Hockey

vs.

RECORDS: Blues 40-18-10   Hawks 31-29-8

PUCK DROP: 6:30

TV: NBCSN (All Women Broadcast)

MOS EISLEY CANTINA: St. Louis Gametime

There’s not much I can add to Pullega’s wrap from Friday night. There could not have been a more clear illustration of every failing of this organization–players, coach, and front office–then puking up a game to one of the worst teams in history that you claimed you had to have because you’re trying to sell the fact that you’re in a playoff race that abandoned you long ago. The players weren’t ready, the coaches didn’t have them ready, and the front office provided a roster that couldn’t stomach the losses of a 19-year-old defenseman and another one that has played five NHL games. It feels like after that, if they didn’t before, everyone but the Hawks see them for what they are. And if the Hawks continue to ignore it, nothing will ever change.

And of course, here traipsing into town is the team we used to laugh at for never getting it, that have now gotten it while the Hawks lost the plot. You can’t help but see the symbolism and weep until you seize.

Since the Blues performed their latest third period live-autopsy of the Hawks after the trade deadline, they’ve won three of four from the New York teams and Dallas, but that hasn’t seen them pull away from the Avs for the top of the division. Colorado is two points back with a game in hand, and have the decided advantage in regulation wins so the Blues can’t tie on points. And winning the division certainly has its prize, as it’ll mean avoiding two weeks of mud in the tires against Dallas and getting a first-round matchup with whatever nitwit team finishes as the last wildcard. The Blues and Avs finish the season against each other in Denver, which could be spicy.

The only note about the Blues of interest is that in those four games since beating the Hawks, they haven’t gotten a goal or point from their bottom six. That could be a worry going forward, as last year’s torture was partly based on getting the occasional goal when they needed it from the support players.

The Blues are back at it at home tomorrow against the Panthers, a game they’ll probably view as the harder of the two so the Hawks might get to see Jay Gallon tonight.

For the Hawks, Adam Boqvist will return to the lineup but Carlsson won’t, which means Nick Seeler can continue to make Connor Murphy question every decision in life he’s ever made. Seeler had an absolute disaster against the Blues last time, because he doesn’t have the feet, hands, or brain to deal with the Blues furious forecheck. Other than that, I can’t see a problem for him.

The Hawks will try and tell us that if they win tonight, it’s still six out of eight points this week which would have been the goal anyway. And they’ll tell you they still have the Sharks and Senators up this week. They’ll tell you, while really trying to convince themselves, that it’s still on. But their performance on Friday told you what they really think. A team that thinks it has a real chance doesn’t lay that egg in the home of the biggest collection of trash and discarded gum posing as a hockey team in recent memory. They know they’re done and the second of a back-to-back was simply too much work for them to be bothered to do.

Perhaps they’ll have the decency to try and save some face tonight, knowing they embarrassed themselves on Friday. Combine that with every effort against the Blues this year being sad in its own way, and they should be somewhat inspired. Whether that matters against a genuinely superior team who actually has something to play for, well… I think you know the answer to that one.

It’s something of a landmark night, as least in broadcast terms, as NBCSN will fully broadcast and produce the game with an all-female crew. If you can ignore the large swaths of both fanbases proving how adult they can’t be, it should be enjoyable. Maybe it’ll even cause Jeremy Roenick to finally immolate himself. One can only hope.

Hockey

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

Absolutely fucking terrible. Until the last 10 minutes of this game, the Hawks were out-possessed and outclassed by the worst NHL team of the 21st century in the middle of a run that they’re calling a playoff push. A completely botched circumcision of an effort.

– The big story of the night is Adam Boqvist’s scratch. He was having trouble with his right wrist, which forced Dennis fucking Gilbert into the lineup to expected results. It’s the right call to play it safe with him, although based on the pre-game skate it looked like Boqvist had to take himself out rather than his absolute embarrassment of a coach doing it for him.

If you’re an optimist, you look at Boqvist’s absence and the fact that the Hawks had no drive whatsoever without him as portending to a good future for the kid. If you’re a pessimist, you look at Boqvist’s absence and the fact that the Hawks had no drive whatsoever without a 19-year-old defenseman who’s actively being bridled by his complete fraud of a coach as comprehensive proof that this fucking coach and this fucking front office have absolutely no fucking idea what the fuck they’re doing. Take a wild fucking guess where we land.

– You can talk about how the Hawks beat the Lightning and Oilers recently and use that as proof that this is a team THAT DOESN’T QUIT and HAS A LOT OF MOXIE, which is exactly what Coach Nerdlinger wants you to think. You can also eat the shit end of my ass with that horseshit. Beating playoff-entrenched teams at the end of February, when they have no reason to give a full effort, is smoke and mirrors. Beating the Panthers and Ducks should be a fucking given. But losing to literally the worst NHL team of the 21st century in an absolute must-have game is inexcusable for a team with so-called playoff aspirations.

Slater Koekkoek, Nick Seeler, and Dennis Gilbert all played real, meaningful minutes tonight. If we weren’t 100% convinced that Colliton and Bowman are pants-shitting morons in terms of blue line signings and favoritism already, tonight would hammer that nail into each and every one of our skulls. Fuck your injuries and excuses. This is unacceptable at a professional level.

On Detroit’s first goal—and please remember that going into this game the Wings had a -121 goal differential as a team—we got to see Slater Koekkoek show us why Jeremy Colliton should not be coaching a fucking professional hockey team. He did that thing that Colliton tells them to do and went onto the far boards to cover Trevor Daley. Yes, THAT Trevor Daley. You know, the one who if you give him enough room and time will fuck up on his own because he fucking sucks? Koekkoek’s by-design coverage led to a wide-open Tyler Bertuzzi in the slot, with Olli Maatta screening Crawford just cuz. Outstanding. Playoff caliber.

On the second goal, Dennis Gilbert did Dennis Gilbert things, such as picking his ass in the crease and wondering which mix of rocks he’d have for dinner on his bus ride back to Rockford, God willing. By the time he had all the synapses firing to lay out on the ice, Fabbry Robbi or Robby Fabbri had picked his spot and potted his shot. But boy was Eddie quick to blame Crawford, because of fucking course he was.

And though Nick Seeler wasn’t directly responsible for any goals, when your presence makes the question “Is Dennis Gilbert not the worst defenseman on the ice?” one worth asking, well.

– Everyone on the broadcast made sure that you knew that the Hawks got in late last night and that the scheduling was rough and that the Hawks really had something to overcome. Fuck you. Jonathan Bernier had a .906 SV% going into this game. Detroit has allowed the most goals of all teams, with the next closest, Ottawa, allowing 26 fewer goals on the year. And again, -121 goal differential going into tonight. Playoff teams do not lose games to teams like this, especially not when it matters as much as it did tonight.

Connor Murphy did not have a good game. Two penalties, one of which turned into a PK goal against. But babysitting Nick Seeler might do that to you.

– And as much as we love Murphy, we absolutely do not need to see him on the ice in a 6-on-5 situation at the end of a game with the goalie pulled. As if we needed even more evidence that Jeremy Colliton should be fucking up someone’s taxes on purpose and getting rewarded by his boss for “accessing a new revenue stream” instead of doing whatever it is he calls what he’s doing behind the bench, not having Dominik Kubalik, who you may know as the Blackhawks’s top goal scorer along with Kane going into this game, on the ice in a situation where you need a motherfucking goal might be the dumbest fucking thing anyone has done since Stan Bowman hired Jeremy Colliton to coach this team.

The 2019–20 Detroit Red Wings will go down as the worst team of the 21st century thus far. And the Hawks—in the midst of a playoff run they’re just prematurely ejaculating over to tell you about—lost to them in a must-win game. It always sucked losing to them when they were the better team. But this?

Fucking pathetic.

Until Sunday.

Beer du Jour: Evan Williams and Miller High Life

Line of the Night: “Force Detroit to come out of their comfort zone.” –Eddie O describing how the Hawks could overcome the worst statistical team in almost every single category in hockey.

Hockey

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

If the remaining 19 games go like this, we can be satisfied. It had all the intensity and anxiety of the conversation you have waiting for the results of a pregnancy test with the ugly but interesting one-night stand whose child you don’t want to birth. It put on full display the potential of the young ones, the awfulness of the old ones brought in, and the never-ending struggle that is being Corey Crawford. It was terrible and beautiful, much like the Gateway to Anywhere Else on the Mississippi, respectively. Let’s dredge it.

– If the Hawks are going to win one more Cup with this Core, Kirby Dach is going to play an outsized role in it. He made three plays in particular that should inspire some confidence in the future of the forward corps.

The most obvious was his patience on the far boards to set up the Hawks’s third power play goal of the game. He took his time scanning his options, then opted for Strome behind the net. Strome took two seconds before firing a perfect pass to Saad in front to give the Hawks their last lead of the game. We continue to be overwhelmed by his vision and passing skills.

Maybe the most inspiring play Dach started was one that didn’t show on the score sheet. After an extended shift, he gathered the puck in his own zone on the far boards and delivered a crisp cross-ice pass to Boqvist. The pass was so good that Boqvist had time to make a stretch pass to a streaking DeBrincat, who janked a pass to Strome. Strome gloved it down and had an A+ chance that he couldn’t convert. And though Strome should be playing center, the idea of a Dach–Boqvist–DeBrincat–Strome connection should make the vas deferens tingle in all of us.

The thing that will determine whether Dach is very good or elite will be whether he can find his finish close in. Yet again, he dropped his shoulder to plow past a defender, but couldn’t finish in front. Still, lots to be excited about from the guy they took instead of Bowan Byram.

– To prove that irony isn’t dead, the power play scored three times, and each of Keith and Murphy scored a goal in the first game after they traded Gustafsson. The beautiful game.

– Though the box score will be all the fodder those dumbass build-the-wall motherfuckers need to open their wrists about the Lehner trade, without Crawford, the Blues score 10 easily. On top of keeping his team in the game after they were wildly outclassed in every way, Crow bounced back from an Alex Steen shoulder skullfuck that went uncalled. Nothing can be easy with the calmest man on skates. The only reason Corey Crawford shouldn’t retire as a Blackhawk is if he tells the organ-I-zation to eat all of his shit at the end of this year.

– Speaking of eating shit, Olli Maatta reassured us that buying him out at the end of the year is the only answer to “What happens to Olli Maatta at the end of this year?” When he wasn’t getting caught chasing forwards to the far boards and leaving the slot wide open—like he did on the Blues’s first goal—he was throwing wild passes to Zach Sanford right in front of Crawford, like he did on their fourth goal. And when that wasn’t enough, he was busy getting ragdolled behind the net, like he was by Ryan O’Reilly leading up to the Blues’s fifth goal.

I don’t ever want to hear “Actually, Olli Maatta hasn’t been that bad” again.

Nick Seeler slotting in for Lucas Carlsson was a thing that happened because Jeremy Colliton is a stupid asshole who can do no wrong in Bowman’s eyes because he’s the prototypical Company Man. But how can you not make that decision with heady plays like this?

That’s Seeler covering David Perron at the blue line. For some reason. And what do you know? Thomas, who scored an easy goal, was standing right in the spot where Seeler should have been if this team played anything even tangential to defense. But yeah, Colliton’s doing a fantastic job. When you can dress Nick Seeler and play him in this diarrhea-in-reverse system, you just gotta do it.

– Though we would have accepted a Brandon Saad trade if the return were right, tonight gave us all the reason to be glad that didn’t happen. He was all over the ice and noticeable in the best ways, despite getting skulled in possession, much like the rest of his mates.

– Boqvist had a rough game overall, as should be expected when you’re 19, have your coach actively pissing in your ear, and get paired with a defensive luminary like Olli Maatta. But on top of his good stretch pass, he totally horsed Sundqvist to set up the Hawks’s final power play attempt. Watching him move his feet for a change was an oasis, but it’s also another instance in the mounting evidence that Colliton is bridling him, which sort of defeats the purpose of Boqvist at all.

This game was a terrible fucking mess, complete ass cheeks if you will, but at least it was fun. It had everything for every Hawks fan: high scoring for all, good play from the kids for those committed to the long term, and a big fat loss for everyone looking for a tank. In the most galaxy-brained terms possible, this was one of the best games they played all year.

Fucking hell.

Beer du Jour: Hopnaut

Line of the Night: “He knows how to score.” -Pierre on Top Cat

Hockey

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

A 1–4–0 road trip in the throes of a playoff hunt does not inspire confidence. And whatever confidence you had in this team should be revealed as false based on one roster decision. A win may have kept whatever telltale heart we still have for this team beating. But looking up at six points and down the barrel of a hell trip at the end of the month makes the idea of a playoff berth even less sustainable than the style of play Colliton has this team adhere to night in and night out. Let’s mop this mess up.

– The most telling move the Blackhawks made tonight was starting Nick Seeler over Adam Boqvist. Boqvist had a bad game last night. On a team whose fate and direction aren’t as nebulous as the Hawks’s, you understand that move at least a little bit. But starting Seeler over Boqvist in a must-win game (as pretty much all of these games will be going forward) is the most concrete evidence that the front office truly, unironically believes that this is a playoff-caliber roster.

This is the kind of move you make when you earnestly believe that you are just a roster tweak away from making the playoffs. Had this team fully committed to grooming the next core, they would have chalked Boqvist’s night last night up to “being fucking 19.” Instead, in a game they had to win, they slotted Seeler—who was about as good as you could have hoped—over what is supposed to be the defenseman of the future for this team.

If you had any doubt about what this team thinks it is—and you should, since they’ve claimed there is no plan, only a process—tonight should have made it clear. The front office thinks this team can eke into the playoffs. We should judge everything it does from here on out on that basis. If this were a team that realized the chance to make a real run passed them by before last night’s game, you’d have seen Boqvist out there trying to learn from his mistakes. We didn’t, so we can only assume that they believe this is a playoff roster.

It’s not, and when they don’t make the playoffs, everyone should be fired for that failure.

– But hey, the Blackhawks still have the high-end talent that lays the foundation of a playoff team. And it all starts and ends with Patrick Kane, who kept the Hawks in it with two outstanding plays.

On Carpenter’s goal, you got a look at why Patrick Kane will go down in history as the best player to ever lace them up for the Blackhawks. He charged up the near boards, shook Pionk out of his skates around the dot, then fired a bad-angle pass from the goal line that crawled up Carpenter’s stick and in. You’re not going to see plays like that for years from the Hawks after Kane retires.

– On the Hawks’s second goal, you saw Kane do Kane things and Toews do Toews things, dropping a perfect pass through two defenders in the slot. But the thing that ought to impress most was Dominik Kubalik’s patience on the play.

Kubalik draws Kulikov to him with his patience, giving Toews the half step he needed to streak past. Then, Kubalik feathered a pass that gave Toews the chance to drop his perfect pass back. The Hawks have found something special in Kubalik, and when he’s given the chance, he usually delivers.

– There’s not anything Corey Crawford can do about giving up three redirected goals. The only one you can probably even be mad about would be the first goal, and you wouldn’t be mad at Crawford. You’d be mad at the Hawks’s inability to clear the puck and allowing sustained pressure. But you’ve heard that song too many times before now.

Tonight was a perfect representation of what the Hawks are. They’re a high-end talent team that needs every puck bounce to go right to win games. They had three bad bounces and lost. But the fact that they’re benching their D-man of the future for performance shows that they really think this is a playoff team with a tweak here and a healthy scratch there.

It’s a different story if the Hawks go into this game with six points instead of two. But they didn’t, and so now we’re stuck watching a team that both thinks it’s truly in a playoff run and that putting Nick Seeler in over Adam Boqvist is a solution to a problem.

This is our concern, dude.

Beer du Jour: Yeti Imperial Stout

Line of the Night: “Rides up Carpenter’s SHAFT.” –Burish on Carp’s goal

Hockey

vs.

RECORDS: Hawks 25-21-6   Wild 23-22-6

PUCK DROP: 7pm

TV: NBCSN

ONE GOOD DOSE OF THUNDER: Hockey Wilderness

The Hawks will conclude their mini-trip out of the bye week in St. Paul tonight, before returning home for all of one game and then heading back out where they came from for another five games. That’s some brilliant scheduling if you ask me! You can feel Toews’s rage without much effort. But the Hawks won’t have a lot of time or cause to bitch, because every point is valuable and though the travel schedule might not make much sense the opponents on offer are certainly gettable. That for sure describes the Minnesota Wild these days.

While the Hawks are certainly in the thick of the playoff race, mostly because it came back to them, they aren’t really away from anyone. The Preds and Jets are right there with them. The rest of the division is pretty much out of touch out ahead in the distance. Except for the Wild, whom the Hawks can kind of put out of their misery tonight. That sounds silly to say with 29 games left after this one, but a regulation win would put the Wild five points in arrears and that’s a massive gap. Not that it’s one the Hawks couldn’t cough up, but let’s say it’s unlikely. And the more teams you can cull from the chase the better off you are.

It’s not hard to pinpoint where it’s gone wrong for the Wild. While Bruce Boudreau continues to conjure up his magic potion of not really being a great Coris team but an excellent expected goals team – i.e. the Wild are content to give up attempts but don’t give up good chances–that doesn’t really matter if your goalies can’t stop a sloth in the sand. The Wild give up the least amount of xGA/60 and scoring chances per game in the league, but their SV% is bottom-10 with both Alex Stalock and Devan Dubnyk especially facing the wrong way and identifying cloud shapes most of the time. That’ll torpedo most teams, and so it has done with the Wild.

Which might just be enough to torpedo Boudreau out of a job come April.  It would be a second-straight playoff-less season, and the team probably needs an overhaul, and there’s a new GM on board these days in Bill Guerin and his weird face. It might not be totally fair to Gabby, but dem’s da breaks. The Wild certainly score enough to be better than this, at 3.06 per game, and their defensive structure has kept the task to a minimum for the goalies. But they haven’t been up to it, and if you were to swap goalies with the Hawks the Wild most definitely would be in the playoff picture if not up among the top three in the Central. Also when your goalies suck it’s hard to have anything near a decent penalty kill, and the Wild very much don’t, second-worst in the league. They’re not good enough to outscore teams by two or three at evens.

Which is saying something for Gabby, because the Wild feel like they’re short on frontline talent once again. Zach Parise these days is a tweener between a first and second line player, and the advanced age of Eric Staal might make him that as well. Mats Zuccarello has always been that, as has Jason Zucker (and he’s missed a fair amount of time this year as well). Kevin Fiala might actually be proving to be something more than sarcophagus filling with 28 points, but he’s not providing what Mikhail Granlund used to (but certainly isn’t now). That Rask-for-Nino trade was such a disaster that Rask is a healthy scratch tonight. There isn’t a lot here, and you can’t say Boudreau isn’t maximizing it.

The blue line is still very solid and finally healthy, as you can do a hell of a lot worse on a top-four than Suter, Spurgeon, Brodin, and Dumba. That’s how the Wild keep things pretty limited in their end, even if it is all getting undone by the men in the mask.

No changes for the Hawks other than it looks like Lehner will get the start with Crow getting the slightly tougher assignment of Patrice And The Pips tomorrow night. New boy Nick Seeler, who is neither loose nor tight, won’t make his debut against his former team tonight and let’s just hope he’s ballast for the rest of the season. You don’t want this rockhead taking regular minutes, believe us.

The key tonight for the Hawks is getting to the middle of the offensive zone. The Wild are more than happy to let you putter around the perimeter and try and thread a needle through to the net from there. Suter and Brodin especially play economical defensive games where they let things come to them and simply prod you back outside the dots or behind the net. So players like Kane and Dach and Strome and Top Cat, the ones who can conjure something out of nowhere will have to, and players like Toews, Kubalik, and Saad who can get to the middle through power will need to do some of that as well. If you can get the shots, the Wild goalies will give you goals.

It’s a big ask to get four of four with the Bruins waiting tomorrow, though they’ll also be on the second of a back-to-back, on the road, the Hawks have been great with those all season, and they’ve caught the Bruins napping before this season. Still, these two points seem pretty vital before that road trip that is going to determine the rest of the season. They’re right there, so take them.

Hockey

Minor note here, but the Hawks today claimed Nick Seeler on waivers from the Wild, who they play tomorrow as luck would have it.

This isn’t some monumental shift and it barely registers a level worth talking about. Basically, the Hawks don’t want to keep Dennis Gilbert in a suit full-time, which they would have to at the top level because he sucks. The IceHogs are also incredibly beat up, so they could use him playing minutes down there in his never-ending journey to not suck.

Seeler isn’t much better. He surprised the Wild out of camp last year and played 71 games, but has some serious, rock-headed tendencies, which we know the Hawks love for some reason. Think of Seeler as an older Gilbert, really. But he can easily replace Gilbert as the extra hand on deck in case someone gets injured.

In truth, Slater Koekkoek has earned his time above whatever swamp thing is taking up the #7 role, be it Gilbert or Seeler. Yeah, he had that cock-up on Saturday, but that will happen. What Koekkoek has that the other two don’t is mobility, and the Hawks need as much as they can get right now.

At least the Hawks seem to realize what Gilbert is, even if they just go the older version. This rates a whatever.