Everything Else

Box Score: Game 40 | Game 41
Game Log: Game 40 | Game 41
Natural Stat Trick: Game 40 | Game 41

The Hawks certainly showed them last night. It always astounds me how this team can always be counted on to do the exact bare minimum necessary to kind of stay in the playoff race. Now things are a bit more difficult for them as their loss last night put the Hawks at a .500 record, 4 points behind 4th-place Nashville, who can’t stop winning, and only 3 points ahead of Dallas, with Dallas having three games in hand.

I’ve had about enough and I honestly don’t have a lot of hope left for the playoffs. We keep seeing the same issues over and over not being addressed. Here they are, some of them for the umpteenth time, in bullet form, with some good things mixed in there too.

  • At least Kirby Dach looks back in business, with three points in five games. He looks great playing with Kane. His first goal on Tuesday was called off for offside, but he set up Kane for the first real goal of the game to give Kane a nice breakaway chance. He also had another goal of his own halfway through the first. If you had told me he was still having pain in his wrist I wouldn’t believe you.
  • Vinnie Hinostroza reminded Hawks fans that he exists with a great pass to assist Kubalik on the 2nd goal on Tuesday. He also passed it right to Kubalik for the Hawks’ lone goal last night. The two seem to play well with each other so let’s see more of this.
  • Nikita Zadorov is solely responsible for a solid 11% of the team’s total penalty minutes. He leads the entire team with 31 minutes and has nearly double what the second-most guy has. The Hawks have been getting better of staying out of the box except for this clown. He also sucks on the ice at defense when it really matters, being solely responsible for Dallas’s second goal last night by once again passing the puck right to a Dallas Star to set up the scoring chance instead of dumping it out. Why do people like this guy so much? If they re-sign this doofus I’m really going to lose my mind.
  • I did just mention the Hawks were getting better at staying out of the box, but last night’s game they gave the Stars three powerplay opportunities, the most they’ve given an opponent since March 25 against the Panthers. The Stars were able to capitalize twice on their powerplay opportunities also, which was obviously pivotal for the Stars’ win. The Hawks need to stay out of the box, especially when you’re 30th in the league with your penalty kill.
  • The Hawks’ powerplay has also gone cold, with 1 goal in the last 20 powerplay opportunities; 1 goal in 7 games. We are 21st in the league with even-strength goals, so our powerplay cannot be sputtering the way it is now.
  • I’m not sure why the Hawks get domed possession-wise when they win and are winning the possession metrics when they lose. It doesn’t make any sense at all. HOCKEY.
  • Congrats on the Cat for 20 goals. Here’s to 20 more, we’ll need them.

Since the last writing, the Hawks traded away two Lucases – Lucas Carlsson and Lucas Wallmark – to the Panthers for Brett Connolly, Riley Stillman, Henrik Borgstrom and a 7th-round pick, cementing the Blackhawks as the team to offload all your cap issues to because we have the space.

Connolly only has 4 points on the season but had 33 points last season and a career-high 46 points the season before. He also won the Stanley Cup with the Capitals. Riley Stillman is not a points-getting defenseman, but Bowman says he is AGGRESSIVE and COMPETITIVE, so take that with whatever grain of salt you’d please. This is the last year of his contract so he may become a free agent after this season. Borgstrom is still more of a prospect, but he did play 50 games with the Panthers in the 2018-19 season and had 18 points. This year he was playing in Finland and has 19 points so far.

The Blackhawks start a 5-game road trip this weekend against Columbus, who just hilariously split a series with the Lightning this week. The Blue Jackets are now tied points-wise with the Stars, so the Blackhawks (once again) need TWO – not ONE – TWO huge wins here to put distance between them and other playoff contenders in the Central, I guess.

Onward.

Hockey

Box Score: Game 33 | Game 34
Game Logs: Game 33 | Game 34
Natural Stat Trick: Game 33 | Game 34

 

Yes, I am covering my ears and refusing to hear anything you’re saying about Alex Barkov being out, rendering these wins meaningless. The Blackhawks HAD to get points this weekend and they did. Let’s celebrate that and hope that this series gives the Hawks the confidence to continue playing good…ish down the stretch.

We all recognized the things the Blackhawks needed to do to succeed against the Panthers this series: solid defense, good goaltending, Patrick Kane back on the offensive, getting the powerplay going again and not taking dumb penalties. They were able to do a solid 2½ of these things. Let’s take a look at what went down. To the bullets!

  • As we are all aware of by now, Kubalik has not been getting the minutes he deserves. But I like his play on the second line with Brandon Hagel. They had a really nice goal on Tuesday, with Hagel able to make a pass through a defender to Kubalik in front of the net, who was able to slip it past Driedger. If you enjoy statistics, the Hagel-Kampf-Kubalik line leads the team in expected goals percentage by a bit of a margin at 68.4%. More please.
  • With the Blackhawks’ solid win on Tuesday, it was no surprise they won the possession battle there. They dominated in the 1st period with a 60 CF%, and then stayed slightly under 50% possession in the 2nd and 3rd periods to end the game just edging out the Panthers in this metric. Tonight, however, the Blackhawks went back to their loveable old selves, getting completely skulled in possession throughout the entire game. The Panthers are a top-10 possession team in the league, so I’m just glad we got out of this series without too much damage.
  • Numbers-wise, theoretically, Chris Driedger is one of the better goalies in the league. Of active goalies who have started 10+ games in the NHL this season, he’s 10th in the league in goals against average and 6th in save percentage. Bobrovsky’s numbers push him much further down the list. Neither goaltenders looked spectacular this series against the Hawks, exposing this team that obviously finds success in outscoring their goaltending woes. With their top scorer in Barkov out and Lankinen playing on his head, it just seemed to be a little too much for Florida. They have a playoff spot all but locked up anyway and Barkov should be back soon, so this will probably just be a series they will quickly forget.
  • As long as Nikita Zadorov is on this team, you can subtract as many months off my life expectancy. I have truly had it with this oaf. He had an assist Tuesday but at this point I do not care. He took two penalties tonight, the second one a truly magical hit that laid out Patric Hornqvist and gave the Panthers a critical powerplay chance in the 3rd. Oh, and Zadorov skated completely out of position to take this hit, because WHAT IS DEFENSE.
  • One of the things the Blackhawks needed to do in order to get back into the win column was getting Patrick Kane to show some life. He had two points total in the four games prior to this series (though he was trying his best to get something going with 16 total shots on goal during that time). Kane boasted 4 points in the series and has continued to create chances for others, becoming the assist king as of recent. Thanks for sharing the wealth, Kaner.
  • The Hawks did a good job limiting their penalty kill time in Tuesday night’s game, and it definitely paid off. They only took two penalties and only allowed one powerplay goal from the Panthers. (To compare, in the series from hell against Tampa last week they took six total penalties and allowed two powerplay goals.) Progress? I guess. Thursday’s game was certainly another story, however, as stupid penalties (and calls) were had by all. However, the Blackhawks were able to kill the whopping six penalties thanks to Kevin Lankinen playing at an elite status.
  • Speaking of Lanks, he did a good job of keeping the Blackhawks in it Thursday after a Duclair crossbar reignited the Panthers’ offense for a time. He also made some big saves towards the end of the second after getting clunked in the head. And he also saved a three-on-none chance because again, WHAT IS DEFENSE. The takeaway here is that Kevin Lankinen saved the day, stopping 41 shots. His rebound control still occasionally makes me cringe, but hopefully that will…improve with time?

The Blackhawks get to face off against the Nashville Predators this weekend, who just crushed the Detroit Red Wings and had some guy named Rocco Grimaldi score a hat trick in the 1st period of the game. The Predators are vying for the fourth playoff spot and dropping this series against them would tie us in the standings. Even splitting the series would bring the Predators too close for comfort to the fourth-place spot. It’s going to be another sweep-or-bust situation. Let’s go Hawks.

Hockey

Game 1 Box Score / Game 2  / Game 3 

Game 1 Natural Stat Trick / Game 2 / Game 3

 

In a series that featured a little bit of everything, the Hawks showed in a nutshell what is going to be positive about their future and simultaneously what needs to be fixed before they can take that big next step into true contention. Game 1 and 3 saw the Hawks bust out solid leads with good play in the offensive zone and what continues to be a Death Star of a powerplay, but the D ended up letting them down and the Bolts came back to win both games. Game 2 saw the Hawks weather Tampa’s furious attack through 3 straight periods, only to counter punch and bury their chances whenever the Bolts slipped up.

We also saw what happens when a younger, more inexperienced team loses focus and begins to take sloppy penalties against a defending Stanley Cup champion. Much like the end of AEW Revolution last night, you saw how much positive feeling and goodwill about a product can disappear like a fart in the wind (or a botched explosion) when things just don’t go according to the plan. Ultimately, however, there was more to like than dislike about this series against a team that (on paper) should’ve kicked the Hawks collective asses to the curb.

TO THE BULLETS!

 

NUMBERS DON’T LIE

 

-First, let us begin with the positives. The Hawks power play continues to be a doomsday device when they can set up shop in the opponent’s zone. Alex DeBrincat is rapidly ascending to Ovechkin and Stamkos levels of deadly in the circles with his shot. The season has gone on long enough for other teams to have this scouted by now, and it hasn’t mattered one bit. Even strength has been no different for Top Cat, as he’s now second on the team only to Kane in points.

-Speaking of, Patrick Kane is having a Hart Trophy kinda year, and if he can keep up this pace and the Hawks make the playoffs I think you’d have a hard time not giving it to him. It’s obviously the old “best player on the best team vs. the player most responsible for his team’s success” argument (which will never end), but Kane seems to have taken the mantle of “veteran offensive leader” pretty seriously in the wake of Toews not being around and should be number 1 on everyone’s ballot.

-Malcom Subban, despite giving up 3 goals (none of which he had much of a prayer on) rebounded nicely from the egg he laid against Detroit. Not only did he make some fabulous saves against the Bolts in OT during the furious up and down 90 seconds where everyone pretty much pretended defense was optional, but he shut the door on Stamkos in the Home Run Derby to secure the shootout win. Good for Malcom, as I’ve been a fan of his for awhile. He’s never going to be a starter, but he’s a more than serviceable backup if his minutes are monitored.

-Speaking of goaltending, Kevin Lankinen didn’t get much help from his defense in game 3, and if he wasn’t able to put forth the performance he did the Bolts could’ve easily put up double digits on the Hawks. His performance in game 1 was excellent as well, and if this is who he really is the Hawks Euro Scouting Department deserves some kudos from Stan and Danny (henceforth known collectively as Stanny).

-I fully expected the Hawks to get slaughtered in the possession metrics this series, the Lightning being what they are. However I was happily surprised that they actually won the CORSI battle in game 1, 58.7% to 41.3%. Game 2 was a different story, which should not be a surprise considering the furious attack of the Bolts in the first two periods (Tampa won the CORSI battle in period 2 78.3-21.7%. YIKES), but the Hawks were well on their way to winning the possession battle in game 3 when the conga line to the box began in the 2nd. There’s been some improvement here, and Brandon Hagel has something to do with that, as his constant pressure on the forecheck forces teams to try errant passes that more often than not are picked off in the neutral zone. If only the Hawks had some more speed to compliment him, they could be on their way to tilting the table.

-Mattias Janmark has been a solid signing by Stan Bowman this season, and him chipping in on Sunday with a (very nice) goal and an assist was an added bonus. In reality, he’s probably a 3rd line center on a team with legitimate Stanley Cup aspirations, and he should be treated as such when the trade deadline appears. The Hawks can find better uses for that money in the off-season, and any picks they can get for him will be of use either as currency in the future or as a chance to fill some holes on the back end.

-Now, the negatives. Connor Murphy almost certainly will find himself in the pressbox for a game after taking a run at Erik Cernak with about 10 to go in the 2nd period. (UPDATE: Murphy will actually not face any disciplinary action at all. Color me shocked) He was assessed the Hawks first 5 minute match penalty since Duncan Keith went full Brock Lesnar and pile drove Dillon Dube into the boards against the Flames in 2018. Murphy doesn’t have a history of Tom Wilson-esque behavior, so he’s got no priors. The shot caught Cernak up high and he ended up leaving the game, so expect discipline from above. The Hawks managed to kill off the penalty, thanks to a lazy tripping call on Victor Hedman (who had been playing full tilt the entire series for some reason) but were completely unable to capitalize on that momentum because…

-They took a million fucking stick penalties in game 3, and the Lightning absolutely made them pay. The Bolts went 4 for 5 on the man advantage, completely obliterating the 3 goal lead the Hawks had built up for themselves with what might have been their best period all year in the 1st. This is what you’re gonna get with a young team that also contains Nikita Zadorov, but Duncan Keith and Soderberg should know better.

-Ian Mitchell might need to take a sick day after getting absolutely roasted by pretty much everyone in a white sweater on Sunday. He only ended up with 10 minutes of ice time in a game that featured the Hawks losing a D-man halfway through to a major penalty. His CORSI for on the day was a cool 22.22%, and his only contribution other than being out of position all day was being on ice for both Tampa even strength goals and taking a boneheaded hooking penalty against Stamkos that lead directly to Victor Hedman’s game tying PP goal. Mitchell has a ton of talent and he’s got a bright future, but the last few games he’s been under water and probably needs a breather before he gets in too deep.

-Nikita Zadorov: still bad, still getting 20 fucking minutes a night.

-Next up the Hawks travel down to the COVID Wild West in Dallas for 2 very important games against the Stars. Considering the Preds are dying a death, Columbus couldn’t give any less shits, and Detroit is still a Ferris Wheel filled with rotting corpses the Stars are pretty much the only team that could conceivably steal the #4 seed from the Hawks. Bare minimum this needs to be a split, so let’s see how the team responds to the skulling the Bolts gave them yesterday.

Let’s Go Hawks

 

Hockey

Box Scores: Game 22 | Game 23
Game Logs:
Game 22 | Game 23
Natural Stat Trick:
Game 22 | Game 23

The Red Wings, last in the league for two seasons now, played well the first game against the Blackhawks this weekend. It’s not a good thing to let a team as offensively depleted as the Red Wings, without their captain Dylan Larkin, as many chances as the Hawks did, but that’s what happened this weekend. We recovered enough to not be a complete laughingstock last night, but it still wasn’t our best work. To the bullets.

  • Saturday’s game was of sloppy proportions, as both teams showed up and decided to play quite poorly. Passes weren’t connecting, there were takeaways and giveaways galore, and defense wasn’t a thing anybody was caring about.
  • I’m sure the recently demoted Nicolas Beaudin was just thrilled to watch Zadorov taking his NHL spot after watching him being singlehandedly at fault for Detroit’s first goal on Saturday, and then not being able to stop the Red Wings’ fifth goal, and then not being helpful for Detroit’s first goal last night. But at least he’s getting playing time in Rockford, am I right!
  • I really have about had it with this defensive structure or lack thereof. I know this is really and truly hard to believe, but FIRST-BALLOT HALL OF FAME GOLD MEDAL DEFENSEMAN DUNCAN KEITH does not need your help behind the goal. I know it’s hard to understand. You think maybe he does need your help and that it’s okay to abandon your guy. But he does not need your help and it’s not okay to abandon your guy. All you need to do is cover your guy and so many goals this season would not have happened. This is how a structured defense works. FIGURE IT OUT.
  • Carl Soderberg scored again Saturday, continuing to make it easier for the Hawks to sweeten the deal to get other teams to trade for him at the deadline. A 2nd or 3rd round pick, anyone? He’d be a great depth guy for a contending team. You know who to call.
  • Malcolm Subban was…well, not good on Saturday. Hard to watch. Bad to see. While this was happening, Collin Delia was simultaneously also letting five goals in the back of his net in Rockford, where the competition is theoretically easier than in the NHL. But he also hasn’t played for over a month, so let’s try to give him the benefit of the doubt for a little bit longer.
  • Meanwhile, Kevin Lankinen stopped over 40 shots last night in order to keep the Blackhawks in last night’s game. Did we mention the Red Wings aren’t supposed to be good offensively? What a series this was.
  • As if that wasn’t enough, the Blackhawks were able to reignite the dead Detroit powerplay, after they hadn’t scored on the powerplay in over a month and are ranked 31st in the league. Only a special team with killer instinct could allow this to happen. It was our pleasure to help you guys out with this.
  • The narrative this weekend was that Kane would be scoring his 400th goal, and it almost looked like it wasn’t gonna happen. Kane played a bit of a half-assed game on Saturday and had a nice assist on the Hawks’ third goal last night. But he was finally able to score his goal with 10 minutes left in the 3rd last night, and the Blackhawks decided to score three more before letting the Red Wings limp out of Chicago with a split series. Good work everyone.

Shhh, listen. Do you guys hear that in the distance? It’s the sound of the Tampa Bay Lightning actively destroying every team in their path and wanting to get more points against a defensively idiotic club like ours to separate themselves from the Panthers in the standings. The Blackhawks have a few days’ rest and then a triple-header against these guys, which should be nothing but high-quality entertainment, if only in that ironic sort of way. See you then.