Hockey

Box Score
Event Summary
Natural Stat Trick

At a certain point it becomes impressive, just a marvel of consistency that the Hawks under Coach Cool Youth Pastor manage to seem to always find ways to lose games against divisional opponents at crucial times during the season. Our former proprietor and fearless leader did some homework for this past week’s podcast, and now including the three most recent games to the Predators, the Hawks are an astounding 1-11-3 in “four point games” – games against teams they’re either directly above or below in the divisional standings late in the season. And this time, after getting absolutely pasted in possession by the Panthers, they somehow managed to put up 41 shots in Nashville against a relatively solid territorial team in the Preds, and managed to get shut out by Juuse Saros. It goes back to the familiar refrain heard here months ago when the masses thought this team was building/growing something beating absolutely putrid teams in overtime and staying in the hunt, that this team only has one way to beat you – and that’s have either goalie stand on his head and get power play production from one of the two-ish forwards that can score. When that doesn’t happen, it looks like it’s looked recently.

Observations

  • Leading to the first goal, the penalty that Zadorov took was simply inexcusable. He’s not exactly incon-fucking-spicuous out there, and leading with a flying elbow against the glass certainly doesn’t draw any less attention to himself. Even if he accomplished absolutely everything he intended to in a best case scenario there, that’s still an extremely high risk play at the Preds blue line, where they had puck support exiting, and he would have once again taken himself out of the play to make a hit, but possibly sprung an odd man break going the other way. That the Preds promptly scored on the ensuing power play, and given the fact that they have just sat on leads against the Hawks for the previous four games they’ve played this year and Zadorov did not miss a shift is bordering on criminal negligence from Jeremy Trestman. Zadorov will keep doing this shit because there is no consequence other than being on a dog ass defense, and save for last year in Colorado, thoughout his career he has seemed pretty content to just do what he does and look like a big fucking asshole in the process.
  • Even though the Hawks didn’t dent the twine at all today, this is probably the most active that Dylan Strome has looked since maybe the first week of the season. Maybe the looming reality of being a dad weighed on him and certainly the concussion protocol didn’t help, but he is certainly more noticeable in the past three games, particularly at even strength where he had been an utter ghost for weeks on end previously.
  • Kevin Lankinen’s rebound control continues to be an issue. While none were converted, there were plenty of pucks kicked directly right into harm’s way, and given what this defense is capable of (see above), and it’s lack of fixed positioning, those are eventually going to be cashed in on and it won’t be pretty.
  • Not much more to say about this one, the Hawks get Dallas back at home next in another case of facing a direct competitor for a playoff spot, as the Hawks and Stars are tied in points percentage but the Stars are still playing catchup and are about 4 or 5 games behind everyone else still. But hey, Vinnie Hinostroza may be out of quarantine in time for his triumphant return!
Hockey

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Game Times: 7:00PM
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, NBCSN (3/28), WGN-AM 720
Time’s Up: On The Forecheck
*All Stats Mentioned Courtesy of Natural Stat Trick*

As March comes to a close in whatever this oddball, virus-addled, mutation of a season ends up being, games that were already the proverbial “Four Pointers” between divisional opponents have started to become even more magnified, especially with the added element of “series” play introduced where a team can gain ground quickly if so inclined. It’s just such a weekend for the Hawks and visiting Preds, who sit on opposite sides of the playoff line in the Central division.

Everything Else

J.R. Lind is always our Preds guy. Follow him on Twitter @JRLind.

The Predators have only won two of their last nine on the road. What’s the story there?
It’s hard to discount the injuries the team had to deal with in the last bit of 2018: Filip Forsberg, Viktor Arvidsson, P.K. Subban and Colton Sissons all missed significant time and now Kyle Turris is out for a bit. The Preds were also due for a bit of a come-down, particularly on the road, where they started out so hot. The good news is guys are starting to come back and the team looked as good as they’ve looked all season Monday against Toronto with a 4-0 win and holding the Leafs to 18 shots.
Both Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros had something of a rough go in December. So does that make it a team problem more than the goalies having a down stretch?
 
Based on both guys’ last few starts, it seems like it was a general team issue, particularly on the back end. Subban’s injury led to Laviolette having to do some unusual things with the pairings, occasionally splitting up Ryan Ellis and Roman Josi and sticking, say, Dan Hamhuis – an extremely good third pair guy, but a little long in the tooth – on the first pair or playing Matt Irwin with Mattias Ekholm and so on. Since the calendar turned, the team is 3-0-1 and Saros has given up one goal in his last two starts and Rinne is coming off that shutout. I suspect Chicago will get Rinne as a divisional foe with Columbus coming on the other side of the back-to-back, but both guys have looked a lot better as the injured players have returned.
How much of this is Arvidsson and Forsberg being out?
 
Losing your two top goal-scorers is going to hurt any team, and then add into what those guys bring physically – Forsberg probably doesn’t get enough credit for that part of his game and Arvidsson is a stellar forechecker – and Nashville had to make some adjustments. It also had a ripple effect down the lines, with guys like Ryan Hartman and Phil Di Giuseppe actually seeing time on Ryan Johansen’s wing. But for a team that expects to play into June, getting more minutes for depth guys isn’t necessarily a bad thing and the extra ice time helped jumpstart Kevin Fiala, who had looked moribund early.
What will the Preds be looking for at the deadline?
 
Similar to last year with Hartman, a middle-six or bottom-six wing with a little size or physicality. The rash of injuries this year really put into focus how important depth can be and the series against the Jets last year – and it seems inevitable Winnipeg and Nashville will face-off again – the Preds did get pushed around a little. They don’t need a big, splashy move and I’m not saying Wayne Simmonds, but Wayne Simmonds.

 

Game #46 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

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RECORDS: Hawks 23-19-7   Predators 29-11-7

PUCK DROP: 7pm

TV: NBCSN Nationally, NBSCN Chicago locally

MANY MORE OF THEM LIVE NEXT DOOR: On The Forecheck

When you biff what should be the easier part of your schedule, that means you have to get it done against the harder part of the schedule. But hey, why not go for degree of difficulty when you’ve got nothing else to lose? The Hawks begin a pretty tricky stretch of the campaign tonight, with their post-All Star break slate taking them to the West’s best team (yes they are, fuck off Vegas) before heading back out West which didn’t go so well last time. And if the Hawks have any designs on making something of this season, they don’t get any mulligans anymore.

And this is probably not the time to be catching the Predators, even if this comes one game early for Filip Forsberg’s return (not that he regularly torches the Hawks or anything). They’ve won seven of the last eight, and the only loss in that time was losing a game of pitch and toss to the Lightning. So yeah, they haven’t been beaten in regulation since January 2nd. They just got done thwacking the Devils in New Jersey before the break when they barely cared. If you’re looking for a silver lining, and you’ll have to dig, these wins haven’t exactly come against world beaters. The Yotes twice, the Kings, the Oilers, and the Panthers are the trophies on the wall for the month of January. Fuck, even the Hawks beat the Oilers twice.

While the Preds only sit one point back of the Jets and have three games in hand on them and are thus poised to show them a clean pair of heels right quick, there are cracks in the foundation underneath this team. While usually a staple of Peter Laviolette team, this team metrically is not very impressive. They’re exactly a dead-even possession team at 50 CF%, and they actually give up way better chances than they create with a pretty paltry 47.7 xGF% as a team. If you go by scoring chance and high-danger scoring chance percentages, they’re in the bottom third of the league in those as well.

Some of this can be attributed to Ryan Ellis only having played the last couple weeks, but that can’t explain it all. As good as Ellis is in both ends of the ice, one player is not making this up or at fault. The Preds don’t create as many chances per game as you’d assume they do given their speed and depth. Pekka Rinne has had to pull their ass out of a sling pretty often, and when he hasn’t Juuse Saros mostly has. That’s who the Hawks will get tonight as Rinne is preserved for a couple more days after the break.

The Preds lack of punch could be a matter of just pacing until the spring. It could be that Ryan Johansen has looked like the over-fed pile of earlobes that he did at times in Ohio and not the dynamo who’d eat your heart last spring. Totally not a coincidence that he signed a new contract that pays him $8 mildo until the sun swallows us all this summer, then.

The Preds have been picked up by their depth though, with Fiala, Smith, and Jarnkrok all scoring more than 10 goals off the top line. And as they do, they pour goals and points in from the back end, with PK Subban leading them in scoring and Josi and Ekholm both having more than 20 points as well. The return of Ellis only exacerbates this, and though Josi and Ellis are playing together at the moment Lavvy always has the option of splitting them up and having scoring threats on all three pairings. They’re about the only team in the league that can threaten that.

For the Hawks, there don’t appear to be any changes from last Thursday’s demolition of the Red Wings, and nor should there be. We want to see Top Cat get more chances to play with actual talent, and if anyone is going to wake up Brandon Saad it’s Patrick Kane. The third line is still something of a jumble but the 4th line is definitely more interesting as a speedy Pollock painting than whatever it was Wingels and Bouma did (though Wingels is still ahead of Sharp on the third line, which is fine). Anton Forsberg gets the start after being solid enough against Detroit.

This month is filled with games against teams either right around the Hawks or ahead of them, aside from Vancouver on Thursday and they didn’t exactly cover themselves in glory last time they were there. They see the Flames twice, Ducks, Stars, Wild, Kings and Sharks. This ain’t do disco, this ain’t no time for foolin’ around.

 

Game #50 Preview

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Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built