Hockey

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.

Hockey

For a minute it seemed like they may have had something going, but then the third period happened. We have to file this one under “going off the rails,” and it may have just taken the last shreds of the Hawks’ playoff hopes with it. It’s been a long night so let’s just get through it:

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

–The first period was downright dull, with Hawks coming out of it down a goal, slightly up in possession (56 CF%) and even in shots with the Rangers (12-12). Filip Chytil‘s goal was a softie, which in retrospect was a harbinger of what was to come from Robin Lehner. But it wasn’t a disaster, by any means, just some mid-February boredom.

–Then, the Hawks did the opposite of what they usually do, which is suck donkey balls in the second period, and instead they were, shall we say, dominant in the second. Well, maybe not dominant per se, but at least in control. Jonathan Toews made a goal-line save early in the period and they promptly flipped the ice and Dominik Kubalik scored his 24th off a great pass from Duncan Keith, who got his 500th assist on the play. They led in shots (16-10) and again in possession (57 CF%), and they continued their actually functional penalty killing after Lehner punched Brendan Lemieux in the back of the head (which was kinda funny but not really necessary). Things were looking up–despite the fact that demand was so low that Sam had to sell his tickets for a measly $28, it was seeming like maybe the fire sale, in terms of tickets and personnel at the trade deadline, was a little premature.

–And then…it all fell apart. The Rangers scored five goals in the third period on 19 shots. Even just writing that out is insane. Suffice it to say, Lehner did not look good at all in that period. And no, I don’t mean that snarkily–he really didn’t. He hasn’t looked very lights-out since the All-Star break but this was something else. I won’t subject you to a breakdown of each goal he gave up (I’m nicer than that), but at least three of those should never have gotten through. And what’s worse, with the impending trade deadline his value just plummeted. Now it wasn’t totally his fault, as it never is with this team. Adam Boqvist had another rough night, but at this point I’m so infuriated with Coach Pete that I don’t even care if he did play badly. For example, he and Keith both got completely burned by Kreider on his goal, but Lehner definitely should have stopped it and I’m convinced that Boqvist’s mind is twisted with shitty coaching and an ass-backwards system that he’s trying to follow for the sake of not getting benched, but it goes against everything he knows and instinctually understands about the game, and the result is this general crappiness on top of being, ya know, a fucking teenager.

–One thing that did make this more entertaining than usual was the guys being on Hot Mic for the…well not calling the game, but narrating the game I guess. In addition to Sam’s bargain-basement tickets ordeal, they covered the inevitable video tribute to the sellout streak once they can no longer keep up the charade, along with deep thoughts from Matt and Fifth Feather, and the comments from you dear readers were priceless as always. We appreciate everyone who came along on this first simulcasting adventure and hope to bring you more soon.

OK, so there’s no denying the Hawks are really in some shit now, but maybe this and/or Friday will be enough to convince the front office to be selling everything that isn’t bolted down. Yes that’s a huge step that I don’t think they’re ready to admit, but it’s getting awfully hard to deny what we’re seeing. Onward and upward?

 

Hockey

vs.

RECORDS: Rangers 30-24-4   Hawks 26-25-9

PUCK DROP: 7pm

TV: NBCSN (but with us on commentary!)

THE CITY SO NICE IT SMELLS LIKE PISS: Blueshirt Banter

The Hawks return home for just two games this week, before heading back out for what looks to be an absolute Unblinking Eye of a road trip through Dallas, St. Louis, and then Florida. Which makes these home games an absolute must, and even that probably won’t save the Hawks from having their season come to an end on that trip.

Which of course, is far too late. The deadline is Monday, and the Hawks can pivot toward the future, and successfully, if they just give in and start cashing in on Gustafsson and Lehner and maybe one or two others. Perhaps losing these two home games will finally make up management’s mind. Two games shouldn’t do that, but we know how this works. And we know how this team works, where they could for absolutely no reason other than hockey weirdness take these two games on Madison, and then at least split that trip coming up and justify the front office doing absolutely nothing come Monday. They’ll say it’s in service to their vets, but the vets will be just as pissed off come April when they’re still five points out of a playoff spot.

Perhaps that’s for another time, but tonight’s opponent should make for sobering viewing for the Hawks. The New York Rangers are in the middle of a rebuild, and yet have more points than the Hawks playing in the tougher conference. The Rags tried to soup up their arc by signing Artemi Panarin in the summer and having Kaapo Kakko fall into their lap.

While the former has performed as you’d expect, Kakko has been a disappointment. Eight goals and 19 points for a player that looked like he could belch up 30 goals per season at least. More worryingly, Kakko has been getting utterly crushed metrically, and his game clearly is going to need more work than the Rangers would have anticipated for a #2 overall pick. He isn’t even getting into scoring areas and chances as much as you would have expected, and has played himself onto the third line for the moment.

But this is New York, so that’s not the only drama going on with the team. Alex Georgiev might finally, along with Henrik Lundqvist’s age (though you wouldn’t know it to look at him, asshole), make the Rangers face the hockey mortality of their stalwart in net. Georgiev has been the superior goalie, this is Hank’s second straight subpar year, and at 38 and with only one year left on his contract after this one both Hank and the Rangers finally can see what life without each other is going to look like.

Up front, the Rangers can’t seem to decide if they want to trade guided missile Chris Kreider or make him part of the future. The package the Devils just got for Blake Coleman surely is giving them pause though, because Kreider likely gets the Rangers more than that. He’s also just about the last chip the Rangers have to play, as the rotting corpse of Marc Staal isn’t going to fetch much more than sympathetic looks and the loose change found in jacket pockets.

None of that has kept the Rangers from putting up more points than anyone would have guessed, and some of that is to do with their high octane defense. Tony DeAngelo (who really couldn’t be more perfectly named for a New York hockey player), Adam Fox, and Brady Skjei (Chance’s buddy) can all make things happen from the back, which keeps the Rangers playing at a pretty high pace.

They might not have star power up front beyond Panarin, but they do have a collection of fast forwards (including one named “Fast”) that can be hell to play against. They had won four in a row and five of six before getting kneecapped by the Bruins on Sunday. This is also their Mom’s trip, and it’s nice to see a team bring their moms to a true destination like Chicago instead of whatever backwaters the Hawks dragged their matriarchs through this year.

All that said, and even with the speed they have, the Rangers are a woeful defensive team. Even worse than the Hawks, if you can believe it. They’re last in xGA/60 and among the worst in Corsi against. So this game has a chance to be utterly hilarious in that fashion. Skjei, Fox, and DeAngelo (HEY! HE’S HOCKEYIN’ OVAH HERE!) can get up and go they can also get up and fall over in their own end. None of the Rangers young forwards have any idea what they’re doing in their own end, so the Hawks will get chances.

Does it matter? I have no idea. I think they’re toast. I don’t think they think they are, and maybe this is the death rattle week for them.

But what you should do is download the Hot Mic app on your phone, and listen to us do our inaugural broadcast on there for this one! Also use code “SAM376” when you do. We’ll be doing a whole MST3K thing with the game tonight, and it should be fun. Hope to have you along.

Hockey

Jacob Trouba to the Rangers seemed like it was on the cards for a while. It was no secret that Trouba was miserable in Winnipeg. And really, who wouldn’t be? It’s cold as fuck, the coach is an idiot who kept playing Trouba on his off-side, and they’d dicked him around on a contract a couple times while he was restricted. As he was lining up to be unrestricted after this season, they had to cash in on him as he was never going to stay.

And the Rangers are the exact type of team that would need him. They’re on the upswing of a rebuild, but lacking a #1 d-man. Trouba has been labeled that all of his career, and he’s still young enough to be that for a while as the Rangers move from developing to contenders. And that could come as soon as next year.

The problem is that Trouba hasn’t really lived up to that. Bigger issue when you’re taking down $8M a year on the cap.

Trouba has been something of a possession-nightmare with the Rangers. He’s only got a 42% Corsi-rate and an even worse 41% expected goals share. These are way below his numbers in Winnipeg, and the Jets have never been possession-dominant. He’s below the team-rate in The Empire State, a first for him, though not terribly so as the Rangers still have some major issues defensively. Still, this was probably drawn up as Trouba being the beacon of consistency and hope. Not so much.

If the Rangers were hoping that they would also get something like the 50 points Trouba put up last year in Winnipeg, that’s on them. Trouba consistently put up 25 or so points there, and only saw the binge last year on the power play with all those forwards running wild. Trouba isn’t a power play QB, that’s supposed to be Skjei anyway, though he does have a pretty big shot. The Jets shot 18% with him on the ice on the power play, and got a lot of shots. The Rangers are short of that.

Of course, the debate could be had whether Trouba was ever the first pairing anchor he thought himself to be and was billed as in Winnipeg. His numbers are ok there, even good, but they’re not Norris-level. When in the spotlight he’d been all right, and at times in 2018 would flash that dominance, but last year like the rest of his teammates he didn’t look all that bothered. He and Skjei have yet to find the magic, though time is on their side.

Of course, that’s not the only thing that was supposed to go better for the Rangers. Kaapo Kakko hasn’t even out-performed Kirby Dach, even though he went into the draft with far more hype. Then again, so did Jack Hughes, and he hasn’t done much north of jack and shit either across the Hudson in Newark. Perhaps Adam Fox can lighten the pressure on Trouba, but he won’t lessen the contract. They seem to have fucked things up with Lias Andersson already, and Filip Chytil has yet to splash. The Rangers are performing over their heads this year anyway, but they’ll need Trouba and a host of others to pick it the fuck up before they’re contenders on Broadway again.

 

 

Hockey

Brendan Smith – This guy was the worst player in the league in 2013, when he singlehandedly gave Game 6 back to the Hawks and changed that series. There’s always someone in your life–be they a coworker, a friend of a friend, a cousin–who has the job and money you want and for the life of you you can’t figure out how they got there. That’s Brendan Smith for everyone in hockey. He’s slow, his hands are made of cardboard, and he’s got all the instincts of a drunk raccoon. And yet here he is, closing in on 10 years in the league. The world is fucked.

Michael Haley – Likely to not play tonight but we don’t know what he’s doing here at all. There’s still some thought that a rebuilding team, which the Rangers are, need a goon lying around to protect the innocent children. That starts to come apart when you see Kakko is 6-3, Howden is 6-3, Chytil is 6-2, and so on. This guy couldn’t spell dog if you gave him all the letters to rearrange.

Chris Kreider – Never met a goalie he couldn’t run, and his facial hair makes it clear he has a drawer full of designer roofies at home.

Hockey

The Rangers attempted to hit warp-speed on their rebuild with a couple big signings and one big draft pick. That’s all it takes in the NHL. And thanks to a mediocre division, the Rangers could be poised to make a big move. They’re not there yet, as far as being in the glitterati, but they are suddenly worth watching again. Where the lights shine bright and all that.

2018-2019

32-36-14  78 points (7th in Metro Division)

2.70 GF/G (24th)  3.26 GA/G (23rd)

46.0 CF% (30th)  47.1 xGF% (24th)

19.4 PP% (17th)  78.2 PK% (27th)

Goalies: Whatever excitement is surrounding the Rangers has to be tempered by questions about how much Henrik Lundqvist has left. He will turn 38 at the end of the season, and his .907 SV% last year was the worst mark of his career. The year before he was at .915, which would probably be good enough for the Rangers team to take a step forward. His Vezina-contending days are almost certainly over, so the Rangers have to calibrate if he can just be league average or a tick above. This was not a good team in front of him, and he saw a ton of rubber, but Lundqvist is going to have to be better if the Rangers are going to turn things around.

If he doesn’t, it’s going to back David Quinn into a corner, as he’ll be the first coach to have to deal with whether or not to cede some of King Henrik’s starts to a kid. Alexander Georgiev was pretty good last year at .914. There is some hope that he can take over when Lundqvist decides to move on, but the Rangers and Quinn in particular do not want the headache of expediting that process. Henrik isn’t the type to cause a stir, but his position has also never been under question.

Defense: The big splash was trading for Jacob Trouba in the offseason. Trouba seemed to shrink from a top pairing role on a genuine Cup contender in Winnipeg, though some of that could be attributed to hating the city and coach he played for. This is where Trouba wants to be, and he certainly has the capability of being a top-pairing guy, certainly more than anyone else here.

The Rangers blue line is starting to skew pretty young, with Adam Fox, Libor Hajek, and Brady Skjei all poised for roles on this team. The hope would be they can start to steal minutes from Marc Staal, who is absolute toast these days, and Brendan Smith, who remains the worst player in the league. Anthony DeAngelo still needs re-signing, but he would be more youthful zest on this team, and would make the Rangers pretty dynamic going forward along the blue line. The question is if any of these guys can play defense, and no one has the answer for that one.

Forwards: It’s not often you can add two-thirds of a real top line in the NHL, but that was the summer for the Rangers. They signed Artemi Panarin and got to draft (Boers voice) Kaapo Kakko. There are your wingers on the top of the roster for years. Do they have a center to play between them? Mika Zibanejad is going to get a shot, and there have been times in the past when he’s flashed that capability. He had 74 points last year playing with nothing like Kakko and Panarin. That bumps Chris Kreider and Pavel Buchnevich to the second line, where they almost certainly belong. That is until Kreider is traded, which most in the know on Broadway seem to think is an inevitability. It’s after that where things get icky.

Ryan Strome is the wrong Strome. Vladimir Namestnikov has yet to prove to be much of anything other than a guy in both New York and Tampa. Filip Chytil has a lot of growing to do. Matt Beleskey is here, which is always an indication that your forwards have been hauled out of the back of the storage room. One line and two thirds of another one is not really enough to be a playoff team. They will hope Lias Andersson helps out with this, but is that enough?

Prediction: There is enough here to be way better than 78 points. But way better can be 88 points, which won’t be close to a playoff team. Even with the additions of Panarin and Kakko, there doesn’t feel like there’s enough scoring here, especially if Kreider is going in midseason (depending on return). The defense has a chance to be really exciting, in both senses of the word. They can’t say the goalie is a sure thing either, given Henrik’s age and creakiness. There is a lot of hope and anticipation here, but that doesn’t mean it translates into an avalanche of points. They’ll make a run at a playoff spot, but probably run out of gas in March and come up comfortably short. But with another move or two after that, they’re set up to be a real thing quite soon.

Everything Else

There’s really no denying it after this game: the Hawks are definitively the league’s bottom feeders. Yes, the Kings technically have fewer points (by one) but they also have two games in hand on the Hawks. Don’t kid yourself–they’re awful. Let’s just get to it:

Box Score

Corsica

Natural Stat Trick

– The Hawks played well for about the first four minutes of the game. After that, it was pretty much straight downhill. By the time that Brandon Saad scored the first goal on the power play around five minutes in, the Hawks had been dominating possession and showed good speed. That power play came just as they were losing their grip on things, and Saad took advantage of Henrik Lundqvist being too twitchy and leaving a wide open goal. But it was all Rangers after that, and even though the Hawks finished that period leading in possession (58.6 CF%), they still gave up goals to both Chytil and Zuccarello, and managed to be losing at the end of the period despite leading not only in possession but shots too.

– Did I mention it got worse after that? In the second period the Hawks were basically useless, with the low point coming when Duncan Keith carelessly handled a shitty pass from Saad, and moved the puck not away from the goal, not into the corner or to the boards, but directly into the middle of the slot where Chris Kreider calmly scored point blank on Delia. It was equal parts lazy and stupid. Technically the goal was unassisted—if only that were true. Keith should have had the primary assist on that one.

– In general it was a rough night for the defense (SHOCKING). Keith’s fuck-up was the worst example, but the Gustafsson-Jokiharju pairing had its problems too. They ended above water in possession but in the first period Gustafsson got squashed like a bug and with the resulting turnover, Filip Chytil de-pantsed Jokiharju for the first goal. Joker was on his off side at that point, basically out of necessity, but that should say something to Coach Cool Youth Pastor next time he thinks about flipping Jokiharju as he did when he paired him with Nachos the other night. Murphy and Dahlstrom were also chasing and watching as Zuccarello scored a few minutes later. It was team effort to suck tonight.

– On that note, Jonathan Toews took a leadership role at sucking. He had a wide open net at the end of the third when they had the extra attacker out, could have tied the game, and didn’t even hit the net. It made Kahun’s literal last-second goal even more painful since it would have been a game-winner.

– They got two more power play goals tonight, so yes it’s a relief that’s still happening. But unfortunately the movement wasn’t what we’ve been seeing lately, and had the Hawks been playing a good team, they probably wouldn’t have scored at least one of those goals.

– After coming out of the first period behind, and losing whatever momentum or give-a-shit-ness that they had, the Hawks were basically out of fucks to give entirely. They were bad in the second period but even worse in the third, managing only six shots and a 40 CF%. In a way I can’t blame them because it’s demoralizing to suck all the time. But even when they’ve sucked before they’ve at least been entertaining (the Flames game, the Predators game). Getting beat by a fellow crap team really took it out of them I guess.

There are 33 games left to go guys…wow, that sounds depressing when I say it out loud. Fortunately just a couple more until the All-Star break? Onward and upward?

Photo credit: Chicago Tribune

Everything Else

  vs. 

RECORDS: Hawks 16-23-9   Rangers 19-20-7

PUCK DROP: 6pm

TV: NBCSN Chicago, NBCSN for the non-locals because NBC hates hockey

HEY I’M HOCKEYIN’ OVAH HERE!: Blueshirt Banter

So I’d get all “Harf Harf Harf!” about Original Six bullshit, except not even the people who would peddle that are going to be able to dress up a game between two of the league’s worst teams. Possibly the two worst teams. Like, seriously. The Hawks are 30th in the league and the Kings have a game in hand on them at the bottom. What makes it even funnier is that the Rangers are above them, and they planned to be here. The Hawks didn’t and are somehow doing it better. Or worse, depending on your point of view.

Anyway, the Rangers are sure to get worse after their deadline sell-off as they go through the rebuild we only wish the Hawks were capable of. Kevin Hayes is a goner, Mats Zuccarello won’t be too far behind, Chris Kreider is probably what would bring most back, if anyone will take Adam McQuaid and the only skill he has of having an angry face he’ll go too. Soon enough Dylan Strome’s brother could find himself on an NHL top line. That’s how you tank it right, folks!

The Rangers aren’t last in their division because the Devils tried the unique tack of not having a goalie all season and the Flyers being more Flyers than anyone could have possibly imagined. Because there’s nothing the Rangers are good at. They’re a stank possession team, ranking second-worst in team Corsi-percentage. They’re seventh-worst in xGF%. They give up the second-most attempts per game, and the fourth-most scoring chances. They’re shit-assed when it comes to high-danger chances against, too. They also create next to nothing, as they’re worst in attempts-for or shots-for per game at evens. This is the definition of a nothing team, as it should be when it’s in Year One of a rebuild. Whoever is going to matter when this team matters again probably isn’t here yet, aside from Filip Chytil and maybe Brett Howden. We’ll be nice and throw Ryan Lindgren on the defense on the list as well, and he’ll be playing his second NHL game tonight.

The big question that hangs over the Rangers like a noxious cloud is Henrik Lundqvist. Firstly, because he really isn’t that good any more. Secondly, because it would be hard to be good behind this team. Thirdly, because the Rangers could probably get some team to pony up to try and take him on one last run for a Cup. But King has shown on interest in leaving New York, so he and the Rangers have to be content to sit and watch each other crumble down into nothingness. Awfully handsome nothingness, though.

For the Hawks, a little news. Collin Delia will start, which…duh. Apparently Drake Caggiula is going to get a look with Kane and Strome, as the Hawks try to convince either us or themselves (it’s themselves) that Caggiula is anything but a foot soldier. He isn’t. Expect Saad back here by the second period. Or they’re trying to drive Kane to ask for a trade by playing him with bigger and bigger clods until the deadline until he just gives up. Cunning ploy that would be, but this organization isn’t capable of anything that clever.

I can’t dress this one up for you. It’s two garbage teams hurling themselves at each other for 60 minutes because the schedule says they have to. Enjoy it on whatever level works for you.

 

Game #49 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

We know that it’s hockey tradition for the Rangers to sign a big-ticket free agent and then watch it turn into ash in their mouth instantly. It’s generally the way things have been since they signed three-quarters of the 80s Oilers to win their one Cup. In fact, maybe it’s penance for that. Chris Drury, Scott Gomez, Wade Redden, Nikolai Zherdev (though he was a trade), Eric Lindros, one of their Alex Kovalev trials, we could go on. Any hockey fan could probably recite the list. This is why we can’t wait for them to go against the grain of their rebuild, sign Artemi Panarin for $11 million a year, and then watch him score 22 goals per year after they scrape him off the pavement in Dumbo twice a week. It’s what the gods want, it’s what they require.

So Kevin Shattenkirk is just another in a long line. But man, this went pear-shaped pretty badly.

It was no secret that Shattenkirk wanted to be a Ranger. He’s from Connecticut, grew up a fan, and it’s a main reason why the Blues shipped him off in his free agent year to the Capitals. It has not gone well.

Shattenkirk missed half of last year through injury, though his 23 points in 46 games is just about what you’d expect from him. He’d been a consistent 40-45 point d-man in St. Louis, But this year…egad. Shattenkirk has played in 38 games, but has only amassed 11 points and just two goals. He’s never been a bastion of health, playing 81 games just twice in his career and missing 36, nine, and 26 games three of the past four seasons. But this production is just putrid. Stanky. Pungent, as it were.

So what’s going on? Well, it might not be as bad as it looks on the surface.

One, Shattenkirk is on a wretched team at the very base of a rebuild. So even if he were Paul Coffey circa ’85, there aren’t a lot of players here who can consistently bury whatever chances he’s creating. So let’s get that out of the way. And relative to his team, Shattenkirk is driving the play just about as well as he ever has. His +2.95 CF% relative is among the best marks in his career. His +2.47 SCF% relative to the Rangers is among his St. Louis numbers, though not among his best. Same story with his +5.94 relative in high-danger chances. Shattenkirk is still getting his team to the other end of the ice and the good areas better than any other d-man on the team. And he’s not getting the benefit of extra offensive zone starts, as his 59% mark this year is just about his career-average.

It’s hard not to see his personal 2.7 shooting-percentage as a blinking red light, as that’s half of what was his previous career-low. That’s one problem. Overall, the 7.9% the Rangers shoot while he’s on the ice is just a touch below what his career has seen, but nothing scandalous. It’s the power play that’s the problem. Namely, the Rangers couldn’t find their dick if you put neon lights and a buzzer on it when they have the man-advantage. The Rangers are shooting 5.9% when Shattenkirk is on the power play, and that’s almost a third of his previous career-low. This is a player who routinely racked up 20+ power play points per season, and that was with the wayward children of Missouri. This is almost criminal. And the main reason that Shattenkirk has all of three power play points.

Which sort of has us dreaming of a bad-contract swap, although we admit this is about as drug-addled of a fantasy as you could imagine. The Rangers would probably love nothing better than to get out from the two years remaining on Shattenkirk’s $6.6M hit. And he does have some value if you can put him on a team with other talent, not just placeholders and others who simply got lost at Penn Station who then had a jersey and pads tossed on them. He may never live up to that contract, but he doesn’t have to be in the wilderness either.

In a fantasy world, you could convince Brent Seabrook the cuisine in New York just has to be tried for a full season, throw in a pick or a prospect, sell the Rangers on “veteran leadership” for a young team, and take Shattenkirk in return. A new CBA/lockout in two years is going to arm everyone with compliance buyouts anyway, so the Rangers wouldn’t have to sit with the remaining 43 years on Seabrook’s contract anyway. And the Hawks could have what Erik Gustafsson is trying to be anyway, though with more mobility.

But that won’t happen, and the world won’t collapse if it doesn’t. Maybe you can’t wash off Rangers stink anyway.

 

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Beth Boyle Machlan has been our Rangers correspondent for a while now. Follow her @bethmachlan.

The Rangers are at the base of a rebuild, one which some Hawks fans wish they could or would do. On the current roster, who are players that will be around when the Rangers are ready to matter again?

Who will be around? IDEFK. Marc Staal. Marc Staal will be around forever.

You must get this question a lot, but Henrik Lundqvist: not a great year for the second season in a row, and two more years to go on a deal and he’s 36. We know he has no interest in being traded. Is he just going to finish out this contract, seeing as how it’s unlikely the Rangers are going to be competitive anyway?

I really don’t see Lundqvist leaving. I think he’s going down with the ship. As for “not a great year” … in his defense (LOL), he has no defense. I mean, none. They bleed shots. He’s had some amazing games, and some terrible ones — he’s never in between. I would love to know what’s going on in his head right now about what all this means for his career, but he seems to have chosen loyalty over personal fame. I blame Alain Vigneault, but then I blame him for pretty much everything.

We know that under Alain Vigneault, some fans chafed at the under-use of Pavel Buchnevich. Does his 13 points so far make the case that maybe he wasn’t?

Ah, Pasha. Yes, AV deployed Buchnevich really poorly. But then, Buch is sort of the princess and the pea of hockey players. He really needs everything to be aligned in order to produce, but when he does, he does, and it’s really not rocket science to figure out what he needs, like a spot on PP1 (2 goals vs. Carolina on Tuesday, oh hey look at that, why is this hard?).

How much are the Rangers going to try and get rid of before the trade deadline?

Before the deadline? Depends on who comes calling. I’m thinking Zucc (sob). Maybe Kreider? Hayes is sitting in an airport somewhere just waiting to be told what flight to take. And y’all were right about Brendan Smith; I admit it. Someone take him and I’ll throw in Adam McQuaid, too.

 

Game #49 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built