Look, it’s difficult enough to get in any way fired up for mid-February, post-All-Star games against non-marquee opponents when a team is good, but it’s been a good goddamn long time since the West Side Hockey Club could make that claim, which makes this stretch even more of a grind than usual. About the only thing left to be determined for this season with this team is who is going to get the privilege of being shipped elsewhere in the coming weeks, and even that can’t really happen until a new general manager is hired in THAT protracted process. Throw in the fact that these are makeup games to begin with and the weather is shitty, and it’s not exactly a recipe for scintillating hockey. The fact that the Hawks’ roommates are now on their all star break certainly helps ease some of the scheduling conflicts that the Covid postponements could have caused, but that’s still put a very quick 3 games in 4 nights on the table for the Hawks, starting this evening.

2/17 – vs Columbus

Game Time – 7:30PM CST
TV/Radio – NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720
Justin Fields. That’s It.  – The Cannon

At long last, Amy’s Oldest gets his “reunion” against his old Q-pilled brothers in arms in Columbus, having missed the first encounter at Nationwide as a last minute Covid scratch. Whether or not any of that matters between these two go nowhere teams is up for debate, but at least there might be slightly more juice to this one at least to start. Arvid Soderblom gets the start tonight out of necessity given the back-to-back, and it will be the first non-Fleury start since he returned from the Covid list after the Holiday Break/Pause. Soderblom predictably looked like a deer in headlights having to spell Colin Delia in his first ever NHL appearance, but settled down a bit the following night against Calgary, where he made 37 saves on 41 shots, getting done no favors by the team of front of them. Coincidentally, the Jackets are arriving in town having most recently caught a beat down in Calgary with their new acquisition Tyler Toffoli, but had won 5 of their last 6 games, the loss being the Panthers hanging 8 on them. This Jackets group isn’t any damn good and has really no finishers other than Patrik Laine when he’s interested, but there’s enough of a floor here to beat bum ass teams, and a getting a rookie goalie in his second ever start would seem to fit that bill.

2/18 – vs Dallas

Game Time – 7:30PM CST
TV/Radio – NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720
Southfork Ranch – Defending Big D

So with Ben Bishop finally calling it a career after something like 14 backiotomies, the Stars now only have to split time between the three somewhat useful goalies they have in net in Braden Holtby, Anton Khudobin, and Jake Oettinger, though Khudobin has been buried in the minors for some time. Between Holtby and Oettinger, both have nearly identical save percentages at 5v5 (.923 and .922 respectively), which is a nice rebound for Holtby after his disastrous turn in Vancouver. Neither of them are signed past this season, so that leaves Hall of Famer Jim Nill with some decisions to make. The obvious choice is to cash in on Holtby at the deadline for a team looking to solidify their crease situation into the spring and then plan on giving Oettinger the full workload next year. But the conundrum lies in the fact that the Stars are only a point out from the last wild card spot, and have games in hand on the Kings and Ducks ahead of them, as well as the Preds whom they’re 3 points behind. It’s difficult to see this Stars team as presently constituted as on track for anything but an ass waxing in the first round against the Avs, Knights, or possibly even the Flames, but this group is living proof that goofy shit happens in the playoffs. It’s just not necessarily wise to bank on it.

2/20 – vs Florida

Game Time – 2:00PM CST
TV/Radio – NBC Sports Chicago, SportsNet 1, WGN-AM 720
Cruisin’ Like A Fanboat On The Glade – Litter Box Cats

The Panthers are very good. They are second in the league in points behind only the Avalanche, and they just beat the Canes in their own building last night. And Sasha Barkov did this devilry. There may be a hope that the Cats get into the city on Saturday night and hit it hard prior to the matinee and the fact that the Hawks are pretty bad, and if the Hawks stay disciplined in limiting chances they might be able to keep it close. But those are very big ifs and a wholly incongruous matchup where the Panthers shouldn’t ever have to get out of 2nd gear.


Box Score: Game 29 / Game 30
Game Logs: Game 29 / Game 30
Natural Stat Trick: Game 29 / Game 30

The Blackhawks blew another lead? Again? This team? Are you sure? Is this déjà vu?

It’s not déjà vu, friends. The Blackhawks have blown 7 of 9 total multi-goal leads since the beginning of February, which is a staggering, incomprehensible statistic. I’m trying to be positive down here because there are still some individual efforts by players to like. Alex DeBrincat’s third-year renaissance is relieving and exciting to watch. Kane is still scoring goals, or at least being an integral part of setting up the goals. Lankinen is making highlight-reel saves (and let’s be honest, he can’t save all of them). The young kids are simultaneously fun-yet-terrifying to watch. But there’s also obviously some not great going on here that you can’t just ignore. Let’s take a look at the bullets, shall we?

  • Everyone’s adopted son Brandon Hagel showed up to this series, getting a goal in both games. Tonight’s goal kind of fell into his lap, but he was positioned well in front of the net to give the Hawks the 3-1 lead-that-once-was. Hagel is finally seeing production come out of his offensive flashes, and that should be good for his development. Screw it, keep throwing him out there.
  • Speaking of development, one day Boqvist will be a defenseman who will be crushing it every night. But right now we have to take the good with the bad. He had one of the Hawks’ two goals on Saturday and did a great job breaking up a 2-on-1 Verhaeghe chance in the 1st on Saturday. He was also not looking good during the first Panthers goal on Saturday and had some dicey plays tonight, so he definitely has room for improvement. Overall, I like watching him and I know he will continue in that positive trajectory.
  • The Hawks were able to be the first ones on the board on Saturday night with a beautiful Hagel/Kubalik passing play, where both were able to out-speed the speedy Panthers. However, the fun didn’t last long as the Panthers were able to score three goals in that same period. The first goal went off a Lankinen rebound, the second goal was a one-timer from beyond the circles, and the third was shot right in front of the net because Nikita Zadorov didn’t feel like playing defense, I guess. A valiant effort, everyone!
  • Penaltypalooza Night Two happened tonight with a ridiculous 9 penalties all game. Once again, just like the last Tampa game, the opponents were able to capitalize on these powerplay opportunities (and one shorthanded opportunity) and the Hawks were not. Taking irredeemably stupid penalties over and over again and not being able to kill them is not a winning formula. It’s costing us games and points. Every time I mention the penalties I say, “please end it, thank you.” And they never do. So I give up here.
  • The revolving door of centers for Kane and the Cat continued tonight, as it seems like every active center on this team now has tried out with them this series and nobody has really stuck. It shows our lack of depth at center with Toews and Dach still out. Hopefully Dach will be back soon and will be able to slot back in there for a dynamite line, if our playoff hopes are still alive by then.

The Blackhawks’ hellacious schedule doesn’t let up, as we are back to face the Tampa Bay Lightning through the weekend. Last series was incredibly entertaining, the definition of FUN hockey. Hopefully the Hawks’ confidence isn’t shot after this series and they will come in ready to play, and more of that FUN will ensue. Onward.



Game Times: 6:00PM CST (1/17 & 1/19)
TV/Radio: NBCSN Chicago, WGN-AM 720 (1/17 & 1/19), NHLN, TVAS, SportsNet (1/17)
Polo’d Down To The Socks To The Nutsack: Litter Box Cats

After a predictable opening series in Tampa, the Hawks stay in Florida while it snows here at home to take on the Panthers in Sunrise tonight and on Tuesday. Because the Cats were slated to start the season against the infected and infested Dallas Stars, those games got moved (the first of likely many across the NHL slate this year), and tonight will be their opener, the last NHL team to do so.



Game Time: 7:30PM CST
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720
Sunrise Mustaches: Litter Box Cats

Ordinarily two teams meeting one another while both riding five game winning streaks, with each heading into their bye week after the matchup would be enough of a stage-setter for a pretty decent game, especially one between teams with some of the scoring prowess that each possess. But all of that takes a back seat tonight on West Madison.

Everything Else

Game Time: 6:00PM CST
TV/Radio: WGN Ch. 9, ESPN+, WGN-AM 720
Taking Their Talents To South Beach: Litter Box Cats

It took damn near til Christmas and halfway through the season, but the Hawks are riding their first three game winning streak of the season, and have an legitimate opportunity to extend that to four tonight at home against the equally struggling Florida Panthers.

Everything Else

In yet another litmus test between old school hockey red asses and the computer boys, the Florida Panthers chose to revert to entrusting their future once again to the former in the person of this site’s namesake, and all it got them was sitting at home again in the spring once again. For the most part the Cats have remained quiet this off season in part due to financial constraints and also due to the fact that aside from the big ticket item that came to the division, the free agency market mostly sucked out loud. But given the landscape of things within the division and the conference, being judicious still might not be enough.

’17-’18 Season: 44W-30L-8OT 96PTS 248GF 246GA 18.9%PP 80.2%PK 49.19%CF 7.63SH% .9236SV%

Goaltending: Roberto Luongo enters this season having just turned 39 in April, and even at this age, still posted a .929 overall save percentage propped up by a .933 rate at even strength. Borat’s longevity has now become another attribute on what is a surefire hall of fame resume, playoff collapses be damned. However, unfortunately for the Panthers, he started 33 games last year due to a variety of aches and pains commensurate with being able to soon qualify for AARP. James Reimer got the bulk of the action and was slightly below average with a .913 overall and a .915 at evens, which simply isn’t going to cut it in the modern NHL. Reimer is capable of more, as his career mark at even strength is .925 even factoring last season’s dip, but it’s any guess how much he’ll be asked to play given Luongo’s health status or if his play understandably drops off this late into his career. The Cats are carrying a third goalie this year in the form of one-time New Sensation Michael Hutchinson after Connor Hellebuyck finally took the full time gig in Winnipeg. Hutchinson at this point is going to be a career backup but has been known to find the Devil Inside on occasion (particularly against the Hawks), but if he needs to be relied upon too much Florida is going to need a serious Kick elsewhere in the lineup.

Forwards: Over the past few years, the Panthers have compiled a very solid group of forwards that seem to produce both on the score sheet and territorially, and none of it ever seems to make a damn bit of difference. They added to that corps this year by trading for another player like that in Mike Hoffman, fresh off the drama behind the scenes on the set of The Real Housewives of Ottawa. Regardless of who is to blame in that sordid affair, the Panthers added another solid scoring winger to a group that already has the positionally dominant-if-ouchy Sasha Barkov and running mate Jonathan Huberdeau, and one of the more unhearalded #2 centers in the game in Vincent Trochek, whose 71 points nearly earned him a spot on the All Who-Gives-A-Shit team. The Panthers get solid contractual value out of all of these guys as well, having committed them all to reasonable long-term paper, but there’s no transcendent star here, and this is more of a star driven league than most observers are willing to admit. Nick Bjugstad certainly has all of the tools and the behemoth size to become one, but he hasn’t put it all together yet, and the questions are now beginning to get louder regarding if he ever will. The bottom six features a smattering of bums and has beens such as Troy Brouwer and Jamie McGinn and Micheal Haley, and of course franchise fixture and GRITHEARTFART captain Derek MacKenzie. If a forward grouping can manage to be top-heavy while also lacking gamebreakers, it’s this one.

Defensemen: Obviously this group begins and ends with former #1 overall pick Aaron Ekblad, who is entrusted with the most difficult assignments and zone starts and expected to also produce offensively. Ekblad was below the team rate in shot attempts for the first time this past year at 48.01%, but he spent the vast majority of his time covering for the cowboy tendencies of partner Keith Yandle, who can still slightly outscore his positional deficiencies, but at 32 as of tomorrow, his wheels could soon not even get him to the places he wasn’t sure he needed to be in the first place. The Cats are high on both Alex Petrovic (as evidenced by letting Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith go in the expansion draft to be able to sign him) and Mike Matheson, but it’s not exactly clear what either of them do, and Matheson somehow just received nearly $5 mildo against the cap for eternity to ply whatever his trade is.

Outlook: While it’s unclear whether or not Bob Boughner is a Moron or Not yet (and his playing career would heavily suggest the former), what is clear is that he’s going to need to get a lot more than the sum of the parts that he has here to threaten for a playoff spot let alone advance. Counting on a nearly 40 year old goalie to continue to defy his age and mileage is also not a long-term recipe for success, but that’s never been something that’s been synonymous with the Panthers anyway. The same thing that always happens will more than likely transpire this year, where the Cats will make it interesting in mid-March, but ultimately miss out on the post season by the hair on their ass once again.


Everything Else


Game Time: 6:00PM CST
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720
Wade County: Litter Box Cats

As if Florida in and of itself isn’t fucking weird enough, this is the first year in nearly anyone’s memory that the Hawks are out east over the Thanksgiving weekend thanks to the long overdue demise of the animal rights violation spectacle that was the Ringling Brothers circus. So it’s a little odd that the Hawks are in Sunrise tonight to take on the Panthers (who are also weird) rather than catching the ass end of a back to back in LA after a Friday afternoon in Orange County, but again, Florida is inherently weird to begin with.

Everything Else


Game Time: 6:00PM CDT
TV/Radio: WGN, NHLN (US), WGN-AM 720
Panther Like A Panther: Litter Box Cats

With the season coming around the final turn, the Hawks find themselves nearly completely clear of divisional and conference play with 10% of the schedule still remaining. Of the eight games left, only one is against a Central opponent, and since it’s Colorado it doesn’t even really count anyway. And the first five of that stretch are all against eastern conference opponents, beginning with a Florida trip starting tonight in Sunrise before swinging up to Tampa on Monday.

Everything Else

panthro panther vs 250px-Ozymandias

Game Time: 7:30PM CST
TV/Radio: CSN, WGN-AM 720
Uncle Dale’s New Dysfunctional Family: Litter Box Cats



Dale Tallon just can’t seem to find an organization that doesn’t have dysfunction among the front office braintrust. And after getting kicked upstairs this past summer, his replacement Tom Rowe has now descended to behind the Cats’ bench after unceremoniously launching Gerard Gallant on Sunday after a mediocre 11-10-1 start. And Tom Rowe will make his NHL head coaching debut at the United Center tonight as the Hawks return home from the final Circus Trip ever.