Hockey

Records: Predators 24-21-1 (49) Hawks 21-19-5 (47)
Puck Drops:
7:00PM (4/19, 4/23), 6:00PM (4/21)
TV/Radio:
NBC Sports Chicago (4/19), NBCSN (4/21), NBC Sports Chicago+ (4/23), WGN-AM 720
Kings of Leon Fans, but Unironically:
On the Forecheck

vs.

It all comes down to this. All the garbage (and not-so-garbage) games we’ve watched all season long have culminated into this three-game series against the Nashville Predators, one of now multiple teams who are vying for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Central.

Since we last saw the Nashville Predators, they’ve gone 4-3, beating Detroit, Dallas, and Tampa Bay, respectively. However, they are currently on a two-game losing streak thanks to the Carolina Hurricanes putting a stop to the hole they were tearing in the Central Division spacetime continuum. (The Predators have gone 0-5-1 against Carolina this season.)

Nashville fans are feeling the same sort of upcoming dread about this series as we are, understanding the importance of these next three games as it will likely determine their playoff fate the same as ours. If anyone remembers, the Predators were as good as dead just a month or so ago, getting completely pummeled with injuries and getting ready to sell everything they had at the deadline after going 11-16-1 to start the season. The injuries never end, in fact; since we last faced off it was announced Mathieu Olivier would be missing 4-6 weeks due to injury, but I’m sure Nashville won’t mind that since the only hockey statistic he cares about is getting 29 penalty minutes in four hockey games.

As for the recent trade deadline, the Preds acquired Erik Gundbranson, officially their 14th defender to dress for Nashville this season. And he sucks, by the way. He has a 44.4 CF%, a 31.6 FF%, and just take a look at this:

Yikes.

To make things even better for the Predators, Matt Duchene was finally activated from IR to play in their loss Saturday against Carolina. He hadn’t played since March 4, which is high comedy to everyone outside of their city considering the team has looked much better without him over the past month-plus. Duchene only has 8 points the whole year, and when you look at his cap hit and do some quick division that means he is getting paid exactly $1 million per point this season. He didn’t have a stellar game on Saturday by any means, posting a -1, although he did have a 60 CF% in almost 15 minutes of play?

As for the Men of Four Feathers, once again the absolute bare minimum amount of winning necessary happened last series against Detroit to keep this team’s playoff hopes alive. I don’t have a good feeling personally about this series, since Colliton’s Blackhawks have a reliable track record of spitting up all over themselves in games anywhere near the area code of having playoff significance, and there are no other games this season that will count more than these next three. You can also combine that with the fact that the Blackhawks have zero (0) regulation wins against the Predators all season long. What more fun could be had this week than watching these games?

Guess what else? Alex Nylander is finally skating! What great news! I know we should be excited, but then I remember his play from last season and I don’t know, people. Calvin de Haan was skating today, also, which hopefully means he’s back in the lineup soon and that Nikita Zadorov once again gets stapled to the bench, although it more than likely means it will be Ian Mitchell who is the odd man out of the lineup.

Colliton once again refuses to give us tonight’s line combos and starting goalie until minutes before puck drop, but I would expect Lankinen in goal for two of these games, if not all three, and maybe even some line shakeups to get things going if things go bad quickly. Lanks will have to be nails this series, and the Hawks will need to be taking zero penalties and actually convert on the powerplay in order to get these wins. Nashville’s penalty kill percentage is garbage, just three hundreths of a percent higher than ours, good for 28th in the league. Score on the powerplay and score relentlessly, thank you.

The Hawks will really need to win two out of these three games, in regulation, to have even a chance at sniffing the playoffs this year. Three regulation wins would be preferable, but I’m certainly not holding my breath. It’s now or never. Let’s go Hawks.

Hockey

vs.

RECORDS: Hawks 7-7-4   9-6-3

PUCK DROP: 7pm

TV: NBCSN Chicago

WE ALL LIVE IN A YELLOW TRAILER: On The Forecheck

You probably didn’t expect, after that complete shellacking two weeks ago in the same venue, when these two met up again the Hawks would be only three points behind the Predators. And with a win tonight in regulation, the Preds would be feeling hot giardiniera breath on their necks. Such is reality, which is what happens when various parts of your team rotate going haywire for a couple weeks.

The Preds have lost five of six coming into this (a couple in extra time), while the Hawks have sucked up 10 of 13 points in the meantime. Which is how you get this standing. That doesn’t mean these teams are just three points apart in quality overall, and you saw that the last game these two played. The Hawks haven’t been rolled like that since the Suhonen or Yawney days, and perhaps was the start of the process that got the Hawks to change their ways…however minor or major that actually was.

So what’s up with the Preds? Why has it fallen out of gear for them? Well one, the goaltending has been terrible. Pekka Rinne has only had one good start since that October disaster (for the Hawks), and it came against the Red Wings which barely counts. In his other three starts his SV% is .797. Saros has been better in the meantime, though he couldn’t stop that nine-goals-of-fun the Avalanche hung up on them.

The offense hasn’t been all that consistent either. They managed one goal against the Sharks, and one goal against the Rangers in this streak. When they have gotten goals, Rinne has employed the Roger Dorn defense in net.

Is that what the Preds are overall? Probably not, though they’re not an unholy force either. Their Corsi-percentage is just at tick over even. Their expected-goals is just a tick above that. Which is a tad strange for the Predators. And digging a little deeper, it gets a touch confusing.

In terms of attempts, the Preds give up a lot of them. Bottom-10 in the league. They also generate a fair amount for themselves. But when it comes to chances, it’s the opposite. They keep teams to the outside for the most part, but they also don’t get to the prime areas enough themselves. There’s a lot of noise in the Predators’ game right now, in that there’s a lot of stuff happening but not a huge portion of it really means anything. Still, when Rinne is off to the Kerry Wood Memorial Zoo then those half-chances and winged-hopes from the outside are still ending up in twine.

It’s generally not a good sign when your two leading scorers are d-men. One you can get away with. The Preds have a clear line from their top six to their bottom six and their top pairing to their bottom pairings. When Josi and Ellis are on the ice, good things happen and the Preds are on the right side of the ice. Same goes for either Matt Duchene‘s or Treat Boy’s line. But when Nick Bonino or Kyle Turris is the center, again, the Predators back up.

That’s probably why the Preds have made no secret they’d like to move Turris’s ass along, in another brilliant David Poile move. He’s currently centering their fourth line for the rate of $6M a year. They could also probably use another puck-mover on the second or third pairing. Didn’t they have one once? I seem to remember they did. He was pretty good, right? Correct me if I’m wrong.

Another factor the Preds might want to keep an eye on is that they’re currently shooting over 10% at even-strength, which leads the league by nearly a full percentage point. That is likely to come down, and then where will they be?

Turning to the Hawks, who will get Connor Murphy back tonight. While no team should need Connor Murphy this much, the Hawks do and he’s simply been their best d-man last season and the brief time he was around this one. At the moment he seems slotted on the third pairing, as Colliton doesn’t want to mess up what he’s got going with Keith-Gus and de Haan-Seabrook. This won’t take more than a period to change, given the mobility the Hawks need to counter the Preds.

Robin Lehner will be in goal, and he’ll probably need to perform a few miracles like he did last time in Nashville just to keep the Hawks from getting embarrassed. Hopefully this time if he does that it’ll result in points.

This will be something of a test of the Hawks new, aggressive, Loyola-Marymount ’89 ways. Then again, so was Vegas. The Hawks simply couldn’t deal with the Preds speed at forward last time, and they were turning the puck over before they knew they had it. This meant the Preds defense could pinch and move up in the zone to their hearts’ content, as there was no threat the other way.

If the Hawks are still serious about getting behind the opponent’s defense, while risking their defense and center being outmanned down low in their zone, they might get the Preds’ defense to back up. At least it could provide a quick outlet for a defense that’s going to be under serious pressure from the off, even if it’s just laying it out into the neutral zone and causing races back. But going back is where you want the bottom four D of the Preds. It hasn’t worked out well for them lately. The risk of course is that furious Preds forecheck will have even more fun with even less manpower and options for any puck carrier below his net or deep in his zone for the Hawks.

You’d think there’d be a measure of pride for the Hawks here as well. They were made to look like a high school team their last visit. That will still be fresh in the memory banks. Pekka Rinne was basically laughing at them in the postgame. The Hawks still like to think they carry the most pedigree in any matchup. It’s fading, but they still cling to it. Perhaps now would be the time to show it.

Hockey

Ryan Johansen – Treat Boy here always gets labeled as one of the top centers in the game, and we still can’t figure out why. His numbers the past two seasons mirror that of Jonathan Toews, and everyone’s relatively sure he looks like the host of “Tales From The Crypt.” RyJo Sen played his ass off just long enough in 2017 to get a fat new deal from the Preds, and then he became a fat new deal. The dude has one 70+ point season. When the Preds get bounced early again, it’ll probably be because Ryan O’Reilly or Nathan MacKinnon hand him his considerable lunch.

Matt Duchene – Rich kid face with an Oakland booty!

Austin Watson – Any day now, David Poile is going to yell, “I’m so fucking glad we have Austin Watson” at some female reporter. Except it’s Nashville, so that’s probably like an every day thing there.

Hockey

vs.

RECORDS: Hawks 3-5-2   Predators 7-3-1

PUCK DROP: 7pm

TV: NBCSN Chicago

NO HUGGY NO KISSY TIL YOU MAKE ME A WIFE: On The Forecheck

The cushy start to the season is over, and the Hawks will remember what it’s like to have a road trip. They’ll also remember before too long what it’s like to play some real opponents night after night. And those memories might not be too sweet. But that’s for later in the month. For the first time this year the Hawks will embark away from the UC for a while, with a four-gamer that starts in Nashville before the California songs starting this weekend. Could have asked for an easier start.

The Nashville Predators are in fine fettle, as has been the custom, as they’ve taken 15 of the 22 points on offer so far this year. They also come off having just gotten both points (the second in OT) off the Lightning in Tampa and having won three in a row. They did the first part without Matt Duchene, their shiny new toy, and he’ll return tonight.

Look under the hood a bit, and it’s not quite as rosy. The Preds are one team when Duchene is out there along with Ryan Ellis and Roman Josi (the newly rich Roman Josi), and another when just about anyone else is out there. Those three and those who join them carry the play at 55% of chances and attempts. Every other time the Preds are below water. They have the highest shooting-percentage in the league at nearly 12% at evens, which isn’t going to continue. They also have a top-ten SV%, which probably will given the recent track record of Pekka Rinne . Although Rinne most likely isn’t going to ring up a .931 all season. When he comes to Earth a bit, the Preds current PDO of 104 is definitely going to deflate.

Maybe Treat Boy Johansen is in a sulk because Duchene has replaced him as the #1 center, or he’s in a sulk because the Halloween candy hasn’t been discounted yet and his usual wheelbarrow of it is feeling the effects, but he’s been getting caved in and he starts most of his shifts in the offensive zone. Kyle Turris has showed a pulse after going cold and grey last year which has mitigated Treat Boy’s struggles a touch.

Still, this team might need to figure out what they’ll do beyond the top pairing, as new kid Dante Fabbro hasn’t been able to do the things PK Subban did yet, except for not being popular and black which were two things the Predators were definitely after by moving PK along to make room for him.

The Preds also might have some issues when they need the power play to chip in, as it’s been worse than the Hawks’ if that’s even possible. Maybe they could use a right-handed bomb from the point and circle? No? Ok. So yeah, there’s some air in this cake, let’s say.

That doesn’t mean they aren’t going to be a world of trouble for the Hawks, as they have more speed basically everywhere and will use it aggressively. The Hawks were able to hang around the Knights earlier, but they had caught them on a back-to-back and were at home and maybe had their best effort this season or even last against them. They also had Connor Murphy. Even with Seabrook scratched again (and not a happy camper) Preds will be fighting each other to get over the boards when any of Maatta, Gilbert, Koekkoek, and Gustafsson are out there. Hey, that’s most of the Hawks’ defense!

As for the rest of the story for the Westside Hockey Club, Robin Lehner will get another start as he is more worthy of the harder tests right now. Crow will get at least one start in California, and starting with that swing the Hawks will basically be playing every other day for all of November so there will be more than enough starts for everyone.

For all the buzz coming off a 5-1 win over the woebegone cattle ranchers that ended up as LA Kings, the Hawks gave up too much possession and shots in that one. That kind of effort here would see them give up nearly a touchdown or 50 shots or both. This can be a game too fast for the Hawks if the Preds want it, so the Hawks defense is just going to have to get rid of it ASAP, get it off the glass and out to the neutral zone and hope the forwards can win those races. If the Hawks can get the pucks to their forwards with any frequency, they can have at the bottom two pairs of this Preds outfit. Then they just have to beat Rinne, which takes more than a smile these days.

There are going to be some ugly shifts either way tonight, and hopefully Lehner is up to the task. But if the Hawks are going to be what they say they are, they have to get points off teams ahead of them. So far this year their wins are against terrible Oilers and Kings teams. That’s not going to get you anywhere in the long run except back in the lottery with those Kings and Oilers teams. Fuckin’ figure it out.

Hockey

Ryan Johansen – Treat Boy here always gets labeled as one of the top centers in the game, and we still can’t figure out why. His numbers the past two seasons mirror that of Jonathan Toews, and everyone’s relatively sure he looks like the host of “Tales From The Crypt.” RyJo Sen played his ass off just long enough in 2017 to get a fat new deal from the Preds, and then he became a fat new deal. The dude has one 70+ point season. When the Preds get bounced early again, it’ll probably be because Ryan O’Reilly or Nathan MacKinnon hand him his considerable lunch.

Matt Duchene – Rich kid face with an Oakland booty!

Austin Watson – Any day now, David Poile is going to yell, “I’m so fucking glad we have Austin Watson” at some female reporter. Except it’s Nashville, so that’s probably like an every day thing there.

Hockey

If you feel like the Predators acquire a tweener center every season — one who’s not quite a #1 but can be more than a #2 pivot — you’re not alone. Three years ago it was Ryan Johansen. Two years ago it was Kyle Turris. Now it’s Matt Duchene, whom they got because they weren’t sure what they had in more in the second one of those. Or maybe they realized Johansen isn’t what they claimed either. Maybe it’s both. Or maybe it’s the Preds just have to have all the lightning quick forwards with faces you want to turn into ground chuck. It’s a rich elixir.

The Preds were always rumored to be after Duchene, and he them, for years. So that signing might have happened no matter what kind of year Turris had last season. It gained more urgency when Turris played most of the year as if he was hit by a bus. When he wasn’t injured, he was terrible.

Turris only put together 23 points in the 55 games he claimed he was upright for, and missed the rest. The two points in the Predators’ playoff loss didn’t really do much to put any kind of gleam to it, either. Digging deeper, the look only gets worse.

Hockey doesn’t have a “chances created” category really yet, like soccer does. So it’s hard to suss out how far Turris’s passing game went into the toilet. We can fairly assess how much his scoring became El Disparu. His goals/60 was a career-low 0.17. His individual expected-goals per 60 was also a career low 0.37. Scoring chances, shots, attempts, whatever you want to look at were all the worst marks of his career.

On the flip side, the team’s overall numbers with him on the ice weren’t staggeringly bad. So Turris was either still doing some of his old work, or his teammates were carrying him around like a pool noodle.

No question Turris struggled with injuries. He had two separate stints on the IL to total those 27 missed games, both to his legs. Perhaps he just couldn’t get around the ice as well as he would normally.

Things have turned around of Turris this year, though. His goals/60 so far in 11 games is the highest of his career, though that has a little to do with the highest shooting-percentage at evens and overall of his career as well. But his individual expected goals is back to where it was in his halcyon days in Ottawa (if such a thing can exist in Ottawa), and his individual attempts are the highest he’s managed as well. Turris has never been a great sniper, as his career 10.9 S% would show you. So the volume of attempts and chances has to go up for him to score.

Health is certainly part of it, as thanks to the Preds’ first-round hairball against Dallas he had plenty of time to heal whatever fell off of him last year. It could be linemates as well. Last year, Turris spent most of his time with Craig Smith and Kevin Fiala. Smith is a fine player but something of a battering ram, and Fiala sucks and you know he sucks because he ended up in Minnesota. This season, Turris is playing between Mikael Granlund and Rocco Grimaldi. Grandlund has by far more verve and dash to his game, which means Turris doesn’t have to do all of the creating. Grimaldi’s speed, when not carrying his cross around to wave in everyone’s face, opens up more space than Smith and Fiala could have managed.

Maybe it’s also getting to slot behind Johansen and Duchene, when Duchene plays center at least. All of it must be a relief to the Preds, who watched Turris eat it in the first year of his $6M-a-year extension. Turris was, and might still be in the near future, looking at being a cap casualty. The Preds have $22M in space next year but they also have Roman Josi to sign, and he’s going to be looking for quite the raise from his current $4.5M hit that gave the Preds one of the biggest bargains in the league for years. They’ll have some holes at forward as well to fix with the rest of it.

At worst, if Turris plays himself into a useful trade piece, that’s probably enough for the Preds, who can roll with Johansen and Duchene 1-2 from here. Which makes it seem like this has to be the year for Nashville, or it’s never going to happen.

Hockey

Everyone’s favorite darling, basically because national media types love to get drunk there for free and it’s not cold. Generally that has shielded everyone’s eyes from this being a pretty repugnant organization run by a ghoul in David Poile, who just engaged in the long-running hockey and Southern tradition of when things go wrong blame the black guy. It’s also put the wool over most experts’ eyes that the Preds have taken two straight division championships and done just north of dick with them, or that Ryan Johansen blows, or Eli Tolvanen didn’t redefine the sport upon arrival, or Roman Josi is starting to age, or half a dozen other things. Is it finally going to, thankfully, crash down around their ears this year?

2018-2019

47-29-6  100 points  (1st in Central, out in 1st round)

2.88 GF/G (18th)  2.59 GA/G (4th)  +24 GD

52.1 CF% (7th)  51.1 xGF% (13th)

12.9 PP% (31st)  82.1 PK% (6th)

Goalies: Same crew. Pekka Rinne will take the starter’s role as he has done in Music City since before Marvel Studios existed. He was more than acceptable last year with a .918. But that was down from the previous season, and he is 37 now and one wonders if that’s a slide that’s just going to continue. No one outruns time forever. Encouragingly for the Preds, Rinne did get stronger as the season went along last year, with a .913 in February and a .927 in March after a very shaky winter period. Didn’t really save him in the playoffs though, where he put up his second consecutive .904 in seven games against the Stars. And that’s usually the story for Rinne when the games really matter, as other than that one run to the Final he’s been nothing more than ordinary in the spring. And he’s running out of chances.

There are probably some in the Preds braintrust that hoped Juuse Saros would take the job from Rinne last year. He wasn’t bad, but he didn’t outperform Rinne and if the Preds are going to move on from a club legend while he’s still playing the difference has to be clear. Saros is only 24 and has time on his side, and if he sticks around his career .920 one might think that could be enough to usurp the incumbent, should his age-induced slide continue. Either way, the Predators are solid here.

Defense: Well it must be pretty damn good if they thought they didn’t need PK Subban anymore, huh? Must be nice when you can jettison the d-man who had the best metrics on the team.

It’ll put more pressure on Roman Josi, whose influence hasn’t been as great the past two or three seasons but still puts up points. Matthias Ekholm should be his partner, as Ryan Ellis was completely exposed taking on top pairing assignments in the playoffs. He’s a great bum-slayer but don’t put him up against real players, or you’ll pay the penalty.

There’s also a lot of faith in Dante Fabbro, who was tossed into the deep end of the playoffs after being a point-per-game at BU the past two seasons. He could end up driving things on the second pairing, either alongside Ellis or forcing him down to the third pairing where he started in the first place. Then again, that’s probably not what you want out of a d-man you’re paying $6.2M until the Earth’s heat death. More brilliant work from Poile.

They’ll round it out with Matt Irwin, Yannick Weber, and Dan Hamhuis‘s slowly-turning-to-dust bones, and they’ve definitely got this. Again, solid, but if Josi isn’t around Norris-level discussion, it’s short a top-pairing guy.

Forwards: The headlines are Matt Duchene finally came “home,” if home is the place where you’ve made it clear you want to play for about five years because you’re a true Canadian shit-kicker. Duchene will certainly juice the second line, whether from the wing or in the middle.

The Preds as always will do it through a strength-in-numbers method. Their only proven top line talent is Filip Forsberg and he’s made of graham crackers. Viktor Arvidsson is probably a genuine top-liner as well or a tick below. Ryan Johansen is completely overmatched as a #1, at least when he’s not playing for a contract to blow on a lifetime supply of ding-dongs, but they’ll keep selling it. Mikael Granlund will get a full season in yellow before hitting free agency, which probably means a big season for him. Granlund’s and Duchene’s presence will shove Kyle Turris down the lineup where he will hope no one notices he’s not worth $6M a year either. Same goes for Colton Sissons, and Craig Smith, and Calle Jarnkrok, Marriage counselor Austin Watson is still here to fill out Nashville’s absolute bastard quota. It might not have the highest of ceilings but this crew probably has the highest floor.

Prediction: My comrade in arms Fifth Feather thinks this squad is headed for a collapse. I wish I could get there, though the chance that Peter Laviolette‘s style finally is too much for the players is non-zero. The chance for Pekka Rinne to look his age is also non-zero. But the chance of both Rinne and Saros being bad is pretty close to zero. The defense certainly lost most of its fun to New Jersey, but it’s still more than enough as long as they keep Ellis away from anything flammable. They’ll be more than that if Fabbro is the real deal. The forwards carry more than enough speed and dash to light up most teams.

There isn’t a guarantee in the West to expose Johansen or outgun them, but they can also lose to anyone as they did last year. They very easily could win the division again. They could very easily eat it early with the wrong matchup. If that happens again, there could be changes.

But they’ll still be assholes.

Previous Team Previews

Carolina

Columbus

New Jersey

New York Islanders

New York Rangers

Philadelphia 

Pittsburgh

Washington

Boston

Buffalo

Detroit

Florida

Montreal

Ottawa

Tampa Bay

Toronto

Arizona

Calgary

Edmonton

Los Angeles

San Jose 

Vancouver

Vegas

Colorado

Dallas

Minnesota

 

Everything Else

Well that was quite the party. And like any good party, everyone worth a shit now leaves before they stick around past the point that all the creatures of the night do. You know those people, the ones who a Saturday night turns into a Sunday afternoon with the curtains drawn. They where all black and love to tell you about the weird sex they have. That’s where the Columbus Blue Jackets find themselves…amongst the New Order records. No one wants to be the last to leave.

What a historic spring for the Jackets. Causing one of the biggest upsets in first-round history, they’ll join such luminaries like the ’91 North Stars, the ’93 Blues, the ’93 Islanders, and ’09 Ducks in the pantheon of…wait, you don’t remember any of these teams? Of course you fucking don’t, because they’re nothing more than quirky trivia. Something that helps you win the three free rounds at a pub quiz while you pretend you’re having fun. But hey, that’s more memorable than the Jackets have ever been.

We’ll spend the next day or two wading through various love letters and bouquets thrown at Jarmo Kekalainen, a man who has been allowed to be GM for six years with one playoff series win, no division titles, and never actually earning home-ice in a playoff series. What a record! Oh how he went for it! Oh what dash he showed! Why don’t more GMs show such gumption, they’ll cry!

Yes, selling out your future for six playoff wins so that your two most important players tell you to do one a couple weeks later than they were going to truly is foresight. It’s a wonder Jarmo isn’t a goddamn Vulcan. And when Duchene and Dzingel see Panarin and Bobrovsky fuck off, we’re sure they’ll be heavily tempted to commit their futures to a rest stop between known cultural centers of Cleveland and Cincinnati. Wonder how much longer Zach Werenski is going to want to commit to North Louisville after all that as well.

This is what you don’t get, Columbus. Once a college town, always a college town. Just because you’re strangely podunk and the home of an insurance company that keeps foisting Peyton Manning on the nation like a proud mother doesn’t mean you’re a destination. You go to Columbus, you stay for a few years, you get measurably dumber and then you move on to fix that. Those who stay around their college towns after graduation are always desperate and weird. If you’ve seen Buckeyes fans gather in Evanston or whatever Wrigleyville/Lincoln Park Date-Rape Palooza  bar they call home, you know of where we speak. It applies to the Jackets, too.

You needn’t sweat it. Your contemporaries the Minnesota Wild haven’t accomplished anymore than you. You two are what everyone thinks millennials are. Bad clothes, bad decisions, loud noises and few accomplishments. At least the Wild actually got a free agent or two to show up. And no, Nick Foligno wanting to stay doesn’t count. That’s more of a metaphor than you’re prepared to face right now.

Everything will be fine, you say. Cam Atkinson and his recent damn fine impression of Patrick Roy era Gabriel Landeskog  is still here. So’s Pierre-Luc Dubois. Josh Anderson and whatever brains didn’t leap out his ear thanks to McAvoy last night are too. Jones and Werenski. We’ve got a base. You sure do. Those 89 points that base will collect as they stare at whatever punter is in net wondering how that went in will be glorious. We’re sure you’re looking forward to it.

While the press lavish praise on Jarmo, because he gave them so much to write about, one has to ask if the truly brave call wouldn’t have been to cash in on Panarin and Bobrovsky for actual assets that will be around Ohio longer than until the keg goes dry. Perhaps something lasting instead of a cheap thrill and a parlor trick. These same writers will be doing “Was It All Worth It?” articles in March when the Jackets are five points out of a playoff spot. This will of course follow the “No One Believed In Us!” articles that come in November when the Jackets have the same five-game winning streak every team does.

No, the coach will still be a bullhorn, and his boring-ass style and hard-ass ways are going to get a lot more scrutiny when there are more losses than wins. And then one might wonder just how many more coaches Jarmo “Balls To The Walls” Kekalainen gets. And then won’t those make for some fun Athletic posts?

Face it Columbus, no one wants to be there. No matter what any player or team does it’ll be Page 2 behind which OSU running back showed up to spring practice in a Tesla. Oh wait, I think Urban Meyer is bending over again to show just how much this means to him. It doesn’t even matter that he’s not coaching anymore, he cares so damn much he’s killing himself out there!

You’re just a misplaced SEC town with the hillbillies to match, except you didn’t bother to include Nashville’s nightlife or music scene. You’re a jumping off point, and will always be leverage to get somewhere better. Which is just about everywhere. Rick Nash was only the first. He’ll hardly be the last. But hey, you’ve got a cannon, right?

Everything Else

vs.

 

RECORDS: Senators 22-31-5   Hawks 24-26-9

PUCK DROP: 7:30

TV: NBCSN Chicago

BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT: Silver Seven Sens

There will be some, perhaps lots, who look across the ice tonight at the Ottawa Senators and wish the Hawks had taken their path so far, or at least their path forward. For the Senators are already at the bottom of the league, and will soon discard Mark Stone, Matt Duchene, and Ryan Dzingel (or should), and the end of their season will almost certainly be something resembling whatever that was at Daytona yesterday. Except instead of hilljacks it’ll be….Canadian hilljacks, and more Timbo’s. And the Senators will end up in the bottom three of the lottery, where they would have a great chance at a franchise-turning player in the draft.

Except they don’t have a first-round pick, so that’s the part Hawks fans wouldn’t want.

Meanwhile, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, with help from Erik Gustafsson and Alex DeBrincat and possibly Dylan Strome, will keep the Hawks from bottoming out. And whether it’s a reality or not, they’ll continue to chase a playoff spot that the Western Conference as a whole keeps trying to pass around like it was waiting at a highway-offramp. And they’ll end up with anywhere from the 7th to 16th pick, all the while not doing themselves a whole lot of good. Who will be better off when it’s all said and done? Well, the Hawks because they’ll actually have a pick. But you get it. It could be argued they’d be better long-term if they were where the Senators are.

But you didn’t come for hypotheticals.

Anyway, the Senators have been able to only put it together recently when playing the Jets, whom they’ve beaten twice in a week for some reason. Other than that, they’ve lost five of their other six games in February. Their lone win came against the Ducks, because you cannot lose to the Ducks no matter how badly you might like to or even try. It’s akin to Tommy trying to lose to Begbie in Trainspotting. And yes, the image of the Ducks as a whole cowering in a corner trying not to piss themselves works pretty well, I think.

That hasn’t kept Duchene, Stone, and Dzingel from trying to play their way into happier situations, and all have been hot of late. Dutch would seem a perfect fit for the Predators, which is goddamn annoying, which means the Jets are then also interested in that Central arms race. The Flames have been most hotly connected to Stone, but he will have no shortage of suitors either. If they can get a bidding war going for them they could end up with a decent enough haul. Or they’ll end up watching Eeli Tolvanen do nothing for years despite claims he was going to be the greatest Finn every to grace this league since the lovechild of Selanne and various Koivus. It’s the Senators, you won’t bet against anything.

As for the team that’s on the ice now, like the Hawks they are woeful defensively, among the worst in overall Corsi or xGF%, and in attempts and expected-goals against. When Thomas Chabot isn’t on the ice, the other pairings simply get steamrolled into their own end. While there is more than a touch of offensive talent at forward between the trade bait and Chris Tierny, Bobby “I Swear I’m Not The Dumbest Person Alive” Ryan, and Colin White, it doesn’t matter much when it’s backing up.

Craig Anderson is now too old to hold up under an avalanche, and Sens fans can thank him for extending noted-genius-in-his-own-mind Guy Boucher’s reign of boredom much longer than it should have gone thanks to a goofed East Final Game 7 appearance two years ago. Boucher’s “system,” such as it is, requires a goalie to throw a .925 or better at the world, and if they don’t his teams suck. And they almost always suck. Anderson is hurt, as 37-year-olds tend to get, so Hawks legend Anders Nilsson will be in net. He had a hot-streak upon arriving in The North Capital, but has flattened out of late.

For the Hawks, small changes around the edges. Collin Delia will slot back in, trying to come correct after a touchdown surrendered to the Bruins. Gustav Forsling will once again exhibit his modern art representation of sadness in place of Carl Dahlstrom, who was a splatter-painting himself on Saturday. Brendan Perlini will replace Chris Kunitz.

For whatever this is, the Avs and Yotes are also in action today, though both have tough assignments in the Knights and Flames, respectively. Should those results go the Hawks way and the Hawks get one over the Sens, they’ll be within one point of the last playoff spot. A playoff spot that the Wild clearly are treating like it needs disinfecting and have no interest in keeping. As dumb as it might seem, one point is one point, especially with the Wild beating a hasty retreat from the world at large.

You can’t say that the Hawks “should” beat anyone, given their status. But if anyone’s that team, it’s the Senators. And it’s also the Wings, who are on the docket Wednesday. And the Avs on Friday have been backing up for a couple months. Honestly, come Saturday night this could all be very real, no matter how stupid.

Ride the snake.

 

 

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