RECORDS: Hawks 16-22-9 Devils 17-20-7
PUCK DROP: 6pm
TV: NBCSN Chicago
BADA BING ENTHUSIASTS: In Lou We Trust
Sky point, Bobby Heenan.
After taking two of the West’s best to overtime, and then losing in that gimmick when their slow defense wasn’t really prepared for 3-on-3, the Hawks venture for a week in New York to face some of the East’s sludge. There’s always sludge involved when you’re in New Jersey, but this time around it also applies to the team that resides there.
The Devils aren’t vying for a playoff spot this time around, like they somehow miracle’d their way to last year. One, Taylor Hall is hurt now, though he was over a point-per-game when he was fit. This time though, they aren’t getting goalie performance from out of a top hat, as Keith Kinkaid has returned to being Keith Kinkaid, Cory Schneider is now made out of boogers and adhesive, and they’re pinning their hopes on neophyte MacKenzie Blackwood. Somehow, the Devils only have the 12th-worst SV% at even-strength, even though both Kinkaid and Schneider can’t see .900 with a telescope.
It also doesn’t help that this isn’t a very good defensive team, with the fifth-worst xGA/60 in the league, and not much better in attempts against. It might have something to do with not having a d-man worth a damn on the roster. Andy Greene is a million years old and you’ve never heard of him anyway, so he’s the perfect Devils captain. Sami Vatanen has always been a power play weapon only, Will Butcher continues a long tradition of prized college free agents who end up being a fart in the wind, and Mirco Mueller has a really long neck. Damon Severson is probably worth holding onto, but that’s probably it. Look at this blue line and you’ll react like the business manager to Kramer. “I don’t know what this is supposed to be.”
Up front there’s some hope, even without the injured Hall. Nico Hischier is putting up some pretty impressive underlying numbers in a junior Bergeron act. Kyle Palmieri continues to score goals and also continues to make you wonder why you should give a shit. Miles Wood is a porn name. While this is a more dynamic and entertaining Devils team than the ones of yore, it still needs more talent than its got to be relevant…well, relevant maybe for the first time. I’m not sure they were relevant even when they were winning Cups. Certainly no one other than the highway-side strip club patrons bothered to notice.
For the Hawks, not too many changes one would think. Cam Ward will get the start to give Delia nearly a full week to reset after two tough losses his last two starts. Slater Koekkoek could make his debut tonight, and the Hawks might actually dress seven d-men to do so, but we won’t find out until gametime. The clear option is to scratch Seabrook and let Koekkoek run around on the third-pairing with either Carl Dahlstrom or Henri Jokiharju, but we all know Coach Cool Youth Pastor isn’t going to scratch Seabrook unless you dangled him off a cliff. Dahlstrom could face the axe as well.
The Devils murdered the Hawks twice last year, and basically killed Corey Crawford while they were at it. While not the most skilled, this is an extremely fast team and the Hawks couldn’t cope. The same rules as Saturday apply here, which the Hawks followed pretty well for the first 40. None of the complicated breakouts, just get the puck up to the forwards or ahead of them aw quickly as possible. Any missteps will be pounced on by the Devils’ quick forwards, so the simpler the better. Blackwood has looked very good in his brief foray, but put him under pressure and see what happens. The Hawks are slightly better equipped for these track meets than they were, though still not their strength.
There’s four games before the Hawks hit the bye. They probably need them all to not be buried by the time the bye is over and all those games in hand are made up. They can’t say their season is over, or act like it, even if we can. So if they’re intent on still a death rattle, it probably has to be now.
Game #48 Preview Suite