The scariest thing happening on the ice this Halloween was far and away the Hawks’ defense or lack thereof against the Wild on Sunday. It was recently announced that Amy’s Eldest broke his thumb blocking a shot on Saturday night and is out approximately 3-4 weeks. So the Hawks gave one of the Johnson simulations a promotion all the way to the top pairing and gave us a middling at best defensive effort against the Wild—though it was an effort given while short a D-man, respectively. It was only by the grace of God that this team was able to grab a point. To the bullets!

10/30 – Hawks 3, Wild 3 (Hawks lose their last $6 to a pool shark)
Box Score
Game Log
Natural Stat Trick

  • Jake McCabe continues to exhaust me on a nightly basis. Tonight he was able to put his usual annoying gameplay on pause to open the scoring and give the Hawks a 1-0 lead thanks to a wrister from the point. But then seconds later he lost his stick in a puck battle to the Wild because he just had to be THE BIG HIT GUY who DELIVERS BIG HITS. This utterly nonsensical play led directly to the Wild easily moving right around McCabe and Matt Boldy scoring to tie the game. After the few things he does right, he will automatically remind you about all the things he does wrong.
  • Never this season did I think I’d see Toews’s give-a-shit meter be higher than Kane’s, but for this game it was definitely Toews sticking with it and taking as many offensive chances as he could get. Although he only had one goal to show for it, it was a game-tying goal where he went five-hole on old friend Marc-Andre Fleury. Now leading the team in goals, those chances have obviously paid off for the captain. Kane, however, looks like he couldn’t care less, which isn’t very helpful when the Hawks are down a goal. Maybe he’s just REALLY committed to Kyle Davidson’s tanking plan.
  • It was a very nifty play by Kane and lots of quick maneuvering by Athanasiou that should be commended for the 3rd Hawks goal that turned into the big highlight of the night. I think it would’ve been awesome had Connor Murphy and Jarred Tinordi not left Matt Boldy once again all alone seconds after the goal was scored to easily fake out Alex Stalock and score on a wide-open net.
  • There was plenty of roughhousing between the Hawks and Wild—the fast, skilled Hawks teams of yore have dissipated into whatever this team is, moving back in time to a classic physical hockey style which continues to exhaust me to my very core. Tinordi, who is just about only good for fighting, won a two-punch fight against Ryan Hartman, which was I guess fine. Then there was more tomfoolery after a hit that seemed to hurt Athanasiou’s hand and later on a dangerous hit on Kane that ended in his head slamming into the boards. What could’ve been a Hawks powerplay was instead turned back into a regular 5-on-5 situation, and the Hawks certainly didn’t win the game, so I’m still not sure what the point of it all was.


Next Game: 11/1 vs. Islanders

Game Time: 7:30PM CST
New York Telephone Conversation: Lighthouse Hockey

The Islanders have won three straight against the likes of the Rangers, the Hurricanes and the Avalanche, some of the top teams in the league. If New York can continue to put the pedal to the metal, it might be an ugly night for the Hawks tonight.

The Islanders started out on a bit of a skid to start the season, starting out 2-4 before their recent win streak. But since then, the Islanders have had shutdown goaltending from Ilya Sorokin, who has a .933 save percentage so far this season, and also find themselves 4th in the league in 5-on-5 scoring. Their powerplay, however, leaves little to be desired as the Isles are 5th-worst in the league in PP%.

The Islanders forward groups have finally found some sort of formation it seems, with Josh Bailey, Mathew Barzal, and Oliver Wahlstrom sitting on the top line. Barzal leads the team in assists and points, whereas Wahlstrom has the team highest goals. Anders Lee, Brock Nelson and Anthony Beauvillier are on the second line and responsible for about as much offense as the first. The aging skeleton of Zach Parise finds itself on the third line and is sporting a career-worst CF% so far this season. J.G. Pageau and Kyle Palmieri, his linemates, don’t do much for offense either. And of course the 4th line for the Islanders is the same as it always is, with Cal Clutterbuck in his 15th year, probably-overpaid Matt Martin and Casey Cizikas the most likely to be seen gooning with this younger, shittier Hawks team tonight.

Like the Hawks, the Islanders are finding themselves under the coaching guise of a first-year NHL coach in Lane Lambert, and the defense is starting to crack under the new style of play. It is no longer the defensively-solid, bore-teams-to-sleep style they were moderately successful at under Trotz’s rule. But having one of the best goaltenders in the league in Sorokin has recently masked some of this for the Islanders. Against Alex Stalock, who can’t even keep himself in his own crease, this game could spell trouble for the Hawks.


The Hawks surprisingly continue to not suck, eking out wins under Derek King and his amusing, incredibly human personality. After adapting to King’s style of defense, the team has seemed calmer, more in sync and surer of themselves. And considering how horrifically this season started (in more ways than one), I’ll take it at this point.

The Blackhawks’ defensive zone coverage at least makes sense, even without shutdown players like McCabe and Murphy in the lineup, and you’re hard-pressed to find a guy out of position these days, limiting the chances of their opponents pretty well. Of course, many teams in this league are just more talented than the Hawks which will lead to losses on occasion. But considering the garbage effort that was trotted out under Coach Vinny del Colliton, this more boring style of hockey is a welcome change. Maybe we can try out a regulation win or two?

Hawks 4, Capitals 3 (Hawks win menko match)
Box | Natural Stat Trick

The Hawks were able to win this one in spite of all odds, albeit in a shootout. But the entire team had a pretty good game, which included keeping the greatest goal-scorer of all time, Alex Ovechkin, without a goal that night. They also did it without Connor Murphy, who got hit by Ovie early into the 2nd period and had to leave the game to go into the dark room.

Kane and the Cat started things off near the end of the 1st period, their playmaking abilities on full show with a nifty goal that beat the goaltender backhand. Barely a minute into the 2nd period, however, the Capitals tied the game after, shockingly, Erik Gustafsson couldn’t break up the play.

Despite the Capitals dominating the possession game in the 2nd, the Hawks were able to take back the lead with not only a powerplay goal, but one by Dominik Kubalik, who was set up by DeBrincat. Amy’s Eldest made a good play near the blueline to keep things alive as well. Though the Caps ended up scoring two goals to take the lead back thanks to a Fleury fumble and a breakaway glove save gone wrong, the Hawks rallied back late to tie the game up thanks to a goal by Amy’s Eldest. Getting a point was just about all I was hoping for this game.

Nobody scored in overtime thanks to the goalies on both sides, and then Fleury had some good luck in the shootout as two Caps in a row hit both goalposts. Luckily it was enough to give Kane the opportunity to win it in the shootout in a way only he can.

Hawks 2, Rangers 3
Box | Natural Stat Trick

The Hawks won’t win them all, but I was pleased with the effort they put into this game and the fact that they didn’t seem to give up when they were down two (again). Both teams played quite conservatively to begin this game, with four shots total halfway through the first. And the Hawks even scored first (again) on a nifty play by Hagel, who swatted the puck out of the air and behind him for Kane to bury into a wide-open net. Now his goalless streak has been snapped.

Unfortunately, Dylan Strome’s brother Ryan scored shortly into the 2nd period to tie things up for the Rangers after a penalty by Borgstrom put the Hawks on the kill. Ryan Strome was set up easily by Adam Fox and old friend Artemi Panarin to get the puck past a sprawling Kevin Lankinen. Fox and Panarin would later team up again near the end of the period to get the Rangers the lead, sneaking the puck just under Lanks and into the back of the net.

The Hawks continued to get chances through the 2nd and 3rd, but Anton Georgiev was able to stop just about every shot. Panarin scored in the 3rd to seal the deal for the Rangers, although the Hawks’ effort in the waning minutes of the game should be commended. The Cat got a weird goal after a shot that was originally saved by Georgiev ended up just barely sliding across the goal line as he is absolutely clobbered by Kirby Dach in the paint. King pulled Lankinen in the final minute or two of the game, but the Hawks weren’t able to tie things up. We are going to need some steadier production from guys like Kane and Kubalik in the future, as relying on only two guys for all of your offense isn’t a good long-term plan for success.

Hawks 3, Islanders 2 (Hawks win Tiddlywinks competition this time)
Box | Natural Stat Trick

The Islanders were coming off their 10th straight loss with this game and it certainly showed. As expected, the level of offense to watch this game was quite low, as both teams play more defensive-minded games.

And dear God did this one drag awhile. There were only 18 shots between the teams by the end of the 1st, but the Hawks went up with The Cat’s slapshot going off Hagel and into the back of the net. The Islanders had only eight shots in the first period, though it seemed like less because of the Hawks defense breaking up a lot of chances, plus the occasional sprawling save by Marc-Andre Fleury. Neither of these teams have a lot of offense firepower, after all.

The Islanders were able to tie it up nearing the end of a powerplay chance they had in the 2nd. Unfortunately a myriad of sloppy plays made the second half of the period an especially PK-heavy period for the Hawks. Luckily for them, it was Dylan Strome in the 3rd who put them in the lead, a goal he sorely needed for his confidence going forward. In a game where I thought the Hawks were doing way more passing than they were shooting, that was a super neat passing sequence by the Hawks that gave Strome the open net.

Unfortunately, the bad penalties kept coming for the Hawks, as it was now the turn of Amy’s Youngest to be sent to the box for interference. The Hawks can thank the acrobatics of Fleury and the sludge that is the Islanders powerplay for getting out of that one unscathed. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to keep the Islanders from tying the game up with only two seconds left in regulation. After just about the most boring 3-on-3 that can exist with only a few shots off from both teams, Kane scored the only goal in a meaningless shootout (again) to get the Hawks two points.

They seem to be turning their season around, albeit far too late to make the playoffs and therefore losing their first-round pick for this year’s draft. Though that pick would be extremely valuable to the team’s future, I’d certainly rather see a good effort like the Hawks are putting in every night than watching them tank to keep their first-rounder. And yes, I’ll probably regret feeling this way in the next year or two. The Rangers, Canadiens and Leafs are next week—let’s hope for 2 out of 3.


It’s not getting any better, folks.

The Hawks have now lost 6 games in the fledgling 2021-22 season (Motto: Good Seats Still Available) and have set an NHL record for shame and futility having now gone 360 straight minutes to open a season without having a lead in a game. In addition to that heaping pile of pathetic, the Hawks sellout streak ended in acrimony on Sunday night with an announced attendance of 19,042 but in reality looked a lot more like this (courtesy of Ben Pope on the Tweet Machine):

The end of the sellout streak resulted in this unintentionally hilarious statement from front office bobblehead Danny Wirtz, which basically implied that yes, good seats ARE INDEED STILL AVAILABLE:

With a slate of games upcoming against higher tier opponents like St. Louis and Carolina, its very possible that this Hawks team will start the season 0-8-1. While everyone assumes the team is going to HAVE to launch Jeremy Colliton into the sun if that were to happen, I’m not entirely convinced Stan will put him out of his misery. The two are irrevocably tied together, and Old Yeller-ing one would require the same of the other.

I personally have no evidence of this, but I’m wondering if the Wirtz Clan is keeping Stan around to take the fall for the sex abuse scandal when the discovery phase of the trial hits. Either way, this shit has become nigh unwatchable and based on ticket prices on Stubhub I don’t know if Danny Boy will be able to wait that long, or if there will be anyone left to care when he does.




October 19th, 2021

Islanders 4 – Hawks 1 

Box Score | Natural Stat Trick 


One period into this game, it kinda sorta seemed like the Hawks were going to make an effort of it. They kept the Isles pinned in their zone to the tune of a 60% CORSI for (their highest number for a period thus far in the season), and had a couple of dangerous chances against Ilya Sorokin that should’ve had the Hawks feeling pretty good about themselves heading into the locker room after 1.

The reality of it all was, however, that the Isles were simply playing the perfect road game there on Madison and they merely waited for the Hawks to (inevitably) make a stupid mistake and then capitalized on it. That mistake came in the form of Henrik Borgstrom, Riley Stillman and Erik Gustafsson (of course) chasing Oliver Whalstrom below the fucking goal line, leaving Anthony Beauvillier all alone to slip one past a sprawling Marc Andre Fleury, making it 1-0 and giving the Isles a lead that they’d never relinquish.

The Isles made it 4-0 on two goals by Whalstrom and one by Cal Clusterfuck before MacKenzie Entwhistle was able to end Sorokin’s shutout bid with 26 seconds left in the game. As we’ve been saying all along, any coach worth his salt will eventually pants Jeremy Colliton right out of the building and Barry Trotz is worth mountains of it. This outcome was preordained and shouldn’t have been a shock to anyone with a functional parietal lobe.


October 21st, 2021

Canucks 4 – Hawks 1

Box Score | Natural Stat Trick 


Once again, it seemed like the Hawks might have a chance in this one as the first really wasn’t the dumpster fire the other first periods were during week one of the season. The Canucks did score first, and predictably it came from Erik Gustafsson being out of position chasing a hit below the goal line again and leaving the slot wide open for a Jason Dickinson one timer. The Hawks were able to answer not 2 minutes later however when Kyle Burroughs was sent to the sin bin for tripping up DeBrincat. The Hawks power play (which has been the only fucking decent thing so far this year) went right to work, with Kane winning a board battle against Dickinson and Tucker Poolman (porn name) and sent the puck up to Seth Jones who set up DeBrincat with a nifty one timer that beat Thatcher Demko far side.

Looking at the CORSI for the game, you’d have to assume that the Hawks got goalied as they held a 52 and 61% share of the possession in the 2nd and the 3rd, and had a majority of the high danger chances the rest of the way, but it never really felt like Demko had to work much to keep the Nucks on top. Meanwhile at the other end, every time Vancouver crossed into the Hawks zone you pretty much expected the puck to end up behind Lankinen and that’s pretty much what happened. Demko made some choice saves and Lankinen didn’t. 0-4-1.


October 24th, 2021

Red Wings 6 – Blackhawks 3

Box Score | Natural Stat Trick


Honestly, there’s not much to say here. The Hawks got absolutely domed in all facets of the game by a team that had played the night before (and been scorched to a crisp by what had been a winless Montreal team up to that point) and was on it’s 3rd game in 4 days in 3 time zones. Marc Andre Fleury looked completely disintristed, and really who can blame him when most of his “defenders” avoid the area in front of his crease like Tyler Bertuzzi and scientific evidence.

With Patrick Kane out as a close contact exposure to BERTUZZI-19, the power play was pretty lifeless, pissing away two 5 on 3 opportunities. Tyler Johnson made a nice play in the 1st powering his way to the net, but then wiped it all away by taking 2 dumb stick penalties immediately after the Hawks had score, killing any momentum generated. The UC was half empty, and the half that was filled was at lest 50% Detroit fans. The sellout streak ended, but it’s been replaced by a much worse one with the Hawks now owning the dubious distinction of going the longest to start a season without a lead. Then the cherry on top of the shit sundae happened in the 3rd:


There’s no end in sight for any of this, as much as we all want to get off this poorly maintained carnival ride. The roller coaster is out of tracks, and Stan Bowman is the carnie asshole who forgot to finish building it. There’s no coaching going on, there’s no fun being had by anyone, and there’s little hope that anything could possibly be turned around before the coaster flies into a brick wall, but at least there are still good seats available.

Eat At Arby’s



Proving once again that the Hawks can somehow beat superior teams while also losing to terrible teams, we’re picking up right where we left off before Christmas, albeit with an officially reduced roster of defensemen. This game also proves that sometimes it just comes down to which goalie is better/having a better night. Let’s get to the bullets:

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

–The Hawks took advantage of some weak-ass goaltending from Thomas Greiss, and honestly some of that was just luck, as pucks kept deflecting off Islanders defensemen all night but you know what? Fuck ’em. Gilbert’s goal was of the lucky variety, whereas Kubalik’s was a beautiful setup and a perfect reminder why John Quenneville has no business on the top line, and it should be Kubalik-Toews-Kane if CCYP is going to insist on breaking up DeBrincat-Strome-Kane, which seems to be the way the die is cast these days. Speaking of Top Cat, his goal was sorely needed for a guy who hasn’t scored a goal in what seems like years. Greiss got (rightly) pulled, but the Hawks had done enough damage and Robin Lehner was able to hold it down the rest of the time, despite the barrage of shots he of course had to face over the course of the game.

–From there, the Hawks just had to be good enough to hold the lead and they not only did that but they even padded it in the third with Jonathan Toews basically deciding he wanted to score, so he stole it along the boards, created an opportunity and finished the shot. Oh, and Matthew Highmore scored one too? On Semyon Varlamov. Hockey is just weird sometimes.

–Well, we’ll never see the back of Dennis Gilbert, will we? He scored his first goal (yay for you, guy), and managed to have a nice shot block on a PK in the second, and now we will never be rid of him. Nevermind that 44 CF%, right? HE SCORED A GOAL AND HAS THE GRIT AND HEART MY FRENT

–But let’s be honest, the Islanders got their first goal from a guy who’s basically their version of John Scott. Ross Johnston? WTF. However, not only did Greiss give up a goal to Dennis fucking Gilbert (not to mention the two other ones), as noted above, piece-of-shit Varlamov gave one up to Matthew fucking Highmore. Clearly not their best night, but you know what? Fuck ’em.

–I don’t love playing Strome on the wing, but at least he and Dach and DeBrincat are a line of talented young players so it sort of makes sense? They had a 50 CF% and a total of 8 shots, so this could very well be a workable line. Personally I’d rather see Strome and Dach centering lines so we have, ya know, a total of four centers when you add Kampf on the fourth line, but at least this isn’t offensive to the eyes, if it is still offensive to our sense of logic.

–The Hawks gave up 40 shots, which is still way too many. Lehner was up to the task so here we are, but it’s still not good. They also were underwater in possession through the first two periods (49 and 43 CF%, respectively). So number-wise they really shouldn’t have won, but you know what? Fuck ’em.

–The broadcast did their duty in singing the praises of Brent Seabrook and talking about what a “warrior” he is for playing through these injuries and whatta guy and whatta teammate and it was all unnecessary but not surprising at all. Of course Seabrook deserves nothing but admiration from this organ-I-zation and I fully expect Foley and Olczyk to be positively biased, but with all of the uncertainty around this situation I’m just tired of hearing the paeans.

As noted, the underlying numbers are still worrying, but the Hawks needed to come out after the ass-waxing earlier this week and play decently, and they did that. It was decent enough, at least. Onward and upward…


It’s a pretty easy narrative to create around Barry Trotz. He shows up to your team, you become very hard to beat, he gets results, but there’s a limit to it. And there’s an even stricter limit on the entertainment value of your team. The former limit got blown apart with the Capitals’ Cup win two years ago. But then the Caps perhaps didn’t think that much of it, or Trotz’s part in it to be more specific, opting to let Trotz walk to the Islanders right afterward.

The idea has always been that Trotz will make you defensively solid, and with that base you can only ever be so bad and it’s not that hard to be good. But…is that really what’s happening? Let’s look.

In Trotz’s two seasons on The Island/Brooklyn, the Islanders have only been a middling to ok defensive team. They’re 18th in attempts against over these two campaigns, 10th in shots-against, 12th in xGA against. They are third in scoring-chances against, so they limit those well. But what they do lead in by some margin is save-percentage, at .935 at even-strength over this season and a half. So that’s what they do exceedingly well.

In Trotz’s last two seasons in Washington, the Caps were 8th in attempts-against, seventh in shots-against, but 19th in xGA against and 20th in scoring chances against. But they were 3rd in save-percentage, at .930. Trotz’s first two seasons in DC, which saw a couple of 100-point seasons and a 120-point season, are a slightly different story: 13th in attempts-against, fifth in shots-against,  fifth in xGA, 15th in scoring chances-against, but 15th in save-percentage.

When Trotz washed out of Nashville with two playoff-less campaigns, these rankings stayed just about the same except they had one of the worst save-percentages in the league thanks to Ol’ Shit Hip’s meandering ways at the time. So Trotz does construct defensively sound teams, just not dominating ones. It’s the goalies who seem to thrive. But is that on Trotz or his goalie coach Mitch Korn, who follows him everywhere?

Braden Holtby was good before Trotz and Korn arrived, with a couple of .920 seasons. He became a Vezina winner with them. When he faltered, Philip Grubauer had his best season which earned him a trade to be Colorado’s starter. Tomas Greiss had one .920 season before Trotz and Korn showed up. He now is working on his second consecutive with a Jennings Trophy in the bag. Robin Lehner had flashed before in Ottawa and Buffalo, but then went .930 last year. Semyon Varlamov nearly won a Vezina in Colorado but went up and down with each passing season. He’s at .919 now along with Greiss as the Islanders haven’t really missed Lehner at all.

So is it Korn or Trotz that you’re hiring? Certainly Rinne rebounded post-Trotz, Lehner is doing just fine, and Grubauer is chugging along. Maybe the lessons they learned under Korn stick forever. And if they’re a package deal and they get these results, certainly Trotz and Korn are worth having around.

And it’s unlikely we’ll ever truly know, and Korn isn’t going to go work for someone else. But someone should probably throw a bucket of money at him to be their goalie coach, just like a prized pitching coach. Because goaltending is just as important as pitching, is it not?


Barry Trotz – No question he’s effective, but good lord is it dull. Trotz won’t care, he’s got a ring and a series of teams that have overachieved throughout his career. But in a league trying to be a souped up as possible and needs all the juice it can get, here comes Trotz to throw a wrench. Perfect that he’s now working for…

Lou Lamoriello – Old hockey men love to talk about how much they love hockey players and how they’re just different than everyone else (yeah, they’re dumber), but in reality they hate them. No better example than ol’ Lou, whose Devils first nearly killed the sport and also were a prime precedent for other organizations to see players as interchangeable parts as long as the system was sound. Lou hates paying anyone, doesn’t think anyone should get paid, and we doubt he could tell you half the names of his players. They’re merely worker bees to him, and it’s no coincidence that all his teams were torture to watch. Including what should have been the high-flying Leafs.

Matt Martin – He’s not fitting our usual narrative at all, because he doesn’t have a penalty minute all season. He’s supposed to be nothing more than a broken Imperial Walker, and now he doesn’t even really destroy anything. All he does is look like Jacob deGrom.


There was no bigger surprise team than the Islanders last season, as Barry Trotz took a contract dispute from DC up the Acela and then proved he can turn just about anything into a useful team. But his boss, Nosferatu, blames free agency for the global warming he assuredly doesn’t believe in, and the Isles look like they’re just going to count on running it back again. Will it work? It’s hard to think a Trotz team will ever be bad, but catching lightning twice has eluded just about everyone in history. Let’s learn about the Islanders.


48-27-7  103 points (2nd in Metro)

Won 1st round over PIT, lost second round to Carolina

2.72 GF/G (22nd)  2.33 GA/G (1st)

47.8 CF% (26th)  51.2 xGF% (12th)

14.5 PP% (29th)  79.9 PK% (19th)

Goalies: The Islanders lost one half of their tandem that anchored this team last year, as Robin Lehner toddled off here in July. The Islanders are going to attempt to take the whispers of Trotz and Mitch Korn and apply them to Semyon Varlamov. Varlamov was very up and down in Colorado last season, eventually losing his job to Philip Grubauer. That was kind of his whole career in Denver, where he flashed Vezina form at times and then was one of Jack’s French girls at others. But overall, he’s got a career .915 SV%, and considering how all Trotz teams make it easier on goalies, it would be reasonable to expect some good numbers from him.

He’ll pair with Thomas Greiss, who flourished behind this team last year at .927. He and Lehner had high expected-save-percentages thanks to the ultra defensive system, but both exceeded that in actual save-percentages. Greiss has done this before, but hasn’t been able to back it up. He won’t be asked to carry the load here though, and again, goalies under Trotz rarely shit a chicken unless their hip falls off.

Defense: Again, the exact same crew you remember from last year, though this time with a full season from the promising Devon Toews. They’ll hope for another step from Ryan Pulock, as Nick Leddy really struggled for most of the year to push the play. Scott Mayfield and Adam Pelech are about as solid as you can ask for without doing much you’ll remember. Johnny Boychuck will pair with Leddy as he has for the past five seasons, but time seemed to catch up to him last year. As we cannot hammer enough, this defense gets a lot of support from the forwards, but was somewhat exposed by the speed and possession of the Hurricanes last year. Both Trotz and Lamoriello don’t want much to do with puck-moving d-men here, so they’re lucky in that they don’t have a prime one. Still, in a conference that requires you to get past Carolina or Toronto or Boston or Tampa, it probably takes more than obstinance to do so. Maybe Noah Dobson gets a look? That would be a real stretch.

Forwards: Stop us if you’ve heard this before, but it’s the exact same crew as last year. The only addition to it has been Derick Brassard, or whatever pod person is occupying his body now as he hasn’t been productive in the last three seasons at least. Which leaves Mathew Barzal and his missing T to carry the mail on the top line next to Anders Lee and Josh Bailey. Brock Nelson anchors the second line, and after that it’s a whole bunch of grunts and agriculture. Only one Islander forward managed more than 60 points last year (Barzal) and only three had 20 goals or more. And one of those was Casey Cizikas, who shot nearly 20%, and that’s not going to happen again. The Isles will hope to smother and bore their way to a playoff spot again.

Prediction: It’s not wise to go against a Trotz-led team, but the margins are so thin for this bunch. They limit good chances, even if they don’t limit attempts. There’s just so little scoring here, and if they don’t get water-tight defense, the percentages are going to go against them. Neither Varlamov or Greiss is really capable of taking a full starter’s load at this point, so if one falters the whole system might sink underneath them.

Luckily for the Isles, the division blows hardcore. The Caps and Pens are on the downsides of their cycles, with only the Canes looking like their pivoting up beyond the Isles. The Devils day may yet come, but not this season you wouldn’t think. And you can catch a lot of teams cold in January and February when they can’t locate the fucks to give to work hard enough to deal with a Trotz trap. Still looks short to me, but I said that last year too.

Everything Else

Oh right, the Islanders.

It’s not easy to wipe away the buzz and impact of sweeping a long-time tormentor with just the flick of a wrist, but then nothing has been normal about the Islanders since…well, ever. You’re supposed to carry the momentum of a franchise-turning win like the first-round sweep of the Penguins into something that will define this era and be remembered for a while. Scoring five goals in the next four games, including getting two and a half games against the perpetually bewildered Curtis McElhinney reduces that first round to odd trivia shared in various Long Island and New York bars where Tammy from Queens will offer to blow you in the bathroom but won’t remove her bubblegum to do so.

The Islanders sold their soul already, assuming they had one. You can’t blame them, really. This is a franchise that has managed consecutive playoff appearances just once in the past 15 years. So you see why they turned to Barry Trotz, the Jose Mourinho of hockey (though about 1/130th of the asshole). You’ll get results, your defense will improve, but good god it will be about as entertaining as checking your dog for fleas. And if you give him a historic collection of offensive talent, he just might get your team to grunt and belch to a Cup (though it’s important to note no other Trotz team has ever made a conference final, which seems his destiny in wherever the Isles call home). There’s definitely a floor you acquire with Trotz, you’re just going to end up on it if you watch them for more then two weeks straight.

You’ll hear a lot over the coming weeks about how the Isles future is so bright after this. Yes, clearly a GM who has acquired Matt Martin twice and Leo Komarov  for a second team, who has openly admitted he hates playing players anything, and is managing a team with literally no home is sure to steer this club into the sunshine. Nothing hockey players love quite like shaving every day and having to throw a dart to remember where the home game is today! Certainly worked out well for the last big free agent the Islanders had, all the way back to last summer. Can’t help but notice Brock Nelson and Anders Lee haven’t re-upped yet. Perhaps they and their agents are going over the Lamiorello, “Every player is overpaid,” comment and wondering just how much they enjoy life between the highways of Long Island and commuting an hour to an arena where the structure and the fans are constantly off-center.

And the Islanders need them, and then probably another two top six forwards. See how they do that when they’ve never been a free agent destination before. Thomas Vanek once went here to die, I think. Andrew Ladd did die, and he’s only got four years left on his deal. If you sign in Brooklyn in the summer you’re going to end up smelling like Brooklyn in the summer…sweat and mistakes. No, the Isles acquire players when they essentially become Australia and other teams send their unwanted contracts there just to get them off the books. And then they stay, because much like a prison a lot of Islanders realize they don’t belong anywhere else.

Still, this is the Metro Division and you can stay around the top merely by floating for a while. The Penguins are exhausted, the Flyers, Rangers, and Devils are too busy trying to give themselves enemas orally. So maybe your future can remain bright by doing literally nothing and watching everyone else fuck up. That must be what Isles fans are getting at. Assuming both their goalies don’t quit the team to go build the wall on the Texas border themselves, or bring guns into the dressing room (which is hilarious, because would the NHL actually punish anyone for doing that?).

But hey, the Islanders have now won a round in consecutive playoff appearances, which they haven’t done since 1985. And yes, those playoff appearances are three years apart, but when you’re an Isles fan or player you have to grab onto whatever you can. That, and perhaps the most boisterous atmosphere in the league, for the 10 games the Isles play on Long Island that is. Just another lesson in how Brooklyn pretty much ruins everything. Tell us about your parking lot tailgates again though, which you have to have because there’s literally nothing else in Nassau. Is Nassau even a place? I don’t know and I don’t care and no one else does either. It only is inhabited because Robert Moses built a kingdom on getting white people to flee black people. And the only team that belongs in Brooklyn plays in Chavez Ravine.

So farewell to the Islanders, who will spend the next few years wondering if an arena can be built next to Belmont Race Track, which will hinge basically on how to get at train to go backwards efficiently. No really, it will. You have to take a moment to realize the wonder of a sports organization longing to get to a nowhere place like Elmont, NY. Every other team wants to get downtown, the Islanders want to get to a freeway exit. That pretty much tells you everything you need to know.



Everything Else



Game 1 in Brooklyn – Tonight, 6pm

Game 2 in Brooklyn – Sunday, 2pm

Game 3 in Raleigh – Wednesday, 6pm

Game 4 in Raleigh – Friday, 6pm

Well this wasn’t the matchup you saw coming. For the first time since 2015, the Metro Division Final won’t be contested by the Penguins and Capitals. And since the NHL went to this format in 2014, this is the first time that neither the Caps or Penguins will appear. Which is really quite something when you think about it. For comparison’s sake, EVERY team in the Central has appeared in the second round since this format came into being (technically the Avs are in the Pacific and never the Central but let’s just go with it). So the national audience may not be familiar with these teams, but there’s a lot to get through here.

Goalies: This is a clear advantage for the Islanders, and when you have a big advantage in net in the playoffs, sometimes that’s enough. Mrazek was barely ok against the Caps, with a .899 SV%. And that’s with giving up only three goals in the three home games the Canes had. The Isles don’t come with near the firepower the Capitals do, which will help Mrazek, but you would be shocked if he wins this for Carolina. He’s most likely going to be just fine, and the margins in this one are going to be so tight that fine may or may not be enough. The Isles can’t get him moving like the Caps did, they don’t have the skill or the interest. So maybe that helps just enough?

Meanwhile, Robin Lehner was throwing a .956 at the Penguins, and really not having to work all that hard to do it. He only saw an absurd number of shots in Game 1, and that was an overtime game, and Trotz teams keep him protected. But he might not even need the protection, such is the form he’s in. The last three game saw him give up three goals on 92 shots. That’s a .968. So even if the Canes might actually be better equipped to get through the Trotz minefield, getting past Lehner is going to take more than a smile.

Defense: While the Capitals might make fun of Dougie Hamilton, and he wasn’t particularly good against the Caps, the rest of the defense of the Canes was dominant. Justin Faulk and Jaccob Slavin carried a 58+% possession rate and just about the same in expected goals, and probably were the main reason the Canes are where they are. If you can believe it, de Haan and TVR on the third pairing were also very good. The depth here has always been the Canes strength. Also, if Dougie isn’t broken, they have three trap-busters in Hamilton, Faulk, and Pesce, though Pesce and Hamilton tend to play together. Rod Brind’Amour would be wise to get them all on separate pairings so they can always navigate the booby traps Trotz and the Isles set up, but with two pairings that should be 40-45 a night. It’s when TVR thinks he’s Paul Coffey that they’ll run into problems. If you were to design a defense to deal with a Trotz team, this is it.

You would be hard-pressed to pick the Isles defense out of a police lineup, but they’re well sheltered by they system and forwards. If the Canes can somehow open this up more than the Pens did, they Isles are in trouble. Nick Leddy has been iffy all season, and the Isles don’t have a proven puck-mover beyond that. But Trotz teams don’t get opened up on. They’re well-drilled and they do what they do, it’s just not terribly exciting.

Forwards: Of all the four second-round series, this one has by far the least amount of star power up front with either team. Sebastien Aho is wonderful, and so are Mathew Barzal and Josh Bailey, but they don’t move the needle much. And all of them might be the best second-line players in the league. The Islanders aren’t asked to do much other than work hard and be on the right side of the puck and find the goals when they present themselves. The Canes grunted through and got just enough goals throughout the lineup.

The Canes forwards will depend on their defense getting through the muck of the Isles in the neutral zone. If they do that, there’s probably just enough dash with Aho, Our Special Boy, Nino Neiderreiter, and Justin Williams (and if Svechnikov returns), and enough graft with Foegele, Staal, Martinook, and one or two others. But that’s a big if. You’d feel more confident of them busting through here with just a touch more life on the front end.

The Isles can match a top six, maybe even the whole corps. They just don’t do the same things. This is basically a push. If the Canes get as loose defensively as they were at times against the Caps, Bailey and Barzal and Co. aren’t as lethal but they can make them pay. And we know the Isles won’t be loose.

Prediction: This one’s hard to call. I feel like the Canes are built to deal with this, I just wonder if they can do so at the first time of asking and with this forward group. And the Isles will be no softer than the Caps were, and maybe even smarter about it instead of running around like kindergarten recess. It’s not going to be pretty. The Isles have the edge in net. Feels like this one goes the distance too, and I’ll decide to punish the Isles for playing this in Brooklyn instead of Nassau.

Canes in 7. 

Everything Else

And now the Penguins have their own 2017 Predators series. We’re not alone.

Two years after their third Cup. Swept out. Looking out of ideas, out of energy, out of speed. Those who had been pillars of historic success simply nowhere to be found. A GM floundering and picking up slow, past-it d-men, holding onto methods that no longer apply. A former playoff chew-toy rising up and vanquishing those that hadn’t even considered them an adversary before. A raucous crowd behind them, swinging wildly between euphoria and disbelief that it’s finally happening (though let’s thank Isles fans for finally stealing European soccer songs instead of just college chants, a la Music City). A sense of of it truly being over.

Sound at all familiar? The difference here of course is where the Predators simply sped past the Hawks at every turn, the Islanders boa constrictor’d the Penguins from the off, and there wasn’t any air anywhere for them. You can’t really blame the Pens. After the past three years, it would take an utter miracle to find the energy to get through a Barry Trotz team. Especially when you’ve run into a Barry Trotz team the previous three seasons. At some point, everyone just says, “Fuck this, I’ve had enough.” Victory has defeated you, as they say.

It seems every defining team goes through this. The Hawks in ’17. The Kings missing the playoffs altogether after their second Cup and then being utterly destroyed by the Sharks a year later. The Wings being flattened by the same Predators in 2012. The endings are never clean or graceful. As Sick Boy put it, “At one point you’ve got it, and then you lose it and it’s gone forever.” In the NHL now, that moment where it switches doesn’t let you down gently. It goes upside your head with a mace.

Oh, I’m sure Penguins fans will scream until they wretch up an Iron City that as long as Crosby and Malkin are around they’re never out of it. We said the same thing around these parts, and look where it got us. If Sidney dyes his hair purple and tells the assembled press in September he’s really gotten into writing his own poetry, you’ll truly know where you’re headed. They’ll pout and stamp their feet about how Jim Rutherford will figure it out. The same Rutherford who signed Jack Johnson and traded for Erik Gudbranson and then wondered why they couldn’t bust a Trotz trap. And remember, that was all for a still useful Carl Hagelin, who just happens to still be playing. I’m sure Rutherford has a real master plan here. After all, he wasn’t responsible for all of the Canes playoffs-less decade. Just most of it.

Oh, they’ll tell themselves that Jared McCann and Nick Bjugstad will put it together at The Confluence. That they just need to be in a winning atmosphere and suddenly they’ll blossom. Sure thing, that’s why the Panthers are so good. Maybe they can bring back Matt Cullen again, assuming they can find enough virgin’s blood between now and training camp to keep him upright. Signing centers over 40 is always such a keen strategy.

Next year will be the 54th straight that Olli Maatta is going to have a breakthrough. Or maybe next year is finally the one Justin Schultz can make it through without catching legionnaires  or having half of a construction site fall on him. Stranger things have happened, I suppose. Maybe if you try hard enough, Pens fans, you can close your eyes and focus and suddenly Marcus Pettersson will just become Elias.

Matt Murray is still young, they’ll tell themselves. Really had a surge in the second half of the year. All that’s true, except he just put up his second subpar playoff performance to go with his two good ones. Are they ready for another Marc-Andre Fleury roller coaster? They didn’t like the first one much. There are no answers here either.

No, realizations like Patric Hornqvist proving that if you’re an asshole power forward and you take the power forward away, you’re just an asshole, aren’t going to get any better and brighter when he’s 33. Come December the Pens will have their very own Milan Lucic! They must be so excited.

And there’s little salvation to be found. The only big contract coming off the books soon is Schultz’s, and that will mostly be insurance after he’s eaten by werewolves. This is entrenched. This is what you are. It was good enough not so long ago. It’s not now, and it  won’t be again. There are glories past to be celebrated, and you’ll have to hang on tight, because what comes next isn’t very fun. Ask us. We know. Keep the DVDs close.

So fare the well, Pittsburgh Penguins. Don’t worry, the NHL will keep shoving you in outdoor games and on national television. The name recognition doesn’t fade. But that only shines a brighter light on what isn’t there any longer. Believe us, we got here first. When all you want is to remain in the shadows so no one will notice you trying to white-knuckle through another Gudbranson shift, the masses will keep coming back to scoff and mock, and try to remember what it was like before, while decrying that they still have to watch and pay attention to you. And you’ll tell them you don’t want them to either, but NBC keeps bringing you back. Everyone is going to know your pain when all you want is to be left alone.

It’s a dark ride from here.