There’s a lot of anxiety about the D-corps this year because for the first time in this era, there seem to be more questions than answers. Nowhere is this more evident than the 3rd pairing. Maybe it’s just that we’ve been spoiled with both a deep and overperforming D-corps throughout most of this Hawks era. But looking at these options is a bit like rummaging through the fridge after a bender. One of these guys is going to pair with Forsling, so let’s see if we can conjure who would be the best fit. (All of this assumes Franson doesn’t make the team. If he does, I’d be shocked if he weren’t the 6th D-man.)
I bet before Quenneville decided to rest everyone that matters save The Fun Boys and Kruger and a handful of others–and if the Hawks’ cap space and travel situation would have allowed it they would have iced the entire Hogs team–he looked ahead and saw that the Hawks would be playing a game that didn’t matter to them but did matter to the Ducks. And once he saw that I’m sure he knew that this game was going to involve a far too high level of bullshit that there would be no reason to subject his veterans to. I’m sure he told Toews that he can’t risk putting him out there to deal with any Kesler ridiculousness and losing him for any game that matters. Don’t need any of the top three d-men taking Perry slashes to the ankles, and so on.
And so it played out, the Ducks proving why they would be the most detestable organization in the league if anyone every bothered to remember they exist. This is a team that’s now won it’s division five straight seasons, and do you even give a shit? Of course you don’t, because it never matters in the end. The only time you think about them is when they prove time and time again that the lessons they learned from winning in 2007 have nothing to do with the two Hall of Famers they had on the blue line, the real reason they won. They’re still under the impression that GRIT and HITZ and TOUGHNESS and FAAAARRRRTTTT is currency in this league, which is how they end up re-hiring a giant pimple who can’t make toast as coach.
In the aftermath of last night’s entertaining tilt with the equally fast and dinged up Penguins, the Hawks held practice today in anticipation of tomorrow night’s home tilt against the Islanders and then Saturday night in Nashville. And while it was for the most part an ordinary late-season practice, the organization showed its hand a bit in the process.
Not much going on today. Crawford isn’t as sick but won’t play tomorrow against the Penguins. Niklas Hjalmarsson won’t play the rest of the week, and that’s worth keeping an eye on, or at least his return is. A non-healthy Hammer when things start to matter would be worrisome indeed.
Other than that, the Hawks extended Jordin Tootoo and Michal Rozsival for a year, and some of this is for expansion draft purposes. In fact, it’s all about expansion draft purposes. The Hawks didn’t have what was required to expose in the draft in June, or at least not in a way that could prevent them from having to expose both Ryan Hartman and Marcus Kruger.
Game Time: 9:30PM CST
TV/Radio: CSN, WGN-AM 720
The Ol’ Diamondback Sturgeon: Fear The Fin
Now that the All Star wank-fest weekend has concluded in L.A., the NHL resumes what can be construed as the beginning of the end of the 82 game road to nowhere- the month between the the break and the trade deadline. And the Hawks will begin this stretch in San Jose at the start of a six game road trip while looking to correct some mistakes made to some of the also-rans of the league last week.
In years past, even for a mid January game, had both the Hawks and Capitals been carrying the two longest current winning streaks in the league (Caps at 7, Hawks at 4) there would be such a clamor over yet another POTENTIAL STANLEY CUP FINAL MATCHUP that it’d be deafening. But with the Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild on an inexorable collision course for June, it seems that tonight’s game in DC is simply old news to most.
So the frenzy begins tomorrow, and the Hawks are doing last minute stretching and warming before they pick their targets. Both Michal Rozsival and Brandon Mashinter were re-upped today for dirt cheap, barely $1.1 million between them.
The Rozsival one is slightly interesting considering that no matter how much Q loves him, he was absolutely railroaded in the playoffs last year, supposedly what he was being saved for during a regular season where he wasn’t really all that bad. How he’s going to improve in the spring, even if he plays 40-50 games. Whatever.
The Mashinter signing is frustrating because we do this every year. Every year the Hawks have some tomato can on the roster who plays too much during the season and by the playoffs Q has discarded them into the ether, basically telling you that “the element we like” means jack and shit. Or either they/Mashinter/both is an actual player now, which will get hilariously exposed. Again, doesn’t really matter.
So where do the Hawks stand, lineup wise now?
There has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth regarding the Hawks’ possession troubles this season, specifically as it relates to the deployment of their defensemen. But maybe, just maybe, there might be a path by which they can solve this thing once the playoffs roll around, and it will once again have to be on the back of their instantaneous Hall of Fame defenseman.
It’s clear that Joel Quenneville recognizes what his team’s problems are. Defensive depth, trouble scoring at even-strength, some mismatched lines. He attempted to address them tonight, rightly or wrongly. It didn’t quite work and the Hawks dropped their 4th straight game. If it wasn’t for Panarin’s buzzer-beater in St. Louis, they wouldn’t even have a point in that stretch.
This one started a lot like the Kings’ game, but for a longer stretch where the Hawks had the upper hand. They actually took the lead this time when Ghost Bear broke his stick and fell over, giving Hossa a runway that he didn’t turn down. Once again, they hit a post or two or Neuvirth made a couple big saves that kept them from extending the lead. The bugaboo of a PK reared it’s ugly head again at the end of the 1st.
Let’s go back to that silly place again. Warning: It’s almost as long as that fantasy draft we did a couple years ago that we kind of swore we’d never mention again.
Erik Gustafsson has been up for about a month now. While it’s obviously too early to jump to conclusions, let’s do that anyway. Can he shore up the 2nd pairing enough for a deep run?
McClure: I like what I’ve seen so far of Erik Gustafsson on a couple of fronts. While he’s a bit light in the ass and relies a bit too much on stationary stretch passes, albeit with plus-vision to even attempt some of them, what is really encouraging is what I’ve seen on the defensive end. He will get beaten occasionally with speed, as he’s not as fast as one would think given his skill set, but when he does, he does not reach and tries to make up ground with his feet. That alone will earn points with any coach, and even if he gets beaten he’ll do his part to at least try to make the angles more difficult for a rushing forward and not put his team on the kill in the process. But all of that being said, asking him to bail water for a partner who undoubtedly has at least three different sandwiches named after him around town is a bit unfair at this point. In an ideal world when the playoffs come Goose is partnered with Rozsival permanently, where Rozy can play free safety for him with primo zone starts (at least at home), while Scuds and TVR are in suits. It’s now been nearly a whole season and I still cannot figure out anything that TVR does well. He can’t move, his shot isn’t hard, accurate, or quick to be released, and decision making on positioning in the defensive zone leaves a lot to be desired. So no, I do not think that Gustafsson is a long term second pairing answer.