Everything Else

vs.

RECORDS: Hawks 30-30-9   42-22-5

PUCK DROP: 6pm

TV: NBCSN

THE ABYSS: Pension Plan Puppets 

During the Hawks first “streak,” it was obvious they were benefitting from a softening of the schedule. Even when they played barely real teams, they were simply outclassed. We don’t know if this is a new “streak” yet, three in a row hardly constitutes that, but whatever it is is unlikely to continue tonight. The Hawks are playing one of the few REAL-ASS teams in the league, and we know how that’s gone. And they’re facing one that’s probably going to have an edge/snarl to it.

The Leafs had something of a “test” on Monday, and they got absolutely horsed by the Lightning at home, 6-2. If they had won that game or even been close, you might be hopeful of catching them with their focus elsewhere. Probably no such luck tonight. Maybe if the Bruins had beaten the Jackets last night and moved six points ahead of the Leafs, they would have decided there’s nothing left to play for and would have spent the last 13 games looking at their watch. But with a four-point gap and a game in hand, the Leafs can reasonably think that home-ice is still on the table and worth chasing (which is debatable). So the combination of frustration and motivation should have the Leafs antennae up, which is hardly good news.

There’s also the small matter of Morgan Rielly, which shouldn’t matter but will in the sense that he will get a standing ovation from the frothing, rich aristocracy that fills the Whatever It’s Fucking Called Now Center, because…he might…not have…used a homophobic slur? They won’t know why, they’ll just clap like the trained seals all fans become in situations like this. Either way, he and the Leafs will be happy to have a game to play to distract from whatever the last two days were. All of this does not add up to a pleasant night for the Hawks.

And even without all that, this is a team so far beyond the Hawks you wouldn’t want to drive it. In games against the league’s penthouse residents, the Hawks have generally been embarrassed. The Lightning have dribbled their head like a basketball twice. So have the Sharks. The Jets took them seriously for like a combined 12 minutes and got three wins out of it. They were with the Bruins in South Bend when the Bs were in their worst stretch, and then nowhere close in Boston. They’re 0-3 against the Flames. It’s not an enviable record.

And though they may finish third in their division. and though their media and fans refuse to shut up about anything, this is still an unholy offensive force. John Tavares has 76 points, and he’s the second center. There are three lines here better than the Hawks can muster with one, and when they get rolling no one can live with it (except Tampa, apparently). The Hawks were able to put up six on this team in the home opener because they got a look at Garret Sparks. They’ll find no such refuge here. The Leafs will want a recovery from Monday, which means Andersen, who’s been one of the better goalies in the league.

If the Leafs have a weakness it’s a defense that still is short, even with Jake Muzzin, but you have to get the puck first which is the real trick. Sure, if the Hawks can get DeBrincat or Kane or Saad or Toews bearing down on Hainsey or Zaitsev or whoever they might find some joy, but getting to those spots takes more than a smile. It’s also a beat-up blue line as both Gardiner and Dermott are out.

For the Hawks, shouldn’t be too many changes. Crawford will start, and the lines should look the same (go pound, John Hayden). The expectations for this one should be nil. If the Hawks can get a win in Montreal against a Canadiens team fighting it, this trip will be a success. After that, it’s the Canucks, Flyers, and a home-and-home with the Avs. Basically it would be set for the Hawks to perform one last death rattle if they get out of Canada alive.

And if not, they are who we through they were anyway.

 

Game #70 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

Boy, controversy seems to follow Kyle Dubas around.

Nothing will come of Morgan Rielly’s escape of being labeled a homophobe officially, though some will never forget. It would have been hard to miss the story, but if you did, on Monday night, on-ice mics caught Rielly saying something that sure sounded like “faggot” at an official. The NHL launched an investigation, and yesterday it cleared Rielly after talking to him and the ref, Brad Meier. Still, Rielly’s defense of, “I’m 100% confident I did not use that word” makes it sound like he as an observer rather than the center of this story. It doesn’t instill 100% confidence in anyone else who has anything of a skeptical eye. Whatever, here we are.

What’s frustrating, or one of the frustrating aspects, is that the NHL, Rielly, Meier, or anyone hasn’t been forced or compelled to tell us what he did say. When seeing and hearing the footage, it’s hard to conclude he said anything else. And the fact that no one has sought to clarify what it was that did escape his lips, it raises a lot of doubt. Because this being the NHL, and we know their favorite tactic when dealing with anything controversial is to imitate an ostrich. And just wait until Don Cherry gets his grubby paws on this on Saturday. At least when Andrew Shaw went through this for the second time, he or someone was allowed to show what he was actually saying and what amateur lip-reading would have mistaken for that slur. There’s been no such impetus from the Leafs.

Brad Meier saying nothing was directed at him certainly is encouraging, but if Rielly were using that word simply as an expletive or exclamation, that’s no better. But we’ll never get there, so let’s deal with what we can.

What the NHL can do is empower its refs to eject and report any player they hear using that word or anything like it. It is purely farcical to believe that slur has only made an appearance on NHL ice on Monday and caught by a mic. This is a league populated by barely 7th-grade educated peons who have grown up and spent a great majority of their lives in one of the most closed and poisonous cultures we know. Surely something is getting said in scrums, and yet NHL refs have never ejected or penalized anyone for that kind of use. At least that we know of.

What’s likely here is that Meier doesn’t really want to start a furor, hears that word enough, and much like the rest of hockey culture thinks it’s ok to just muscle through it. Or that it’s not a big deal. Until someone proves what Rielly said or meant, there’s going to be a heavy level of doubt.

While it does share characteristics of victim-blaming, the NHL could use the opportunity to empower its refs to start penalizing and ejecting any type of inappropriate and offensive language on the ice. That doesn’t mean swear words obviously, but racist and homophobic slurs for sure. And they’re there. We know they are.

If nothing else, on the lowest level, the NHL might want to look at just how much abuse it wants its officials to deal with every game. Think about how many unsportsmanlike conducts springing from yelling at a ref calls you’ve seen this year. One? Two? Compare that with flags in the NFL, technicals in the NBA, or ejections in MLB (ok, that last one is probably too much, given that most MLB umps are babies). NHL refs hear it from every angle while reffing by far the fastest game there is. Perhaps allowing officials to throw a few more minors at coaches and players who get particularly yappy, and you may indirectly shrink the area where much more ugly stuff tends to slither out.

Game #70 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

 

 

Everything Else

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Game Time: 6:00PM CDT
TV/Radio: CSN, CBC, CITY, WGN-AM 720
Jeff Veillette and Steve Glynn Are Terrifying: Pension Plan

Sure, the Hawks have improbably vaulted themselves into basically a game and a half lead in the central as they close out their eastern Canadian swing tonight in the Dark Center Of The Universe that is Toronto, but they haven’t done it the right way. They take on too many shots, even though that’s a result of having leads, they capitalize on power plays, and they do so while paying players more than their entry level contract. All of these things are instantly disqualifiers for actual success, which is truly indicated by how much cap space a team has at the end of the year, thrown into a pivot chart against their possession stats and 5v5 goal differential, along with some other stupid fucking stats Steve Burtch made up in a craven, desperate, and pathetic attempt to get hired. And naturally, the Leafs are succeeding by all of those measures, and all the good stuff is because of Kyle Dubas (who shielded sex criminal players on the junior team he was GM for), and all the bad stuff is because of Lou Lamoriello. This is how Maple Leafs hockey works.