Hockey

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

What a perfect microcosm of the 2019–20 Blackhawks. An early lead generated by (what better be) the New Core followed by 40 minutes of pants shitting, entirely avoidable penalties, and a flat refusal to shoot the puck while trailing. We’d love to know if this is an example of what Bowman called Colliton’s “great approach to things,” because losing to teams directly ahead of his in the wild card standings seems to be his approach. There’s a cheesy gordida crunch waiting for me, so let’s.

– This was the most dominant game Adam Boqvist has played thus far. His first period was astoundingly strong: a primary assist, a 66+ CF%, an 82+ xGF%, two shot attempts, a ton of ice time, and—the cherry on top—two excellent defensive plays. Let’s start there.

About mid-way through the first, the Flames’s fourth line had just finished a strong shift. After a shift change, Jonathan Hockey ended up with the puck behind the net. Boqvist shadowed him from behind the net up around the far boards and never let Gaudreau shake him. In fact, Boqvist nearly caused Jonathan Hockey to cough the puck up. Boqvist is precisely the kind of defenseman the Hawks would need to run Colliton’s man system. He showed quickness and strong positioning on this play.

Not too long after this sequence, Boqvist got to show off his defense again. Following a terrible cross-ice pass attempt by Keith that was easily intercepted, Boqvist picked up Monahan one-on-one and prevented a shot. These are the kinds of things everyone has worried about with Boqvist, and he showed that he can hold his own.

You can safely assume that the good defensive plays were a result of his obvious confidence with the puck tonight. He had two shot attempts early in the first and finished with at least five by my count in addition to one official shot on goal. We got to see that wicked wrister on Kubalik’s tip, which was as powerful as advertised.

Boqvist finished the game with the most TOI, the best CF%, and the best xGF% of Hawks players with more than 10 minutes of ice time at 5v5. A statement game for him if there ever was one.

Corey Crawford would be your second star after Boqvist tonight. He played a big part in the Hawks killing off their second 5-on-3 of the night, with two huge saves to keep it close. You can probably argue that he should have had Lindholm’s second goal, but other than that, it was another good start for the least respected athlete in Chicago sports history. Killing off two 5-on-3s and posting a .929 should get you a win every day. Alas.

– It’s painfully ironic how the Hawks’s PK manages to be pretty good despite the fact that their defense is forbidden by the Geneva Convention. But you can thank Jonathan Toews for the Hawks’s first 5-on-3 kill. After losing a faceoff in his own zone to start it, it was Toews alone who managed to clear the puck from his own zone twice in a row. He may only be able to do one or the other, and tonight he chose defense (though he had a few offensive flashes late), which was a treat.

Dylan Strome has a right ankle injury. No word yet on the severity, but it looked kind of like Saad’s. If he misses any extended time, the Hawks intermittently woeful offensive will be much more consistently awful.

– It’s really confidence inspiring when John Quenneville appears on the power play over Alex Nylander. Not that anyone wants Nylander on the ice at all, but it’s a true testament to the Hawks’s “No Plan, All Process” approach to . . . whatever it is they’re approaching here (a third straight year of no playoffs, most likely).

– Down a goal in the third, the Hawks managed to fart out a measly six shots on goal. Through 11+ minutes, they had exactly two shots. Either this is the Hawks actively trying to get Jeremy Colliton fired or Jeremy Colliton just doing what he does, which is beg to get fired. You can take the tram or you can take the donkey. It’s the same price.

– I’ll stop bitching and moaning about it when the mouthpieces for the Hawks stop doing it: Pat Foley’s unmitigated slobbering over Marc Crawford prior to the third period was gross. I truly like how Marc Crawford has handled himself after being revealed as a gigantic shithead in his past. He apologized, reached out to many of the players he wronged, got therapy long before his shitheadedness became public, and has been contrite about his situation. Having Pat Foley Cheshire grin his way through calling Crawford “a great guy” is so perfectly in tune for this tone-deaf organization, and yet, I can’t help but be surprised by the awfulness. Crawford went out of his way to call his second chance a privilege, and kudos to him for that, but Foley should fucking know better. Righting a ton of huge wrongs doesn’t make you a “great guy.” It just makes you less of a shithead.

But it didn’t stop there. Foley then proceeded to cite Dennis Gilbert (just can’t get away from this fucker, can we?) and Kirby Dach as guys who stated that they love Crawford while completely disregarding the proven and constantly unearthed power gap between players and coaches. They can love Crawford all they want. That doesn’t serve as adequate evidence to support Foley’s “neener neener, he’s actually a great guy” horseshit. It’s getting awfully old. I want Marc Crawford to keep getting better and succeed. I don’t want to hear Pat Foley use his pulpit to try and speed that along just because he doesn’t get it. It’s Foley’s literal job to represent the Blackhawks well, and he did a terrible job of it tonight, much like his bosses that one summer at Notre Dame. I digress.

The Hawks are a mediocre team whose stars can occasionally put them over the top against better teams taking the night off and Detroit. When the chips are down, like they were tonight, they hermit crab. But hey, Bowman thinks Colliton’s approach is great, what with yet another too many men penalty and six fucking shots on goal during crunch time.

Go back to bed, Blackhawks fans. Your Brain Trust has figured out how it all transpired. Go back to bed, Blackhawks fans. Your Brain Trust is in control again.

Onward.

Beer du Jour: Zombie Dust

Line of the Night: Pat Foley calling Marc Crawford a “great guy,” which embarrassed even Marc Crawford

Hockey

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

Corsica

After a monumental diaper filling in the first period that would have made even Bobby Hull ask, “What the fuck am I doing here?” the Hawks managed to mostly lock their shit down and scratch out a victory on none other than Jonathan Toews’s stick. Which is good, because you wouldn’t be remiss to wonder where the fuck he’s been lately. Let’s clean it up.

– If you’re a “stick to sports” kind of fella (and you absolutely are a fella if that’s your mind-set, and if you don’t like that assumption, fuck you), skip this bullet. Or better yet, don’t.

Pat Foley is the voice many of us have followed forever and ever now. We were all pissed when the Hawks flicked him like a well-rolled booger back in the dark days, and we were overjoyed to have him back initially. But it’s probably time for this motherfucker to go.

At the tail-end of the first period, Nick Gismondi did a nice spot about how 35 Olympian women hockey players were playing a four-team tourney at Fifth Third Arena (or whatever corporate horseshit it’s named after). He mentioned that the morning before today’s game, they were skating with about 65 girls, aged 5–16, and that the tourney was to raise awareness and support of women’s hockey. Gismondi said that Hilary Knight made a comment about maybe having Foley and Edzo call a couple of their games. After sharing a laugh, Foley said, “Well, that’s be the best-looking team we’ve ever covered.”

That’s grade-A, unfiltered horseshit.

I’m sure Foley thought it was a cute compliment. It isn’t. These are Olympic athletes, some of whom have won gold motherfucking medals. They take their sport seriously and are doing their absolute best to make others take it seriously too. To have someone as well-known as Pat Foley minimizing what these women are doing by commenting foremost on their looks is a waste of everyone’s time. Foley’s job, whether you like it or not, is to inform people who are listening about the intricacies of the game. By minimizing these women’s accomplishments to make what he likely thought was a cute joke, he’s established that this tournament is a joke, which is unfiltered dogshit.

As a professional broadcaster, a person whose sole job is to communicate expertise to people who might not otherwise know better, Foley should absolutely know better. Fuck you if you think it’s innocuous, because it isn’t. Framing women’s hockey as a glorified peep show isn’t something we need or want (and again, if you think this isn’t a big deal, I can’t suggest that you fuck yourself more than I am right now).

While I’m pretty sure it was just Foley being out of touch, rather than consciously shitty, it’s inexcusable.

If there’s one positive that came out of this dick tripping, it’s the exasperation that came from Edzo, who tried to cover for his out-of-touch partner as much as possible with a “You hope everyone gets a chance to watch” comment immediately after.

Women aren’t just things to look at. Believe it or not, they’re living, breathing, shitting fucking people with goals, ambition, and aspirations. Foley either needs to either get with it or hang it fucking up.

– Now, to the hockey at hand. Thank Christ Robin Lehner showed up. The first period saw the Hawks get annihilated in possession. If Lehner isn’t at the top of his game, we likely have a Hagar going into the second.

– There wasn’t much to like about anything outside of Lehner tonight. Somehow, Maatta and Seabrook were the two best defenders in terms of Corsi (60+% and 50%, respectively). Coach Kelvin Gemstone leaned mostly on the Shaw–Strome–Kane line, because double-shifting Kane is his fucking counter-clockwise swirl at this point.

– We all like Saad–Kampf–Kubalik, but at some point, Colliton is going to have to put those two wingers next to Toews. He simply doesn’t mesh well with DeBrincat, and Caggiula—for as nice as he is—isn’t a top 6 guy. Toews brought up the rear in Corsi with a putrid 28% at 5v5. Yeah, scoring an OT game winner is cool and all. But it’s a waste of DeBrincat and Toews’s skill, and Caggiula’s . . .whatever. . .to keep them together.

– Caggiula’s goal was nice, though. Floating at center ice and a quick snap shot gave the Hawks an entirely undeserved 1–0 lead. Caggiula is useful, but probably not on the first line is all.

Connor Murphy got totally horsed on Markus Nutivaara’s goal. I kept looking for the penalty Edzo was talking about, but all I saw was a D-man beating another D-man.

– Kubalik didn’t show up on the score sheet, but his vision is excellent. He had two excellent passes in the first—including a one-handed attempt—that found Saad on the doorstep. But as is Saad’s wont, he couldn’t quite pot them. Putting Saad and Kubalik with Toews is something that should happen in the next game. You can always revert to 20–64–8 when facing the likes of McDavid. In the meantime, stack that top line.

– Good to see Erik Gustafsson continue to do his best Bitcoin impression.

Calvin de Haan is a wonderfully representative defensive defenseman. He made a couple of odd-man-rush plays that made me say, “Ah, that’s what a defenseman is supposed to do there.”

– Top Cat got off the schneid on the power play. It was the old Gus–Kane–Top Cat connection, with Kane slinging a saucer onto Top Cat’s stick through the slot for an easy one timer.

The Hawks will welcome the Caps on Sunday. The Caps have legitimate scorers on their team, so this dragging-their-asses-like-a-dog-with-worms play style won’t cut it there.

Onward.

Beer du Jour: Victory Sour Monkey

Line of the Night: “Not a good piece of skin cancer.” Pat Foley, describing John Tortorella’s basil-cell carcinoma removal.

Hockey

Let me contrast two organizations in this town. A month or so ago, a brilliantly researched and written piece about the Bears’ throwback jerseys by Jack Silverstein at Windy City Grid Iron pointed out the problems with said jerseys. That would be that they came from a time when black players were banned from the NFL, and how awkward it seemed that the Bears would not be wearing it. This caused the Bears themselves to address it head on in the week leading up to the game, releasing a video with several players commenting on the debate, problem, and why they felt it was important for them to wear the jerseys. For it being staged, I actually thought it was pretty well done. It certainly wasn’t the Bears hiding or skirting the issue, we can say that.

So, do you think the Hawks will be addressing this?

I wouldn’t try to tell you this is the exact same thing. One is directly from the organization and one is something of an offhand remark by an announcer. But they come from the same place, and carry some of the same issues, and both can be damaging.

Believe me, I know all the arguments that are coming from the people who I would bet good money own a pair of Zubas or six. “It was just a joke.” “It’s Pat Foley, he’s old.” “Well, that does sound like a shortstops name!” Heard it all before, will hear it all again.

At the base of it, however innocent or off the cuff it was, it reinforces that if you have a Hispanic last name, hockey isn’t for you. You don’t belong. However softly it might do that, it still does that. Which seems like maybe not the best method of carrying out, “Hockey is for everyone.” Certainly, participation in hockey faces what we’ll call an uncertain future if they don’t engage with and get Hispanic kids involved. Also, the best player on the league’s signature team is Hispanic (Auston Matthews). Hockey is already seen, and often is, as a whites-only-and-keep-it-that-way. That doesn’t fly in this day and age.

Now, is this alone a fireable offense from Foley? I struggle to get there, but I could see where people might. I think an earnest apology on the next game broadcast would suffice, along with an acknowledgment from the Hawks themselves. The Hawks do a fair amount of outreach with minority communities here in town, and this would run counter to that and something they definitely should want to get out in front of to not undo any of that work. Though man would I want to be a fly on the wall with whatever team employee has to tell Foley to do this.

This would be an opportunity for the Hawks to stand out from the league again, on a very important issue. It could reinforce the work they’ve already done, if they handle it correctly.

While it may not warrant a dismissal on its own, as yet another piece of evidence in the case against Foley, it’s getting pretty pretty mountainous. And I reiterate, I grew up with Foley and Tallon on my headphones way past my bedtime broadcasting from Chicago Stadium. I know exactly what he means to Hawks fans, because he means that to me. Doesn’t mean I can ignore what’s gone on here the past few years.

The biggest complaint you get from everywhere is that Foley hasn’t been able to hide his displeasure with the team. Which is fine.  We don’t want simple water-carriers in the booth (though that hasn’t stopped him and Edzo from doing just that in regards to certain players). Criticism is welcome and vital. But it goes beyond that when Foley makes it clear how much he’d rather be doing something else and how hard it is to watch this team.

Sure, we do that here, but it isn’t our job to sell the product at all. We’re supposed to tell you what we think. It’s all we do. And while that has a place in a broadcast, it can’t be all of it. Ask Len Kasper or Jason Benetti how you present a team that sucks in a fun way for the viewer. And they either do it or had to do it every damn day.

Add to that Foley is usually behind the play, or misidentifying everyone, or just grab-assing it with Olczyk, and you get a pretty unlistenable broadcast. This is the Hawks, it’s a job most every up-and-coming play-by-play guy would remove a digit or two for.

Everyone loses the fastball. Throw some casual racism on this pile, and what you’re left with is something the Hawks simply don’t need anymore, and could enhance. It’s time.

Everything Else

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

Money Puck

The 2019 campaign is over. It will likely go down as one of the most disappointing performances that the Hawks have had since the core congealed back in 2007. Two 40+ goal scorers. A 35-goal scorer. Eight 30+-point seasons. A defenseman with 60 fucking points. And no playoffs.

It’s a massive disappointment. Yet somehow, it exceeded expectations? Given how bad the Western Conference was this year, the Hawks were in shouting distance of the playoffs as recently as two weeks ago. I certainly didn’t expect that, especially with Crawford missing as many games as he did. While none of us really expected the playoffs to be a reality, that they were even in the running was at least surprising. What’s scary is that it came on the backs of career years from Kane, Toews, DeBrincat, and Gustafsson. Is it safe to rely on that?

Fuck, we’ve got a long, long time to crack this brewski open. I’ll try not too be too retrospective tonight. Let’s kick it.

– First, thank you for reading and sharing this year. Sincerely, it’s a pleasure to write for all of you.

Cam Ward was outstanding tonight. Four goals on 50 shots is entirely acceptable behind this sock-as-as-condom defense. He certainly deserved a win for the effort tonight. We gave him a ton of shit this year, but tonight is a good memory to keep of him. Even though the Hawks had nothing to play for, Ward gave it a good effort. It’s a nice send off.

Alex DeBrincat had a hot and cold game. Early on, he was everywhere, creating offense on Perlini’s goal especially. After playing staunch defense in his own zone, he skated to the neutral zone and executed a dump and chase on his own. All Perlini had to do was be there for Top Cat’s pass. As the game wore on, DeBrincat got a little looser. It was especially obvious on Fibbro’s goal. After turning the puck over on the near boards, he stood complaining about something, forcing Gus to cover his man high in the zone. Fabbro took advantage, dropping into the space left wide open by Gus covering his man. Had DeBrincat not complained, maybe he’s in that spot.

After the year he had though, you don’t hold something like that against him. Not tonight at least.

Brendan Perlini ended a nine-game pointless streak tonight, but his airheadedness also allowed Wayne “They Don’t Call Me ‘Plate Tectonics’ for Nothing” Simmonds to crash the slot for a prime chance in the first. We’ve seen this before from Perlini, where he will take time off on a play that gives an opponent a good chance. Something to watch going forward, especially in terms of how Colliton deals with it. He’s scratched him before for boneheadedness.

Drake Caggiula can stay. That it took Stan Bowman signing Brandon Manning as a “fuck you” to Quenneville to get him isn’t his fault. He’s looked in place with Toews and Kane, mostly because he will go get the puck, taking that pressure off Toews. I’m still not sure that a Stanley Cup contender should have Drake Caggiula on the first line, but it hasn’t looked particularly wrong. I liked him tonight, and I liked him all year as a Hawk.

Patrick Kane is a piece of shit as a person, but he’s a goddamn artist with the puck. His patience on the goal line before his pass to Caggiula was astounding.

– I’ll go on record as saying I really like Pat Foley. Generally, he’s good at what he does and is entertaining. But listening to him call Austin Watson “physically proficient” in the same breath as talking about his far-too-short 18-game suspension for domestic violence was a bit much. He probably didn’t relate the two, but as a broadcaster, that’s kind of his entire job: to say things thoughtfully and clearly. He probably didn’t conflate the two consciously, but that he didn’t think how that phrasing might play was jarring to me.

– The sooner we all come to terms with the fact that Erik Gustafsson will never be anything more than a below-average defender with the ability to score 60 points, the better. He’s going to be the most interesting player the Hawks have next year because of his offensive proficiency, his defensive offensiveness, and his sweetheart contract.

– Listening to Nashville fans mock Ward after an empty netter reminds me of Clint Eastwood talking to that empty chair that one time. Looking forward to their piss-sweater-wearing team getting bounced before they win a Cup again.

We’ll have playoff coverage and baseball shit for you in the off-season. We’ll give you the postmortem in a week or two. And as always, we’ll give you the skinny on the draft and free agency. But for now, and for the second straight year, we’ll sign off on games that matter.

Thanks again for reading. As a great man once said:

Onwards . . .

Booze du Jour: Victory’s Sour Monkey and accoutrements.

Line of the Night: “They really have no business being in this game with the opportunities they’ve given up.” Pat Foley on the Hawks, getting it 100% correct

Everything Else

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

Corsica

At least the Colliton Era already has a familiar pattern.

Once again, the Hawks were the better team in the first period. They had the better chances, they looked faster and more creative than they have for most of the season, and yet they couldn’t solve a goalie who for the most part has struggled for a while. And then a defensive miscue causes them to fall behind. They don’t panic, but can’t scratch one out. At least it didn’t all fall apart like Thursday. Progress?

But then two veterans completely shit it on a power play, including some really questionable effort, and now you’re down two. The Hawks couldn’t crack a Flyers team that could then just sit back and wait, because they don’t have enough of those players. You know where it goes from there.

Let’s sort it out.

The Two Obs

-Let’s start with Duncan Keith. In the first period, the broadcast was all gaga about his “activity,” which pretty much amounted to impersonating that shortstop on your little league team who chased down every ball, even if it was deep in the outfield. And while activity looks nice, there’s a problem.

It’s not what supposed to be happening.

The main reason Henri Jokiharju was paired with Keith, other than there being no one else really and his veteran tutelage, was to take that part of the game off of Keith’s plate. Keith simply can’t be all over the ice anymore, he can’t be jumping into the play because he can’t get back, and he wasn’t that good at it anyway. As he settles into the sunset years of his career, a free safety role where his still useful mobility would be better suited is what’s on the menu. It’s Jokiharju the Hawks want jumping into the play. They want him making those passes and taking those shots. That’s where his game is. He’s not going to develop by having to catch all the fly balls Keith loses in the sun behind him. If Keith can’t, or won’t, reel it in, then there’s going to have to be another solution. This is part of the reason HarJu is drowning in his own zone. He’s there on his own a lot. And when his instincts to be aggressive come up, he’s finding his partner already there.

As for the first goal, yeah it’s a bad turnover, and a symptom of the Hawks still trying to do the things they used to. But still, when Keith does look, Anisimov is in that circle. Anisimov then proceeds to just float backwards toward the blue line, letting Giroux in front of him, for no discernible reason. Keith is under pressure and facing the boards, how’s he going to get that puck to you at the line, Arty? If you want to know why Anisimov’s possession and defensive numbers blow, there you go.

-Now to the second goal. Keith biffs a puck, admittedly rolling, at the blue line, letting Couturier in. And then Chris Kunitz…well I’m not sure what the verb is here. Blobs on Coots? Attempts to confuse him with his taco breath? Whispers in his ear about the emptiness and meaningless of life in an attempt to get Coots to be buried in ennui? I can’t tell.

I’m not going to rant and rave about him being on the power play at all, though I want to. With Saad out and the first unit loaded up, the alternatives are like Kahun, Fortin, and….well, you. So whatever. But if that’s the best effort that Kunitz can muster, to be shrugged off that easily, then he’s not an NHL player anymore and should be on waivers tomorrow. If he didn’t bother to do more, well that’s some veteran presence you’ve got there.

-Every time David Kampf, who does have use, makes a move at the offensive blue line to put his teammates offside, he should have to spend five minutes with a weasel in his pants.

-The third goal is mostly unlucky, except for the part where Jan Rutta is hesitant, takes a shit angle, and gets beat to the outside. Otherwise there isn’t even a shot to bounce off Crow and Manning to go in. Ain’t no coach going to do anything with Jan Rutta or Manning or Davidson. Too bad Connor Murphy is dead.

-At least Crow looked more like Crow than he has in weeks.

-A word on the broadcast. First, the barely concealed contempt Foley and Olczyk have for Barry Smith during that interview is excellent television.

We went through this last year. I know this team is a tough watch, but Pat and Eddie are getting paid a fair sum to be professional about it. I don’t need them to agree with the firing, I really won’t argue with anyone who does. But it’s not their job to sit around and lament it two games later. To make it clear how miserable you are having to broadcast this team. No, it wasn’t a great game today, but the mark of a broadcaster is what you do with the bad games. We’re all wondering what we’re doing here, but it doesn’t help when the broadcast of the game sounds like they’re narrating a trip to the DMV. Do better.

Onwards…

Everything Else

Being a Hawks fan this season hasn’t been pleasurable. We all know that. Even the most cynical amongst us before the season never saw this coming, though there was no way to see that Corey Crawford would miss over half of it. No matter how well the Hawks play for the past couple months, they’re just a bad goal away from everything going to shit. And that bad goal is always arriving. And sometimes they don’t play well and they get steamrolled. Vets haven’t performed, or have gotten old, or both. We get it. It’s been a slog. Tuning in sometimes feels like a chore, and that’s if you’re still bothering.

If you are, what you’ll find is a broadcast that’s making it even worse.

As we always say, writing this king of thing is a knife to the heart for us. Pat Foley is the soundtrack to a good portion of our childhoods, and his calls of some iconic Hawks moments last with me forever. But that doesn’t change the fact that he’s turned most of these games into a funeral dirge, and quite frankly that’s not what the job is.

For the past few months, you can hear the laments out of Foley’s voice several times per game. And hey, part of the job is calling out mistakes and bad plays. We don’t want a cheerleader either. But it’s gone way beyond that. It’s as if the entire team offends Foley’s sensibilities and is beneath him, which doesn’t make the viewing experience any better. Which has only led to longing for more neanderthalic aspects, like hit stats or fighting. If it’s beneath you, Pat, then why are we here? Are you above us, too?

Granted, Foley and Olczyk always cited hit stats when the Hawks were good, but it’s insulting to the audience because we know at this point that the Hawks don’t require “MOAR HITZ” to be good again. They never did in the past. And whether Foley likes it or not fighting is making its way out of the game in a natural progression, and the way the NHL is tripping over its own dick in this concussion lawsuit you might see that accelerated soon.

The whole air of the broadcast makes it feel like it’s a waste of his, and in turn our, time. And Adam Burish threatening to punch Brandon Saad in practice isn’t helping (hey Adam, whatever happened to that time you said you’d fight Chris Pronger? You’re still living, so you must’ve found a way out of that one). Yes, the Hawks make a lot of turnovers and mistakes and don’t get saves they need. That’s the hallmark of a bad team.

But being a professional means you’re supposed to cover this game in the same fashion you covered Game 5 against St. Louis in ’14. That’s the job. If you need inspiration, look no farther than your friend Len Kasper. Kasper called five years of utterly dogshit Cubs baseball between ’10-’14, not to mention the pretty terrible 2006 as well. And that’s every goddamn day, not just two or three times a week. And Kasper’s calls don’t sound any different from those to today when the Cubs are one of baseball’s leading lights.

We don’t need another Hawk Harrelson, as we’re on the verge of gloriously getting rid of the one we already do have. Listen to Jason Bennetti who has only had really bad Sox teams to comment on, and tell me he isn’t doing a marvelous job.

We’ve been down this road before, of course. Foley was a leading voice as the Hawks became irrelevant due to simple indifference and incompetence. He wasn’t hesitant to point out the problems. It got him fired. But that was under an ownership group that didn’t care and wasn’t trying. The Hawks didn’t foist this on us on purpose. A lot of things went wrong. And while I’ve said a lot about the Hawks’ organization, I would never accuse them of not caring what the product is on the ice. This is not the Old Man’s Era and shouldn’t be treated as such.

Sure, it’s deflating to have nine years of covering good teams with games that mattered to a team running out the clock for three months. It’s frustrating to see the same mistakes over and over. It’s probably hard to not have a close friend in the booth with you most nights due to health troubles and have the blank gape of Steve Konroyd. But that’s the job. That’s why they pay you.

Let us lament what’s gone with this team in our spare time. Hey, I don’t want to be in Buffalo on a Saturday afternoon watching two bad team scrap at shit like the rhino pen at feeding time. But I’m not being paid to present it like I should be. All we ask is that you sound like you want to be there. That would seem to be the minimum requirement of a broadcast job.

Everything Else

Box Score

Corsica

Natural Stat Trick

Kent O’Brockman once said that on St. Patrick’s Day, “Everyone is a little bit Irish, except of course for the gays and the Italians,” which is why you’re stuck with me for the wrap of this horseshit game. Let’s get to it and keep it brief, as there’s drinking to be done. To the bullets.

– When it mattered most, the Hawks dropped all of the corned beef they’d been cooking. After a ho-hum first, the Hawks looked more like the Hawks we’ve paid for in the past than the Hawks we’re currently paying for, posting a nice 69+ CF%. But the wheels came off in the third, as the Hawks got pantsed in possession by the (now second) worst team in the league, getting pasted for a 37+ CF% at evens. I assume that like many of us, they were looking forward to doing anything but subjecting themselves to Blackhawks hockey, and it showed.

– On his special day, our Large Irish Son had what could best be described as a mixed bag of a game. Murphy found himself on the third pairing with Oesterle and looked spry early, leading the Hawks with three shots on goal in the first. He also ended the game with a 65+ CF% and looked to be more aggressive on the rush, crashing and joining the play deep more often than I’ve ever seen.

But he also found himself on the ice for all three of Buffalo’s 5v5 goals. He was partially to blame for the Sabres’s first goal, as he overcommitted on Reinhart on the far boards. This, coupled with Patrick Sharp getting caught staring at whatever it is washed up wingers playing to a three-fourths-full stadium in Buffalo look at, gave Reinhart a gaping lane through the Royal Road to Ristolainen, who swept a pass past Jordan Oesterle and onto Pouliot’s backhand for a messy goal. The other two came off tips from Nicholas “Don’t Call Me Jean” Baptiste, so it’s hard to blame him for that. Still, we’ll have to watch going forward to see what it is Murphy might be. I will die on the “he’s the best D-man the Hawks have” hill, but there are some questions that I have regarding his awareness and positioning. Certainly not giving up hope, but there are questions.

– Highmore–Schmaltz–Vinnie was world beating for the first two periods. Granted, it’s against Buffalo, but the speed and vision they showed was encouraging. Each ended well above the team rate in possession and showed a decent amount of chemistry together. They all need to add some meat to their respective asses if they want to compete against better teams in terms of possession, but with Vinnie’s speed and shot, Schmaltz’s hands and vision, and a sort of snarl that Highmore has shown over the last two games, this is a line to watch going forward, assuming they stay together.

– Brandon Saad’s woes continued today. He shanked a few opportunities right in front of the net and was trounced in possession, posting a 42+ CF% for the game (-12.10 CF% Rel). Again, he’s not one I’m willing to give up on, but it’s frustrating to watch him struggle. It doesn’t help that his linemates couldn’t be bothered to give a shit for the first half of the game, but it’s not an excuse.

– I was four beers in by the end of the first period, but even I couldn’t believe that Alex DeBrincat was playing with Stonehand Tommy and Stonefoot Artie for this one. Alex DeBrincat isn’t a fucking third liner. I know that he hasn’t had much offensive luck over the last 10 or 12 games, but how does putting him on the ice with a guy who can’t move and a guy who can’t stick handle solve that? I guess it’s hard to figure out where to put him if you’re committed to 20–19–88, but with talent like his, it seems like you’d want to nurture it, not dampen it.

– I seem to get every J-F Berube start these days, and I always say some variation of, “He looked good for a guy who allowed more goals than good goalies allow.” I’ll say it again about today. The first goal was more on Murphy and Sharp than him, the second was on a fluke bounce on the PK, and the last two were off high-traffic tips. I’m not sure what else he can do, and I’m curious to see whether he’s the guy backing up Crow next year. I’d want to look at more tape, but he just seems more in control when he’s out there than Forsberg.

– Toews scored his 20th goal today, which was off a big rebound from Every Fraternity Chapter’s President Chad Johnson. He’s been on a nice roll offensively lately, which is nice to see as the season winds down.

– Foley had all the energy and faith of a man who had just gotten pick pocketed at his church on Good Friday, which makes for interesting listening. Sort of like a high school football broadcast by a student whose crush rejected him for homecoming. But watching him froth over a picture of a Sabres’s fourth liner punching some other hockey player I can’t be bothered to look up in the face while stereotypical Irish music played in the background during a stoppage was the most hilarious thing about this game, hands down.

Just 10 more of these things to go. Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you all today, Happy St. Joseph’s Day to the rest of you for tomorrow. The end is mercifully near.

Beer du Jour: Guinness, because Italians don’t know how to make beer.

Line of the Night: “Let’s see how green his tongue is at about midnight tonight!” –Foley on Adam Burish

“Ehhhh. . .” –Konroyd’s response

Everything Else

Box Score

Hockey Stats

Natural Stat Trick

We’ll talk about how the numbers say the Hawks should have won this game. We’ll look at three goals that Forsberg had no shot on and wonder. We’ll take long-term solace in the fact that most of the younger assets looked good again tonight. But at the end of it all, the Canucks were a $100 gift card that the Hawks carelessly threw in the trash. To the bullets.

– Let’s start with the positives. Toews played an inspiring game for most of the night. He was everywhere in the first and assisted on Top Cat’s teaser in the third period. He drew two penalties, one on a good read followed by some much missed speed, and the second by dancing then brute forcing his way past Troy Stecher. We may have to come to terms with the fact that his 10% shooting percentage might be what he is now, but at least he was positively noticeable tonight.

–Even more comforting was that when Q decided to hit the blender in the third, he kept the Top Cat–Toews–Duclair line together, as he should.

– When the Jurco–Kampf–Vinnie line was together, they were by far the Hawks’s most effective line. Whether that’s because they’re so fast or because the underbelly of the Canucks is so soft is grounds for debate, but they dominated all night. Jurco and Kampf finished with respective CF%s of 75 and 78+(!) at 5v5, while Vinnie, with his bouncing around at the end, ended up with a healthy 60. Kampf looked to double shift a bit in the third too. It’s hard to shake the idea that Kampf could quietly develop into a strong bottom six defensive center, and aside from maybe Toews, he was the best Hawk out there tonight.

– The PP didn’t score again, because by this point it’s obvious what whoever is in charge of it simply slams six Steel Reserve Tall Boys, drops five tabs of acid, shoves the ass-end of a paintbrush as far up his urethra as he can, then humps a wall until he crashes. That said, the triangle of Seabrook, Kane, and Vinnie created a few good chances during the second PP in the second period. But chances aren’t good enough at this point.

– The Saad–Schmaltz–Kane line got completely domed in possession. At some point, we’re going to have to talk about what’s eating Brandon Saad. To this point, the underlying numbers have been good, which has been a fallback defense for the lack of scoring. But tonight’s effort was wanting.

– Seabrook–Gustafsson was on the ice for two goals, and Seabrook looked egregiously bad on Gaunce’s second goal. Seabrook had a 0 CF% through the first and managed to settle at a team low 35% at 5v5. What’s most frustrating is that Gustafsson might be a really good passer and a passable third-pairing guy. His CF% WITH Seabrook at 5v5 was a paltry 40, but away from him, it was 63+. But we’ve been here time and time again. It’s no use shouting for Seabrook to sit, because really, what else do they have? Forsling? Franson? Slava fucking Voynov? Six more years.

– Ryan Hartman didn’t see many, if any, shifts after his tripping penalty on whichever Sedin submitted his Oscar clip in the second. It hasn’t been a good few weeks for the former first rounder. But then again, what exactly is it that his line, with Anisimov and Wingels tonight, is supposed to do?

– Tough break for Forsberg, who looked good early. The first goal was on him, with Oesterle deferring to the passing lane. You’ll usually take even a backup goalie one on one against Gaunce, but Forsberg let it slip by. But from then on, it was the same old shit, with an unfortunate redirect, a tip, and Brent Seabrook dropping his pants and pissing in the crease doing him in.

– Off the ice, I loved listening to Eddie during the intermissions. He was no bullshit about not letting this game get away, and it was nice to hear.

– At the beginning of the second, Foley practically fell victim to the vapors as he tripped over himself to say how much he liked Bettman’s stance on goalie interference. For those who missed it, Bettman commented about how referees need to trust their instincts and “watch the replay at full speed” instead of slow motion. If that’s really what Bettman thinks, then what’s the fucking point of the goalie-interference replay in the first place? Isn’t watching at full speed and trusting your instincts precisely what referees do for a living? Fuck off, Gary, you no-responsibility-taking wet fart.

This was a game the Hawks had to have, and they filled their diapers. But DeBrincat and Schmaltz scored pretty goals, Kampf led all players in possession at 5v5, Kempný and Murphy led the possession share for Hawks D-men at 5v5, and away from Seabrook, Gustafsson was good. If the Hawks make the playoffs, it will be on a wing and a prayer, but the future isn’t as terribly bleak as the present looks.

Onward.

Beer du Jour: Tommyknocker Imperial Nut Brown, then High Life.

Line of the Night: “Unlucky break halfway up the guy’s shaft.” –Steve Konroyd, describing a shot in the second period, I assume.