Hockey

The message to Corey and to everyone else today is that we’ve decided we have some young goaltenders here in Chicago we believe in. –Stan Bowman

The indignities never cease.

We all sort of knew it was coming, but it doesn’t make it hurt any less. The Hawks won’t be re-signing Corey Crawford. There are few superlatives you can apply to Corey Crawford that could adequately describe what he meant to this franchise. The most playoff wins for a Hawks goalie ever (52), two Cups, a .918 SV% over 14 years in a league that didn’t employ dog catchers and train hoppers on the top lines, and countless instances of pulling the Hawks’s collective ass out of a sling when they didn’t deserve anything more than swirlee.

He’s always been our Dangerfield. From bringing in Marty Turco for REASONS; to walking smegma trap Pierre McGuire costing him a Conn Smythe with that WEAK GLOVE horseshit that fueled a fire of giardiniera fartin’, cousin fuckin’ angst among the unwashed; to the constant bus tossings the organ-I-zation couldn’t wet themselves quickly enough to dole out in an effort to offshore blame, Corey Crawford never really got the respect he deserved.

We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again: His number belongs in the rafters. I’ll go so far as to say he should go down as the greatest goaltender in Hawks history. Better than Tony O. Better than Glenn Hall. Better than Belfour.

Corey Crawford (and a pandemic, obviously) took this year’s version of the Chicago Blackhawks—a team that iced one of the worst defenses in recent memory—to the playoffs. We surely don’t need to remind you of the Cam Ward/Collin Delia trainwreck of last year, wherein goaltenders not named Corey Crawford averaged a 3.64 GAA and .900 SV%. Throughout his career, Crow made excellent teams into world beaters and pisspoor teams into something feigning passable.

Save his FUCKIN’ RIGHT moment, Crow did it all with quiet, big-dick confidence. No moment ever seemed too big or overwhelming—not even the rough start he had to the Nashville series in ‘15, which Crow came back to save in the end. His memory was short (thanks in no small part to the Hawks’s complete dereliction of player safety, we’re sure), his butterfly pristine, and his presence the one thing you could nearly always count on.

Now we get to worry about the Hawks exploring a trade for Marc-Andre Fleury and his $7 million cap hit, because that has Stan Bowman written all fucking over it. And the free agent market isn’t particularly appetizing, unless you’re counting on a big bounce back from Holtby or are willing to rely on, like, Cam the Magic Talbot. We’d love it if Malcolm Subban would slot in, but, ya know. Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen behind this defense? The Hawks may not win 15 games next year if that’s what they go with.

You can talk about Crow’s age and recent health as reasons not to re-sign him, along with the Hawks’s tenuous cap positioning. We get that, but we don’t buy it. And it’s possible, perhaps even likely, that Crawford told everyone in the front office to cram whatever offer they had up their ass and spin. That’s the version I’m going to believe, regardless of the fact that that doesn’t seem like Crawford’s style. But it’s hard to look past the difference between the Hawks with Crawford and without him. It’s not like Crow underperformed last year, after all.

It’s tough to lose the best goaltender in team history, someone who still has cornerstone performances in him. It’s a heartbreaker that it’s Crawford, someone who did so much right, so little wrong, and still got unduly treated like he’s not the greatest goaltender the organization’s ever seen.

Of every game I’ve seen and experience I’ve had related to Crow, the one I’ll remember most was meeting him at a signing in a fucking mattress store. What struck me most was how kind, humble, and grateful he was to be in the position he was in. It was a fleeting moment, but I’ll never forget how there wasn’t the slightest hint of arrogance in him. That’s truly a marvel for an athlete of his pedigree.

So long, Crow. A cornerstone on two Cup winners, Crow was also the biggest reason the Hawks even feigned competitiveness over the last three years (Lehner was good too, but fuck him). Without him, the house of cards looks to fall apart.

But as they say, nothing gold can stay.

– In other news of less import, the Hawks traded Olli Maatta for some guy on the Kings. A pure salary dump move, kudos to Bowman for getting anything at all back for Maatta. While it’s a foregone conclusion that Brad Morrison won’t be Dominik Kubalik, he can be a depth centerman on Rockford or something. Maybe. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that a spot has opened up for Ian “Good Fucking Luck, Kid” Mitchell, provided Coach Nathan For You keeps the press box buffet stocked.

– The draft was whatever. You sort of got the feeling that Crow wasn’t coming back with the Hawks selecting Drew Commesso in the second round. Their first rounder, LW Lukas Reichel, doesn’t move many needles at first glance. But in a tradition started by Fels, we’re not going to pretend we watch anything related to juniors. He’s from Europe, which has always boded well for the Hawks. Outside that, we don’t expect anyone from this draft class to make any difference one way or another under the current Kane and Toews contract terms.

That’s all for now.

Hockey

vs

Game Time: 9:30PM CDT
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, NBCSN, TVA-S, SportsNet, WGN-AM 720
Indecent Proposal:  SinBinKnights On Ice

While at face value, Game 4’s preview could qualify as a textbook motherfuck with the fates aligning to subject the general public to another game in this series, it has also been reiterated numerous times that it was going to take something truly weird for the Hawks to even push it to this point, and this indeed what happened. So, as usual, once again we are right in our analysis.

Hockey

It was sloppy. It was confusing. It was a total fucking rush. Warts and all, the Blackhawks are now a win away from advancing to the next round of the playoffs. I’m way too drunk to taste this chicken, so let’s rush through whatever it was we just saw.

– As the Toews line goes, so go the Hawks. Each of Saad, Toews, and Kubalik ended up with 56+ CF%s at 5v5, and most of their time came against either McDavid or Draisaitl. Both McJesus and Leon the Ladies Man were underwater when up against the Toews line, which echoed the success the Hawks had in Game 1. It’s clear that when this line can possess the puck, the Hawks have a shot.

On top of it all, Jonathan Toews found himself in the right place at the right time twice tonight. Both of his goals were of the tip-in variety. On the first, he pulled a [insert whoever’s a good goal scorer in soccer here, I dunno, what’s that one guy’s name who committed tax fraud or whatever], toeing a loose puck past Koskinen without even knowing it. On the second, he tipped a point shot from our sweet boy CONNOR MURPHY for the game winner. This guy fucks.

And Saad had a game of almost himself, janking two pucks off the post. When this line is on, the Hawks can.

– Now THAT’S the Corey Crawford on whose hill I will die to have his number in the rafters. Despite The Harlem Draisaitls featuring Connor McDavid, Crawford managed to keep this fart-powered jalopy of a defense from completely dicking the outcome, with at least four high-quality saves at crucial junctures. Aside from a minor puck-handling snafu in the second, Crawford was poised and on his game all night. Had this been the Crawford of Games 1 or 2, the Hawks would have given up eight.

Kirby Dach. It’s amazing what this kid can do when given the chance. He came up with just one “excuse me” primary assist, but he contributed so much more. He had a 54 CF% for one. He managed to enter the zone with speed on a power play in the second period, which is as monumental a feat as discovering extraterrestrial life that shits Cheesy Gordida Crunches. He even played a decent amount on the penalty kill. Whenever he’s on the ice, the Hawks tend to find success, and it’s been a joy watching him grow into what looks to be a legitimate #1 center for the future.

– Although we love the outcome, the process of getting there is untenable. While it’s little surprise that the Hawks managed just one power play goal on six motherfucking attempts, it’s the reason why that continues to annoy.

It’s cool that they managed to wet dream themselves a PP goal on a 5-on-3 with five forwards on the ice. But every other PP opportunity they had fell back into the old Carmelo Kane routine on the right-side boards. On top of that, Coach Nathan For You has continued to place Toews as a rover and Kubalik in the high slot, which is the exact opposite of each player’s strengths.

It’s easy to forget that the Hawks were a top 10 PP team last year. And as we discussed way back then, a lot of that had to do with Toews’s positioning in the high slot. He’s much more apt to tip a rebound or sweep a shot in than to fire one off a hard slapshot from the top circle like Kubalik can do. Had Coach Galaxy Brain had the wherewithal to understand that this was one the few things he’s managed to get right in his tenure, perhaps we don’t have to prolapse our collective anus in anticipation of a late game winner.

Dominik Kubalik ought to be the rover, not Toews.

– When the Blackhawks inevitably refuse to buy out Olli Maatta and point to his two goals in this series as justification, remember that he was not only on the ice for each of the Oilers’s three goals tonight but also a direct contributor to each of them.

On the first, Maatta tried to one-hand a pass up the end boards under pressure, despite knowing that the leading scorer in the entire goddamn motherfucking game was on the ice. While the puck took a funny hop off the end boards and eluded Koekkoek and Carpenter, there’s no reason for it to get to the point where Tyler Ennis (skypoint) can simply shovel a pass through the blue paint to a horny and prepared Draisaitl. But Maatta is too slow to catch up to plays like that. Thus.

On the second goal, Maatta had a front-row seat to watch Draisaitl pot a rebound after a good Crawford save following Highmore’s egregious turnover. If he had a speed greater than dripping pitch, it’s unlikely Draisaitl has a lane to crash as unopposed.

On the third goal, Maatta found himself on the penalty kill, which is a problem per se. Admittedly, it’s hard to blame Maatta for this one, given how fucking good Connor McDavid is. But also, the Hawks need to buy out Olli Maatta this off-season. So there.

–Feather’s guy Slater Koekkoek had himself a good night for Slater Koekkoek. He was a little bit underwater in possession, but he fired home the shot that Highmore tipped for the tying goal. That’s all you can ask.

– Alex Nylander was unnoticeable, which rules for a change.

Jesus Christ. It’s like losing to your virginity to a shy crush. Though McDavid and Draisaitl CAN do it all, if this Crawford shows up again on Friday, it might not fucking matter.

Drink that whiskey. Rock over London. Rock on, Chicago.

Booze du Jour: Firestone Nitro something, then about half a handle of Maker’s

Line of the Night: “He’s not going to beat you from out there.” –Jamal Mayers, describing an instance in which Leon Draisaitl beat Olli Maatta from “out there,” leading to McDavid’s PP goal.

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

I have to admit that my expectations for this one were not high. Given the Hawks recent string of play, the fact that the Lightning are a far superior squad, and that they badly needed to get a win at home, I felt that this one could get ugly. In the second period, I thought I was being proven right, and then the final frame happened. I am happily surprised to be wrong. Let’s dig in:

IF KUBALIK LOSES THE CALDER WE RIOT

– Let’s start with our header, as Dominik Kubalik really spearheaded the offensive attack for the Hawks, outscoring the Bolts all on his own in the third period (okay, one was an empty netter but it counts all the same). Given the scouting reports about him and the Hawks’ success in finding some hidden gems in Europe over the years, there was little doubt that Kubalik was going to be a good NHL player, but I don’t think even the most optimistic Hawks fan expected this kind of season from him. He’s been riding a hot steak for damn near two months now with 18 goals in his last 22 games, and with his first career hat trick tonight he now sits just one goal shy of 30 for the year. With 18 games still to go and the hot hand he’s riding, he has a real nice chance at 35 goals and an outside chance at 40. Especially given how snake bitten Top Cat has been this year, that is very welcome.

– The real MVP of this one was probably Corey Crawford, though. Really, that shouldn’t surprise you anymore, but it’s true nonetheless. Crawford was great in the first period, as the game saw a lot of back and forth action and Crow went blow for blow on impressive saves with Curtis McElhinney. The second period was all Tampa, though, and Crow really stood on his head to keep the Hawks in it. Eventually the Hawks allowed a goal, but it took a nice play on a cycle by Brayden Point and a hell of a shot to beat Crow and give the Lightning the lead. On the second Bolts goal there was literally nothing Crawford could do to stop it, and we will get to that shortly. Overall, another great performance from Crow in a career and season full of them.

– As much as I admittedly dislike Jeremy Colliton and have fun making fun of the smoothness of his brain, I have to give credit where it is due – he made some nice adjustments on the power play tonight when it came to the strategy of the first unit. Early in the game it was evident that Tampa was going to pressure the absolute shit out of Patrick Kane every time he touched the puck on the PP, which Olzcyk called out on the broadcast. As the game went on, you could see the Hawks adjusting to try and use that aggressiveness to their advantage, and eventually they were able to do so – on Kubalik’s second goal, go back and watch the way Tampa defended it. The Hawks put Keith right in the middle of the ice on the umbrella with Kane on his left and Kubalik to the right. Tampa was so unwilling to leave Kane along, even on his weak side, that they left the forward on that side down low so he could pressure Kane if the puck went to him, forcing the other forward to skate way out of position to pressure Keith at the point. Duncs just went right back to Kubalik, who had a wide open shooting lane with that forward out of position, and with his shot that is a gift he made the most of.

– This next part is another comment on a PP adjustment by Colliton, but you can choose how you want to read it, and you’ll get what I mean in a moment. I don’t know the exact numbers here and am too lazy to go dig it up right now, but the Hawks second PP unit got a bit more ice time tonight, and that was the unit that actually ended up scoring the Hawks first goal to get them on the board tonight. Now, you can take that as an adjustment by Colliton to get another unit of good scorers like Boqvist, Saad, and Strome on the ice and being willing to give them more opportunity after seeing that it is working. Or you can wonder why it took him so damn long to actually start doing that more consistently, and the answer to that would be that his brain is smoother than a fresh paint job. I mean, even with the small amount of credit I’ll give him for utilizing PP2 more often, he also is putting Olli Maatta out there with that unit….

– Speaking of which, that guy fucking sucks. Remember that second Lightning goal I talked about that wasn’t Crawford’s fault? Yeah, that’s cuz it was Maatta’s. The only reason the Bolts even scored that goal is because Maatta received a pass from Crawford terribly and lost the puck, made no legitimate effort to find the puck and instead tried to body Nikita Kucherov away while standing flat footed which resulted in Kucherov winning the puck (shocker), and then Maatta just completely failed to follow him and lost track of him altogether, leaving him all alone deep in the zone for Point to find with a nice pass that Kucherov had all day to put into a wide open net, cuz Crawford never even had a chance to react to all of this because it happened so quickly. Get that guy the fuck out of here, and send Slater Koekkoek along with him.

– But I won’t do anymore negative. This was a good win, good enough to restore a small amount of faith in this group, even if I still don’t think they have any chance of making the playoffs and even if I think that losing more games than they win is the more favorable result for this team moving forward. You’re probably sick of me lobbying for tanking by now, huh?

– Hawks go next on Saturday, as they’ll head down to Miami to take on Coach Q and the Panthers. Until then.

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

Since Prince’s untimely death, there hasn’t been a redeeming quality to speak of regarding Minnesota. And for the first 50 minutes tonight, all was as it has ever been since then. But a flutter puck and bad-angle goal later, the Hawks were on the brink of being one point back for the second wild card spot. They managed a point from it all, and they were fortunate to get even that. Let’s clean it up.

Bruce Boudreau has made a career out of winning games that his opponents can’t be bothered to play during the doldrums of the season. Tonight’s first 50 minutes was a master class in that style. The thing is, the Hawks don’t have the luxury of falling prey to a team that’s playing like it’s the last week in April with a spot on the line. But there they were, dragging ass and just hoping that Crawford would pull them out of the sling, which he almost did. It’s hard to find an excuse for it.

Through the first two periods in fact, just two Blackhawks had CF%s that weren’t in the negatives: Gustafsson and Murphy. The Wild kept the Hawks on the perimeter as is their wont, and the Hawks 10,000-pass setups were even more useless than they usually were.

– If the Hawks are going to rat fuck their way into the playoffs—and I still think they will—it’s going to take the kind of small miracles we saw from Boqvist and Maatta. Adam Boqvist was having a putrid game until his goal. He and Keith got clobbered in possession, but more worrying was how tentative Boqvist looked on the power play again. After the Koivu trip on Kane, Boqvist looked like he was going to charge through the neutral zone ass ablaze, only to just stop along the far boards in the neutral zone and nearly turn it over. When the Hawks finally got the puck in, Boqvist did end up turning it over anyway.

Boqvist occasionally flashes a charge only to curl back, and you have to imagine it’s by design. But we’ve seen what happens when he’s tentative, and it’s not pretty. When he just says “fuck it,” like he did on his wrist-shot goal, good things tend to happen. His wrister was more of a floater than a snapper, but he’s got a real weapon with it regardless.

Olli Maatta was also having a terrible, terrible game prior to his goal, which is one of the more absurd goals we’ve seen this year. He was on the far boards and managed to pot the shot far side. Sometimes it doesn’t need to make sense.

Alex DeBrincat needs a fucking hug. He had two or three quality chances snuffed or overshot, and you can see it’s really taking a toll on him. On his near breakaway off the Donato turnover in the first, Top Cat had a couple of steps on Donato. But as the play developed, it looked like DeBrincat was skating through sand. Donato managed to catch up and bother DeBrincat while he shot, ruining the chance. Him coming around in these last two months is going to be crucial to any playoff hopes the Hawks will have.

Kirby Dach makes me forget about Bowan Byram sometimes. He was a beacon light in the third period, and nearly scored a highlight-reel goal after completely breaking Jonas Brodin’s ankles in the near circle. There’s such fluidity to his skating and puck handling. Plus, he’s now on a four-game scoring streak (1 G, 4 A) after going 12 games without. He’s going to be special; it’s just a question of whether it’ll be here when it all comes together and whether it will matter when it does.

Connor Murphy was outstanding tonight. He broke up a Foligno breakaway halfway through the first and should have had a primary assist late in the second, if not for Brandon Saad passing up a gaping net to pass to a heavily covered Patrick Kane in the crease.

Erik Gustafsson had a stereotypical Erik Gustafsson game. His fancy stats were nice (65+ CF%, 75+ xGF%), he tallied an assist, and then he turned the puck over in OT, leading to the loss. He hasn’t been an open sore lately, but we also had 10 days off, so that’s probably factoring into the memory of him.

You’ll take the one point because they really didn’t deserve any. A win tomorrow could put them within one point of the second wild card spot. What a world.

Onward.

Beer du Jour: Michter’s Small Batch

Line of the Night: You best believe this was a Mute Lounge Game.

Hockey

They’re not bad because they’re inconsistent, they’re inconsistent because…well, tonight I won’t bother to finish that sentence. The Hawks beat a crappy team, as they should, so let’s take what we can get, right? To the bullets…

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

–Early on, it felt like things were going to go off the rails again when Max Jones scored less than five minutes in. But the Hawks righted things well enough, to the point that while their play in the first can’t be described as “good,” it can be described as “not horrible.” Jonathan Toews had a great opportunity where he actually shot the puck through John Gibson‘s five hole but it bounced off the post in some weird quirk of physics. But, he made up for it minutes later with a wrist shot, again five-hole, but buried it straight up. The best part was, he was on a 2-on-1 with John Quenneville and at no time in the entire sequence did he even pretend like he was going to pass it to Quenneville. He was absolutely right in his decision-making, but the lack of even the slightest pretense was great.

Dominik Kubalik is tied for the league lead in rookie goals. He now has scored five goals in his last four games, two of which came tonight so he was basically the difference maker and was deservedly the first star of the game. The first goal was off a beautiful backhand feed from Patrick Kane, who’s got a six-game scoring streak of his own going, and the second was a tap-in of a rebound off a long shot from Zack Smith. Kubalik has made it impossible for Colliton to reduce his ice time or maroon him in the bottom six, which you could just tell this doofus was itching to do, and that brings joy to my cold, black heart. The team really tried to get him a hat trick with an empty netter, but you know how empty net attempts go for the Hawks. No big deal anyway, Kubalik was great tonight.

Adam Boqvist had a good night too, or at least, a much better night than his last game. In the second, Keith had his stick vaporize in his hands, giving the Ducks an easy breakaway and Boqvist hustled to strip the puck, bailing out Keith and preventing even a shot on goal. He also generated a chance in the second, which was his only shot of the night but it was the kind of play we’re all looking for–a nice wrister from the dot after a nifty move into the zone. Boqvist finished with just a 41 CF% at evens and had the least ice time of any defenseman, but he was faster and more confident than Thursday against the Predators.

Connor Murphy, on the other hand, did not have a good night. He gave up a couple bad turnovers, including one that led directly to Jones’s goal. And yet he had a 58 CF% so it wasn’t all bad, but it wasn’t passing the eye test, either.

Robin Lehner looked excellent in his first game back after a bruised knee or bruised ego or whatever it was. He ended the night with a .946 SV% and made a number of key saves in the third to keep the Hawks in the lead (if the Ducks had tied this oh lord I don’t want to think of how that could have ended). There was a particularly crazy save on Gudbranson early in the third that you’ll see on highlight reels somewhere soon. All the way around, a quality start for Lehner.

–If Olli Maatta scores on you, you know you suck. That’s all I have to say.

They needed to win against this shitty team and they did. It doesn’t mean all their woes are solved but it’s better than losing to a shitty team, no? Onward and upward…

Line of the Night: “Getzlaf had a chance but instead of shooting, he tried to pass.” –Eddie O describing…Ryan Getzlaf’s MO

Beer du Jour: Beach Blonde lager, Crystal Lake Brewing

Hockey

vs.

RECORDS: Hawks 17-17-6   Flames 20-16-5

PUCK DROP: 8pm

TV: NBCSN Chicago

FRIENDS OF CAL AND GARY: Flamesnation.ca

Cal and Gary would probably be way down the list of NHL cities you’d choose to spend NYE in, but the Hawks don’t get much choice as that’s what the schedule says. It’s one of two sojourns they have to make to Western Canada due to the utterly fucked nature of the NHL schedule, as they’ll kick off 2020 in Vancouver. Somewhat symbolic given what those trips used to mean in the first half of the decade and now don’t mean shit except to the few lunatics who still want to boo Duncan Keith. But we’ll get to that Thursday. Tonight, the Hawks will deal with one of the more confusing teams in the West.

The Flames were supposed to be amongst the glitterati. They did post the most points in the conference last year, and basically returned the same team minus Mike Smith and his amazing powers to turn everything he touches into barf. They had a solid backup this time around in Cam And Magic Talbot to back up Big Save Dave Rittich. They didn’t really add much to it, but steps forward from Oliver Kylington (and his weirdly pronounced name) and Rasmus Andersson were supposed to take pressure of the top of the defense. They still had a young, dynamic forward corps and depth.

And it all just kind of has been…there.

It’s turned around from earlier in the year, as the Flames were way out of a playoff spot to start but are now in one. But no one is reaching the heights of last year. Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan are dealing with SH% problems as well as possession problems. Mark Giordano may simply have been broken by Nathan MacKinnon in the playoffs last year, and he’s also 36. And when he’s not very good, TJ Brodie isn’t good at all. Matthew Tkachuk and his gaping maw haven’t been as good away from Mikael Backlund and Michael Frolik, though he’s hardly been bad.

What the team is really suffering is the NBA Jam guy constantly screaming, “CAN’T BUY A BUCKET!” They have the fourth-worst SH% as a team overall, which has negated their more than acceptable goaltending. They aren’t creating a wealth of chances (21st in xGF/60) but you’d still expect them to do better than over 7% of finding the net. If that rebounds at all, the Flames should comfortably get back to the playoffs and probably pass the Coyotes and Oilers to do it.

They’ve also had the off-ice shenanigans with Bill Peters being outed as a scumbag and the switch to Geoff Ward. That seemed to alleviate some things but not all, as they’re 2-3-1 in the last six. It’s a team that just hasn’t really done anything that well so far this year, and until their top line starts to act like one, that might be the case all season. Lucky for them, their division is so bad they can just sort of float to or near the top.

For the Hawks, you wouldn’t expect too many changes tonight. Possibly Olli Maatta to come back in but they’ve been loathe to change a winning squad so we’ll see. Lehner looks poised to take the lion’s share of the starts the next little while, as he’s just playing better.

This has not been a friendly opponent for the Hawks of late. They’ve lost their last six against them, not beating them since the ’17-’18 season. Tends to be the case with teams that have a lot of speed and play like it, which the Flames at least used to do. The possession-dominant ways of Peters have gone away, as they’re only middling in that sense now. Giordano’s fade has something to do with that, and Hanifin is the only player to really improve from last year.

As we keep saying, if the Hawks want to make anything of this season it has to be right now. The schedule is somewhat kind, they’ve played better in the last two (at least most of them) and so this is the time to get on a roll. But then, we say that a lot, don’t we?

Note: I may be on the Twitter feed for part of this, or not at all. And any recap will be in the morning, if any of us are in any condition to watch this thing tonight. You know how it goes.