Hockey

Rockford IceHogs goalie Collin Delia may have won the most important game of his career Saturday night. Too much hyperbole for a mid-November tilt with the Chicago Wolves? Not for a 27-year old goaltender that’s being used as infrequently as Delia.

Saturday night, the Rancho Cucamonga, California native was between the pipes for the Chicago Blackhawks AHL affiliate for the first time in nearly a month. Delia’s 31-save performance in Rockford’s 3-2 shootout win over the Wolves in Rosemont comes at a most crucial time for the fifth-year pro.

Before Saturday, Delia had played eleven games over the previous 20 months. Thanks to last year’s NHL taxi squad and some poor planning by the Blackhawks organization, time in the crease has been at a high premium for Delia.

“When you have three,” explained Hogs interim head coach Anders Sorensen last week, “you’ve got to make sure you’re getting the right development times, they’re getting the right game times. Sometimes it’s hard, but we’re working through it.”

Coming into the stoppage that ultimately ended the 2019-20 campaign, Delia was being handled like a future NHL backup for the Blackhawks. Having played in 16 games for Chicago the season before, Delia was getting his work in with the IceHogs as the spring of 2020 began.

Beginning in February, Delia started 12 of Rockford’s final 17 games before play was halted in mid-March. Since then, Delia has felt the crunch in net more than any other goalie in the organization over the past two seasons.

Malcom Subban was obtained in the summer of 2020. With the NHL requiring three goalies on the 2020-21 rosters, the Blackhawks grouped Delia with Subban and Kevin Lankinen. Delia had shaky performances in his first two starts of the season and quickly became the odd man out in Chicago’s goalie mix.

He sat, inactive, for six weeks before requesting and receiving a conditioning assignment to Rockford, where he played four games in two weeks. After shaking off some understandable rust, Delia beat the Iowa Wild in back-to-back starts March 6 and 7 with solid performances.

Two months later, Delia got into his next game, a 5-2 loss to Carolina. Relieving Subban, Delia stopped all 19 shots he faced. He was 1-1-1 in three starts following that contest.

This past summer, Marc-Andre Fleury’s acquisition crowed the goalie room further. The Blackhawks passed Delia and Subban through waivers, perhaps hoping one would be claimed. They were not.

Based on then-coach Derek King’s comments earlier this month, Chicago’s plan was to give rookie Arvid Soderblom half of the starts in Rockford this season, dividing the other half to the tandem of Subban and Delia.

“Right now, when those guys (Delia and Subban) came down, Soderblom was obviously going to play a lot of the games,” explained King back on November 2. “So, it’s always been Soderblom, plus one of those guys. Then, the next weekend, it’s been Soderblom plus Delia or Soderblom plus Subi. Those guys (Delia and Subban) haven’t gotten in rhythm at all. They’re kind of playing once every two weeks, which is hard to be fresh and be sharp.”

Subban’s weekend was first up. Delia gave up five goals to the Wild in his season debut on October 23. He dressed in Texas on October 28 as Subban’s back up. Subban was used the last two weeks in tandem with Soderblom. Where was Delia? The answer arrived on November 16 from Sorensen.

“Collin was on COVID protocol the last ten days here. He just got back this week,” Sorensen explained when discussing his goalie situation.

Delia practiced this past week and backed up Soderblom in Friday’s 6-3 win over the Wolves at the BMO Harris Bank Center. On Saturday, the crease was finally his.

After the Wolves put a shorthanded chance and a power play goal past him early, Delia settled down and denied Chicago’s last 28 shots in regulation and overtime. He then stopped four shootout attempts from the Wolves to allow Rockford to prevail.

It can’t be overstated how important this result was for Delia. Meanwhile, the issue remains; Rockford has three goalies who are capable of carrying the work load. There just aren’t enough minutes to go around.

“If you look at Arvid,” Sorensen points out, “he’s had a really good start to his North American career. He’s been really poised. He’s a big kid. He reads the play well, he comes ready to practice, he comes ready to play every day. Malcom has been fantastic. He’s been really good in the locker room, but also his last couple of outings in net have been really good. (Delia) needs some practice time here, but obviously we know him from the past and we know what he can do.”

In the current state of affairs, the best Delia can hope for is a start every other week. It is poor asset management by the Blackhawks, who signed Delia to a three-year, three million dollar contract back in February of 2019.

A goalie needs to be traded or loaned out. The organization either can’t or won’t make that move happen. Delia, who, like Subban is an unrestricted free agent this summer, isn’t going to have many chances to make his case for being an NHL goalie. Saturday night was a pivotal game for his future.

 

Roster Moves

The IceHogs recalled forward Kale Howarth from Indy on Thursday. Howarth missed the start of the season with a lower body injury before being loaned to the Fuel November 9. The former UCONN skater had two goals and an assist for Indy in five games in his stint in the ECHL. Howarth played in both games for the IceHogs this weekend.

Issak Phillips also made his return to the lineup after the Blackhawks removed him from COVID protocols and assigned him to Rockford last week.

 

Weekend Recaps

The piglets won two in a row over Chicago, grinding out wins in both ends of the home-and-home series.

Friday, November 19-Rockford 6, Chicago 3 

The Hogs trailed by a pair early, picked themselves up off the deck, rallied behind their special teams, and wound up topping the Wolves. Rockford improves to 4-6-1 and claimed the first of a home-and-home series with Chicago.

The Wolves (8-4-1) dug into the Rockford zone throughout the first fifteen minutes of action. Dominick Bokk finished off a barrage of pucks in front of Hogs goalie Arvid Soderblom for a 1-0 Chicago advantage 2:48 into the contest. Josh Jacobs capped a slick faceoff sequence with a scoring strike from the outside of the right circle at the 7:31 mark to make it 2-0 Wolves.

At this point, Rockford was being dominated at even strength. The turning point in the game came when a Joey Keane hooking infraction gave the IceHogs their only man advantage of the evening. Brett Connolly capitalized on the opportunity, one-timing a Lukas Reichel feed into the back door of Eetu Makiniemi‘s crease. The goal signaled a significant change of momentum at 13:57 of the first period.

Down 2-1, the Hogs got back to even ground on the penalty kill. After being tagged with too many skaters on the ice, Rockford’s Ian Mitchell and Josiah Slavin dug a puck out the boards in front of the IceHogs bench. Slavin found Carson Gicewicz leaving the defensive zone to start an odd-man rush toward the Chicago net. Gicewicz returned the puck to Slavin at the left post; the resulting tap-in tied the game at two goals at 15:07 of the first.

Rockford came out in the second period with a bit more jump, matching the Wolves intensity and grabbing its first lead of the night midway through the frame. Alexander Nylander put back a rebound off of a Dylan McLaughlin offering 10:55 into the period to make it 3-2 Rockford.

Back came the Wolves, who tied the game on David Gust‘s fourth goal of the season. Gust finished off a quick-developing Chicago rush into the Hogs zone, sending a pass from Maxim Letunov from the right dot past Soderblom at the 12:21 mark.

The score remained 3-3 until the second minute of the third period. Issak Phillips got the game-winner started, tipping a pass into the Wolves zone before finishing his shift. Reichel chased the puck down behind the net before Wyatt Kalynuk won possession coming around the endboards. Kalynuk circled the Chicago net before threading a pass to Reichel, who guided the biscuit past Makiniemi 1:04 into the final frame to give the Hogs a 4-3 lead.

The Wolves pushed hard for the equalizer, but it was not in the cards. Rockford added empty-net goals from Evan Barratt and Garrett Mitchell in the final minutes to secure the victory.

Soderblom wound up stopping 31 of 34 shots on the night. It was all Rockford for the Three Stars, with Nylander (First), Reichel (Second) and Slavin (Third) earning the honors.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Evan Barratt-Josiah Slavin-Carson Gicewicz

Alexander Nylander-Lukas Reichel-Brett Connolly (A)

Jakub Pour-Dylan McLaughlin (A)-Michael Teply

Kale Howarth-Garrett Mitchell (C)-Dmitri Osipov

Jakub Galvas-Nicolas Beaudin

Issak Phillips-Alec Regula

Wyatt Kalynuk-Ian Mitchell

Arvid Soderblom

Collin Delia

 

Saturday, November 20-Rockford 3, Chicago 2 (SO)

Collin Delia got his first start in almost a month Saturday. He saved 31 shots to lead the Hogs (5-6-1) to a second straight victory over Chicago.

Rockford had an early power play opportunity that led to the first goal of the night. Unfortunately, it was a shorthanded tally by the Wolves. Andrew Poturalski picked the pocket of Nicolas Beaudin just across the Hogs blue line. He passed to Stefan Noesen, who smartly maneuvered through D.J. Busdeker and sent a shot past the stick side of Hogs goalie Collin Delia. The Wolves led 1-0 2:26 into the contest.

The Wolves burned the Rockford defense in transition later in the opening frame. David Gust sped through the middle of the ice, leaving several Hogs in his wake. Gust beat Delia at the left at the 8:06 mark to make it 2-0 Chicago.

The Hogs patiently tried to cut into the Wolves advantage in the second stanza. It took most of the period, but Rockford finally figured out Chicago goalie Alex Lyon in the closing minutes. Jakub Galvas sent a shot on goal from the point that was redirected by Busdeker. Lyon stopped the attempt, but Dylan McLaughlin was on hand to clean up, flipping the rebound into the cage with 1:01 remaining in the second.

Down 2-1 entering the third, Rockford got back to even footing in the opening minutes. The equalizer came on the power play; McLaughlin brought the puck to the Chicago blue line and hit Andrei Altybarmakian coming down the middle of the ice. Altybarmakian sent a shot wide of the Wolves net that rebounded out to Evan Barratt at the bottom of the left circle. His shot banked off of Lyon and tumbled into the cage 1:44 into the period.

From there, the Hogs concentrated on keeping Chicago from prime scoring chances. Delia stopped 12 Wolves shots in the final 20 minutes and another two in Gus Macker Time, forcing Rockford’s first shootout of the season.

Lyon stopped Alexander Nylander, Lukas Reichel and Brett Connolly. Delia responded by denying Noesen, Dominick Bokk and Andrew Poturalski. In round four, McLaughlin sent a shot under Lyon’s blocker and into the net. Delia snuffed out Gust’s attempt to claim First Star honors and pick up his first win of the campaign.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Alexander Nylander-Lukas Reichel-Brett Connolly (A)

Evan Barratt-Josiah Slavin-Carson Gicewicz

Andrei Altybarmakian-Dylan McLaughlin (A)-D.J. Busdeker

Kale Howarth-Garrett Mitchell (C)-Dmitri Osipov

Jakub Galvas-Nicolas Beaudin

Issak Phillips-Alec Regula

Wyatt Kalynuk-Ian Mitchell

Collin Delia

Arvid Soderblom

 

Next

The IceHogs have their first three-game weekend to close the book on November. Rockford hosts a struggling Milwaukee team on Friday and Sunday, bookending a Saturday night trip to Rosemont and the Wolves.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for my thoughts on the IceHogs all season long.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs continue their October tour this weekend. The action takes place in DesMoines, where the piglets will face the Iowa Wild on Friday and Saturday nights. After splitting the first two games of the season in Grand Rapids and Chicago, the Hogs could see their points percentage climb above the .500 mark for the first time since the 2019-20 campaign.

Roster News

On Monday, the Blackhawks called up forward Mike Hardman, sending defenseman Ian Mitchell to Rockford. The IceHogs assigned goalie Cale Morris to the Indy Fuel of the ECHL.

Morris joins goalie Tom Aubrun in Indy. In addition to the two netminders, Rockford has several AHL contracts assigned to the Fuel roster. These include forwards Liam Folkes, Riley McKay and Chad Yetman. Indy hosts Cinncinati on October 23 to open its schedule.

 

A Look At The Wild

Iowa has some new faces, though the Hogs should be familiar with some of them. Forward Dominic Turgeon and defenseman Joe Hicketts come over from Grand Rapids. Longtime Iowa forward Kyle Rau is back after spending last season with Minnesota. Center Connor Dewar returns for his third season after posting 23 points (12 G, 11 A) in 32 games for the Wild in 2020-21. He currently leads Iowa in scoring (2 points) following the first weekend.

The Wild split two games with the Texas Stars to open their season. Veteran goalie Andrew Hammond shut out the Stars on October 16. He’s coming off a solid season with Rochester last spring (2.53 GAA, .908 save percentage) and will likely split starts with prospect Dereck Baribeau against the IceHogs. Baribeau was 2-0 against Rockford last season, with a 2.10 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage. Overall, he was 6-1-2 in ten appearances (2.54 GAA, .914 save percentage).

The IceHogs were 1-4-1 at Wells Fargo Arena last season. Nicolas Beaudin had a lot of success against the Wild; in five games, the defenseman had six points (2 G, 4 A). In ten games with the Wild, Reese Johnson also posted six points (2 G, 4 A). Rockford was 4-5-1 in those games.

The Hogs will be leaving Malcom Subban at home for the weekend. Collin Delia looks to get his first start of the season. Arvid Soderblom, who will likely get the other start this weekend, shut out the Wild when the teams met in the preseason on October 23.

Nothing has been announced as of yet, but Chad Krys may be out for a stretch after suffering a knee injury on October 16 in Chicago. Mitchell will likely draw into the defensive mix regardless.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for updates on this weekend’s games, as well as my thoughts on the IceHogs all season long.

 

 

 

 

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs faced a stiff challenge to open the 2021-22 season. The Blackhawks AHL franchise had a pair of tough road opponents on tap over the weekend in Grand Rapids and Chicago. I thought a split of the first two games would be just fine in my book.

Well…the piglets got that split. Rockford dropped a 6-1 decision to the Griffins Friday night, then rallied to defeat the Wolves 5-3 in Rosemont on Saturday.

Heading into the second period with Chicago, fans had a right to be concerned with the way the offense was faring. The passing looked off by just a bit and the Hogs seemed to be getting used to the lines set out by head coach Derek King.

Four unanswered goals in the next two periods gave cause for hope.

Rockford wasn’t moving the puck around the zone like the Wolves were for most of the evening on Saturday. However, they did make the most of some turnovers and counterpunched their way to a big win over their biggest division rival.

A few other observations of the opening weekend:

  • Lucas Reichel picked up his first AHL goal Saturday on a fine effort, bringing a puck into the Chicago zone and streaking past the Wolves defense. Reichel skated with Alex Nylander and Mike Hardman all weekend; the combo could prove quite productive as Reichel gets used to his line mates.
  • We got a glimpse or two of the skill Nylander brings to Rockford. He missed a breakaway attempt in Grand Rapids, but chased down a puck into the Wolves zone the following night and stickhandled it into the back of the net for the eventual game-winner.
  • Dmitri Osipov made his season debut Saturday…at forward. He did spend most of the latter half of the game on defense when the Hogs became short handed on the blue line.
  • Osipov was in the lineup in place of Andrei Altybarmakian, who played Friday night. Osipov, captain Garrett Mitchell, alternate captain Ryan Stanton, and defenseman Michael Krutil were the only AHL contracts on the ice this weekend. Dylan McLaughlin, who led the Hogs in scoring last season, did not see action on opening weekend.
  • Also inactive this weekend was Alec Regula, who the Blackhawks assigned to Rockford on Thursday. The Big Regu had been on injured reserve with a back issue; perhaps he’ll be ready to skate in Iowa this weekend.
  • Malcom Subban and Arvid Soderblom were King’s goalies of choice this weekend. Subban gave up six goals on 24 Griffins shots. Soderblom got his AHL career off to a promising start with a 40-save performance against the Wolves. Each goalie served as the other’s backup.
  • Collin Delia and Cale Morris were not used this past weekend. Four goalies is too many for the Hogs to be carrying. Delia was the odd man out in Chicago for the bulk of the season. Does this carry over in Rockford?
  • Subban is the obvious experienced goalie to be recalled if necessary. Soderblom could earn a call up if he continues to play well. They need to be getting most of the work in net. Where does that leave Delia? He’s a fan favorite in Rockford, but the Hogs don’t open the season at the BMO Harris Bank Center until November 6. Will he be around by that time?

 

Krys Injured

Chad Krys, who played just six games a season ago, was in the lineup in both games this weekend. Unfortunately, he may be facing more time off the ice after a collision with Chicago’s David Cotton late in the first period Saturday night.

Krys was trying to intercept Cotton as he drove toward the Hogs net. The Wolves forward was knocked down on Ryan Stanton’s backcheck attempt. The sliding Cotton took Krys down with him. It appeared that Krys’s knee took the brunt of the accidental hit.

Krys got up and hopped off the ice to the Rockford locker room. He was not putting any weight on his right leg and did not return to the game.

Krys, a second-round selection by the Hawks in the 2016 NHL Draft, is in the final year of his entry deal. He played 45 games (2 G, 6 A) in his rookie campaign before the season came to an abrupt end. Last season came and went without much action due to some injuries.

It looked as if Krys was going to get some early time in the lineup this season to showcase his game due to injuries to Caleb Jones and Wyatt Kalynuk. Now he may be looking at missing some extended time himself.

 

Recaps

Friday, October 15-Grand Rapids 6, Rockford 1

The season got underway in less than impressive fashion, with the Griffins breaking open a close game in the second stanza and handing the Hogs the loss.

The Griffins converted on a power play set up by an interference penalty by Ryan Stanton. Joe Veleno skated into the slot and fired past Hogs goalie Malcom Subban at the 7:48 mark.

The first Rockford goal of the season came on a put-back effort by Josiah Slavin 14:52 into the opening frame. Slavin’s attempt at a redirect of Nicolas Beaudin’s point shot was turned aside by Grand Rapids goalie Calvin Pickard. However, Cameron Morrison knocked the rebound back to the crease, where Slavin steered it across the goal line. The teams skated into the intermission tied at a goal apiece.

The Griffins took a 3-1 lead early in the second period on goals sixty-six seconds apart by Tyler Spezia and Turner Elson. Rockford had some impressive stretches of puck possession in the second stanza, but it did not show up on the scoreboard. Hayden Verbeek gave Grand Rapids a 4-1 advantage at the 17:11 mark, and the IceHogs found themselves down a three-spot heading into the final 20 minutes.

Things got worse in the third period, with the Griffins adding a pair of goals by Chase Pearson and Dennis Yan. The Hogs and Grand Rapids each had 24 shots on goal, but Rockford just didn’t have it at either end of the ice.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Jakub Pour-Reese Johnson (A)-Brett Connolly

Alex Nylander-Lucas Reichel-Mike Hardman

Michal Teply-Josiah Slavin-Cameron Morrison

Evan Barratt-Garrett Mitchell (C)-Andrei Altybarmakian

Ryan Stanton (A)-Jakub Galvas

Nicolas Beaudin-Issak Phillips

Chad Krys-Michael Krutil

Malcom Subban

Arvid Soderblom

Saturday, October 16-Rockford 5, Chicago 3

Rockford was able to rally from a two-goal deficit as the offense roared to life at Allstate Arena. Hogs rookie goalie Arvid Soderblom sent away 40 shots to nab First Star honors and pick up the victory in his AHL debut.

The Wolves dominated the opening twenty, outshooting Rockford 16-3.  Miraculously, Soderblom and the IceHogs kept the game scoreless until Chicago got a power play goal from C.J. Smith 18 seconds into the second period. The Wolves added a shorthanded goal by Ryan Suzuki a few minutes later, putting them up 2-0 before the Hogs offense would get to work.

Rockford got on the board at 6:48 of the second, when Garrett Mitchell forced a turnover between the circles in the Chicago zone. He backhanded a pass to Evan Barratt, who wristed home his first goal of the season to cut the lead to one.

The IceHogs got the equalizer from rookie Lucas Reichel. Reichel took a pass from Josiah Slavin, skated to the doorstep, and flipped the puck at Wolves goalie Alex Lyon. The shot bounced off of Lyon’s glove and tumbled into the Chicago basket at the 14:21 mark.

Brett Connolly struck on an odd-man rush, converting on a fine pass from Cameron Morrison, giving the Hogs a 3-2 advantage 15:20 into the second. The play was set up by a defensive zone faceoff win by Reese Johnson. Jacob Galvas got the puck out of the Hogs zone to Morrison to pick up the secondary assist.

Rockford went up 4-2 on the first of two goals by Alex Nylander. The forward chased down a exit pass by Mike Hardman into the Wolves zone behind the defense and deked Lyon 5:46 into the third period.

The Wolves closed the gap to 4-3 on a power play goal by Eric Gelinas with 5:46 remaining, but an empty netter by Nylander sealed the contest for the IceHogs. Nylander, Reichel (1 G, 1 A) and Hardman (2 A) all had multi-point evenings for Rockford.

Chad Krys left the game late in the first period favoring his right leg. He did not return to action.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Cameron Morrison-Josiah Slavin-Michal Teply

Jakub Pour-Reese Johnson (A)-Brett Connolly

Mike Hardman-Lucas Reichel-Alex Nylander

Evan Barratt-Garrett Mitchell (C)-Dmitri Osipov

Issak Phillips-Nicolas Beaudin

Ryan Stanton-Chad Krys

Jakub Galvas-Michael Krutil

Arvid Soderblom

Malcom Subban

 

This Weekend

Rockford will be in DesMoines Friday and Saturday for two games with the Iowa Wild. I’ll be previewing that weekend trip on Friday.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for game updates and thoughts on the IceHogs throughout the season.

 

 

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs begin their 2021-22 AHL slate Friday night in Grand Rapids. Here are some quick thoughts on what to expect on the eve of a new season.

First off, the piglets have a roster in place. And then some. There are 31 players starting the season with Rockford. It’s hard to imagine the roster being so bloated for long; There’s really no reason to keep four goalies or eighteen forwards. You’d think some moves will be made to address the surplus of players following this weekend’s action.

As of press time, here’s how things look for the IceHogs.

Forward

NHL Contracts: Brett Connolly, Evan Barratt, Lucas Reichel, Josiah Slavin, Cameron Morrison, Reese Johnson, Jakub Pour, Michal Teply, Andrei Altybarmakian, Mike Hardman, Alexander Nylander.

AHL Contracts: Garrett Mitchell, Carson Gicewicz, Kale Howarth, Dylan McLaughlin, Chris Wilkie, Dmitri Osipov, D.J. Busdeker.

As I pointed out earlier this week, this is a much deeper group than the group that started play back in February in the shortened 2020-21 campaign. There’s some potential scoring punch with Connolly and Nylander, along with last year’s captain (Mitchell) and leading point producer (McLaughlin).

Questions, Questions, Questions

How much playing time will a player like Busdeker, who was a solid contributor last season, receive now that there are several NHL prospects in front of him on the depth chart? How many of the AHL contracts are assigned to Indy in the next month or so?

Is Connolly going to play with a fire under him? Can Slavin and Altybarmakian take on a bigger part of the offense? How long does it take for Reichel to adjust to North American rinks? What rookies can be impact players in the first few weeks?

Is Osipov a forward (like he’s listed in Rockford) or a defenseman (as he’s listed on Indy’s website)? Does he see time as a hybrid player, or are the Blackhawks serious about developing him up front?

 

Defense

NHL Contracts: Issak Phillips, Chad Krys, Nicolas Beaudin, Alec Regula, Jakub Galvas.

AHL Contracts: Ryan Stanton, Cliff Watson, Michael Krutil, Jacob Leguerrier.

Regula was healthy enough to be assigned to Rockford this week. Stanton and the NHL contracts should be a decent lineup to begin the season if everyone’s healthy.

I Really Hate To Ask, But…

Is Krys, a former second-round draft pick, going to find a steady spot in the lineup after scuffling for playing time the last two seasons?

Can Phillips build on last year’s effort? Can Regula stay healthy and become a top-pairing option for coach Derek King?

Does Galvas follow up an impressive training camp with the Hawks and become an important piece of the Hogs defense? Will a long stretch in the AHL give Beaudin the chance to bloom into a steady NHL defender?

 

Goalie

NHL Contracts: Malcom Subban, Collin Delia, Arvid Soderblom.

AHL Contracts: Cale Morris.

Having Subban, Delia, and Soderblom on this roster could not have been in the organization’s plans this summer.

The 64,000 Dollar Question…

Who gets dealt, and when?

Either Delia or Subban is going to be considered the goalie who can be recalled in case of an injury. Unless the Hawks want Soderblom to go back to Sweden where he can play regularly, one of those contracts need to be moved to provide development opportunities.

I think the IceHogs would be fine with any two of the current goalies. True, they’ll likely take more bumps with Soderblom and Morris as the tandem, but the kids are playing at every other position, so who cares?

Again, I can’t see this four-headed monster lingering past the first few months. Unless the organization wants four unhappy goalies.

 

This Weekend

The IceHogs drop the puck on the season at 6:00 p.m. central time in Grand Rapids, then visit the Allstate Arena Saturday night for a 7:00 p.m. start against the Chicago Wolves.

If the piglets come out of their first two games with a split, kudos. The Griffins are one of the more experienced clubs in the AHL. The Wolves, though not the juggernaut they were when they had prospects from two organizations, are still pretty talented.

Rockford dropped its first six games to open 2020-21. Getting points in the opening weekend would make a statement that things might be different this season.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for updates and thoughts on Friday’s game in Grand Rapids, along with musings on the IceHogs throughout the season.

 

 

 

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs, AHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks, begin their first season under new ownership in a couple of weeks. The new owners? The Chicago Blackhawks.

The organization purchased the Hogs back in April and are currently making renovations to the BMO Harris Bank Center. As a result, Rockford will be on the road for their first six games before opening the home schedule November 6.

For the ‘Bago County Flyin’ Piglets, the AHL season begins October 15 in Grand Rapids. What kind of club hits the ice against the Griffins?  The roster looks to be similar to the youth-laden squad that finished last in the Central Division by a fair sight in the Reader’s Digest-sized 2020-21 campaign.

Based on the lack of signing organizational depth, the IceHogs are going to be short on veteran leadership when the season begins. Today, I’ll begin breaking down the roster possibilities. Let’s start in net.

Rockford could be looking at several different scenarios between the pipes as the 2021-22 season quickly approaches. They could boast a veteran tandem that could anchor a young roster in the early part of the Hogs schedule. They also could be as green as the remainder of the roster.

It would appear that the Blackhawks will be going with Marc-Andre Fleury and Kevin Lankinen in net this fall. It also seems unlikely that the Blackhawks will carry three goalies on their cap-strapped roster.

In addition to Fleury and Lankinen, Chicago has three goalies under contract. Two of those players, Collin Delia and Malcom Subban, spent last season with the Blackhawks. Subban served as the primary backup to Lankinen, while Delia struggled to find playing time after the initial few games.

Things got so bad for the Cucamonga Kid that he requested and received a rehab assignment to Rockford on February 27. He was terrible in his first two starts of the four-game stint. Despite righting the ship in his final two appearances, Delia wound up with a 5.16 goals against average and an .858 save percentage.

Delia has had stretches where he been a very good AHL net minder. He also has been subject to several funks in his four-year pro career. He was clearly the odd man out last season in Chicago. Like Subban, Delia is in the final year of his NHL contract.

Both Subban and Delia are subject to waivers if they aren’t on the Hawks roster to begin this season. There is a strong chance that one or both could be claimed if/when Chicago attempts to assign them to Rockford. If I had to venture a guess, I’d say that the Hawks are hoping one gets snatched up by another team, with the other clearing waivers and providing a bit of depth in case of injury.

Matt Tomkins, who was Rockford’s primary starter in goal last season, signed with Frolunda HC of the Swedish Hockey League in the offseason. In his place, the Blackhawks signed Arvid Soderblom to an entry contract this spring after a strong performance last season in the SHL. Soderblom does have a European Assignment Clause in his contract. If Subban and Delia both wind up in Rockford, it’s a possibility that he opts to play in Sweden for another season.

The Blackhawks seem to be planning on getting the 22-year-old Soderblom steady AHL work. Because of this, they may choose to work out a trade of Delia and/or Subban to keep a spot open for a younger goalie.

The IceHogs could see a tandem of Delia and Subban in the crease to open the season. One of the veterans could be paired with Soderblom if a trade or waiver claim materializes.

A solid option for the IceHogs would be for Soderblom to pair with former Notre Dame goalie Cale Morris for the workload in net. Morris is on an AHL contract with Rockford and showed promise in limited action in the abbreviated 2020-21 campaign.

The 21-year-old Morris made five starts and two relief appearances for the IceHogs last season, posting a 2.52 goals against average and a .923 save percentage. He’s earned an increased role, providing the Hawks thin the herd at goalie in the coming weeks.

Rockford also has Tom Aubrun under AHL ink for another season. Aubrun, 26, saw most of his action with the Indy Fuel of the ECHL. He did make three appearances in Rockford (4.46, .864) in 2020-21. Aubrun will likely bounce from Indy to Rockford when needed.

As will be the case throughout the Hogs roster, the way Chicago’s roster takes shape will factor into the makeup of the piglets. Next time, I’ll continue the season preview with a look at the defense.

Hockey

VS.

 

Records: Panthers 32-74-5 (69) (Nice) Hawks 22-22-5 (49)

Puck Drop: 7:00 Thurs/Sat

TV/Radio: NBCSN / WGN720

Mouth Of The South: Litter Box Cats

 

Welp. We’ve reached the point of the season that seemed unthinkable 6 weeks ago, yet suddenly seemed inevitable 3 weeks later. The Hawks are all but eliminated from playoff contention, and now will be looking with an eye to the horizon to next season and beyond. The next few weeks, however, will be without the services of Adam Boqvist who had his wrist broken in a collision with human meat tree Erik Cernak in the loss to Tampa on Tuesday night. As former maven of the program Sam Fels pointed out on twitter:

While this is not a great development, Boqvist made progress enough this season and his loss should be the gain of people like Ian Mitchell, Nicholas Beaudin and Riley Stillman. Playing time should be plentiful for all of the younger players here on out, as the Hawks need to decide which of these guys will be pieces for future playoff runs. In a perfect world, these tryouts would also include Nikita Zadorov being stapled to a recliner in the press box, but I doubt we will be so lucky.

As for the Swamp Cats, they currently sit one point ahead of the Bolts for 2nd in the division with Tampa having 2 games in hand. The Panth have managed to go 6-3-1 in their last 10, despite losing their best defenceman in Aaron Ekblad to a fairly disgusting-looking knee injury approximately a month ago.

In response, Panthers GM Bill Zito went out and got Brandon Montour from Buffalo for a middling return (which seems to be the motto of the Buffalo Sabres front office). On the surface, Montour doesn’t seem like he would be able to fill the gaping hole left by Ekblad, but Montour’s numbers are probably better than you’d think. He’s racked up 6 goals and 9 assists, and played solid defense on the PK to boot on an absolutely moribund Sabers team. He’s not Ekblad, but with the way the rest of the D has been playing he doesn’t have to be.

On the forward end, Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau continue to punch a hole in the universe offensively with 18 points between the two of them in the last 5 games alone. They score at evens, they score on the powerplay, and they score shorthanded. The team as a whole has scored 36 goals in the last 10, and have owned the possession edge at a 54% clip up to this point. They push the play up the ice like it was tilted at a 45 degree angle, and will put constant pressure on opposing defenders in their own zone, which we know the Hawks don’t handle well at all.

In net, the Panthers big acquisition of Sergi Bobrovsky has very slowly started to pay off the last month. After a terrible January and February, Bob has gotten his save percentage above .900 and his goals against below 3. That being said, he’s had a couple rough outings against Nashville this week which didn’t help his case to keep those numbers there. He’s had issues with his groin in the past, and seems to be having difficulty going post to post this season, which Kane and DeBrincat could definitely take advantage of.

In the Hawks net, Kevin Lankinen seems to be running on empty as evidenced by his getting yanked before the 2nd period Tuesday night against the Bolts after giving up 3 in the first. Unfortunately Malcom Suban didn’t fare much better, as the Bolts dropped 4 on him in the 2nd and 3rd combined. It’s probably a toss-up as to who gets the starts here on out, but it wouldn’t be the worst idea to give a few of them to Colin Delia. With the possibility of Subban being sniped by Seattle in the expansion draft, Delia’s services may be needed going forward unless Stan has an idea of maybe signing a 1A to have Lankinen’s back next year. Perhaps someone along the lines of a Devan Dubnyk or James Reimer could fit the bill if the price was right. Though these games don’t statistically matter for the Hawks anymore, they will go a long way to see how Coach Smoothbrain handles giving playing time to audition the kids for next year.

At the end of the day, while expectations for the Hawks this season were low, we allowed ourselves to feel a little hope and were inevitably let down by this team’s inability to win a game with any type of playoff implications. We’re back to square one, waiting to see what some of these admittedly intriguing pieces might be able to bring to the table. While it’s enough to pique my interest, it’s just not what it could’ve been…and that kinda sucks.

Let’s Go Hawks?

Hockey

VS

 

Records: Panthers 20-7-4 (44) Hawks 14-13-5 (33)

Puck Drops: 7:00 Both Nights (Tue/Thur)

TV/Radio: NBCSN and WGN 720

You Sure Do Got A Purdy Mouth, Boy: Litter Box Cats

 

Not much has changed for these two teams in the week that’s passed since they last met, other than the Panthers racking up 2 more points and the Hawks attempting to divide by zero. The Swamp Cats split with the Preds, and then lost a one shot against Tampa Bay on Sunday, giving up 3 goals in the 3rd when they’d had them on the ropes in the first two periods. The loss Sunday puts the Panthers 4 points behind the Bolts in the division, back with Carolina.

Sergi Bobrovsky was in net for both losses, as he continues his streak of uneven play. The win came on the shoulders of a 2-0 Chris Driedger shutout of Nashville, which while admittedly not a difficult thing to do, is still more than Bob has been able to accomplish of late. While the numbers between the two tenders continue to drift further apart, Coach Q still seems reluctant to turn the reigns over fully to Driedger, content to let Bob work things out on his own.

On the forward end of things, after I wrote about Aleksander Barkov last week, he proceeded to drop 9 points in 5 games, so at least for once it seems like I knew what I was talking about. 6 of those points came against the Hawks, who seemed completely unwilling or unable to do anything at all to slow him down in the slot, and he absolutely did not miss his chances.

The line centered by Barkov continues to be an unholy terror since Q added what apparently was the missing link in Carter Verhaeghe. The trio of Barkov, Verhaeghe and Anthony Duclair has been carrying the play at even strength at over a 63% clip. Add in a total of 19 points over the last 5 starts and you can see why Q is a fan. The speed and creativity that Barkov possesses compliments the North/South games of Duclair and Verhaeghe. Once they’re in your zone, they’re extremely hard to remove, especially when they’re backed up by Mackenzie Weegar and Aaron Ekblad on the blue line.

As for the Hawks, they continue to get beat down by the March schedule, dropping both games in Tampa last week. They couldn’t solve Andrei Vasilevskiy, and much as they’ve done all season the Bolts capitalized on every mistake the Hawks D made. Both Kevin Lankinen and Malcom Subban were given the chance to right the ship, but neither were able to do so, both being aided and abetted by the D in front of them. That brings the March record to an unsightly 2-6-1, and into a standings tie with Columbus, who’s managed to take 2 in a row from Carolina in the last week.

The reason behind the points drought is more of the same, as the Hawks are unable to carry the play for any extended length of time at 5 on 5 (with the 1st two periods last Saturday being the exception, more on that in a bit). When the power play suddenly runs dry and the goaltending has regressed to the mean this is what you get. We’ve spoken at great lengths about where the deficiencies lie with this Hawks team, and with Kevin Lankinen no longer able to paper over the possession issues things become even more glaring in the light of day.

As grim as it seems now, the Hawks are almost out of this Hell Month, and critical games against the Jackets, Stars and Preds await on the other side. We’ve reached the spot in the season where pretty much every point is desperately needed by the Hawks. They’ve allowed their lead to slip to the point where there’s no more margin for error at all, and for a young team like this we will really get to see what they’re made of. There’s definitely a spark there that shows at times what this team could really be.

There was a period in the game against Tampa this past Saturday when the Hawks looked like the possession monsters of old. The advanced stats bear this out, as in the 1st period the Hawks topped the CORSI list with a 58% share, and then went hog wild in the 2nd with a 69.57%. Sadly, Vasilevskiy was up to the task, and the Hawks entered the 3rd down 3-0. It’s something we haven’t seen since the 2nd game in the 1st series against the Jackets where the Hawks ended up with almost a 59% share for the entire game.

There have been flashes this season of the Hawks being able to carry the play for extended periods of time against higher quality teams like Carolina and Tampa. They key here is doing it on the regular against all of them. If a majority of the beat writers are correct, and this young team truly is “buying in” to what Colliton is selling then they’re going to have to show it now. Florida is a solid team from the blue line out, but Bobrovsky has been mediocre at best. If the Hawks can keep the play in their end at all, he’s ripe for the picking. We know that the Hawks D is paper thin, so the forwards absolutely have to convert when they get the chances. Time is running out, show us what you got.

 

Let’s Go Hawks

 

Hockey

 VS

 

Records: Hawks 14-11-5 (33) Lightning 20-6-2 (42)

Puck Drops: Thursday 6:00 / Saturday 3:00

TV/Radio: NBCSN and WGN 720

Tom Brady’s Minions: Raw Charge

 

Hoo boy, here we go again.

The last time these teams met up over a week ago, things went fairly positively for the Hawks with them going 1-1-1 in the 3 game series. The last game on the 7th, however, saw the Hawks cough up a 3 goal lead en route to losing 6-3. Since the middle of February, coughing up leads has become a shitty new trend for them as they once again jumped out to a 3-1 lead against the Panthers last game and proceeded to implode defensively again en route to yet another 6-3 loss. As Summer pointed out in her recap, the Hawks since the beginning of February have been unable to hold multi-goal leads in 7 of 9 games where they’ve had them. That, as the kids like to say, is “not good.”

The clown show that March has been is unlikely to get any better over the next week, as not a whole lot has changed with the Lightning since the Hawks last faced them. They dropped a game each against the dregs of the division in the Red Wings and Predators. The common thread in both those losses is that Andrei Vasilevskiy was not in the cage for either of them. In fact, Vasilevskiy hasn’t lost a game in almost a month, as his last L came on February 20th against the Canes. His backup, however, has not fared nearly as well. Curtis McElhinney has managed to go 2-3 in the same time frame, averaging more than 1.5 more goals against than Vasilevskiy does, with a considerably worse save percentage.

Despite the difference in netminder quality, Tampa head coach and professional hedonist John Cooper continues to split playing time between the two at about a 60-40% rate. Mostly because Cooper is smart enough to know that the talent level on his squad is more than enough to make up for any deficiencies in net, and it’s far more important to keep Vasilevskiy rested and healthy as they inevitably roll towards the playoffs.

Offensively, the Lightning don’t have many weak spots up and down their lineup, either from the forwards or their defensive corps. As McClure mentioned in his preview recently, the Bolts are tops in the league in goal differential which when paired with a nails penalty kill and a top 3rd power play usually results in some easy wins. Some of those stats have dipped a bit in recent weeks, but there’s no reason to think that it’s anything more than a blip on the radar as they haven’t lost anyone to injury, and Vasilevskiy is still the bees knees.

As for our Men of the Four Feathers, March has gone pretty much the way we assumed it would points-wise. I just didn’t think it would come with such spectacular meltdowns. A huge issue with the Hawks being unable to hold leads has been the fact that the special teams well has completely dried up. If you take away the 2 power play goals scored in the win at Dallas, the Hawks have gone 0 for 13 on the man advantage and managed to give up two shorthanded goals. On the other side of that coin is the penalty kill has been completely exposed in March. Much of that is the fact that they’re playing teams that have competent power plays, but the stupid penalties like the one Duncan Keith took in the last game against Florida are particularly back breaking.

Another major concern for the Hawks is Kevin Lankinen has come crashing back to earth in net. Over his last 5 starts he’s given up an average of almost 4 goals per game (19 total), and his save percentage over those games is below .900. Rebound control has become an issue, especially since the Hawks D is unwilling or unable to clear bodies away in front of him. Malcom Subban hasn’t fared any better, and with these next stretch of games becoming uber critical points-wise I wouldn’t expect to see him until the Preds series.

Offensively, the Hawks continue to get waxed night in and night out with possession metrics. They haven’t won the CORSI battle since their overtime win against the Lightning, and continue to average around a 42% share each game. When Lankinen and the power play were humming along in February and early March, the Hawks were able to paper over their inability to score at even strength. Now, however, with all of their flaws laid bare it’s becoming apparent that they’re just a tier below the Canes, Bolts and Panthers.

The majority of the Hawks even strength scoring has come on odd man rushes and not as the result of extensive offensive zone time. More often than not, their forays into the opposing team’s zone ends up being a one and done affair. Until the Hawks are able to set up shop in the opponent’s end for extended periods of time, they’re not going to be able to rack up any offense unless they start shooting at a 50% clip.

While this all seems very grim for the Hawks (and it pretty much is), they’ve shown that they can hang with teams like Tampa before. The 1st period in their last game against them where they jumped out to a 3-1 lead is proof that when things are clicking for the power play, the Hawks can play with anyone. We’ve seen flashes of what some of these kids can do, now it just needs to become more consistent. You have to figure Cooper will probably give McElhinney a start, so the Hawks pretty much have to at least get to OT in that one. Points have been hard to come by this month, and with the Preds being the only shitty team they’ll face the rest of March they absolutely have to secure every one possible. Get it done.

 

Let’s Go Hawks

Hockey

Game 1 Box Score / Game 2  / Game 3 

Game 1 Natural Stat Trick / Game 2 / Game 3

 

In a series that featured a little bit of everything, the Hawks showed in a nutshell what is going to be positive about their future and simultaneously what needs to be fixed before they can take that big next step into true contention. Game 1 and 3 saw the Hawks bust out solid leads with good play in the offensive zone and what continues to be a Death Star of a powerplay, but the D ended up letting them down and the Bolts came back to win both games. Game 2 saw the Hawks weather Tampa’s furious attack through 3 straight periods, only to counter punch and bury their chances whenever the Bolts slipped up.

We also saw what happens when a younger, more inexperienced team loses focus and begins to take sloppy penalties against a defending Stanley Cup champion. Much like the end of AEW Revolution last night, you saw how much positive feeling and goodwill about a product can disappear like a fart in the wind (or a botched explosion) when things just don’t go according to the plan. Ultimately, however, there was more to like than dislike about this series against a team that (on paper) should’ve kicked the Hawks collective asses to the curb.

TO THE BULLETS!

 

NUMBERS DON’T LIE

 

-First, let us begin with the positives. The Hawks power play continues to be a doomsday device when they can set up shop in the opponent’s zone. Alex DeBrincat is rapidly ascending to Ovechkin and Stamkos levels of deadly in the circles with his shot. The season has gone on long enough for other teams to have this scouted by now, and it hasn’t mattered one bit. Even strength has been no different for Top Cat, as he’s now second on the team only to Kane in points.

-Speaking of, Patrick Kane is having a Hart Trophy kinda year, and if he can keep up this pace and the Hawks make the playoffs I think you’d have a hard time not giving it to him. It’s obviously the old “best player on the best team vs. the player most responsible for his team’s success” argument (which will never end), but Kane seems to have taken the mantle of “veteran offensive leader” pretty seriously in the wake of Toews not being around and should be number 1 on everyone’s ballot.

-Malcom Subban, despite giving up 3 goals (none of which he had much of a prayer on) rebounded nicely from the egg he laid against Detroit. Not only did he make some fabulous saves against the Bolts in OT during the furious up and down 90 seconds where everyone pretty much pretended defense was optional, but he shut the door on Stamkos in the Home Run Derby to secure the shootout win. Good for Malcom, as I’ve been a fan of his for awhile. He’s never going to be a starter, but he’s a more than serviceable backup if his minutes are monitored.

-Speaking of goaltending, Kevin Lankinen didn’t get much help from his defense in game 3, and if he wasn’t able to put forth the performance he did the Bolts could’ve easily put up double digits on the Hawks. His performance in game 1 was excellent as well, and if this is who he really is the Hawks Euro Scouting Department deserves some kudos from Stan and Danny (henceforth known collectively as Stanny).

-I fully expected the Hawks to get slaughtered in the possession metrics this series, the Lightning being what they are. However I was happily surprised that they actually won the CORSI battle in game 1, 58.7% to 41.3%. Game 2 was a different story, which should not be a surprise considering the furious attack of the Bolts in the first two periods (Tampa won the CORSI battle in period 2 78.3-21.7%. YIKES), but the Hawks were well on their way to winning the possession battle in game 3 when the conga line to the box began in the 2nd. There’s been some improvement here, and Brandon Hagel has something to do with that, as his constant pressure on the forecheck forces teams to try errant passes that more often than not are picked off in the neutral zone. If only the Hawks had some more speed to compliment him, they could be on their way to tilting the table.

-Mattias Janmark has been a solid signing by Stan Bowman this season, and him chipping in on Sunday with a (very nice) goal and an assist was an added bonus. In reality, he’s probably a 3rd line center on a team with legitimate Stanley Cup aspirations, and he should be treated as such when the trade deadline appears. The Hawks can find better uses for that money in the off-season, and any picks they can get for him will be of use either as currency in the future or as a chance to fill some holes on the back end.

-Now, the negatives. Connor Murphy almost certainly will find himself in the pressbox for a game after taking a run at Erik Cernak with about 10 to go in the 2nd period. (UPDATE: Murphy will actually not face any disciplinary action at all. Color me shocked) He was assessed the Hawks first 5 minute match penalty since Duncan Keith went full Brock Lesnar and pile drove Dillon Dube into the boards against the Flames in 2018. Murphy doesn’t have a history of Tom Wilson-esque behavior, so he’s got no priors. The shot caught Cernak up high and he ended up leaving the game, so expect discipline from above. The Hawks managed to kill off the penalty, thanks to a lazy tripping call on Victor Hedman (who had been playing full tilt the entire series for some reason) but were completely unable to capitalize on that momentum because…

-They took a million fucking stick penalties in game 3, and the Lightning absolutely made them pay. The Bolts went 4 for 5 on the man advantage, completely obliterating the 3 goal lead the Hawks had built up for themselves with what might have been their best period all year in the 1st. This is what you’re gonna get with a young team that also contains Nikita Zadorov, but Duncan Keith and Soderberg should know better.

-Ian Mitchell might need to take a sick day after getting absolutely roasted by pretty much everyone in a white sweater on Sunday. He only ended up with 10 minutes of ice time in a game that featured the Hawks losing a D-man halfway through to a major penalty. His CORSI for on the day was a cool 22.22%, and his only contribution other than being out of position all day was being on ice for both Tampa even strength goals and taking a boneheaded hooking penalty against Stamkos that lead directly to Victor Hedman’s game tying PP goal. Mitchell has a ton of talent and he’s got a bright future, but the last few games he’s been under water and probably needs a breather before he gets in too deep.

-Nikita Zadorov: still bad, still getting 20 fucking minutes a night.

-Next up the Hawks travel down to the COVID Wild West in Dallas for 2 very important games against the Stars. Considering the Preds are dying a death, Columbus couldn’t give any less shits, and Detroit is still a Ferris Wheel filled with rotting corpses the Stars are pretty much the only team that could conceivably steal the #4 seed from the Hawks. Bare minimum this needs to be a split, so let’s see how the team responds to the skulling the Bolts gave them yesterday.

Let’s Go Hawks

 

Hockey

Game 1 Box Score / Game 2 Box Score

Game 1 Natural Stat Trick / Game 2 Natural Stat Trick

 

The Hawks just broke off their 3rd win in a row against teams with legitimate cases for deep playoff runs this spring/summer. Could this Hawks crew be more than what we thought they’d be at the beginning of the season, or is this merely a bright strech in what will end up being a dark river of despair that stops at a lottery pick? The answer is: I have no fucking idea anymore.

Statistically speaking, the underlying metrics for these last 3 Hawks wins should realistically result in them getting their doors blown off each night. One would be safe in assuming that if your team sported a CORSI of 44, 44, and 41 in 3 straight games you’d be thrilled at getting any points at all, yet the Hawks took 5 of a possible 6. Hockey is dumb and fun somtimes, folks

TO THE BULLETS!

 

NUMBERS DON’T LIE

 

-Except sometimes they do? Honestly, the only reason the Hawks have been able to escape their massive CORSI deficet is the fact that the powerplay continues to be fucking nails. For the first time in recent memory, they have not one but TWO powerplay units that can not only move the puck efficiently, but can finish their shots after sick passing. Both DeBrincat and Janmark’s goals were set up by nifty passes from Dylan Strome and Dominik Kubalik respectively. The Hawks ability to create passing lanes that set these goals up haven’t been seen since 2015-2016 season when the Hawks PP torched the league at an impressive rate.

-Another thing keeping this Hawks run afloat is well above average goaltending. Simply put, Malcom Subban and Kevin Lankinen are directly responsibe for the Hawks getting the points that they’ve gotten during this new point streak. Since the calendar flipped to February, only Cal Petersen from LA has faced more shots than Kevin Lankinen, and he’s had 3 more high danger shots. LA is obviously a dumpster fire on both sides of the ice, but defensively they’re pretty comparable to the Hawks. Hopefully Lankinen can keep this up, because once they regress to the mean on the PP they’re gonna need him.

-While the PP has been able to paper over some deficiencies for the team, on the defensive side of the puck the Hawks are still a borderline disaster. They are bottom 5 in high danger chancces given up, and are still unable to jump start the offense with a decent transition game. Obviously Zadorov is still a clownshow in his own end, but surprisingly Duncan Keith has been the 2nd worst defenceman in CORSI for since the start of the season. He’s also had the most partners on the team, so Coach Pretty has obviously been using Keith in all pairings in multiple situations, but it was still a shock to see. Especially since the eye test on Duncs has been pretty positive, but that might just be because Zadorov has been eye-bleedingly bad.

-Brandon Hagel has been more and more noticeable each night with his speed. Prince Pretty has rewarded him with more ice time, as he actually cracked 15 minutes in night 1 against the Stars. While he hasn’t been able to dent the twine just yet, with the appropriate matchups going forward it seems like only a matter of time.

-Speaking of rookies, the GWG by Pius Suter in game two came from a line of 3 rookies on the ice in OT (Suter, Hagel and Ian Mitchell) which was very nice to see after an overabundace of Duncan Keith and Patrick Kane in the first weeks of the season. More please.

-The Hawks now sit with a 6-4-4 record at the 1/4 point of the season, good for the #3 spot in the modified division. While this is awesome to see, if the team really does have aspirations to make the playoffs they need to stop being involved in these 3 point games. Winning in regulation has never been more important, as if the league continues to plan on using points as the primary measure for getting into the playoffs, giving up loser points will be a dagger. Though I’ve heard rumblings (as Foley himself mentioned on the broadcast last night) of the league moving to Win % as a statistic for breaking ties in playoff seedings. Being that the NHL is realistically not going to be able to finish the season on time with all the rescheduled games due to COVID, they may have no other option but to go that route.

-Next up for the Hawks are the Tortorella-led Blue Jackets again, who managed to go a whopping 2 periods of play before SENDING A MESSAGE to newly acquired goal whiz Patrik Laine. He was benched halfway through the 2nd and the entire 3rd periods of the last game against Carolina for “mouthing off” to an assistant coach. I’m sure Torts and Laine will be an endless source of entertainment for the rest of the season and definitely won’t cause the Jackets to implode like a dying star. Fuck Colombus and their stupid cannon.

 

Let’s Go Hawks