Hockey

The Hawks careen in into the All Star break hosting the Canucks and Wild tonight and Wednesday respectively, with their date last night against the Blues having been rescheduled as a part of the NHL revamping its schedule on the fly to accomodate COVID postponements and the resultant lack of participation in this coming weekend’s Olympics. Coincidentally, the not so dearly departed Jeremy Prinze, Jr is now tasked with coaching Team Canada after Claude Julien sustained a freak eye injury, so it will be utterly hilarious to watch the Canadians try to chase puck carriers above the circles on the extra wide ice. And even with the NHL not sending players, that doesn’t mean the Canadian citizenry won’t feel entitled to gold and nothing less, so those hockey-birthright jingoistic psychos should be in full froth by the medal round. But back to more pressing matters on this side of the International Date Line, where the Hawks only have two more regulation wins than the laughable Habs and Yotes, and one of the Coyotes’ SEVEN wins cam against them.

1/31 – vs Canucks

Game Time – 6:30PM CST
TV/Radio – NBC Sports Chicago, SportsNet Pacific, WGN-AM 720
Ever Heard Of The Knife Alien? – Nucks Misconduct, Canucks Army

After the obligatory Boudreau Bounce, where the Canucks went 8-0-1 after he replaced Travis Green at the beginning of December, but have gone 3-4-3 since, and still find themselves well outside the final wildcard spot, even with Edmonton absolutely shitting all over itself for like six weeks straight now. As is always the case when Gabby takes over, the pace quickens and players skate like their asses are on fire, but most of the time in every direction at once. Boudreau’s limitations have been well documented over the years in this space so there’s no need to rehash them again when this particular roster won’t get him anywhere near the top of the conference playing his signature style. The thought was that Boudreau could maximize the floundering offense of Elias Petterson, who to this point only has 24 points in 44 games, which is well off his basically point-per rate his first three (truncated) seasons. Since Boudreau took over, Petterson only has 12 points in 20 games, so things have yet to pick up for him, and it’s not as if his shooting percentage has absolutely cratered – he’s at 12.2%, but that number has been trending downward since his rookie rate of 19.9% to 16.7% to 15.9% to where it is today. Even if he were shooting his career rate (this year included) of 16.6%, that’d still only result in 4 more goals on his 90 shots. His shots on goal are only down .2 a game from his career rate, so something is off here. Considering that he’s locked up for two more years and that this season likely is going result in a sell-off prior to the deadline (where the most attractive piece might be leading scorer JT Miller who is at a point-per and plays a great two way game and has another year left), it’s probably not cause for riots in the streets, but is certainly worth monitoring,

2/2 – vs Wild

Game Time – 8:30PM CST
TV/Radio – TNT, WGN-AM 720
Doublewhiskeycokenoice – Hockey Wilderness

This will be the third meeting in two weeks between these two teams, and not really much has changed since the first two other than Jonathan Toews being out of the lineup in the concussion protocol. It’s anyone’s guess when he’ll return, and the continued presence of Lukas Reichel in Rockford makes even less sense now that the Hawks are down a center and apparently Kirby Dach has given up trying to score 120 games into his career leaving the Hawks with really only one guy with any finish, and he’s headed to Vegas once this game ends. The Wild dong-whipped the Hawks on UC ice two weeks ago in a game that was never close, and then the Hawks at least kept things interesting for a bit in St. Paul before blowing multiple leads and losing in OT. In both games the Hawks suppressed shots well enough on this Wild team, something they’ve been fairly good at since the aforementioned Coach Kelvin Gemstone got whacked, but with little to no finish, and lacking the team speed the Wild have, there’s only so much that’s going to impact actually good teams, as was the case twice against the Avs last week. This game is once again on national TV, but at least this one is the late game that a national audience won’t have to be subjected to it. After this it’s the all star break, where we’ll probably take a breather here too, because this new writing schedule is so exhausting.

Hockey

As was stated a couple of weeks ago, it’s going to be a different approach this season with regards to previews and wraps, in part due to logistics and in part due to this franchise exhausting all but the last quark of patience around here both on and off the ice. Whille dodging and mishandling their most recent sex scandal, the Hawks decided to revamp their roster and double down on their idiot himbo coach, because apparently Duncan Keith wasn’t big enough or fast enough to run his SYSTEM, and he’s never had an NHL caliber roster before in four Magic Training Camps. Enter the reluctantly vaccinated Jones Brothers and Marc-Andre Fleury, along with Jonathan Toews’ return from Havana Syndrome or whatever, and the Hawks are primed to miss out on the playoffs yet again while the hemorrhage chances and pray Fleury puts up the Vezina numbers he did under a coach who actually works to supress shots in Peter DeBoer in Vegas. Time to get FIRED UP.

 

10/13 At Colorado

Game Time: 9:00PM CST
TV/Radio: TNT, WGN-AM 720
Epic Day Pass: Mile High Hockey

The big news out of Denver is that perennial Hart candidate and complete dietary psychopath Nathan MacKinnon will miss tonight and at least a couple other games in Covid protocol after testing positive yesterday. With the league’s claims of a 98% vaccination rate it seems like it’s just a temporary thing and that he’s asymptomatic, but given the reports in the NFL of faked vaccine documentation and Evander Kane’s most recent investigation being for trying to procure one, that percentage seems dubious. Even without MacKinnon, and Brandon Saad leaving for St. Louis, there’s still more than enough firepower to tear this Hawks defensive zone limb from limb. Philipp Grubauer has gone to Seattle, with Darcy Keumper now entrusted to backstop a team with actual aspirations instead of succeeding in obscurity in the Arizona, what’s left of the Kings, and whatever Minnesota was attempting for years. His counterpart in Fleury is going to have to be at the absolute top of his game, particularly on the PK, considering the Hawks just flat out forgot to work on it during the preseason.

10/15 At New Jersey


Game Time: 6:00PM CST
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, NHL Network, TVA-S, WGN-AM 720
The Many Saints of Newark: All About The Jersey

From a mile above sea level to below it in the Meadowlands, the Hawks jump two time zones in well less than 48 hours to play the Devils and see their new toy in Dougie Hamilton, the second biggest blue line acquisition this off season behind the Hawks and Jones. What Dougie brings to this team that gets them out of their transitional phase is anyone’s guess, as it’s all going to hinge on Jack Hughes taking the leap to being the #1 overall franchise defining pick he was supposed to be. Their other big acquisitions were Tomas Tatar now plaining for his 78th team in 5 years and Jonathan Bernier being given the 1A job for reasons. Apparently Tyler Dellow likes players from bad Wings teams over the past 8 years. Given that this is the front end of a back to back, it would not be surprising to see Lankinen start.

10/16 At Pittsburgh


Game Time: 6:00PM
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, NHL Network, WGN-AM 720
The Chilliest of Willies: PensBurgh

So the Pens had the “honor” of being the visitors on hand for the banner raising ceremony in Tampa, their second this calendar year, which is truly a weird feat. And as is often the case, the Bolts weren’t exactly fully engaged given the delayed start and all the pomp and circumstance it entails (if anyone remembers those sorts of things around here anymore). Even without Sid and Geno for quite a bit, the Penguins jumped out to a 3-0 lead and then things started getting wacky with empty netters in the final minutes to make things 6-3 when all was said and done. And despite the ESPN broadcast’s best attempts to turn him into a conquering hero, and no matter how tough his struggle against leukemia was or how nice a guy he might be, Brian Boyle is a 36 year old obelisk who in no way shape or form comes close in his wettest dreams to providing what even mid 30s Sid and Geno do. Same for Jeff Carter, who despite having 2 rings and was a key member of another finalist might be getting into Who Gives A Shit territory now as well. Tristan Jarry is still who the hopes and dreams in net are pinned on despite all evidence stating that that is folly, and this era might finally be coming to a close in western PA. But this is still a well coached team capable of playing hard and exploiting mistakes even when outgunned as they proved last night. And even if the Hawks will have more firepower on paper than the Pens, it’s not nearly as much as the Bolts have, and they were able to do so on the road without the benefit of matchups. Look for Flower to get this game given his history in the building.

Football Hockey Live From The Five Hole

While the Hawks continue to fart away any chance of being reasonably competitive under coach Jeremy Prinze Jr., we spend the front end of this edition reveling in just how unlikely and fortunate what the Bears did this past weekend was while we save the grave dancing for next week in spite of being in the immediate wake (GET IT?) of another blown lead in a game where Colliton can show literally anything worth salvaging. Give a listen and sip the Kool Aid.

Football

Tony Martin: Today’s matchup post is going to look a little different than usual- since this year has been anything but normal, we are having to seriously discuss how to spend our Sunday afternoons. I just started a new job, I’m still in grad school, and I still play in multiple bands- that time of the weekend would be perfect to spend it on anything other than shitty football that I’m emotionally invested in.

Yet I know for a fact that I’ll be parked on the couch this Sunday, watching the lifeless Bears play against the Giants. I’m not sure if I’m watching to see if they have something to prove or if I do it out of sheer tradition. I feel like if there was a Dawn of the Dead style zombie apocalypse, instead of lurking to the mall you’d find my dead ass sitting on the couch with a half cashed bowl and a LaCroix within arms reach of my rotting arms, waiting for the Bears to come on.

What do the Bears have to prove over these last few games? Is this just a talent evaluation process by now? It could be. I’m thinking they need to assess what options they have at so many different positions- both sides of the line, tight end, linebacker, kicker, and the defensive backfield. At this point, let’s see what this team has going forward. A lot of what Pace and Nagy should be focusing on where the holes in this leaky sink are coming from, because even though Mitch is the most glaring problem, the reason we are where we are is deeper than bad QB play. If Kyle Orton can win games as a starting QB, so can Mitch, but the franchise needs to build and play to his strengths. A great game plan can help mitigate a lot of deficiencies if done right.

This team absolutely has a playoff core, but Pace/Nagy need to spend the offseason figuring out what the identity of the franchise actually is and then building towards it. The end of last season covered up a lot of the problems with this roster from an identity standpoint on offense. They had a bruising running back and then a scatback, an all-star caliber wide receiver and a bunch of undersized speedsters, and a tight end that was not worth the money. All they did was replace the running back with a much better prospect that fits the offense, but they get away from running as soon as they fall behind, even if it’s by something as small as a first half field goal. Now might be the time to find those things to build upon, but it’s going to be boring as shit from a fan perspective to see it.

To wrap this part up, I’ll tell you what I’m looking for as the Bears play us off (insert Bill O’Reilly impression here):

-Is there an NFL-caliber tight end on the roster?
-Is Anthony Miller consistent enough to warrant a spot as the starting slot WR?
-Which defensive linemen could create pressure on their own in the absence of Khalil Mack?
-Does Leonard Floyd still play for this team?
-Eddie Goldman somehow has a grade of 74.3 so far from PFF- how much of 2018’s 88 rating from PFF was aided by the presence of Akiem Hicks?
-Do the Bears look to extend any of the following players: Danny Trevathan, Haha Clinton-Dix, Aaron Lynch, Nick Williams, Nick Kwiatkoski, or Roy Robertson-Harris?
-Are the Bears interested in taking a harder look at Javon Wims or Ryan Nall?

 

Wes French:Tony, I have to admit – If there is a Dawn of the Dead style scenario, I’d like to come find that couch and help you finish off your party favors. Barring a Hollywood situation on Sunday, though, I think I’m checking out on the Bears for a week.

It’s the Sunday before what’s basically a holiday week – yeah, I’ve got to work a few days at the beginning, but am I REALLY working? Fuck no. And the fact the Bears don’t really seem to be working the last month+ makes me unsure about investing another 3-4 hour block of my weekend, especially against a putrid trash heap like the New York Giants. I guess this might be the BEST time to check in, since the Bears should be able to get a W against the rookie-QB led G-Men, but the last time we had that narrative was all of two weeks ago against Detroit and that game was about as entertaining as a wet fart. Plus we’ll get that same wet fart four days later, bright and early before we’re all stuffed.
Am I interested in another slog between trash teams trying to sort out how exactly to best use the players they employ? No, no I’m not. Tony outlined plenty to look for in terms of WHY you may want to check in to this game on Sunday, and beyond the Bears sorting themselves out for a hopefully more spirited run in 2020 I could see you being mildly interested in who this Daniel Jones character is playing QB for NYG and wanting to see the sometimes electric Barkley do what he does. Outside of those two, the Giants have nothing to hold the interest of anyone but the diehards in the Big Apple and even those dummies are probably on to other things by week 12 of a 2-8 season. The Giants are pretty terrible and deserve no one’s attention, and in the immortal words of Local H – And Fuck New York, Too.

So what else should you be doing on Sunday? I’m going to play hockey and casually catch a nice dose of Red Zone with NINE noon games. Why the NFL can’t sort themselves out enough to have a better division of games through the day (there are only TWO late afternoon contests, but one is DAL @ NE) remains a mystery, but I digress. There are some strong teams on bye this week (KC/MIN), but while the schedule at first glance looks like a mirror of Bears/Giants, I’d say we’re in for a noon slate of some wild football with goofy fun matchups galore: 
– SEA @ PHI: The best game on paper at noon, Seattle looks to keep the Eagles down as they chase the 49ers for the NFC West/#1 seed. The Eagles are maddening, but always capable of a breakout performance and still have a shot at their own shitty Division
– TB @ ATL: Human Turnover Machine/Piece of Shit Jameis Winston goes into Hotlanta, quietly one of the best defensive units in the league since Week 5; I’ll guarantee at least 3 INTs and a DEF TD
– DEN @ BUF/ OAK @ NYJ: On the surface, the Bills and Raiders should cruise, but the Broncos have proved a difficult out and the Jets are scoring in bunches of late. The Bills and Raiders also remain the Bills and Raiders, so place those bets cautiously
– PIT @ CIN: A once fierce rivalry reduced to Mason Rudolph against Ryan Finley. I’ll be honest, this one excites even less than the Bears, but it does produce a decent opportunity for the Bungals to get their first win…it could totally be worse, Bears fans
– CAR @ NO: This sees two teams heading in wildly opposite directions, with the Panthers looking like they might be onto their third QB of the season and just about dead in the NFC at 5-5. Saints are aiming for NFC’s top spot. Divisional games can be weird, though
– MIA @ CLE/DET @ WSH: These two matchups pit four of the leagues worst franchises (of late, at least) against each other, and while on the surface the matchups look shit you should NEVER discount a game between the worst of the worst. How will Cleveland respond after the brawl to end last week’s game? Can Miami make it 3 wins in 4 after starting 0-7? Will the Lions continue to be the tonic that aids young/under-performing QBs for Dwayne Haskins and the Racial Slurs???
TUNE IN TO FIND OUT
Live From The Five Hole

On this week’s installment the four of us discuss the aftermath of the eastern Canadian swing and fall down the rabbit hole of the Great Sports Concussion Debate, and then proceed to defend a millionaire athlete whom none of us have ever met nor will ever meet. And more depraved listener questions as usual. Audio after the jump.

Everything Else

bluestrumpet_jersey vs evil empire

Game Time: 7:30PM
TV/Radio: CSN, WGN-AM 720
Toasted Ravs, Man: SLGT

Tonight’s game between the Hawks and Blues is being labeled a playoff preview by all of the flapping heads around the league, and in one sense, that’s not accurate at all given the number of injuries on both sides that will surely answer the bell this time next week, as well as the fact that this first round matchup is anything but a foregone conclusion. And in that respect tonight already is a playoff game unto itself. Should the Blues gain a single point, they will clinch some form of home ice and the Hawks will be locked into third in the Central. However a Hawks regulation win still keeps them in position for home ice if not the division, depending on the outcome of Stars/Avs. The Hawks would still need some help from the Preds and/or Capitals on Saturday, but they still have to close out their regular season home schedule properly tonight to give themselves a chance.