Hockey

If nothing else, Derek King and Marc Crawfrod’s Hawks are keeping themselves in games far more than at any point in the Alpo Colliton era, and are doing it via repeatable means – otherwise known as structure. The Hawks are keeping teams to the outside as much as possible, and shock of shocks, forcing them to complete at least two or three passes to get a clean look at Marc-Andre Fleury, who has completely turned his game around since the coaching change as well. For all that is made of Flower’s acrobatics, and deservedly so as this outlet is on record as stating he’s the most athletically gifted individual to ever be tetched in the head enough to put that equipment on, he is also dogmatic to his butterfly angles as well. Put that together and you have a first overall pick who plays a nearly 20 year career with 3 Cups, Five Finals appearances, a Vezina, and is now one of three goalies to ever backstop 500 wins (however they’re counted).

It will be interesting going forward to see what his wishes are on where he wants to end this season. Given the above resume, it doesn’t seem like there’s much he needs to play for anymore, and he did have to be convinced to even come here and uprooted his family to do so. But there’s always going to be a team that wants goalie help, and he’ll likely be the top option should this caliber of play continue, and the Hawks might be able to turn him into some futures they desperately need.

12/7 – Rangers 6, Hawks 2

Box Score 
Event Summary
Natural Stat Trick

The Hawks hung around in this one probably longer than they should have given what the Rangers’ top line is capable of, but they certainly made it count on the power play. In the two games against the Blue shirts the Hawks never seemed to be able to figure out how to handle things running from the left half wall off the stick of the right handed Artemi Panarin, who had 7 points in two games against his former club. Sometimes he’ll just do that, but it shouldn’t have been as easy for him as it looked. The big story was Jacob Trouba sending Jujhar Khaira to the hospital with a viscous hit that was unpenalized. There’s no way to legislate intent in hits like these, and Trouba’s elbows were in and his feet were on the ground and Khaira’s head was down, the intent was still to blow him up good. But the fact of the matter is that his shoulder made contact with his face first, and then Khaira’s head bounced off the ice, worsening the outcome. Of course Trouba went on to blindside Nathan MacKinnon the following night in a similarly borderline hit that was unpunished, while MacKinnon was sent to the room by the spotter. There shouldn’t even be any room for interpretation for these types of hits – a check to the head should equal an automatic GTFO with some combination of misconduct/match penalty/major. The NHL is literally the only league in the world that does not have a rule like this, and it’s asinine.

12/9 – Hawks 2, Habs 0

Box Score 
Event Summary
Natural Stat Trick

The less said about the actual particulars of the game play of Thursday night, the better. For nearly all of the game it was simply a case of two drunks bumping into each other in the dark repeatedly. Jonathan Toews finally scored, so there’s that at least. But obviously the big story was Marc-Andre Fleury’s 500th win in shutout fashion in his home province, and the fans in Montreal took a break from being entitled as shit and bragging about how many cups they won back when there were 6 teams full of Canadian auto mechanics to recognize a modern player’s real achievement. A nice moment, sincerely.

12/11 – Leafs 5, Hawks 4

Box Score
Event Summary
Natural Stat Trick

Even with Jonathan Toews scoring AGAIN in the first two minutes of this game, this one quickly returned to feeling like the foregone conclusion it was supposed to be with 4 unanswered goals in about 20 minutes worth of game time, two on the power play. The Hawks’ kill has been for the most part passable-to-solid this season with either regime, but they simply cannot afford to take penalties against teams with forwards like the Leafs and Rangers have, because there’s just simply too much skill there. The Leafs then kind of let their foot off the gas and allowed the Hawks to score effects their way back into things with a couple seeing eye shots and one spectacular individual effort from Sam’s guy Phil Kurashev to beat out two Leafs for an icing to whack the puck over to an alone in the slot Dominik Kubalik. Losing on a bad stanchion bounce to the very useful David Kampf is a bummer, but it happens.

 

Ed note: I for some reason had convinced myself that the game went to OT as I left the house on Saturday night and eventually saw that they lost. They did not go to OT. This has been corrected. 

 

It’s a busy week coming up with some actual divisional games at the end of it, and another chance to watch Ovie. The games against Dallas and Nashville are certainly within reach.

Hockey

So after a weekend where the Hawks did a little better than expected with a surprise win against the Caps in Washington for the first time in the smartphone era, they’ll return home tonight for a quick stop off before heading back east again into Canada for the Habs and Leafs over the weekend. And all the problems that the Hawks have had still remain, such as not being able to score like AT ALL, and as a result they can’t win in regulation, but at this point they’ll take the victories any way they can get them. Five of the Hawks 9 total wins have come in OT or the shootout, but after the way things started, going to extra time against eastern conference opponents on the road isn’t the worst thing by a LONG shot.

What’s been the story and has been emphasized on this road trip is the Hawks newfound commitment to shot suppression under Derek King, or more than likely, Marc Crawford’s shadow regime. In the month since they have taken over, the Hawks are allowing the third fewest high danger chances in the league, and are solidly in the middle of the pack with regard to overall chances and shots allowed per 60 minutes of 5v5 hockey. Combining that with Fleury’s .956 at evens during that time, and they’re at least giving themselves a chance. In the first month of the season, Fleury allowed 13 high danger goals, since he’s allowed 3. All of these numbers paint a picture of a team that is playing with a lot more structure in its own end. It truly is the goddamnedest thing isn’t it?

Of course, they still can’t score a damn goal to save their lives, and if DeBrincat or Garbage Dick don’t do it, no one else is going to. Toews and Dach are complete non entities on the score sheet at the moment, which was never part of any plan either regime may have had. It’s hard to know what’s real and what’s statistical anomaly, whether it’s Toews still fighting through rust or Dach fundamentally being a different player than he was drafted do be and/or boned by inept coaching, but they can’t be counted on for anything until they show differently, so it’s likely these close, counterattacking games are here to stay. What purpose that serves with regard to the long-term trajectory of the team still remains to be seen

12/7 vs Rangers

Game Time – 7:30PM CST
TV/Radio – NBC Sports Chicago, Various SportsNets, WGN-AM 720
Yauch Forever – Blueshirt Banter

Well, the Hawks get a look at the Blueshirts for the second time in less than a week, this time on home ice where hopefully they can keep track of the guy wearing 10 in white a little better. He should look pretty familiar, he’s kind of good. With Shesterkin having some form of crotch detatchment the night before they played the Hawks last time, Gerard Gallant now turns his jowly gaze to Alexandar Georgiev and his .856 save percentage in the meantime. The Rangers haven’t played since the two teams’ date at MSG on Saturday so they’re still riding a six game winning streak, and have won 10 of their last 11, their only loss coming to the equally hot Maple Leafs, whom the Hawks face on Saturday. Shesterkin isn’t slated to be out long term, so they should be able to keep solid footing in the turbo competitive Metro division.

12/9 at Montreal

Game Time – 6:00PM CST
TV/Radio – NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720
Mont Tremblant Seems Lovely – Eyes On The Prize

Finally, a matchup of the two biggest fuckup franchises so far this season. The problems locally are pretty well covered and lead in grotesqueness by a wide margin, but a quick rundown of the Habs’ misery – After a fluke run to the Cup Final in a made up playoff format in an abbreviated season, they promptly took any good will they had and flushed it down the toilet by drafting a known sex criminal in the first round, and then shat all over themselves justifying it. Then, franchise goalie Carey Price checked himself into a substance abuse clinic on the eve of the season starting where he can hopefully get the help he’s seeking, but leaving the team dangling with Jay Gallon now in a #1 role he’s already shown he’s never been cut out for. Add a predictably shitty start where no one is scoring because they never really had any top end finish to begin with, and that FINALLY cost Marc Bergevin his job. His replacement is the recently discussed former GM of the Rangers Jeff Gorton, who isn’t a Francophone, so at least they might be done with that stupid rule. Anyway, the Habs have played 2 more games than the Hawks and are 6 points behind them, just to give an indication of how things are going there.

12/11 at Tronna

Game Time – 6:30PM CST
TV/Radio – NBC Sports Chicago, CBC, NHL Network, SportsNet, WGN-AM 720
Arrest Drake. Arrest Rivers Dubas. – Pension Plan

It’s that time of year again where the hockey cognoscenti declare the Leafs an unstoppable juggernaut with about a third of the season played. And the thing is, they’re not wrong inasmuch as the Leafs are a very good team loaded with offensive firepower and are playing very well at the moment. It’s just a race to trip over their own dicks to coronate a team with nearly the longest cup drought in the history of the sport, and they haven’t learned to hedge their bets even a little bit yet. And it’s not fair to pin it on one guy just because their sex-crime-apologist/victim-blaming GM has in the person of Jack Campbell in net, but that’s eventually what it’s going to come down to, whether or not he can stand up to anything in the playoffs. And given the way the aforementioned Metro looks, as well as with Tampa still lurking in Toronto’s on FlorTheast having not lost a playoff series in a very long time, it’s probably a little early to start with this shit, if only because it just adds to the amount of time the general public has to listen to Leafs fans, and hear about what it’s like to be a Leafs fan. Anyway, Jason Spezza is probably getting an unpaid vacation for a while after the to-do with Neil Pionk, and Mitch Marner is ouchy, and they’ll probably still boat race the Hawks on home ice. And that’s fine.

Hockey

It seems impossible to have to turn to on-ice concerns after what came to light yesterday, but that’s seemingly the case. For those looking for more reaction to what the hell is even going on anymore with all of this, Sam obviously has it covered, and this might be the rare instance where listening to the podcast might actually be beneficial. In any event, yesterday coupled with the fact that with literally every second that ticks off the clock as the game starts tonight, the Hawks will be extending an NHL record for futility to start the season, this could very well be the nadir of the franchise, and if it’s not, it’s certainly a low point of the past 40 years.

The fallout from yesterday’s revelations is far from over and is wide spanning, as there are bound to be consequences in Winnipeg, Sunrise, and potentially at the NHLPA. And on the ice the Hawks will be missing more players to covid protocols (including two lettered captains who were on this team when all of this happened) while they face far more skilled opponents. It’s going to get worse before it gets better.

 

10/27 vs Toronto

Game Time – 6:30PM CDT
TV/Radio – NBC Sports Chicago, SportsNet 1, WGN-AM 720
God I’m So Tired – PPP

As if to drive home the point of just how endemic sexual assault is in the culture of hockey, a day after these horrors are brought to light, the Leafs come to town, whose own current coach and GM are each separately involved in sordid, disgusting, and horrifying tales of sexual assault from their past. On the ice, the Leafs are off to a 2-4-1 start, which of course is causing all of THE SIX to rend their garments and self-immolate given the expectations of what this team is supposed to do after the longest cup drought evere and another flameout, but the fact remains that this forward corps is still one of the most talented in the league even if it’s getting by the PDO gods right now, Mitch Marner in particular. This defense still likely isn’t deep enough and entrusting Cup aspirations to Jack Campbell is undoubtedly a fool’s errand, but for late October, there should be more than enough here to help right the ship for them tonight.

10/27 at Carolina

Game Time – 6:00PM CDT
TV/Radio – NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720
Mop & Slop – Canes Country

The Hurricanes have started the season 5-0-0 with all five wins coming in regulation, and are second in the league with a +14 goal differential, and once again are solidly in control of the shot attempts ledger with a 52.24% share 5v5, good for 10th in the league. They are getting balanced scoring up and down the lineup, with 5 players at a point-per or better in the early going, led by Andrei Svechnikov at 9 points and Sebastian Aho not far behind with 9. Freddy Andersen has played all 5 games and has a .946 overall save percentage, .950 at evens. And no one gives a shit. This has all happened before, for a couple years now, and it has only translated into a couple of playoff round wins. It seems fitting that Andersen landed here, as this publication has always branded him “Just Good Enough To Break Your Heart”, and that’s what this entire Canes team has been for the past handful of years. None of this matters unless it translates to silver in the spring, and at a certain point the team has to know that. Tony DeAngelo is a racist piece of shit.

10/30 at St. Louis

Game Time (not that one) – 7:00PM CDT
TV/Radio – NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720
Oh God Dammit – SLGT

The Blues are also currently 5-0-0 with all five wins coming in regulation and have a +14 goal differential, however they are not as territorially sound as the Canes, being underwater with a 49 share, good for 18th in the league so far. They’ve feasted a little bit on the dog food (GET IT) that is the Kings (twice) and the Coyotes, but they’ve looked sound in doing so, but also have wins against the Knights and Avs too, two teams that the Bene Gesserit prophecy has foretold of meeting in the West finals for a couple years running now. Old friend Brandon Saad is currently in covid protocol, but if indeed literally everyone in the league other than Tyler Bertuzzi is vaccinated, he’ll likely be available for this game. David Perron has six goals to lead the Blues so far, which undoubtedly pleases Allan Walsh, and thusly pleases everyone, because Allan Walsh is a very normal person that everyone likes and roots for, and who has never ever done anything remotely weird.

Everything Else

vs.

Game Time: 6:00PM CST
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, NHL Network, SportsNet, TVA-S, WGN-AM 720
Kyle Dubas Is An Enabler Of Sexual Assault: Pension Plan, Leafs Nation, Literally Any Hockey Publication

And now the Blackhawks’ season can officially gets under way tonight, as all hockey is invariably pulled toward the quasar star that is the Toronto Maple Leafs; a pulsating, sucking vortex of psychosis and entitlement from which no light ever escapes.

Everything Else

 at 

Game Time: 6:00PM CDT
TV/Radio: CSN, CBC, CITY, WGN-AM 720
Jeff Veillette and Steve Glynn Are Terrifying: Pension Plan

Sure, the Hawks have improbably vaulted themselves into basically a game and a half lead in the central as they close out their eastern Canadian swing tonight in the Dark Center Of The Universe that is Toronto, but they haven’t done it the right way. They take on too many shots, even though that’s a result of having leads, they capitalize on power plays, and they do so while paying players more than their entry level contract. All of these things are instantly disqualifiers for actual success, which is truly indicated by how much cap space a team has at the end of the year, thrown into a pivot chart against their possession stats and 5v5 goal differential, along with some other stupid fucking stats Steve Burtch made up in a craven, desperate, and pathetic attempt to get hired. And naturally, the Leafs are succeeding by all of those measures, and all the good stuff is because of Kyle Dubas (who shielded sex criminal players on the junior team he was GM for), and all the bad stuff is because of Lou Lamoriello. This is how Maple Leafs hockey works.

Everything Else

evil empire at toronto leafs headupass

Game Time: 6:00PM Central
TV/Radio: CSN, NHLN-US, WGN-AM 720
Self-Appointed Experts: Leafs Nation, Pension Plan Puppets

The Hawks mini-Canadian swing makes its second and final and most important stop tonight, and that’s at the Air Canada Center in Toronto. And those who do not believe any of the above statements need to only spend about thirty seconds scanning the internet to understand just how important the Leafs and their fans consider themselves to be despite nearly a decade and a half of laughable ineptitude.

Everything Else

We apologize for the interruption in service over the weekend. Naturally, the site is down during a the first game Patrick Sharp has played at center in five years. In any event, here are some observations from the weekend’s games.