Hockey

The rebuild is officially underway, what with the Hawks trading away Brandon Hagel, Marc-Andre Fleury and Ryan Carpenter before Monday’s deadline, which was accurately summarized by McClure in the wrap last night. I was surprised there wasn’t a fire sale akin to the level of the 2021 Cubs, although Kubalik, de Haan and even Strome probably couldn’t have fetched the level of returns that some of the Cubs did, theoretically. However, I’d consider late-round picks better than letting some of these guys walk for nothing, which will be in the plans for de Haan at the very least, as we around here continue to wonder when the hell we’re going to see Nicolas Beaudin and Ian Mitchell back in the NHL now that we’re playing for nothing.

Yes, there’s still hockey to be played this season, amazingly. And a Hawks lineup without Hagel, Fleury and perhaps a disinterested and checked-out Toews will not be fun to watch. The Hawks have an easier matchup tonight with fellow deadline sellers, the Anaheim Ducks, before facing more difficult matchups against playoff-contending teams like the Kings and the tire fire Golden Knights later this week.

3/23 at Anaheim

Game Time: 9:00 PM CT
TV/Radio: TNT, WGN 720
Day Was Gonna Come When I Was Gonna Mourn Ya: Anaheim Calling

This website wouldn’t be called Faxes from Uncle Dale if we weren’t going to laugh at a GM not reading the fine fucking print. It was not the fault of Ducks GM Pat Verbeek, however—his team instead had the front row seat for the Vegas Golden Knights trying to somersault their way out of the cap hell they find themselves in (more on that later). I’m sure Verbeek won’t be losing sleep over not receiving Evgenii Dadonov, some AHL player and the ghost of Ryan Kesler from the Knights once this trade doesn’t go through. Plus, the Ducks had a selloff of their own at the trade deadline to start this week, moving out older vets on expiring contracts who we all know and love: Hampus! Hampus!, Rickard Rakell, Josh Manson and Nic Deslauriers are no longer part of the club.

The Ducks have the kickstart to the rebuild that Kyle Davidson can only dream of in our current state: two 1st-rounders and two 2nd-rounders in the 2022 draft, plus two 1st-rounders and five 2nd-rounders for the two drafts after that. Now that there’s nothing to play for in Anaheim (outside of watching Troy Terry and Trevor Zegras, I guess), Ducks fans, like the Hawks, can pray their shiny new GM doesn’t fuck some of these draft picks up and they get back into contention sooner rather than later.

3/24 at LA

Game Time: 9:00 PM CT
TV/Radio: ESPN+/Hulu, WGN 720
Los Angeles, Come Scam Me Please: Jewels from the Crown

Unlike the dumpster fire the Blackhawks organization has been for the past 6 years, the Kings were able to rebuild on the fly from their Cup teams, finding themselves snugly in 2nd place in the Pacific Division and positioned for the playoffs (and I have no trust that the Oilers will catch up to them, frankly). It’s likely they don’t go far in the postseason considering they aren’t exactly offensive juggernauts and they’re likely poised to get crushed by Colorado or Calgary or even Minnesota now that they have cemented their goaltending with Fleury. But postseason time can be invaluable to younger players, especially Quinton Byfield, who had two goals in a big win against the Predators last night. The Kings are the 6th-youngest team in the NHL, and getting a taste of playoff hockey will help inspire their young players to get back there again and win.

The Kings were quiet at the trade deadline, despite notable jackass Drew Doughty recently getting injured and the timetable for his return being a big mystical secret—yet another reason why this team likely won’t go too far in the playoffs. Someone has to play on the right side, however, so they acquired Troy Stecher from Detroit to ensure they could put a warm body on the ice. His career so far has been “meh”, and he seems to average multiple giveaways a game so I’d like to see the Hawks capitalize on that if possible.

3/26 at Vegas

Game Time: 2:00 PM CT
TV/Radio: ESPN+/ABC, WGN 720
Ride the Snake:
Knights on Ice

Perhaps the impending doom of the Vegas Golden Knights shouldn’t be so amusing to me, but it’s been telenovela levels of drama swirling around this organization for months as they literally cling to dear life for the final wild card spot in the West, despite Dallas being only a point behind them with four games in hand.

The Knights are, hilariously, in desperate need of goaltending after picking the wrong half of their previous season’s tandem in Marc-Andre Fleury to trade away. The reports are saying Robin Lehner could be out the rest of the season because of a lower body injury, leaving the Knights with Logan Thompson (young and unproven) and Laurent Brossoit (middling at best) to tend net into the playoffs, if they even get that far (they won’t). They were unable to add a goaltender at the trade deadline to help them out, as I am sure Fleury gave them the finger if Kelly McCrimmon even had the balls to ring up Davidson and ask about his services.

Meanwhile, arguably their best player in Mark Stone continues to sit on LTIR until the playoffs since the Knights are up against their cap ceiling and then some after trading for Jack Eichel. (Seriously, look at their CapFriendly page, it’s a fucking disaster.) The city nearly had a meltdown when Eichel left the game last Thursday after blocking a shot with his hand, and despite him returning for a game against the Kings, it sounds like there’s probably definitely something wrong with his hand that he is just gutting through, which certainly doesn’t bode well for the future, or playoff success in general, as the curse of Jack Eichel continues.

All this and the Hawks as currently constructed are still no match for this team. This could get ugly, folks.

Hockey

After watching this game I had to sleep on it. And get an extra hour. There’s another one of these tonight, not to mention a Bears game, so let’s just get to it:

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

–The story was supposed to be Adam Boqvist‘s debut, so let’s address that right out of the gate even though his performance wasn’t all that exciting. In fact, his numbers with Duncan Keith weren’t great (37 CF% with Keith) but there were flashes of what could be future brilliance. On his lone SOG, he had a lovely maneuver in the second period that was set up by a Kirby Dach pass, showing that there may be hope after all with the next generation. Boqvist didn’t quite finish that attempt but it still left everyone’s pants a bit tighter. Overall he was fine, he at least tried moving the puck, but the possession situation was an issue. At one point he and Keith spent a full three minutes pinned in their own zone because neither they nor Kampf could get control of the puck. Luckily Crawford bailed them all out but whether or not he stays paired with Keith, Boqvist needs to at least get the puck before he can move it up the ice.

–And that really gets to the larger issue in last night’s game, which was the Hawks’ general inability to be functional. Should we be losing our minds over a kid’s shitty possession numbers in his debut game? No. But the complete lack of control by the entire team was downright disturbing. Letting this awful Kings team keep the puck for minutes on end, giving up 49 shots on goal (yes, you read that right), taking endless penalties, being completely incapable of exiting their own zone—these are still major problems this team has to deal with, and no excitement over a couple of rookies can mask that. Not anymore, at least.

–And the reason all this mediocrity didn’t result in the Hawks getting completely embarrassed was…wait for it…the goaltending. Duh, of course it was. In an odd bit of theater, the officials made Corey Crawford leave the ice early in the first period for concussion protocol after he took a shot off the facemask. This was immediately after the Kings’ second goal in less than 5 minutes, so it briefly seemed like Coach Cool Youth Pastor was pulling him (which would have been dumb because he got hung out to dry defensively on both of the first two goals, well, actually on all of them). I guess it’s a nice gesture to have “concussion spotters?” Who knows what level of vigilance that actually entails. But, Robin Lehner came in and made 5 saves on 5 shots in 5 minutes. While I love the numeric synchronicity, can we stop and ask why the fuck they’re GIVING UP A SHOT PER MINUTE? To one of the league’s worst teams? It’s mind-boggling.

Crawford then came back in and proceeded to be lights out, with the very unfair exception of the overtime winner that just dribbled behind him and he didn’t realize it after making an initial save. The barrages he faced in the second and third periods could have put the Kings up by a touchdown. So the good news is he wasn’t concussed apparently, and he found his groove after the unexpected break. He and Lehner are truly a ridiculous duo this team gets to put out there—a level of talent that this organization doesn’t really deserve.

Dominik Kubalik looked damn good and was key to the first two goals, scoring the first and assisting on the second. David Kampf didn’t look so good, and that was disappointing because if Kane is going to be on that line, Kampf needs to be defensively competent. I realize that if you look at the box score, you’ll see Kampf scored that second goal on the assist from Kubalik, and yes that was pretty much the highlight of the game. Jack Campbell did his best imitation of break dancing late in the first and made a save on a nifty Toews move. He tried getting acrobatic again while playing the puck and Kubalik stole it and set up Kampft. So it’s not that Kampf sucks, it’s just he had a 28.6 CF% at evens and couldn’t get out of his own zone. Kane and Kubalik have a share of this blame too, of course, but we need Kampf to be leading the way on that.

–But the lines got all scrambled by the third anyway, so who really knows or cares? Just showing CCYP has no real answers.

Slater Koekkoek sucks, OK? He just sucks. You already knew that, but watching him fall on his ass as Michael Amadio scored was performance art at its best. And let’s not forget that Andrew Shaw getting beat along the boards led to that third goal. But tell me again about how Shaw’s energy helps the team. While we’re at it, can we stop with the nonsense of playing Dach with oafs and bums? How playing with Andrew Shaw and Zack Smith is going to help his development is beyond me.

–Hey, Jonathan Toews was sorta back to a semblance of his old self! The tying goal was of course huge, but he had a couple other good chances including the break-dancing-inducing one in the first. This team needs offense, so if Toews is going to show that this first month has been just a temporary slump, there’s no time like the present.

It wasn’t for a lack of trying last night…the Hawks were just bad except for Crawford and a few flashes from others. If this is them making an effort, then it’s going to be a long rest of the season. We knew that anyway I guess, but…onward and upward?

Everything Else

This was a poorly played game for the most part, which I guess comes as no surprise given who the teams involved were. And yet, the contrast between the dull first period when both teams ended up with a handful of themselves and the excitement of basically every other televised sporting event in the nation tonight was striking. What was worse, however, was the ending, where the Hawks took one meager point and lost in OT on a power play thanks to a terribly poetic penalty by Jonathan Toews. We knew the season was over but this is a harsh exclamation point on it. Let’s get to the bullets:

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

– As mentioned, the first period was mostly a back-and-forth affair between mediocre opponents, and although the Hawks ended up on the wrong side of the ledger in terms of both shots and possession (9-14 and 48 CF%, respectively), it wasn’t a painfully noticeable difference in play quality. The only part that was certifiably painful was Keith shattering his stick on a shot near the end of a late-period power play. Not only was that the personification of a sad trombone sound, but Kyle Clifford jumped out of the box just as it happened and the Kings had numbers going the other way. But fear not—Seabrook took a dumb penalty and the Kings were too useless to score on it…that time.

– Not useless was Alex DeBrincat, who scored a relatively soft goal by curling it just underneath Campbell early in the second. Top Cat is now tied with Patrick Kane as the team’s leading goal scorer, with 41, and his career total is…wait for it…69 (NICE). And yes, you’d make that joke too so shut up. Having DeBrincat and Garbage Dick on the third line is still some galaxy brain bullshit as far as I’m concerned, but I’d rather see Top Cat produce anywhere and any way that he can, rather than flail in the stupidity of bad coaching decisions. Remember, a 25-goal scorer tops, this guy.

Erik Gustafsson‘s magic carpet ride continued with another goal, his 17th. Campbell likely was screened because he didn’t seem to see the shot coming from three miles away. However, Gus giveth and he taketh away, as his habit of doing confused pirouettes away from forwards left Michael Amadio alone in the slot to tie the game in the third. If you can’t stop a fourth-fucking-liner on one of the league’s worst teams you seriously need to re-evaluate what you’re doing and how you understand your job description.

– But wait! Before we pile on the crappy defenseman, at least he scored. Kane and Toews both point-blank fucked up multiple times in overtime. The fact this game went to OT is stupid on its own, but they had nearly a third of the 3-on-3 with control of the puck and couldn’t finish any of their shots. Toews followed that up with a penalty on Anze Kopitar, which is frustrating for its timing since that led to the winning goal by LA, and sad in its relevance for an aging, slowing legend trying to slow down nearly his mirror image. And it backfired in a pretty dramatic way, really putting the final nail in the coffin where the Hawks playoff hopes now lay. But had either he or Kane converted on any of their opportunities earlier, that penalty wouldn’t have happened. Maybe they’re tired after the amount of ice time (would be fair enough at the end of the season although tonight’s wasn’t too egregious), maybe they just don’t have it or don’t give a shit, but it did not inspire hope for the future.

David Kampf broke some part of his face (or severely messed it up), and not that it matters now but still, not the way to end the season.

– I can’t say that Austin Wagner is any good, but I can say that he is fast. He absolutely scorched Carl Dahlstrom in the second for the tying goal (the first time), and he did it to Connor Murphy in the third but our Large Irish Son was bailed out by a Crawford poke check.

Drake Caggiula seemed awfully excited to be back in the lineup, and yet I can’t help but wonder if he should try to avoid getting into fights rather than seeking them out, seeing as he just missed a month with a head injury. I dunno, just doesn’t seem like the best strategy. He had four shots, so that’s something, and he didn’t get into a full-on fisticuffs, but boy was he trying to.

I know I sound like a broken record but this has to be the end of the playoff delusion, even if the math doesn’t say it’s for certain yet. We all know it is, and really, if you can’t beat this lowly-ass Kings team any of the times you play them, do you really even deserve to be in the playoffs? The answer is no. Onward and upward?

Beer de jour: Sun Catcher by Revolution Brewing

Line of the Night: “Halfway through an almost scintillating first period.” —Foley, sarcastically saying what we were thinking.

Photo credit: NHL.com

Everything Else

I wish that I could at least tell you that the number of goals meant this was an exciting game—that it was a high-flying game reminiscent of the halcyon days between these two teams that really wasn’t all that long ago. But I can’t tell you that. This was a shitty game played by two shitty teams. The score was as high as it was because both teams have awful defenses and goalies who are a shadow of who they once were (it hurts, it’s not necessarily true every night but today it was).

The Hawks did their best to give the game away by squandering any and every opportunity, and the Kings had a mixture of bad luck and incompetence to keep things ugly, but they managed to look like they actually cared about winning this one. Let’s do the bullets…

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

–The Hawks did that thing where they have a downright terrible start and have to play from behind. It’s been a little while since the busted out their now-classic down-by-two-goals-less-than-five-minutes-in shtick, but we got to see it here today. Two dumbass penalties right away—one being by Dylan Strome which kills me because you know I love that guy and here he goes and has a stupid trip—and the otherwise-useless Dustin Brown and Sean Walker both scored. The third goal by Ilya Kovalchuk was the first one of the day that Crawford really should have had (it would not be the last). Seabrook’s ass saving a goal and Brandon Perlini’s goal at the end of the first were the only things that kept it mildly close. And this is despite the Hawks leading in possession (58 CF% all situations) and leading in shots (15-11). Hockey is weird and sometimes numbers don’t tell the whole story.

–Wow, was the defense bad today. I mean, we all know they’re bad, but let me share with you some actual things that happened: Slater Koekkoek got burned by Dustin Brown and then screened Corey Crawford, directly helping both of the Kings’ first goals. Keith and Seabrook did a “you get it, no YOU get it” routine as they both literally watched the puck slide between them in the defensive zone. Gustav Forsling was looking to move the puck out of the defensive zone and had a wide open neutral zone, save one body in his field of vision—he managed to doink the puck off that one body leading to a turnover. Forsling later got swatted aside by Anze Kopitar which led immediately to the Kings’ fifth goal, which was the dagger in the game.

Oh yeah, and Nachos’s ass blocked literally half the net and saved a goal in the first period which, despite all the guffawing from Pat and Eddie, was actually terrible because it never should have happened. Seabrook’s ass was facing the shot because he had fallen down and was half in the net facing away from the play, and Keith got smoked by Trevor Lewis who sailed right in and had the scoring chance. Again, numbers don’t tell today’s story. Every Hawks defenseman was well above water in possession but they came nowhere near passing the eye test.

–Slater Koekkoek and Gustav Forsling were particularly egregious. In addition to the two fuck-ups that basically assisted on the first two Kings goals, our current favorite punching bag Koekkoek waved his stick inconsequentially in a passing lane doing absolutely nothing to prevent Kempe from scoring, after Jonathan Toews simply gave up. That goal was on Toews as well, no doubt, but Koekkoek was all-around terrible except for his one assist, which was really thanks to Strome (more on that later). Forsling’s dire performance behind the net on Brendan Leipsic‘s goal was painful to watch.

—Crawford wasn’t very good today, we have to just say it. One would think that if they weren’t playing an actual good team tomorrow night, CCYP may have pulled him after the third goal in the first period. Maybe not, because that wouldn’t have helped his confidence in any way, I would think. But regardless, his .760 SV% wasn’t even mediocre; it was wretched when you consider the opposition and the fact that the Hawks only gave up 25 shots.

–A small bright spot: Dylan Strome is still generally good, dumbass penalty notwithstanding. On Perlini’s first goal, Strome “hustled” to save icing (I use quotation marks because it was the slowest, most awkward hustling I’ve ever seen, but whatever I can barely even skate), and patiently held onto the puck below the goal line until Koekkoek got off the bench and into the zone, who then passed it to Perlini. Strome was by no means perfect, but hey I gotta find something, right?

–Brendon Perlini had two goals…had to be the best game of his life and it was totally wasted and useless.

Dylan Sikura had a nice scoring chance midway through the third that Quick stopped and I’m starting to believe he will never score in a Hawks sweater. Cue the Beavis and Butthead reference.

OK, I’m exhausted from this game. From watching it, from writing about it, everything, I just really need a stiff drink. The Hawks just got beat by the worst team in the conference with a 10-game losing streak. They lost despite not giving up 40+ shots, as is their wont, and despite having significantly better possession the entire game. Despite all logic and references to this as a “must-win,” and now it’s on to a game against the league’s elite. Eat Arby’s.

Photo credit: NHL.com

Everything Else

It took a really long time, but after about 46 minutes the Hawks and Kings realized they were playing a game in front of spectators and cameras, and they stopped skating around with their dicks in their hands and attempted to play something resembling hockey. Unfortunately for the Hawks it was a lot of the type of hockey they’ve been playing lately, and they could barely squeeze out a point against some bottom-feeders and their fourth-string goalie. Are you sure you want to know more? OK then, we’ll get to the bullets, but don’t say I didn’t warn you…

Box Score

Corsica

Natural Stat Trick

– It’s almost hard to express how painfully dull and stupid the first two periods were. The Kings are not a good team, and we know this to be true, and yet they outplayed the Hawks and just looked, and WERE, better. Notice I didn’t say they were good, they were just better (all the more frustrating). They beat the Hawks in shots and possession (ended the first with a 60.6 CF% and the second with a 58%), and thanks to a fortunate bounce, they also had the lead after two. Tyler Toffoli banked it off Keith’s skate and it ricocheted in, more luck than anything, but in terms of how it happened that’s irrelevant. The Hawks made their typical fuck-ups on defense, such as having three guys behind the goal line chasing the puck, which left Kempe wide open in front of Crawford (who stopped the shot because of course he did). Dumb turnovers, useless power plays, these two periods had everything you’ve come to expect.

–More on those power plays, for a minute: the Hawks had three in quick succession in the second and of course converted on none. Patrick Kane was out there for the entirety of at least two of them (maybe all three, admittedly it’s a blur). And by the third try they were at least getting shots on net, but in the first two it was still a lot of passing around the perimeter—more puck movement? That’s the best we got?—but nothing of substance. They kinda sorta got better by the third one, but nonetheless the clown shoes remain firmly ensconced.

– And they got goalie’d again by a fucking nobody. The amount of times this happens has reached downright farcical levels. Calvin Petersen (huh?), who apparently the Hawks tried to draft, made 34 saves on 35 shots for a save percentage of .971. I want to be angry about it, but I’m just worn down by this situation. And for the record, Crawford was nearly as damn good. He ended with a .969 SV% (NICE) which is funnier and cooler so Petersen can go fuck off. And both Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane should be embarrassed that they couldn’t score on this jamoke in the shootout.

– Guys, Brandon Saad may be good again! There’s a silver lining for ‘ya. He got moved to the top line midway through the game and scored the Hawks’ only goal off a gorgeous feed from Toews that hit his stick just at the top of the crease. In fact, the accompanying change of Schmaltz moving to a line with Anisimov and DeBrincat also worked. At first I was a little skeptical, given how slow Anisimov is, but the three of them had a CF% over 70 together, and Nick Schmaltz even shot the puck a couple times. I know I’m grabbing at any sliver of hope or positivity here, but it was sort of working, honest.

What else can one say about a game with idiotic defending, shitty power plays, and non-existent offense? Wait, I think I actually just summed it up right there…so no, there isn’t more one can say. This was their last “easy” game for a while, if you take the Wild or Capitals seriously and I can understand why you wouldn’t. But if they can’t even get an overtime or shootout win against the fucking Kings, there is every reason to dread those teams that may just be overrated, mediocre, or still hungover from last summer. Either way, it’s a long road ahead. Onward and upward.

Beer: Drumroll by Odell Brewing

Line of the Night: “They’re a very fragile team right now.” —Eddie O, but which team was he referring to?

Everything Else

It used to be tradition that playoff exits were complimented by eulogies on Puck Daddy. But with Wysh off in the Connecticut hinterlands and those who remain at Yahoo! being a bunch of Canadian giblets who take things far too seriously (and Lambert being angry and definitely not a Bruins fan), we don’t need them to do what we do best. So fuck it. We’ll eulogize all 15 teams that will eventually fall. And we take unique pleasure in getting to do the Kings first. 

Leave it to the Kings to play quite simply the most unwatchable series since the Lockout of  ’04-’05. There are snuff films that have been lighter fare than their four-game outhouse-cleaning loss to the Knights. If they’d offered this as a prop bet it would have been easy money. While they locked Darryl Sutter out of the dressing room multiple times and eventually kicked his muppet-gone-wrong face out because he made them play a style that would have broken Noriega, when the chips were down John Stevens went back to the only thing the Kings know. Dump, crash, rumble, back up, repeat. Except it didn’t work, and the Kings three goals in the whole series pretty much attest to that. But what three goals they were!

What’s infuriating about the Kings is you can find no better example of a team not learning a lesson from its own methods. Better than the Oilers or Flames or even Hawks. While the Kings were able to belch/fart/ralph their way to a Cup in ’12 thanks to a sweetheart draw and Quick’s .946, they won again in 2014 by beating the Hawks at their own game. They were fast. They were creative. They were lethal. They had Kopitar, Gaborik, Carter, Toffoli, Pearson, Williams shotgunning all over the place. Doughty, Muzzin, Martinez, Voynov (blech) were pushing the play from the back to a ridiculous pace. Nothing has ever come close to the sheer madness and coke-binge hockey (maybe literally) that was the ’14 West Final. The Kings got it, and did it better than anyone to win their second in three years.

And then they went back to their covered-in-dung ways, while the rest of the league went about trying to replicate what they had just done. Such brilliant moves as trading for Milan Lucic and/or Dion Phaneuf or Vincent Lecavalier or bringing back Rob Scuderi. It was like Homer telling the car designers “I need an immobile asshole here, here, and here!” The result has been one playoff win since. One.

The Kings are basically the obnoxious frat boy who did well in college with dumb sorority girls who didn’t know better (or were forced not to because all frat boys are rapists, SCIENCE FACT), but then met a wonderful girl right after and suddenly became a really good guy…until dumping her after reading Barfstool or a few months because she didn’t shotgun beers or something. And now they’re just the old guy at the same bar, not realizing it’s all over.

In the end, this is what Kings fans want, because it’ll give them more time to bitch about the individual awards their players won’t win. Not only do Kings fans feel aggrieved that Kopitar or Doughty won’t be taking home hardware, they’ll accuse everyone of lacking moral fiber who doesn’t think they should. I guess we shouldn’t expect anything else from a city that blows itself as hard as LA does about the industry they created and only they really care about. DiCaprio didn’t campaign as hard for “The Revenant” as these dinguses. Last week every writer east of the Mississippi received a tote bag marked “from TheRoyalHalf on behalf of Anze.” Next year everyone get ready for a “Trevor Lewis Should Win The Selke And If You Don’t Vote For Him You Killed Jesus” campaign.

The Hawks window may be over, but it didn’t slam nearly as hard as the Kings did. And no one in LA is going to miss them, because next year the Lakers might win 30 games. Also, Drew Doughty eats the homeless from Skid Row.

Everything Else

Box Score

Hockey Stats

Natural Stat Trick

Trying to sum this game up is going to be kinda hard. It’d be way easier if the Hawks played real well and just missed on some chances, or even if they played like absolute trash. Instead, they just looked like they didn’t wanna be there, like how you feel when you’re sitting at work wondering if your job is even that important. And who’s to say? To the bullets:

– I can confidently say one thing that I couldn’t stop noticing in this game is how fuckin’ bad Jordan Oesterle is, which is really a theme at this point and not exclusive to just this game. The first Kings goal was maybe a little questionable because of some maybe-goalie-interference, but Oesterle did nothing to help Forsberg out by standing right in his line of sight and screening the absolutely life out of him. Then later, in the second period I watched Oesterle stand still as a damn statue in the middle of his own zone before getting absolutely toasted in a foot race the other way, which resulted in a 2-on-1 for the Kings. They didn’t convert, but it was just embarrassing to watch, and I kinda wish they had just because it would’ve made that whole play more of a focal point on Oesterle’s part. No matter how much he fucks up he seems to be bulletproof in Q’s eyes right now, while Connor Murphy can’t get more than a third pair assignment and Michal Kempny just got shipped out for a lottery ticket cuz he couldn’t get a fair shake either. Fuck this.

– Q went after the Toews-Kopitar matchup for most of the night, and it saw some success. Toews posted a nice 57.69% CF at 5v5 tonight, which was about a point and a half above team rate. That team number got inflated by some score effects after LA went up 3-0, so I think in reality Toews won that battle very convincingly. I don’t really know what that’s worth, but it just felt like something sorta noteworthy, I guess.

– The worst part about this game was that the Kings worst players pretty much proved to be the difference makers. They got goals from Torey Mitchell, Andy Adreoff, and Dion Phaneuf. Those goals were the fourth, third, and fifth tallies for the scorers this year, respectively. That’s just frustrating to me. I am firmly on the “tank” team at this point, if you wanna call it that, but getting beat by another team’s scrubs is very disheartening. Then again, this team almost lost to Glendale by a touchdown, so nothing is beyond them I guess.

– I don’t really wanna write much more about this one, to be honest. The Blackhawks clearly did not care about this one – why should I?

– The Hawks are back it at home against Ottawa on Wednesday. Hope and pray that one is a chance for Stan to scout EK65 before managing a miracle trade for him to solve all of our problems (I CAN BE OPTIMISTIC, OKAY). Meanwhile LA heads to Winnipeg for a game tomorrow night. Wish them luck on their travels, as they have to take the bus because Winnipeg doesn’t have an airport.

Everything Else

The Hawks didn’t exactly come in rolling to this three-game homestand. They had lost five in a row, though two of those came in OT or a shootout to the Stars, and three of them came without Corey Crawford (though the Hawks scored exactly five goals in the three games he didn’t play, so what difference he would have made wouldn’t have risen much above negligible). The idea was that getting to play three straight teams near the bottom of the standings would be a chance for the Hawks to rediscover some of their game, style, swagger, whatever you want to call it.

It didn’t really work out that way.

Friday night saw the Hawks get goalie’d a touch, as Robin Lehner was very good and that will happen. They tossed 51 shots at him and it wasn’t like the Caps game where their shots basically comprised a belly-rub. They had a good number of really good chances that he snuffed out or they hit a post. Happens, fine, whatever. Not ideal but you accept it and move on.

I’ll even let Sunday’s….whatehaveya, slide a bit, or would normally. A sleepy Sunday night in mid-December against a Coyotes team… that always can lead to a “fuck this” effort. While you don’t like to see them when a team isn’t winning…again, they happen. Figure you have a good effort against the Panthers and no one would bat an eyelash at a simple “let’s get through this” against Arizona.

And then you get last night. A Florida team that has a top line, Vincent Trocheck, and that’s about it, on the second night of a back-to-back and starting Reimer in both of them. And the Hawks were fortunate to get out of it with anything, thanks to the Toews line picking up the slack.

And please don’t tell me that Jan Rutta was the glue holding this team together.

Now normally, with other teams, when a struggling team like the Hawks are (and they are) can’t get it juiced for two straight games at home–games and points they need, mind–one might start wondering if the players have tuned out for some reason. And one might start looking hard at the coach, especially a team that has higher expectations than nicking a wild card spot and especially one that is coming off two straight first round exits that splooges its “ONE GOAL” slogan everywhere it can.

Clearly, that won’t happen here. Even if this summer saw Stan Bowman take control of the team as a GM would (and we’re only speculating on that but it sure seems that way), Coach Q has too much pull to get fired, short of ruining one of Toews’s vegetable gardens. Because yes, Toews can fire Q if he so chooses.

Next year if the Hawks were in the same spot? Yeah, maybe then we can talk.

Still, I’m sure there are fans that want to point to the Kings revival this year, or the Penguins coming alive under Mike Sullivan about two years ago, and claim the same thing could happen to the Hawks with a new voice.

The key difference is that the Kings and Penguins went from either a terribly defensive/clueless coach to one who opened things up. There is a freedom to their styles now that they didn’t have before, which just about every player is going to find refreshing. I’m not sure it works the other way. Oh hi there, Dallas Stars.

And the thing is, Q plays an open style. Whatever the Hawks problems are, it’s not because they’re too defensive or he’s too conservative. Forwards are allowed to express themselves in the offensive zone if they see fit (except Nick Schmaltz). Defensemen are allowed, and in fact encouraged, to get up into the play. Players love that. So bringing in a hard-ass who’s going to stress blocking shots or something is probably counter-productive and also this team isn’t exactly built for that. Even if Stan wanted to pull the trigger, and I would have high doubts he does, his options to move in are limited.

If they players are not responding, and if that’s a problem it’s certainly smaller than the problems of the holes on the roster, it’s not because they don’t like the style. Sure, maybe the Hawks could adopt a more Pittsburgh approach which is a little more straight-lined and sees more go-routes out of the zone and picking up passes off the glass. But given how defensively wonky the Hawks have been, I’m not sure they have that luxury.

But watching this team the past two games, something is off and it’s not just having no third line to speak of, or being thin down the middle when Schmaltz doesn’t play there. I can’t even blame the defense. Connor Murphy has been so good he’s actually masked Seabrook for the most part. Rutta and Forsling have their issues, but Forsling has done enough in the offensive zone to at least be balanced.

No, they’ve been sloppy, half-hearted at times, and lazy. Missing passes as badly as they did at times last night…that’s just not being focused because this team isn’t lacking skill. It felt more than just not getting it up for one game in the middle of the season. And this team hasn’t really earned the right to do that yet. There was a going-through-the-motions feel to it, one we’ve not seen from Hawks teams before. At least not ones that are a long way from securing their spot in the standings. When you do this in late February in Colorado because you’re already locked into second in the division/conference, no one cares. Do it now, and people do. I can’t imagine Q was too thrilled, but he probably wasn’t too thrilled with Sunday’s effort either. And this is how they responded?

And they’re running out of leeway for those kinds of efforts.

 

Everything Else

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

Corsica

It’s been a grueling week. The Hawks have barely tread water over these last five games, and they’ve lost their best player due to some unspecified injury (groin, don’t you think? When it’s a goalie I always think groin. Don’t read into that statement). And this hell week ended with an exhausted whimper tonight, which left me feeling more pity than anger. To the bullets:

– So Panik didn’t get benched tonight but rather demoted. OK, whatever, the top line certainly needs to get better. But who got moved up? Was it the guy second in points and second in goals who needs faster linemates? Oh no, oh no no no, you silly person who thought that. It was John fucking Hayden. Now, in all fairness, Hayden hasn’t been playing all that badly (hey, he’s got nine points). Also, there are legit reasons to keep DeBrincat on the third line where he’s been making Heart Man better. But, if Q is going to start tinkering with the top line, the fact that he’d pass right over the chance to at least SEE what DeBrincat could do with Toews and Saad seems, well, both stubborn and stupid, which is the worst combination. And then Q went back to Panik late in the third and Toews scored…so what was the point of that change anyway?

– Fatigue showed tonight, as the Hawks started really slowly. By the mid-point of the first period they had managed only one shot. They finished that period with a paltry three shots. But they picked it up in the second and actually passed the Kings in shots. And they led in possession for the first two periods, 55 CF% and 65.7 CF% respectively. Seriously, it was fucking with me. I kept looking at it and, as we say around these parts, I was angry at numbers. How could the Kings lag in possession and yet still be driving the play? Or at least thwarting the Hawks’ many decent attempts in the second? Jonathan Quick was a big part of the answer to that, obviously. And once Folin scored the first goal in the third period, you could see the weight of the past week descend over them. Even Toews’ pyrrhic goal couldn’t change that momentum.

– The power play went 0/4 and continued to suck. You’re tired of hearing it, I’m tired of writing it, and yes the Kings’ PK is the best in the league. But it still sucked. No one could keep the puck in the offensive zone—I mean at times it was laughable. Some other great unintended comedy? On their first man advantage of the game, the Hawks managed to take a too many men penalty while they were on the power play for that very same penalty. It was very meta.

– Anton Forsberg is like the proverbial Rodney Dangerfield. If you look at his record with no context you’d dismiss him outright, but he’s actually played well. Tonight was no exception. A screen and some deer-in-headlights play by Forsling led to the first goal, but other than that he was spot on (the other two goals were empty netters so you can’t exactly hold those against him). He had a great sequence of saves midway through the second, and at no point did he really lose his net. This guy deserves much better.

– Speaking of a deer in the headlights, Brian Campbell is utterly unwatchable as an analyst. My esteemed colleague Adam brought this up after last night’s game, and I have to wholeheartedly agree. Campbell looks nervous and tongue-tied at every moment. And you know what? I don’t hold that against the guy—I can’t even imagine what a moron I would look and sound like on camera—but that’s why he shouldn’t have this gig. This team is cringe-worthy enough as it is; their on-air personalities needn’t be too.

So where to from here? The Hawks have a much-needed few days off, and then a sort-of-maybe soft part of the schedule (after the Capitals) with some relative bottom-feeders like the Sabres and Coyotes. However, now they need all of those points more than ever, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned about where the season goes from here. No, I’m not trying to be over-dramatic and there is still a lot of season to go. But it’s been, as I said, a rough week where they kinda got dong-whipped, so let’s all pause, and try to get back on track next week. Onward and upward.

Quote of the night (actually it’s a tie because you’ve got to get a load of this amazing insight by Campell):

“Little mess-up by the LA guy there.” –Brian Campbell

“Because I can’t remember anything, I got some help with that movie.” –Pat Foley

Beer de jour: It was an all-Fort Collins night: Accumulation IPA by New Belgium and 90 Shilling by Odell. (Actually it was me rummaging through the fridge to see what was left over from the weekend, but it should tell you something about my beer inclinations.)

Everything Else

King Jerry Lawler  @  oldschool

Game Time: 7:00PM CDT
TV/Radio: NBCSN, CBC, RDS/WGN720
You Bet That I’ve Got Something Personal Against You: The Royal HalfJewels From The CrownBattle of California

After two pretty thrilling games, things now end up on back on Madison for one final showdown as the Hawks were able to upset the Kings in LA on Friday. The big question is simply – how much do the Hawks have left in the tank?

As Fels stated after Wednesday’s game, the Hawks were running in the red for just about the whole game. And of course they did with with largely only 9 forwards. Things were more of the same Friday night. Bollig played only 6:46, Handzus only 9:25. Patrick Kane meanwhile played 20:40, more than any other forward and more than even Seabrook. It certainly didn’t hurt his game in the third though.