Hockey

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

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

3/23 at Anaheim

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

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

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

3/24 at LA

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

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

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

3/26 at Vegas

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

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

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

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

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

Hockey

Since about 30 seconds into Game 1 of the season where it became glaringly obvious that this year’s Hawks team would not be competing for jack shit, this week arguably became the most important stretch of games of the year in the leadup to the trade deadline. Particularly now with a new GM steering the ship, it might have ended up being an indicator of GM Kyle’s mid and long term vision for the club. But overall, with a few wrinkles here and there, things shook out about how they could have been predicted, with the Hawks recouping some assets and also looking like shit on the ice.

3/15 – Bruins 2, Hawks 1 (OT)

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Event Summary
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The Hawks were pretty well fucked from Jump St. in this one with the Bruins being the best team defensive team in the league by a lot of metrics while having almost no finish to speak of aside from two guys on the roster. Marc-Andre Fleury was at his acrobatic best throughout the game and was literally the only reason this game was not a complete dong-whipping. He made every kind of vintage save you could as of anyone, let alone a 36 year old with the mileage he has on him. In an ideal world he would have been traded at the second intermission when his value was at its absolute peak, but there were clearly other factors at play. The Hawks managed to get this one to OT, where the fun predictably ended quickly.

3/19 – Wild 3, Hawks 1

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A matinee played in St. Paul in the immediate aftermath of the Brandon Hagel trade saw the Hawks put forth a half assed effort at best, even by day hockey standards which this outlet is on record many times over as being an affront to the lord. Kevin Lankinen got the start on the front end of a back to back and is still somehow struggling with rebound control somehow, but made enough saves to keep it close until the very end, where the erstwhile LOCAL GUY Ryan Hartman put the Wild ahead. Toews’ comments after the trade were frankly those of a crybaby, complaining about someone being traded. As a long time captain in this league having seen guys get moved over and over and over again for cap purposes, having Brandon goddamn Hagel of all people be the one where he opines openly about his GM’s choices is certainly curious, especially without having done a goddamn thing in the post season in going on 7 years now. Sorry Jon, but you don’t have a leg to stand on whatsoever with regard to who stays and who goes. And clearly the team let this pouty piss pants attitude cascade down through the roster from their captain.

3/20 – Jets 6, Hawks 4

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Event Summary
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Regardless of who had the final say in it between Kyle Davidson or Derek King, the decision to start Marc Andre Fleury in a game less than 24 hours before the trade deadline was curious at best, and professionally negligent at worst. On top of it being a back and forth game where neither team was interested in playing much defense and Fleury and fellow Vezina winner Connor Hellebucyk were hung out to dry early and often, the situation became that much more harrowing during a sequence wherein Fluery lost is glove, and still instinctually tried to make a save with that hand during a scramble in front of the Hawk net. Mercifully the result was merely a goal against and not a hand shattered into dust rendering the netminder untradeable, or worse at the end of his career. The Hawks would claw their way back with the help of a solid game from newcomer Taylor Raddysh (with a Y), and at least there was a little bit more jump to their game after going down after apparently getting their tantrum game out of the way the previous afternoon. But after all of that, the result was still the same, and the Hawks are now left to play out the string in what will surely be outstanding performances from Kevin Lankinen, Colin Delia, and Arvid Soderblom.

TRADE REACTIONS

  • First on the docket is arguably the most valuable chip the Hawks had in Brandon Hagel, with his cost controlled $1.5 million against the cap for two years following the end of this season, and will likely flirt with 30 goals by this year’s end. While yes, Hagel has been a fun middle six forward who plays with physicality and has a bit of a goal scorer’s touch, given the distance between what the Hawks are against teams with actual aspirations like the Bruins (where Hagel played and scored the Hawks’ lone goal), even the most optimistic projections would have the Hawks ready to take a step right as Hagel would be due a substantial increase in pay. Not to mention, with no disrespect to Hagel or any players of his ilk, but there should be at least two guys with the potential to be this in every team’s system. Andrew Shaw was this until it was time to pay him significantly, when the Hawks correctly identified that Ryan Hartman could fill that role. So the Hawks got about as good a return as one could have been asked for Hagel in two middle-to-bottom six forwards who can play right now as well as two first rounders, albeit delated and will assuredly be late in the round because they’re Tampa’s. And the fact that the trade pissed off some aforementioned players on the roster only reaffirmed that it was the right thing to do.
  • While the Marc-Andre Fleury trade seemed inevitable from the moment he actually decided he wanted to play for this calamity of an organization, it took til basically the last minute to get there for a variety of reasons. With having a full no move on top of uprooting his family here mere months ago, it extremely hamstrung Davidson’s options, and having a shit defense in front of him deflating his Vezina numbers from last year certainly didn’t help things. The Hawks eating half the salary for the remainder of the year is immaterial, but one can’t help but wonder if they could have gotten a true first round pick instead of just a condititional one had they pulled the trigger sooner and not exposed Fleury to a potent forward group and potential injury one last time before getting shipped out.
  • Ryan Carpenter was moved along to Calgary for a 5th rounder, and if there was ever a match made in hockey shot suppression hell, it’s Ryan Carpenter and Darryl Sutter. With Brad Treveling taking one of Sutter’s toys away in waiving Brad Richardson, he promptly gave him a younger version in the form of Carpetner who is a reliable worker who won’t let anyone down on the PK or the dot, and should never, ever be asked to be on the first PP unit ever again. Having a a solid bottom 6 versatile forward is a complete luxury that bad teams don’t need, like a closer on a shit baseball team, or a huge LCD infotainment screen in a run down 1988 powder blue Ford Taurus. So getting a fifth round pick is just fine for moving Carpenter along.
  • Calvin de Haan stayed put, because that’s just generally what he does these days, and there more than likely wasn’t a market for him even if it would have been at half price. Erik Gustafsson also had no takers, which just makes the fact that he was ever brought in here to take minutes away from any of the kids on the blue line even more short sightedly stupid from the previous regime.
Hockey

I was hoping for at least one Hawks win this weekend, but that became too much to ask when the team flubbed it against the Blue Jackets Thursday night. Once again a lack of offense, a powerplay sucking at loud, and Patrick Kane not giving a shit in February did the Hawks in. Recap time, I guess.

2/17
Hawks 4, Blue Jackets 7
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On the front end of a back-to-back and with the Blue Jackets being one of the more terrible teams in the league, it was time for Fleury to take a seat in favor of young goaltender Arvid Soderblom. He was able to stop an onslaught of chances from the Jackets in the first seven minutes of the game, but unfortunately he showed his greenness when he gave up a goal on a rebound thanks to a Blue Jackets powerplay opportunity. And then a second goal just seconds later (shoutout to the horrific Erik Gustafsson giveaway that could’ve been prevented). He gave up five more goals, including a Patrik Laine hat trick, before the game was over. A flurry of them were his own fault, though many were the result of the Hawks being incredibly lazy when it came to defending their own zone.

The Hawks got goals from Philipp Kurashev, Ryan Carpenter, Mackenzie Entwhistle, and The Cat (most offensive-minded players were taking the night off). But the real story that came from this game is what the future of the goaltending for this team should be. No way Fleury stays, and it’s become incredibly clear the Hawks can’t trot out Lankinen and Soderblom or whoever as the starters next year. (Lankinen’s contract ends this season anyway.) You’d think they’d be on the market for a goaltender, but then you look at the 2022 free agents available and…well, ah jeez.

2/18
Blackhawks 0, Stars 1 (Stars Win Absolute Snoozefest)
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The morning of this game, the Hawks announced a flurry of roster moves. Fearless leader Jonathan Toews, although spotted Friday morning at the optional practice and on the ice, was placed on IR retroactive to his head injury on Jan. 26 and The Only Sure-Fire Prospect in the Entire Organization Lukas Reichel was called up yet again for the Hawks and placed right on the top line with Kane and Hagel.

Reichel’s game wasn’t terrible for his 3rd NHL game; he was hustling, winning board battles and generating chances in the 1st period before getting rocked over the visiting boards and getting himself stripped of the puck by Alex Radulov of all people in the 2nd. The Hawks had a surprisingly high CF% in the 1st period at over 70%, and Kane’s give-a-shit meter even seemed to be up higher than usual for the entire 1st period before things seemed to drop off for him. The Cat’s defensive skills were also great to see, as he kept pucks in and set up plays for Strome and Kubalik.

Unfortunately, none of these chances ended up in any goals scored, which is more of the usual for this team despite the “burst” of offense we saw from them the night before. And even though they had some good chances at the end of the game, the Hawks don’t have any finishing power and were lucky to pick up a point at all. It was mostly because of the heroics from Fleury in net—what else is new?

After an entertaining overtime and six rounds of a shootout, Jason Peterson won it for the Stars, despite Fleury doing all he could to drag this team to a win. Maybe you shouldn’t choose Jake McCabe in a shootout situation? Just a thought.

2/20
Hawks 2, Panthers 5
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Despite starting out horrifically with Kirby Dach allowing a Panthers breakaway seconds into the game because he didn’t have his stick on the ice, the 1st period saw the Hawks outshoot and out-posses the Panthers 8-3 and 66%-33%. Although the Panthers struck first on only their 3rd shot of the game thanks in part to Patrick Kane not feeling like playing defense, Kane decided to make up for it with just a few seconds left in the period by scoring from below the goal line, the puck bouncing off the back of Sergei Bobrovksy and into the back of the net.

The Panthers must’ve gotten absolutely and rightfully berated during the 1st intermission, because the 2nd period was much more what we expected out of both the Hawks and the Panthers. With the Panthers dominating the possession game, they were able to take the lead thanks to a shot from the blueline in which Fleury was screened by both Seth Jones and Calvin de Haan together. Sam Lafferty had a similarly Laff-able period, filled with multiple turnovers and a missed shot on a wide-open net.

It didn’t take long for the Panthers to get their commanding 3-1 lead thanks in part once again to Dach tipping the puck in past Fleury with his own stick. (This will certainly be a game Dach will want to forget as much as we will.) Fleury made as many saves as he could in the 3rd to keep the Hawks in it, and he had some help from a coach’s challenge to keep it 3-1 in the 3rd, and a surprise goal from Amy’s Youngest made the game seem close for a minute or so. But then two empty-net goals at the end of the period cemented the Hawks’ fate. This outcome is about what we expected, especially considering the Panthers are the NHL’s top offensive team and the Hawks are…well, basement-tier.

My parting words for the weekend? Fuck Radko Gudas.

Hockey

A successful, if unspectacular stretch of games for the Hawks this Valentines’ week as they were able to bookend two wins in Canada with an absolute turd of an effort down in The Lou for the middle frame. During all of this actual hockey being played (how many people were actually playing attention with the Olympics going on and the Bulls being awesome is anyone’s guess), news leaked out that the Hawks were looking to get an insane return from teams inquiring about the services and availability of one Brandon Hagel. The return in question (according to Frank Seravalli in the Daily Faceoff Rundown podcast) is apparently a first round pick and a top prospect, which to me is absolutely mind boggling.

Look, don’t get me wrong. Brandon Hagel is a very solid young player on a Very Not Good team. Were he to be traded to Colorado or Vegas at the deadline he would be a very solid 3rd or 4th line player. Teams don’t trade first round picks and/or top prospects to fill out their 3rd line, no matter how young and cap friendly he may be. At 23 years old (24 when next season rolls around), is he the kind of player you build around for the future? His 27 points in 46 games is a nice addition, but if the Hawks are turning down 2nd and 3rd round picks for a guy they essentially picked up off waivers when the cupboard is completely bare is asinine to me. Not having a permanent GM at the trade deadline is also extremely asinine, but the Hawks aren’t one to be told what is dumb and what isn’t.

Anyways, TO THE RECAP:

 

2/9

Hawks 4 – Oilers 1

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Guess signing Evander Kane wasn’t the kick in the pants the Oilers thought it would be, eh?

The Hawks jumped right into the Oil’s shit from the get go, with Patrick Kane firing a nifty cross ice feed to DeBrincat, who ripped it right past Professional Crybaby Mike Smith giving the Hawks their first of two power play goals on the night. It was all set up by the hard work of Sam Lafferty, who drew the tripping penalty after outworking Nugent-Hopkins. A minute later the aforementioned Brandon Hagel doubled up the Hawks lead when DeBrincat saucered a cross ice pass of his own during a 3 on 2 rush.

The 2nd period was all about Marc-Andre Fleury, as the Oil emptied everything in the chamber at him. Edmonton dropped 20 shots on MAF in the 2nd, with only Leon “Why So Pissy” Draisaitl’s power play tally sneaking past him. As expected, the Hawks got absolutely annihilated in CORSI in the second period to the tune of 75% to 25%. They supposedly had 6 shots in the period but I can’t honestly remember any of them. Predictably, Edmonton folded like a cheap tent after Strome put one past Smith in the first minute of the 3rd, with Fleury in no serious danger the rest of the way. Shit, even Kirby Dach scored a goal, which tells you everything you need to know about the state of hockey in Edmonton right now. Good win.

 

2/12

Hawks 1- Blues 5

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This game fucking sucked. The team clearly didn’t give a shit from word go, and they got smoked in every facet of the game up and down the ice. Even Marc-Andre Fleury had the “Not Interested” sign hanging from his helmet. The Blues exposed the Hawks every weakness as a team, and capitalized on every mistake. When the Hawks needed a push in the 3rd to try and get back in the game, the Blues dominated CORSI 82%-18%. It pains me to say it, but they’re just better than the Hawks at everything, and it’s gonna be that way for a long while.

 

2/14

Hawks 3 – Jets 1

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They can’t all be edge of your seat thrillers. Sometimes during an 82 game marathon, there are just going to be games that are flat out boring. Through the first half of this one, that’s exactly what happened. Just ask Ben Pope:

Really, nothing of note happened until Patrick Kane used a screen by Kirby Dach to rifle one 5 hole on Connor HellBuick. After that brief moment of excitement, things went quiet again until Mark Scheifele tapped in a puck that hit approximately 32 people on the way to the cage off the stick of Nate Schmidt six minutes into the final period. Then Alex DeBrincat decided he’d had enough of this bullshit and gave the Hawks a lead they wouldn’t give up with this absolutely disgusting snipe:

Stan Bowman did a lot of dumbass shit while he was here, but drafting Top Cat was definitely not one of those things. Anyways, shortly thereafter, Fleury helped himself out by shooting an outlet pass to Kane who tapped it up to Hagel for the ENG, thus bringing the game to a close. You really can’t complain about the win, but this game was exactly what you’d expect with two bottom of the table teams dry humping their way through 60 minutes of hockey. The Jets won the possession battle 54-46%, but they don’t have DeBrincat or Marc-Andre Fleury, so fuck em. Moving on.

Hockey

Well that sucked.

With some in the Hawks front office apparently deluded enough to think that they had some type of outside chance for the team to sneak into the playoffs, this series against the Wild loomed large in the schedule. After getting broomed in both games, hopefully this will put to bed any thought of the team sneaking into the postseason and set everyone’s focus where it needs to be: using whatever Jaws of Life apparatus Kyle Davidson can come up with to extricate this franchise from the flaming clown car pileup left behind by Stan Bowman and John McDodough.

 

1/21

Hawks 1 – Wild 5

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This was quite the ass kicking. The Hawks special talent of showing up out of sorts and giving up goals in the first 5 minutes of a game reared its ugly head here, as most people at the UC hadn’t even found their seats yet before MAF had already let in two goals behind him. It didn’t get any better from there on out.

After the dust had settled, Old Friend Ryan Hartman had potted two goals (increasing his already career best to 18) and Fleury had been chased from net halfway through the 2nd period. The defensive structure in this one was nonexistent, and the Hawks hung the “not interested” sign above the bench before the halfway mark of the first period. It was a stinker, and the type of game you see quite a bit towards the end of January during the Bataan Death March towards April.

1/22

Wild 4 – Hawks 3 (OT)

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While the effort in this one was much, much better, the end result was still the same. With Coach King surprisingly opting to go back to Kevin Lankinen after he came in relief of MAF after he got yanked the night before, the Hawks played much better in front of him, jumping out to a 2-0 lead before Erik Gufstasson took a dumbass penalty with less than 2:00 to go in the 1st period where the Wild inevitably scored on the ensuing power play.

In reality, it could’ve been much more than 2 goals from the Hawks in the 1st were it not for the efforts of  Wild goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen. He absolutely stole a goal from Jonathan Toews in the waning minutes of the first period, throwing his left skate in the air from prone on his belly to kick away Toews’ wrister. Kahkonen was in position all night long, and made some excellent saves on DeBrincat in OT to keep the Hawks out of the win column.

Henrik Borgstrom (who has looked slightly better of late, hopefully increasing his trade value) potted two, along with a sick PPG from DeBrincat. Kane continues to be snakebitten, and is clearly frustrated by his lack of production. Kevin Lankinen looked much better, but still is not the answer to the Hawks goaltending question of the future. At this point, there’s zero reason for Lukas Reichel to be wasting his time in Rockford. Bring him up and give us something to watch going forward, because it’s all we’re really gonna have.

Hockey

There’s no time to waste in this season of cramming games in wherever we can—the Hawks are now going to be playing a double-header this weekend against the Wild, the first tilt between these teams this season. What could go wrong?

Game Time: 7:30 PM Friday / 8 PM Saturday
TV/Radio:
NHL Network, NBCSCH+, WGN 720
-30 wind chill:
Hockey Wilderness

The Wild started out the season hot, winning four in a row to begin the season and going on an eight-game win streak in late November and early December. Following that, however, the Wild have only won three of their last nine games and are now holding onto the 1st wild card spot in the Western Conference, four points behind the Predators because neither of these teams can ever leave the mushy middle of the Western Conference for some reason.

Offensively, the team is led almost exclusively by Kaprizov (first on the team in assists, points, shooting percentage, and offensive point shares according to hockey-reference). Just about as offensively productive is his 1st-line centerman and our old friend Ryan Hartman, who is having a career year and blowing all of his past stats completely out of the water. In just half a season, he’s surpassed all of his previous seasons’ stats, including his one full season he had in Chicago at the beginning of his career. Mats Zuccarello rounds out the Wild’s first line, who like Hartman is likely also benefitting from Kaprizov’s elite playmaking abilities.

The points production definitely tapers off from there, especially considering the myriad of COVID and injury-ridden players they’ve been dealing with. However, Wild fans must be pleased to hear that Joel Eriksson Ek will be making his return Friday to center the 2nd line. Additionally, they are hoping that Cam Talbot can start one of the games—he’s 34 and hasn’t started since January 1, so he could be a bit rusty if we do see him. Finally, Jared Spurgeon may or may not be returning this weekend, but I’m pretty sure nobody gives a shit.

Overall the biggest issue facing the Wild is their bonkers schedule coming up. Wild fans and media members are mad as hell that they have to play 40 games in 77 days thanks to COVID-related cancellations because of their opponents, apparently, and not the Wild themselves. The NHL certainly could’ve spaced more of their rescheduled games out, especially when you look at the multiple stretches of off-days the Wild have had during the month of January. The team will probably be exhausted by the time the playoffs roll around, and that’s if they don’t go on another cold streak and lose their wild card spot. Everyone up north is hoping their top line will see it through to the end, though.

As for the Men of Four Feathers, Seth Jones returns this weekend after missing his return to Columbus and then some with COVID. Dylan Strome is slated to return this weekend as well; he’s only had three assists in his last five games played but seems to be slotting right back into a first-line center role in practice, and with Dach still out he’ll likely stay there. The Hawks’ lack of center depth continues, I guess.

Interestingly, Rockford goalie Cale Morris has been placed on the Hawks’ active roster, despite both Fleury and Lankinen at practice and seemingly healthy. We’ll see how things shake up there, though I would be surprised to see Morris play. Without Fleury in net making every save imaginable, it’s much harder for the Hawks to win as they continue to be out-chanced and out-possessed by most of their opponents. More players stepping up and scoring goals this weekend would be advantageous, as the Wild are going to be the playoff-contending warmup for the Hawks before two games against the Avalanche later next week—God save us.

Hockey

Even with a game cancellation in Edmonton, the Hawks had an easier stretch of schedule to extend their winning streak, what with the Ducks skidding and not fully healthy and the Kraken turning out to be a regular expansion team that isn’t very good. Though we lost to the Kraken in overtime, the Hawks have Marc-Andre Fleury in net which means we can pick up 3 of 4 points on the week.

1/15
Hawks 3, Ducks 0
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The Blackhawks must feel mighty good blanking the Ducks with a COVID-decimated roster that did not include…breakout 20-goal scorer Troy Terry? But a win is a win and they looked good doing it. The Hawks put on pressure early on with some pretty solid chances, including a vintage Kane breakaway opportunity that seems to be getting rarer and rarer these days. Then a hooking call put him in the penalty box, which wasn’t great.

Overall, however, the Hawks were peppering the Ducks with chances, kept pucks in the offensive zone—all despite the numbers saying possession was about even throughout the game. The Hawks looking so good probably had to do with Fleury standing on his head to net his 70th shutout.

Lukas Reichel showed flashes, though he was ultimately stopped by the opposition with most of his chances in the o-zone. He wasn’t terrible in his own end, either, blocking a shot early in the 2nd period. Of course he got sent back down solely because of The Almighty Dollar, which is probably fine because this season is down the tubes anyway.

The Hawks didn’t score until the second period, when Gustafsson (right out of the box) set up Hagel after the Ducks had a myriad of scoring opportunities they somehow didn’t convert on at the end of their powerplay. The Hawks powerplay, though still bad, did finally convert in the 3rd period, as Kane and the Cat made it happen yet again with some great passing. Kubalik scored the empty-netter to end it with just three minutes left in the game.

1/17
Hawks 2, Kraken 3 (Kraken win spirited match of peg solitaire)
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The Hawks saw a lot of pressure from the Kraken to begin this game, which shows with their horrific 19.05 CF% in the 1st. The Hawks were spending the whole first period in the defensive zone, getting drilled physically and not being able to control the puck. Luckily for them the shots on goal were pretty even throughout and Fleury was once again saving every shot with his usual acrobatics in front of the net.

The Hawks looked a bit better in the 2nd with a few good chances and less time in their own zone. The powerplay continued the game-long trend of being complete buffoonery, as the Hawks were unable to get a shot on net it seemed in the 1st period and just a few meager powerplay chances in the 2nd. Luckily a Kubalik breakaway shortly after the powerplay put the Hawks up 1-0, though that lasted only a few minutes before the Kraken scored a weird tip-in goal that no one on the ice seemed to see.

The Hawks scored their last of the game nearing the end of the 2nd period with Brandon Hagel getting set up by The Cat. Kubalik was back on the ice, too, right at the net where he needs to be. I hope his hot streak continues.

The Kraken were able to tie it up in the 3rd with help from Amy’s Youngest who knocked over Fleury at just the right time for the puck to sail into the back of the net. The overtime was a horrific slog despite all the Fleury acrobatics, and the Kraken became the winner of the meaningless shootout on goals by Ryan Donato and Joonas Donskoi.

Seth Jones will make his return to the lineup this weekend in a home-and-home against the Wild on Friday and Saturday. The Wild are clinging to a wild card spot who just recently got Kirill the Thrill back from injury, so they should be a challenge for the Hawks. Read more about it tomorrow.

Hockey

It’s been a hot minute since this fair website did one of these, and for a while this season the team hasn’t looked that horrible in 12 years. Although we’ve seen some improvement over the past 25-ish games with Derek King at the helm, the Hawks are still fraught with issues that will take quite a few years to fix. Let’s get on with it, shall we?

The Dizzying Highs

Alex DeBrincat – God help him if he ever leaves us. The Cat has been the main scorer as of late, netting a quarter of the Blackhawks goals so far this season. His offense is so valued that he has been bumped down to the second line to try and generate more chances with Toews and Kubalik, and it worked out well for Kubalik last game as he was able to score on a play set up by the Cat. DeBrincat is also the pity representative for the Hawks at the All-Star Game this year, and it is well-deserved considering the plethora of highlight-reel goals he has scored for us this season.

Defensive Improvement – Compared to the galaxy-brained Systems that Jeremy Colliton was forcing on young and impressionable hockey players, Marc Crawford has been able to help restructure the back end so they give up slightly less chances than they did before, and look better while doing so. Under Colliton, the team had a 46.3 CF% and under King they’ve improved slightly to 47.2%. Their newer, grinding style has almost everyone playing more defensive-mindedly, preferring to get greasier goals at the net or waiting for Kane or the Cat to work their magic. It also helps the defense that the Hawks are getting better goaltending from Marc-Andre Fleury, as the man continues to garner up wins and another shutout or two for his storied career.

The Terrifying Lows

The Offense – It’s gotten a little bit better as of late, but more guys are definitely going to need to step up in the immediate and distant future, especially considering we can likely kiss this year’s first-round draft pick goodbye. Kane and DeBrincat are in on 35% of the team’s goals, and after them the top points-producer is Seth Jones with 25 points (22 assists). The 3rd-highest scorer on the team is Brandon Hagel, who is tied with Kane for 9 goals. Kubalik has recently been picking up the pace with two goals over the past two games after a six-game pointless streak, and hopefully he can continue to produce because God knows we need it. The Hawks have the 4th-worst goals for per game in the league with 2.37, and because of it there is a very low margin for error for the defense in order for the Hawks to pull out a win these days.

Future Goaltending – Let’s be honest: the Blackhawks will be a bit of a stopover for Marc-Andre Fleury. Although I’m not sure the Hawks will be able to deal him at the trade deadline because of how hesitant he’s been in the past to uproot his family to a new city, he will become a free agent this summer and I think it’s unlikely the Hawks will re-sign him. Kevin Lankinen’s contract will also be up this summer, and although he’s been a serviceable backup, his numbers don’t exactly scream NHL starter: .884 save percentage, .899 at evens this year? No thanks. Arvid Soderblom is next in the pipeline, but at only 22 years old and playing his first season in North America, he will need more time before getting thrown to the wolves in front of this team. It will be interesting to see how the Hawks deal with this glaring issue in the offseason.

The Mushy Middles

Derek King – It wasn’t hard to rise up from rock bottom, which is where Coach Cool Youth Pastor left this team when he got fired. But interim coach Derek King has been serviceable so far. Everyone keeps talking about how much more confident they are on the ice, although that doesn’t stop Kane from looking like he doesn’t give a shit if his team is losing during a mid-January game. (And can anyone blame him?) They’ve had a lower goals against per game with King: 2.92 vs. Colliton’s 3.91. However, after a 4-game win streak to begin King’s tenure with the Hawks, they leveled out a bit with a 14-9-3 record, which included a six-game losing streak and another four-game winning streak. He’s doing about as much as can be expected with the current roster, but it’s still hard for me to see him staying on as the permanent head coach unless Marc Crawford becomes The Man Behind the Curtain. And if that happens, then God help us all.

Landon Slaggert? – I recently watched the Hawks’ 2020 3rd round draft pick have a career game against Ohio State on Friday night, where he absolutely dominated offensively. He scored a goal and assisted on the other two Notre Dame scored, including the overtime winner. And the Hawks coaching staff should be pleased to hear he showed GRIT and HEART when he flattened a Buckeye and took a roughing penalty in the 2nd period, watched as the Bucks couldn’t complete a single successful zone entry in the ensuing powerplay, and scored minutes after coming out of the box. He was super quick on his feet and might be able to max out as a Brandon Hagel-like surprise success in the NHL. Granted, this is all after seeing by far his best game of his college career so far, so maybe I need to temper my expectations. He’s still a few years away from being able to sniff the NHL, but at least there could be SOMETHING bubbling down the pipeline.

Hockey

Even under normal circumstances, this stretch of the year can feel arduous and get to be a slog, and that’s without the now constant looming specter of random roster configurations and potential postponements at every turn. Furthermore, the style of hockey the Hawks are now trying to win with is anything but scintillating, but at least it netted results on this 3 game, 3 time zone trip, with the Hawks taking 2 of 3, and two in regulation, though not necessarily the games one would have guessed going into it.

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

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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

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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

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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.