tickets.

The easy argument would be “This is what a rebuild looks like.” Bull fucking shit.

Why Zadorov and why the FUCK now?

There are many, many things to be pissed about regarding the Saad for Zadorov trade. Let’s start with the easiest thing to be pissed about. Zadorov is a Vince McMahon wet dream. He’s big, he’s muscly, and he sucks big ass at defense. Don’t believe me?

“The 25-year-old is a member of the Chicago Blackhawks now because the Avs became tired of his inconsistent play and they probably didn’t want to deal with another contract negotiation for the restricted free agent.” ­–Mike Chambers, Denver Post, 10/11/2020

“Zadorov is adored by fans and has become a favorite over his five years in Colorado. His teammates also rave about his humor and ability to keep things loose in the locker room. His character might be the only thing he has going for him these days…because defensive ability certainly isn’t.” –Scott MacDonald, Colorado Hockey Now, 9/11/2020

“This looks like a very obvious improvement on behalf of the Avalanche. Zadorov was getting pushed out of the defense group and his defensive mistakes were becoming too much. He now goes to Chicago where their level of defense is much lower while the Avalanche get back a really really good offensive player.” –Hardev Lad, Mile High Hockey, 10/10/2020

Inconsistent play? Bad at defense? He’ll fit right fucking in!

As we’ve vomited out ad nauseum, the Blackhawks learned all the wrong lessons from the Blues winning the Stanley Cup. Saad for Zadorov itself shouldn’t be surprising, given that Stan Bowman has absolutely no idea what a good defenseman looks like. But Zadorov doesn’t have “future contributor” written anywhere on him on a team with any serious intention of being a contender, now or in the future.

Here it is in neurotic nerd form:

From hockeyviz.com (@IneffectiveMath)

McCurdy’s graphs above give a snapshot of a defenseman who’s simply “a guy” at best. He provides little to no offense, which, whatever. His best defensive year was in 2016–17, and his last three years in Colorado were a hobo’s listless shrug.

But Zadorov often finds himself out of position. And one of his supposed strengths is he’s A BRUISER. Which means he takes penalties. Which means he’s off the ice. Which seems like a really bad place for a supposed defensive defenseman—which is how they’ll sell him if they aren’t already—to be. Seems especially bad given how bad the goaltending projects to be relative to what it was when Crow was here. He makes it more likely that we’ll see Malcolm Subban, Collin Delia, or Kevin Lankinen up against a power play behind THIS defense and THIS system (last year’s good PK performance be damned).

This isn’t a brick in the rebuild. It’s a brick you throw through the window because the owners have abandoned the fucking house.

Though Brandon Saad isn’t Hossa Jr. like we wanted him to be, he’s without a doubt a good, possession-conscious, two-way responsible top-6 forward. All Bowman got for him was a guy who likely won’t be here next year. No picks, no prospects, no nothin’, AND they’re retaining $1 million of Saad’s contract. And if you think Zadorov has potential or whatever, congratulations on being Pierre McGuire, I guess.

Trading Maatta and not re-signing Koekkoek was a step in the right direction. They’re depth guys at best, and doing so sprang hope that Mitchell and Boqvist would get real, big boy minutes from the word go. But after seeing how Colliton turned Boqvist into a kicked and scared puppy, you wonder what that opportunity would be worth to him.

Then, after unclogging the defensive toilet, StanBo immediately stuffed a full box of jagged-plastic-applicator tampons down and said, “This is good.” And he lost a solid top-6 winger to do it. And I’m just now realizing that this is how Alex Nylander gets back onto the top 6. Shit on me.

In short, Stan Bowman traded for a defenseman who will likely take time away from Mitchell or Boqvist, and whose most attractive skill is BIG TOUGH. They’re going to throw him into Colliton’s Pollack-on-Krokodil chase-the-shitty-dragon system, despite the fact that the Avs didn’t want him because he sucks at positioning. Oh, and they signed him to a one-year, $3.2 million contract.

That’s not part of a rebuild. It’s fucking hubris.

But wait, there’s more! No Crawford negotiations but money for Zadorov?

Losing Crawford was bad enough. But as Scott Powers reported over the weekend, Bowman didn’t even bother to negotiate with him.

“There just wasn’t much negotiation,” Crawford said. “We thought there would be more talk. I think it was at $3 (million). We just didn’t go back and forth at all, so it just kind of ended there. There’s not much more I can say about that.

“I don’t think it was necessarily (the term). We just didn’t negotiate that much. That’s all it really was. I can’t really say much more about that. Let’s leave it there.” –Corey Crawford, 10/10/2020

What’s done is done, but in light of this Saad for Zadorov trade, it’s even more upsetting. Crow ended up signing in New Jersey for two years and $7.8 million. That’s a $3.9 million cap hit a year for one of the best and most consistent goaltenders in the league. The Hawks have committed $4.2 million in cap space between the Zadorov signing and keeping $1 million of Saad’s contract. That on its own should be grounds for firing. Fuck off with “It’s just this year though.” I do not care.

If it’s about rebuilding, you maybe get them jettisoning Crow. But which moves has Stan made that you trust to help reach that goal?

And that’s not all! The Core is pissed, too

The fucking cherry on top is that Toews, Kane, and Keith are pissed about these moves. They’re especially pissed about the lack of negotiations with Crawford. Most of all, they’re mad that no one seems to have relayed that they’re rebuilding. You may recall earlier in the year that Patrick Kane made mention of The Core wanting a say in the team’s future. In response, Bowman said something along the lines of “Players play and managers manage.”

These players have won three Cups. They play. When the fuck is Bowman going to start managing this team? If your reaction to The Core’s upset is “It’s not their decision to make,” it should horrify you that Bowman is indeed the decision maker here.

Bowman has ridden this Core, which was almost entirely handed to him when he arrived, to three Cups. Now, after beginning to install his vision—which includes Jeremy Colliton as coach, trading for Alex Nylander on purpose, and failing to build a blue line to give his young goaltenders any hope at success, just to name a few moves—his answer to their concerns is “screw.” Yeah, he’s within the realm of his responsibilities to do so, but outside of drafting Dach and re-signing Kubalik for a song of a bridge contract, what’s Bowman done recently to give you the confidence that he’s at all authoritative about what makes a good hockey team?

In the end, this is less of a rebuild and more of a pursuit of stubbornness. Bowman is going all-in not with The Core that’s won him three Cups; not with a core of young talent combined with a coaching staff that can foster their strengths and patch their weaknesses; but with this Pretty Little Coach and his Shitty Little System that makes anyone in it for long enough worse. No one listens to, respects, or wants to play for Colliton, because he’s a bad coach with a bad system. Instead of admitting fault, Bowman will shift blame and build around his good-looking hunk of walking hubris, because that’s what being born on third is all about.

Toews, Kane, and Keith each have no-movement clauses. Toews has made it abundantly clear that he’s not going anywhere. Keith doesn’t sound interested in moving either, presumptively with how tough it’ll be for him to find a mover who can safely transport whatever crystals he’s healing with these days. And if Kane decides to waive his NMC, it’ll likely put the team’s budget actually in the red. All the while, the actual young talent is under the tutelage of a coach whose biggest possible contribution would be not teaching them anything he knows at all.

The goddamn plane has crashed into the mountain.

Hockey

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

They got farther than they should have. Some of the kids showed flashes of brilliance. Others looked everything from odious to unusable. We got a couple more classic games from one of our favorite guys. And all the while a coach. My oh my, a coach.

Jeremy Colliton is so revolutionary and paradigm shifting that even the things he does right he does wrong. Waiting until Game 5 of a Quarterfinal you didn’t belong in to scratch Alex Nylander had all urgency and foresight of cleaning out a toilet full of shit only after you’ve begun suffering from ambient sepsis. But given how exceedingly low he has set the bar for himself, that he scratched him at all is praiseworthy.

But then, he didn’t stop at dressing John Quenneville, oh no. He started him on the first line with Toews and Kubalik in an elimination game. Yeah, alright, make your point, whatever it is. But then he kept putting Quenneville out there. On purpose. In an elimination game. That line ended up with a 30 CF%. And a goal against. And Jeremy Colliton kept running it out there. On purpose. In an elimination game.

Fucking check THIS shit out. At the end of the second period, Brandon Saad shared the ice with Jonathan Toews for 16 seconds. In that time, they had a 3 CF, 0 CA, and a goal. In seven seconds—7 fucking seconds, dear reader—with Dominik Kubalik, they had a 2 CF, 0 CA, and a goal.

In what incomprehensible galaxy is it acceptable to skate John Quenneville over Brandon Saad on the first line? In an elimination game. If the very point of this experience was to get younger guys playoff experience, how does skating John Quenneville over Sikura, Hagel, Kurashev, or even Mackenzie THE OX Entwistle accomplish this? Please note that I cannot possibly care fucking less that John Quenneville is 24. He is a nice fourth liner if you are being generous. Fuck, Sikura can at least possess the puck at a better than 30+% rate. What has Sikura done to deserve such a ratfucking?

They aren’t going to fire Jeremy Colliton, but they should. He’s not the coach this team needs, and given their overall performance this year, he’s not the coach this team wants, either.

– The Saad–Strome–DeBrincat line was strong tonight. They dominated possession to the tune of a 61+ CF%. They also played the least of any of the four lines. Goddamn it, can’t you just feel the MINDBRAINS pulsing through your fucking skull? In an elimination game. This fuckin guy.

– We will miss Corey Crawford most of all. We will have tons to say, and it’ll all be a roundabout way of getting at thank you. If this was it, it was a wonderful ride.

– Watching Connor Murphy pull off a spin-o-rama and have an all-around good game was nice. Probably worth more to me than Alexis Lafreniere.

Kirby Dach said hello several times these playoffs. We like what we saw all year. Could stand to shoot more. But we’ll have thoughts on that later.

Adam Boqvist was bad these playoffs. Yeah, he’s barely 20, coached by some guy, and had no reliable backstop to build his puck moving around. And yeah, he went up against an overpowering Vegas team right after two of hockey’s best forwards. But even so, he was totally helpless on defense. Overpowered, outskated, and constantly out of position. You bet your ass we’re putting a lot of that on the clown’s funeral that is this coaching staff. But you get a sense that Boqvist was fundamentally lost out there these playoffs. We didn’t even get a flash of offensive prowess worth writing about. This is our concern dude.

The Hawks would be foolish to give up on him. Still too young, still needs to grow, and any number of excuses. They traded Henri Jokiharju in part because of how much they believed in him. To give up now would be absurd, albeit in Boqvist’s best interest. And yet, you worry.

I think that’s enough of that for now.

Thank you for reading and sticking with us in these unprecedented times. It was fun to have a taste of meaningful hockey, if only for a few weeks and entirely undeserved. We’ll keep doing this shit as long as you all keep reading it, because you’re all alright as a lot.

We’ll probably have some podcasts coming up. Hockey might take a little time off, but we’ll get you your player and coaching reviews. We may have a stray thought or two about the goings on in the bubble. Follow our Sox stuff and our football stuff. And we’ll always be at the forefront of arriving late, drinking all the wine, and throwing up in the misused bidet that is Blackhawks breaking news.

Until then, stay safe and do what you can.

Coranon silaria ozoo mahoke.

Hockey

vs

Game Time: 5:30PM CDT
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, NBCSN, SN360, SportsNet 1, WGN-AM 720
The Crime Solving Boat:  SinBinKnights On Ice

That the Blackhawks are down three games to none to Vegas (or literally any team they could have potentially faced in the first round of the real playoffs) is not surprising in the least. It was always going to take a minor miracle to win one, maybe two games here given the disparity between what the top half of what the West has to offer and what the Hawks are trotting out there. But that doesn’t make the process here any less infuriating to anyone with any kind of hockey sensibilities whatsoever.