Hockey

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

God damn it, I didn’t realize how much I missed this motherfucking game. From start to finish, it was a never-ending adrenaline rush of emotion. Before we get into the recap, an important reminder: We’re still in the middle of a pandemic. There are still millions of people who don’t have the same fucking privilege we do to have a moment to breathe through a sport. Donate blood, donate to your local food banks, donate to a bond fund, help your neighbors, help those you don’t even know. Do whatever you can to help those in need, because the so-called leadership of this country refuses to.

Matt Dumba’s speech was remarkable. I’m totally surprised that the NHL even let him do what he did, which is both a relief and troubling. You could feel the power in each quiver of Dumba’s voice. It was a wonderful, meaningful, powerful speech, something we should never forget as these play-ins and playoffs move forward. If there’s anything not to like about what Dumba went through today, it’s that he had to do it at all and that he found himself kneeling on his own. While it was touching to watch Subban and Nurse stand at his side, you wish everyone else would have joined him.

Nonetheless, Matt Dumba made a powerful statement that far overshadows anything else that happened on the ice. It was a pleasant surprise from a league that often doesn’t live up to its ideals. And if you have any problem with what Dumba did at all, eat fucking shit you dumb motherfucker.

– I guess even a drooling dog’s sore dick can shoot one off every once in a while. The Blackhawks were three of six on the PP, which was far better than even the most optimistic could have predicted. Yes, it’s a huge problem that the Oilers scored three of their four goals on their PP, but we can safely rest assured that we successfully pulled a Fels Motherfuck on the special teams thus far. While this one feels good, with the likelihood of Koskinen starting going forward, the Hawks oughtn’t rest on their laurels. The Oilers have proven they can do it regularly. The Hawks have not.

– Dominik Motherfucking Kubalik, my frents. His five points today set a playoff-debut record for points from a rookie (and Sportsnet called it a playoff record, so it’s official: The Hawks are a playoff team). And what a performance he had throughout. On the Hawks’s first PP, he backhanded a pass from Kane to a wide-open Toews, who hardly needed to exert any effort to snap the shot home. His assist on Saad’s tip-in off a Maatta point shot (FUCKING WHAT???) was art, as was his pass from behind the net through the Royal Road to Toews on the Hawks’s second PP.

But the best part of Kubalik’s game came on his one timer from Keith in the second period. It’s a pleasant surprise to see how good Kubalik has become at just about every aspect of the game, but his rocket shot is still Sue at the Field.

Whatever it takes this off-season, you have to re-sign Kubalik. Whatever it takes. Someone start the GoFundMe that forces Seabrook to trade contracts with Kubalik now. Thanks.

Jonathan Toews was the guy doing all the fucking early in this game. Two goals (both on the PP), an assist, and simply pulling it out and slamming it on the table at the dot against McDavid. The big concern here was how the Toews line would keep up with either Draisaitl or McDavid, and they simply crushed them.

– Early in the game, it looked like we might get the version of Saad that we don’t like to admit exists: the one who gets lackadaisical and isn’t giving MORE. It was evident on McDavid’s goal, when McDavid curled just past the blue line only to power himself toward the near-side dot to receive a pass from Draisaitl across ice. There’s no good excuse to leave the best player in hockey that wide open, even on the PK, but Saad did.

But aside from that, Saad was excellent. He had an 81+ CF% at 5v5 to go with his two points (1 G, 1 A), which is hard to argue with. The Hawks’s top line was nails when it needed to be.

– Kirby Dach may have only had one assist, but he’s a future star. His aggressiveness on the end boards before Toews’s first PP goal led to a puck squirting onto Kane’s stick. Despite taking a hard check, Dach still managed to keep the puck moving. He’s special, and I take back saying that picking him over Bowen Byram was a bad call.

– We all thought this series would go through Crawford. It probably still will. But today wasn’t especially confidence inducing. On Draisaitl’s goal (the Oilers’s second in the game), Crow made an outstanding save at first, but struggled to recover in the crease after hitting the ice. He had enough time to find his feet, but he just didn’t. He looked lost at times, which could be a concern as the Oilers seemed to find their groove late. Nothing to light yourself on fire about just yet, especially with three of the Oilers’s four goals coming on the PP, but something to watch. Crow will need to find it a little more smoothly if the Hawks hope to advance. They can’t win without him being the rock.

– I said that the Hawks would lose any game in which they gave up more than three penalties. I might have Motherfucked them today. It’ll be crucial for Colliton to get his pretty head out of his skinny ass and avoid any more TOO MUCH MAN penalties. I’m willing to give a pass on today’s, but any more of that horseshit will bury this team.

– It’s only one game, but I have seen enough of Alex Nylander on the second line. He’s a lazy airhead who doesn’t finish. It doesn’t matter how fast he CAN be or how hard his shot CAN be when neither Kane nor Strome trust him enough to get him the puck. While we’d rather not see Dach fester with him and Caggiula, there were several spots where the Kane line had chances that Nylander’s stargazing stopped in its tracks. Flip Top Cat and Nylander. At least Top Cat has shown he’s willing to play bigger than he is.

– Watching Dylan Strome bank a goal in off Mike Smith’s dumb ass after his “No, we’re really going to an Escape Room, it’ll be fun!” puck-handling escapade ought to have cost $49.95. It rules that he not only got the start but also shat his pants. Fuck him.

It’s still a huge uphill battle for this team. With Koskinen likely slated to start the remainder of the games, goals won’t come as easy as they did today. Stopping the Nylander experiment and getting Crawford to be less wonky will be the focus on Monday. But they got Game 1, and that can make all the difference.

Let’s go Hawks.

Booze du Jour: Maker’s Mark, Evan Williams, and Miller High Life

Unironic Line of the Night: Everything Matt Dumba said.

Ironic Line of the Night: “The Blackhawks just winning the races to the pucks.”  –Doc

Everything Else

Giles Ferrell covers the Wild for ZoneCoverage.com. He also hosts Giles And The Goalie Podcast. Follow him @GilesFerrell.

Explain this Neiderreiter-for-Rask trade, because we don’t get it at all…
Paul Fenton has roughly 10 players on the roster who can play center or wing, yet he felt compelled to bring another center. In doing so, he dislodged Charlie Coyle — who had been playing pretty well alongside Zach Parise — from center shoving him back to wing and then pissing off Parise because Coyle has been the only center Parise has cared to play with this year. Rumor has it Fenton left a flaming bag of shit outside his analytics team’s office just minutes prior to making this trade (this did not actually happen but we can imagine it did because that’s what it feels like). Honestly, this trade makes no sense to Wild folks. They saved minimal cap space and added a 26-year-old center who can’t score and can’t skate. Makes perfect sense.
How big of a deal is it to lose Matthew Dumba for the year?
It’s been huge. The Wild power play has suffered heavily from his loss — just three or four power play goals since his departure — and it’s just had an impact on the offense in general. The Wild are now in the bottom third of the league in scoring, as Dumba was leading all NHL defenseman at his time of injury in goals scored. Now Dumba’s loss doesn’t entirely leave guys like Jason Zucker, Mikko Koivu, or Eric Staal completely blameless for their drop in offense, but having him in the lineup added a dynamic that this team does not have without him.
The Wild are in a playoff spot, aren’t really structured in a way to blow it up, so do they have to make more moves before the deadline?
If you have seen Fenton’s moves recently, it makes one cringe thinking he could make more before the deadline. Everything depends on what his philosophy for the season is, and right now no one really seems to know what the hell that is. The owner obviously wants playoffs. But moves — see Niederreiter for Rask — leaves one wondering if he is trying to blow up the team and maybe just retool for the future. They won’t be buyers for sure, and with Staal being a UFA they very well could be sellers despite sitting in a playoff spot coming out of their break.
Are the Wild stuck in neutral a bit until after next season, when Koivu, Spurgeon, and Granlund will all be free agents and the team will finally have some payroll flexibility?
Jared Spurgeon has been invaluable to the Wild just about since the day he walked through the door from the Islanders back in 2010, so it is hard to see the Wild moving on from him. Granlund and Koivu, on the other hand, could very well be jettisoned — with Granlund perhaps being a hot name in trade rumors this upcoming summer depending on his next contract demands. With the lack of centers the Wild have coming it would not surprise me if Koivu did return after next season but it would have to be at a discount. The guys that Fenton might also try and cut loose from in order to free up some payroll could be Jonas Brodin and Jason Zucker if he feels they are not performing up to par.

 

Game #53 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

Giles Ferrell writes for ZoneCoverage.com and hosts the weekly Giles and The Goalie podcast. Follow him on Twitter @gilesferrell. 

The Wild find themselves kind of in the same predicament as the Hawks. Can’t seem to get off the ground for more than a game or two in a row but also don’t lose enough to fall out of it. What’s the biggest problem of late?
Finding their identity. Minnesota has none and we are over halfway in the season. They have been hurt for a large chunk of the season and now they have a full roster so there is hope they will find their stride. Now with that said, they looked to be hitting the mark last week before they went into Colorado and had the crap absolutely kicked out of them. 

Why is Zach Parise skating on what appears to be a third line? Or is Eriksson Ek the best center for him and that’s just how it goes?
More of that has to do with the fact Parise missed half the season with a back injury. Once he gets back up to full speed, it would not surprise me in the slightest to see him get bumped up to the top six. But for now, the hope is he can ignite Eriksson Ek – Minnesota’s 2015 first round pick who is on pace for two goals this year. 

Devan Dubnyk had a .940 in December. Despite getting blasted in Colorado last Saturday, do you feel like he’s rounding back into what you’re used to seeing?
No doubt Dubnyk is coming back into form that Minnesota has known him to be. He has been inconsistent most of the year, but right before he went down with an injury he started to right the ship. Since his return he has picked up right where he left off – sans the Colorado game – and perhaps that has to do with his backup Alex Stalock pushing for more game time with his good play this year. 

Is Jason Zucker or Matt Dumba pricing themselves out of a return to Minnesota this summer? Or can they shift some things around and make it ok?
A month ago I would have said Zucker might be a guy the Wild move because he might simply cost too much, but now a month long drought has brought his next contract back down to earth. After a torrid October, Dumba has been lighting it up and will probably be a very expensive signing for the Wild this offseason, being he can score and is a right shot. Dumba’s trade value come summer might be sky high, but it would be a crippling blow to the Wild blue line if they moved him.What will the Wild be looking to do before the deadline?

Wild fans cringe at the fact that GM Chuck Fletcher has a first round pick at his disposal to use, and he is reportedly in the final year of his contract. He did so last year, and that yielded one lousy playoff win for his team. I’m not sure the Wild will do much of anything before the deadline. The prospect cupboard is getting bare, they are right on the cap, and they might have a few internal options in the AHL they would try instead of making a move. Maybe they will get a bottom six player at the deadline, but otherwise Minnesota might be more inclined to stand pat.

Everything Else

 vs. 

Game Time: 6:00PM CST
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720
Paisley Park: Hockey Wilderness

After a brief and suprisingly victorious jaunt to Manitoba on Thursday, the Hawks return home tonight having now had a couple days worth of rest, and will face of against the Wild, with whom they are tied, who played last night, and are beat the hell up by injuries.

Everything Else

The Wild suck so hard that they’re the only team Bruce Boudreau hasn’t coached to a division title when he’s had a full season behind the bench. And really, if you don’t get that basically meaningless bauble out of our favorite Haagen-Dazs slathered bocce ball, then what’s the point at all? You’re still going to get a coach with both hands around his own throat in the playoffs but not to get to raise a silly banner aloft. Well, the Wild probably aren’t going to win the division this year, and they’re probably not going to get out of it in the playoffs. It’s almost if Brucey is now just in an abyss of meaninglessness. Which is how most people feel about the state of Minnesota.

Minnesota Wild

’16-’17 Record: 49-25-8  106 points (2nd in Central, out in 1st round to STL)

Team Stats 5v5: 49.3 CF% (20th)  50.5 SF% (14th)  52.6 SCF% (3rd)  9.2 SH% (1st)  .925 SV% (11th)

Special Teams: 20.9 PP% (9th) 82.9 PK% (8th)

Everything Else

 at 

Game Time: 7:00PM CST
TV/Radio: NBCSN, TVA-S, SportsNet, WGN-AM 720
Makes No Sense At All: Hockey Wilderness

And so it is now here, the most important regular season game in the history of the sport…at least until the next one. The Wild are still playing .900 hockey and have three games in hand on the Hawks, and a regulation win tonight should effectively salt the division away for them, and there’s nothing more that Bruce Boudreau likes than the taste of salted divisions. And the entire hockey world, such as it is, will be watching, as this is the only game on the docket tonight.

Everything Else

jesse ventura vs oldschool

Game Time: 7:30PM Central
TV/Radio: CSN, NBCSN (national), WGN-AM 720
Computer Blue: Hockey Wilderness

While the Hawks first game of consequence in the month of April did not go as planned against the Trailer Park Boys, the Hawks are still in the conversation for home ice provided they get some help while taking care of their own business. And that business involves the Wild tonight, where the Hawks can clinch no worse than the third seed in the Central with a single point.