Hockey

With the season all but over now, the only point to watching the Hawks going forward should be to see what the younger players have to offer in a couple of actual NHL games. Instead they’re all down in Rockford to help them in their “playoff run” in the AHL. That’s nice and all, but in reality they all need to be up here getting experience against legitimate playoff teams (because the Hawks are going to lose to a few of them in the next week and a half) at the highest level that hockey can offer. Lukas Reichel doesn’t need to be bum slaying down in RockVegas where he potentially could take an elbow to the head by some career minor leaguer. I also don’t need to see the pale, gooberish face of Erik Gustafsson on my TV anymore while Ian Mitchell and Nicholas Beaudin rot in RFD.

Honestly, other than the trade of Brandon Hagel to Tampa Bay (which to be fair was a very good deal), our Shiny New GM has not done much to fill me with confidence in his ability to steer the ship through Rebuild Bay. The rest of the deadline deals were somewhat meh, and his insistence of keeping some of the prospects in Rockford over playing up here is mysterious at best. His real work will begin this summer at the draft in deciding what he wants to do with Kane and Toews moving forward, but the initial returns are not promising.

BUT THAT’S NOT WHY YOU CALLED!

 

 

Wednesday 4/20

Hawks 4 – Coyotes 3 (OT)

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

 

It’s appropriate that this game occurred on 4/20, because being stoned out of your gourd would be the best possible way to watch these two bottom feeder teams slam their heads together like rams on the side of a mountain. It ended up being exactly what you’d expect from the Hawks and Yotes, except for the outcome where Alex DeBrincat potted the game winner in OT when he buried a sick feed from Kaner past something named “Karel Vejmelka” for his 40th of the season. The Hawks (as is their way) coughed up not one but two 2 goal leads before putting the game away in OT. Alex Vlasic also got his first career goal as a Hawk, so that’s something you can tell your children about 30 years from now when they put you in a home.

 

Thursday 4/21

Hawks 1 – Kings 4

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Woof.

The Kings fucking smoked the Hawks right out of the Staples Center on this one (it’s always gonna be the Staples Center, no matter how much CryptoFartWankJob.Com might want it to be otherwise), scoring twice in 15 seconds at one point. On top of that, Phil Danault gave us yet another reminder about how much a fucking moron Stan Bowman is by opening the scoring 9 minutes into the game. The CORSI shows just how much a waxing this was by the Kings, as they averaged just over 70% of the possession time in the game, peaking in the 2nd where they held a 75% share. Unreal. Anyways, Kane scored his 26th of the season, and that’s about the only highlight for the Hawks in this one. Good seats still available!

 

Saturday 4/23

Hawks 1 – Sharks 4

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Looking at that chart and nothing else, one would be lead to assume the Hawks beat the Sharks like a drum up and down the ice. Sadly, sometimes puck luck and a hot goalie can have other ideas, as Kaapo Kahkonen made 27 saves (quite a few of them being of the high danger variety) in his second win since being sent over from the Wild at the deadline. The Hawks also carried a 75% CORSI share in the 1st period, which is EASILY the highest number they’ve had all season, and potentially all decade.  Tyler Johnson potted one for the Hawks here, which is nice to see for his own sake in this injury-ravaged season that he’s having.

One thing that has become abundantly clear is the Hawks goaltending situation may be the single most important issue that Kyle Davidson deals with going forward. While Kevin Lankinen isn’t entirely to blame (the defense being played in front of him is eye-bleedingly bad), I think we’ve seen enough to show that he’s not going to be The Guy going forward. He would be a very capable backup for whoever the Hawks ultimately anoint as the goalie of the future, but his sole purpose going forward is to eat as many minutes as necessary while the next generation learns on the fly.

The march towards the inevitable heat death of the Blackhawks season continues this week with games against Philly, Vegas and Buffalo. Two of those 3 should be winnable games, but the only one that matters is the Vegas one as the Knights attempt to cling onto their playoff hopes as they chase down Nashville. While it probably won’t happen, it would be kinda fun for the Hawks to step on their fingers as they cling to the side of the cliff.

Onward.

Hockey

The Hawks did about what was expected the last three games, looking alive enough to win one game for Pat Foley before they ended up getting schooled by Nashville and Calgary, two playoff teams of differing skill levels that still skated circles around the Hawks. As is life on Madison these days.

Lukas Reichel’s first-year contract is now officially burned as he garnered around 31 minutes for a team playing for nothing. You would think doing this goes directly against the organization’s narrative of keeping all other Hawks prospects down in Rockford for the Tomato Can Playoff Push while players like Riley Stillman, Erik Gustafsson and others get NHL minutes instead of them, and turns out the front office realized the same, as it was announced last night he was heading back to Rockford this morning to go win the Tomato Can Hockey Cup. Good luck!

Thursday 4/14
Hawks 5, Sharks 4 (Hawks win! Hawks win!)
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The Hawks finally got their give-a-shit meters to work again, and all it took was their beloved announcer calling his last NHL game and a matchup against another garbage team on a losing streak of their own. Kane, the Cat, Strome and Amy’s Eldest had multi-point nights, while Raddysh with a Y extended his scoring streak to two games. On the other end of that spectrum, defense was nowhere to be found, Reichel took away a puck in the 2nd and then immediately gave it away again five seconds later for his highlight of the night, and Toews, Dach and newly signed Reese Johnson were pointless in this game that should’ve been a point-grabbing free-for-all for every player involved.

The Hawks and Sharks seemed to trade goals all night, as the goaltenders on both sides of the ice were downright bad. Lankinen’s positioning and rebound control were, of course, all over the place, and the Sharks always seemed to have an answer for whatever goal the Hawks scored. Overtime sucked, as both teams didn’t really do shit on either end, trying to get to the shootout, I guess. But the Hawks can still cling to shootouts as something they’re relatively good at, and were able to win the game because of it thanks to a nasty goal by the Cat. Someone’s gotta get it done.

Outside of all the offense, there was too much clowning in this game for my liking. The fact that the Hawks punched Timo Meier in the head because he did a snow spray on Kevin Lankinen was a choice, and then Stillman fighting Jeffrey Viel over it was also a choice, and then Jake McCabe taking a myriad of dumbass roughing and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties was by far the stupidest, most exhausting shit of the night. Remember when this guy was signed to be an effective shutdown defenseman or whatever the fuck? You can’t do that when you’re in the box. It’s time to move on from this style of hockey, I’m exhausted.

Saturday 4/16
Hawks 3, Predators 4
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Starting this game out by watching Jeremy Lauzon’s knee bend in ways it should never be able to bend was certainly not the best, and the Predators were able to get out ahead soon after that to set the tone for the game. The Hawks led once thanks to efforts by goals by Kane and Dominik Kubalik later on in the 1st and 2nd periods, one in which Kane mouthed off to some dude in front row seats because that’s hockey baby. Reichel and his newly-burned first-year contract got his first NHL point in a pretty neat assist to Kubalik’s goal, however, and we’ve all been waiting for that. It was a good moment.

Lankinen didn’t look too terrible in this game either, making more impressive saves in this game than the previous. But right after Mackenzie Entwhistle and Boris Katchouk were assessed penalties—including one game misconduct—for REASONS, the Predators completely turned the game around in their favor, with Roman Josi scoring just a minute later to tie things up. Two more Predators goals at the end of the 2nd and the 3rd sealed the deal for the Hawks—the first goal on a Nashville powerplay thanks to Alex Vlasic and a dumb high sticking penalty, speaking of clowning. Despite Kane making a passing play that any Joe Schmoe, including Stillman, can put into the back of the net, the Hawks were pretty overpowered in this game and it showed as they came up empty in the points column.

Monday 4/18
Hawks 2, Flames 5
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I predicted this outcome, and I’m sure you did too. And the Flames spent no time making the Hawks look silly, scoring 22 seconds into the game with a fluky goal that Lankinen will probably see in his nightmares. In fact, the Flames had two goals before the Hawks could even register a shot on the fucking net, as I continue to be perplexed as to why Raddysh with a Y was the one tasked to try and stop Johnny fucking Gaudreau from scoring, a mistake I’m sure Derek King and his man behind the curtain will not make again.

The two teams’ meatheads in Nikita Zadorov and Jake McCabe went at it after Zadorov continued to show his ass by putting a big hit on Toews in the first period. Toews then got high sticked right off the faceoff, had to leave to get stitches, and the Flames scored again to put them ahead for the rest of the game, though Alec Regula scored the second and final Hawks goal in the 2nd period with a shot from the point that probably shouldn’t have gone in. Then the Flames rested on their laurels for a majority of the 3rd period, getting only four shots on net in those 20 minutes, probably because they knew they’d have multiple empty net opportunities with the Hawks yanking Lankinen for the extra attacker like always. Johnny Gaudreau isn’t going to miss those empty netters, and this game was no exception.

Thank God we’re almost to the end, and this schedule will be a tad easier as the Hawks revisit the Kings and Sharks near the tail end and face the Coyotes, barely an NHL team, tomorrow night. Can’t wait to see who will muck it up this time!

Hockey

While most of the luminaries of this site are not fans of the Foo Fighters, I absolutely am. So when the news broke Friday night that drummer Taylor Hawkins had been found dead in his hotel room, my heart dropped down to my knees. I see a LOT of live shows, as concerts are my kryptonite. Most summers I’ll try and attend 10-15 shows at least, from whoever happens to be touring that year. Out of all the bands and shows that I’ve been to, there are few that can match the level of energy or just plain fun that a Foo Fighters show contains. Taylor Hawkins was a huge part of that experience, and his presence behind the kit will be sorely missed if the band decides to continue. Hawkins’ name is added to an impressive list of talent and creativity that has been lost to us over the past 20+ years. While I’ll never have the pleasure of seeing him hammer the drums on the intro to My Hero again, or listen to him cover a Queen tune, I’ll always have the happy memories of all the awesome times I had at his shows. Rest in peace.

 

Also the Hawks played some hockey this week:

 

Wednesday 3/23

Hawks 4 – Ducks 2

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

 

Sometimes there are teams out there that no matter how hard you try, they simply have your number and you can’t beat them. For the Anaheim Ducks, that team is the Hawks. With the win on Wednesday the Hawks have themselves a clean sweep of the series against the Ducks, and the Ducks have themselves an extended off-season to think about how losing 3 games to the Hawks contributed to the eradication of their playoff hopes.

As for the game itself, the Hawks really only controlled the 1st period with a CORSI of 61%, then proceeded to hang on by the skin of their teeth (and some solid goaltending by Kevin Lankinen) in the 2nd and 3rd period with 34% and 40% shares. That’s the kind of domination that usually results in 6-7 goals in a given timeframe (just wait for the Vegas 3rd period recap), but the Hawks managed to somehow keep the Ducks at bay long enough for Dylan Strome to continue his dominant March by pocketing the GWG with 4:00 to go in the 3rd.

The Hawks special teams were helpful here as well, with their first 2 goals coming on the man advantage (Raddysh with a Y…many people are saying it) and the PK blanking the Duck’s power play on their one attempt. This is the kind of win we’re gonna see a lot of going forward, with the Hawks getting owned on the possession side of things but somehow eking out 2 points thanks to decent goaltending and some timely goals by high caliber forwards like Kane and Cat.

 

Thursday 3/24

Hawks 4 – Kings 3 (Hawks Win Goat Rodeo)

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With the mishmash of talent on the back end, the Blackhawks breakout of their own zone is a disaster right now. What that results in is them getting skulled in CORSI night in and night out. What they DO have that most teams don’t is Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat (and also Seth Jones as well), who can singlehandedly ignore whatever forecheck the opposing team is pressing them with and go end to end to put the puck in the net. This is exactly what happened in this game, as the Hawks got fucking smoked in the possession department (31%, 32%, 42% CORSI) and yet managed to score a win in the shootout despite all that. Kane and DeBrincat both tallied (along with Sam Lafferty somehow, who isn’t quite “a thing” but bears watching going forward) to help the Hawks overcome miserable play by the special teams unit. Colin Delia was fine in this one, not looking terrible but also not amazing as he kept the Kings off the board during the juggling competition in OT.

They can’t all be beautiful, and when the West Coast has typically been a house of horrors for your team you take what you can get and move on.

 

Saturday 3/26

Hawks 4 – Knights 5 (OT)

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This one stings.

With Vegas missing both goalies AND about 4 top players on their front and back ends, going up 3-0 after two on this squad with a chance to put a nail in their playoff coffin then coughing it up is a bummer. Kevin Lankinen did himself no favors by allowing a very soft goal to start the shenanigans rolling  less than 60 seconds into the 3rd period. Once that happened, you could feel the air go out of the Hawks tires as the Knights smelled blood in the water. Less than 5 minutes later it was 4-4 as the Hawks were just trying to get into OT and salvage the disaster the game had become.

They had plenty of chances, too. With Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat bearing down on rookie goalie Logan Thompson in OT, only to have the puck skip over Cat’s stick into the boards. Dylan Strome had a chance a few seconds later only to be stoned by Thompson (who, credit where it’s due, did an admirable job stopping some seriously high danger chances from Strome, Kane and The Cat). Ultimately it was the guy Vegas had tried to trade away only days earlier firing the GWG home after Kane, Strome and Jones got stuck out there for an extended period of time and were completely gassed.

 

In the end, taking 5 of a possible 6 points on a West Coast road swing is absolutely considered a success. As the Hawks move into full on rebuild mode, you have to enjoy these games while you can as the next time they show up in Vegas the roster may look considerably different than it does now. Same can be said for the outcome. So much to look forward to!

Hockey

In what was a very entertaining 3 games for the Hawks this week, they took 4 of a possible 6 points available to them, and if it weren’t for a very unlucky bounce and some shitty officiating in Boston it very easily could’ve been at least 5. Alas, when you’re at the level the Hawks are it always seems that the puck bounces the other way and it’s in you net. Such is life and hockey.

In other news, thoughts for a speedy recovery for our Large Irish Son after he was boarded by Parker Kelly early in the 1st period on Saturday night. Murph went down in a heap and appeared to be out cold when his face hit the ice. The hit itself, while not great, wasn’t particularly preadatory and appeared to be just bad luck with the way his head contacted the boards. You never wanna see the stretcher come out for anyone, and at this point you just hope Murph is ok. Apparently he traveled back with the team, so that is at least some small measure of good news.

Anyways, here’s the shakedown:

 

Tuesday 3/8

Ducks 3 – Hawks 8

Box Score

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Poor John Gibson. All he had to do is look at the Hawks giveaway calendar to know he was fucked from the jump, as it was Shitty Green Hat Giveaway Night at the UC, which automatically means a hat trick for at least one Hawk skater. Tonight was no different, as Dylan Strome continued to be scorchingly hot with the puck, netting his 2nd career hat trick while Patrick Kane continued is inevitable rise to the top of the Hawks all-time scoring list with 6 points.

Tuesday night marked the 2nd game in a row where Gibson had given up 5 goals, and has now allowed 20 goals in his last 5 games. He actually seemed like he might survive the night after only Strome scored when the Hawks jumped right into the Ducks shit off the bat. Barely 5 minutes into the period and the Hawks already had 9 shots. The dam eventually broke, and before the period was over it was a 5-0 for the Blackhawks and Gibson’s night was done.

His backup didn’t fare much better, as Brandon Hagel scored on the first shot of the 2nd period 16 seconds in. After that, the Ducks tried climbing back into the game as the Hawks suddenly couldn’t stay out of the penalty box. They cut the lead to 6-3 before Strome fired home his second of the night to put the kibosh on that comeback. He added one more in the trailing minutes of the 3rd to complete the hatty, and down came the Shitty Irish Jig hats. While it’s always cool to see that, it’ll never come close to Hard Hat Giveaway night and the chaos that ensued after Towes’ hat trick.

 

Thursday 3/10

Hawks 3 – Bruins 4

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This one was a bummer, as the Hawks played more than well enough to come away from this game with at least a point. Yet a shitty icing call and terrible bounce in the Hawks zone with :18 left on the clock and they come away with a big ole zip in the points column. Yet that’s what happens when you have two different teams with vastly different skill levels meeting in a mid-march game. The Bruins, comfortably ensconced in the Eastern wild card spot 16 points ahead of the Jackets, seemed to be doing just enough to keep themselves in the game while the Hawks were throwing everything they had at Boston. In a scenario like that all it takes is one bad bounce and it’s all over.

On the plus side, Alex DeBrincat continues to tear holes in space and time all over the ice while Brandon Hagel hit 20 goals for the first time in his career. Hagel appears to be doing everything to make sure that the Hawks ask for the absolute moon for his services at the deadline, and I’m starting to come around to that way of thinking. If Hagel truly is the diamond in the rough some think him to be, then maybe it really isn’t insane to ask for a 1st rounder and a top prospect in return for him. While nobody on the Hawks roster should be considered untouchable (everybody’s got a price!), the ask in return continues to climb with every goal. Good on him.

 

Saturday 3/12

Hawks 6 – Senators 3

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If you take out the terrifying image (which, admittedly is very hard to do) of Connor Murphy being stretchered off the ice, this game was actually pretty entertaining in a way that only a game between two bottom feeding teams can be. Once the Hawks got over the shock of seeing their teammate being wheeled across the ice strapped to a back board, things picked up in a way that gave the Sens defense windburn.

Falling behind 2-0 to this overturned clown car of an NHL franchise seemed to wake something in Jonathan Toews that we haven’t seen since the bubble series against Vegas back in 2020. He was all over the ice, scoring the first two goals for the Hawks, and even launching himself stupidly into a fight with Zach Sanford after a questionable hit on Kirby Dach. While I never want to see a guy with a history of multiple concussions and a laundry list of current medical issues leaping face first into a fight with the dregs of the Eastern Conference, it was nice to see a fire in Toews’ eyes.

Also if I haven’t hammered this point home enough of how bad Ottawa is, if Caleb Jones scores two goals against your team…you fucking suck. More of note is that Jones the Younger now has tied his brother in goals on the season despite playing waaaay less minutes. While quite a bit of Seth’s goal drought can be tied directly to puck luck, you still can’t have your highest paid D-man being outscored by his League Minimum younger brother.

Patrick Kane passed Bobby Hull’s Tony LaRussa-looking ass for 2nd place on the Hawks all time leading scorer list with 3 assists tonight, giving him 10 in his last 3 games. The dude is on a tear right now, which bodes well for the entertainment level for the rest of the games this March.

 

 

Hockey

As the wheels continue to fall off for the Hawks and the trade deadline looms ever closer, we’re left to consider what, exactly, any of us are doing here. It’s been a very long time since I’ve felt this level of hopelessness in conjunction with this team. The front office is a tire fire, and the shine has worn off the Nü Coach with the team struggling to score night in and night out. The deadline deals might bring some of the interest back, until you realize that any pieces that the Hawks get in return are more likely than not going to be years away from being anything.

This is truly the doldrums of Hawks Fandom, and it’s very reminiscent of the period of time after the White Sox had ripped the band aid off and sent Chris Sale and everyone else worth anything (also Adam Eaton) to the East Coast. The initial excitement of all the shiny new prospects wore off and you were left with the realization that the next few years were just gonna suck ass. In this instance, however, the Hawks don’t have a Chris Sale on their team to flip so the excitement level about the return will be tempered considerably.

Anyways, here’s whos on tap for the weekend:

 

2/25 vs. New Jersey

Game Time: 7:30 PM CST

TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720

Kevin Smith Says Hi: All About The Jersey 

 

Oh, shit! A team that’s lower on the ladder than the Hawks.

Much like the residents at 1901 West Madison, the New Jersey Devils are looking towards the horizon and the future that it brings. More specifically, what type of return the Devils could conceivably get at the trade deadline for some of their available players. Unlike the Hawks, however, the Devils have a solid young core of players that are a year away (perhaps two) from making some serious noise in the East. Jack Hughes is obviously the prize horse of that group, but the rest aren’t anything to sneeze at either. 2017 #1 overall pick Nico Hischier has made serious strides this season in his game defensively to go along with his offensive talent (on pace to top his previous point total by 20+). The Devils might also have something in Jesper Bratt. The Swede has turned up his offensive game this year, already surpassing his previous career high in points by 11. Some of this is due to his increased presence on the power play, but his even strength game has matched his progress with his average CORSI up to 55% from 42% last season.

On the defensive end, PK Subban and freshly minted #1 d-man Dougie Hamilton hold down the fort. Offensively Subban is having somewhat of a down year (which isn’t helping his trade value), but he’s still able to push the play from his own end. Hamilton has been as advertised, chipping in 20 points on offense and still being able to play strong from the blue line. Behind them things get pretty dicey, as the goaltending for the Devils is some of the worst in the league. Jonathan Bernier signed a 2 year deal to be the bridge goalie for NJ until the netminder of the future arrived, but he went on IR back in December with what can only be termed “Shit Hip.” A month later, his season was over as he went under the knife. His replacements have garnered a sub .900 save percentage and a 3+ GAA in his absence, and there’s not much PK Subban or Dougie Hamilton can do about that. If the Hawks can up their shot total from 7 per period to double digits, they stand a decent chance of potting at least 3 in this one.

 

2/27 vs. Blues (AGAIN)

Gametime: 2:00 PM CST

TV / Radio –  HULU, NBCSN, WGN-AM 720

Wretched Hive Of Scum And VillainySTL Gametime

Look, other than the start time and the fact that the game is in Chicago this time absolutely nothing has changed since the last time these two teams met. Well, I guess the gap inbetween the two teams point totals has expanded, but other than that it’s the same ole shit. Two weeks ago the Blues completely waxed a Hawks team that was right on the precipice of the cliff that they now find themselves at the bottom of. The Blues are still a much better team offensively, defensively and behind the bench. The only wild card is Marc-Andre Fleury, who is still singlehandedly capable of stealing games. Which is essentially what the Hawks need here to escape Sunday with any points, but I’m not gonna hold my breath.

 

Hockey

I was hoping for at least one Hawks win this weekend, but that became too much to ask when the team flubbed it against the Blue Jackets Thursday night. Once again a lack of offense, a powerplay sucking at loud, and Patrick Kane not giving a shit in February did the Hawks in. Recap time, I guess.

2/17
Hawks 4, Blue Jackets 7
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On the front end of a back-to-back and with the Blue Jackets being one of the more terrible teams in the league, it was time for Fleury to take a seat in favor of young goaltender Arvid Soderblom. He was able to stop an onslaught of chances from the Jackets in the first seven minutes of the game, but unfortunately he showed his greenness when he gave up a goal on a rebound thanks to a Blue Jackets powerplay opportunity. And then a second goal just seconds later (shoutout to the horrific Erik Gustafsson giveaway that could’ve been prevented). He gave up five more goals, including a Patrik Laine hat trick, before the game was over. A flurry of them were his own fault, though many were the result of the Hawks being incredibly lazy when it came to defending their own zone.

The Hawks got goals from Philipp Kurashev, Ryan Carpenter, Mackenzie Entwhistle, and The Cat (most offensive-minded players were taking the night off). But the real story that came from this game is what the future of the goaltending for this team should be. No way Fleury stays, and it’s become incredibly clear the Hawks can’t trot out Lankinen and Soderblom or whoever as the starters next year. (Lankinen’s contract ends this season anyway.) You’d think they’d be on the market for a goaltender, but then you look at the 2022 free agents available and…well, ah jeez.

2/18
Blackhawks 0, Stars 1 (Stars Win Absolute Snoozefest)
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The morning of this game, the Hawks announced a flurry of roster moves. Fearless leader Jonathan Toews, although spotted Friday morning at the optional practice and on the ice, was placed on IR retroactive to his head injury on Jan. 26 and The Only Sure-Fire Prospect in the Entire Organization Lukas Reichel was called up yet again for the Hawks and placed right on the top line with Kane and Hagel.

Reichel’s game wasn’t terrible for his 3rd NHL game; he was hustling, winning board battles and generating chances in the 1st period before getting rocked over the visiting boards and getting himself stripped of the puck by Alex Radulov of all people in the 2nd. The Hawks had a surprisingly high CF% in the 1st period at over 70%, and Kane’s give-a-shit meter even seemed to be up higher than usual for the entire 1st period before things seemed to drop off for him. The Cat’s defensive skills were also great to see, as he kept pucks in and set up plays for Strome and Kubalik.

Unfortunately, none of these chances ended up in any goals scored, which is more of the usual for this team despite the “burst” of offense we saw from them the night before. And even though they had some good chances at the end of the game, the Hawks don’t have any finishing power and were lucky to pick up a point at all. It was mostly because of the heroics from Fleury in net—what else is new?

After an entertaining overtime and six rounds of a shootout, Jason Peterson won it for the Stars, despite Fleury doing all he could to drag this team to a win. Maybe you shouldn’t choose Jake McCabe in a shootout situation? Just a thought.

2/20
Hawks 2, Panthers 5
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Despite starting out horrifically with Kirby Dach allowing a Panthers breakaway seconds into the game because he didn’t have his stick on the ice, the 1st period saw the Hawks outshoot and out-posses the Panthers 8-3 and 66%-33%. Although the Panthers struck first on only their 3rd shot of the game thanks in part to Patrick Kane not feeling like playing defense, Kane decided to make up for it with just a few seconds left in the period by scoring from below the goal line, the puck bouncing off the back of Sergei Bobrovksy and into the back of the net.

The Panthers must’ve gotten absolutely and rightfully berated during the 1st intermission, because the 2nd period was much more what we expected out of both the Hawks and the Panthers. With the Panthers dominating the possession game, they were able to take the lead thanks to a shot from the blueline in which Fleury was screened by both Seth Jones and Calvin de Haan together. Sam Lafferty had a similarly Laff-able period, filled with multiple turnovers and a missed shot on a wide-open net.

It didn’t take long for the Panthers to get their commanding 3-1 lead thanks in part once again to Dach tipping the puck in past Fleury with his own stick. (This will certainly be a game Dach will want to forget as much as we will.) Fleury made as many saves as he could in the 3rd to keep the Hawks in it, and he had some help from a coach’s challenge to keep it 3-1 in the 3rd, and a surprise goal from Amy’s Youngest made the game seem close for a minute or so. But then two empty-net goals at the end of the period cemented the Hawks’ fate. This outcome is about what we expected, especially considering the Panthers are the NHL’s top offensive team and the Hawks are…well, basement-tier.

My parting words for the weekend? Fuck Radko Gudas.

Hockey

Well that sucked.

With some in the Hawks front office apparently deluded enough to think that they had some type of outside chance for the team to sneak into the playoffs, this series against the Wild loomed large in the schedule. After getting broomed in both games, hopefully this will put to bed any thought of the team sneaking into the postseason and set everyone’s focus where it needs to be: using whatever Jaws of Life apparatus Kyle Davidson can come up with to extricate this franchise from the flaming clown car pileup left behind by Stan Bowman and John McDodough.

 

1/21

Hawks 1 – Wild 5

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This was quite the ass kicking. The Hawks special talent of showing up out of sorts and giving up goals in the first 5 minutes of a game reared its ugly head here, as most people at the UC hadn’t even found their seats yet before MAF had already let in two goals behind him. It didn’t get any better from there on out.

After the dust had settled, Old Friend Ryan Hartman had potted two goals (increasing his already career best to 18) and Fleury had been chased from net halfway through the 2nd period. The defensive structure in this one was nonexistent, and the Hawks hung the “not interested” sign above the bench before the halfway mark of the first period. It was a stinker, and the type of game you see quite a bit towards the end of January during the Bataan Death March towards April.

1/22

Wild 4 – Hawks 3 (OT)

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Natural Stat Trick

While the effort in this one was much, much better, the end result was still the same. With Coach King surprisingly opting to go back to Kevin Lankinen after he came in relief of MAF after he got yanked the night before, the Hawks played much better in front of him, jumping out to a 2-0 lead before Erik Gufstasson took a dumbass penalty with less than 2:00 to go in the 1st period where the Wild inevitably scored on the ensuing power play.

In reality, it could’ve been much more than 2 goals from the Hawks in the 1st were it not for the efforts of  Wild goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen. He absolutely stole a goal from Jonathan Toews in the waning minutes of the first period, throwing his left skate in the air from prone on his belly to kick away Toews’ wrister. Kahkonen was in position all night long, and made some excellent saves on DeBrincat in OT to keep the Hawks out of the win column.

Henrik Borgstrom (who has looked slightly better of late, hopefully increasing his trade value) potted two, along with a sick PPG from DeBrincat. Kane continues to be snakebitten, and is clearly frustrated by his lack of production. Kevin Lankinen looked much better, but still is not the answer to the Hawks goaltending question of the future. At this point, there’s zero reason for Lukas Reichel to be wasting his time in Rockford. Bring him up and give us something to watch going forward, because it’s all we’re really gonna have.

Hockey

Even with a game cancellation in Edmonton, the Hawks had an easier stretch of schedule to extend their winning streak, what with the Ducks skidding and not fully healthy and the Kraken turning out to be a regular expansion team that isn’t very good. Though we lost to the Kraken in overtime, the Hawks have Marc-Andre Fleury in net which means we can pick up 3 of 4 points on the week.

1/15
Hawks 3, Ducks 0
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The Blackhawks must feel mighty good blanking the Ducks with a COVID-decimated roster that did not include…breakout 20-goal scorer Troy Terry? But a win is a win and they looked good doing it. The Hawks put on pressure early on with some pretty solid chances, including a vintage Kane breakaway opportunity that seems to be getting rarer and rarer these days. Then a hooking call put him in the penalty box, which wasn’t great.

Overall, however, the Hawks were peppering the Ducks with chances, kept pucks in the offensive zone—all despite the numbers saying possession was about even throughout the game. The Hawks looking so good probably had to do with Fleury standing on his head to net his 70th shutout.

Lukas Reichel showed flashes, though he was ultimately stopped by the opposition with most of his chances in the o-zone. He wasn’t terrible in his own end, either, blocking a shot early in the 2nd period. Of course he got sent back down solely because of The Almighty Dollar, which is probably fine because this season is down the tubes anyway.

The Hawks didn’t score until the second period, when Gustafsson (right out of the box) set up Hagel after the Ducks had a myriad of scoring opportunities they somehow didn’t convert on at the end of their powerplay. The Hawks powerplay, though still bad, did finally convert in the 3rd period, as Kane and the Cat made it happen yet again with some great passing. Kubalik scored the empty-netter to end it with just three minutes left in the game.

1/17
Hawks 2, Kraken 3 (Kraken win spirited match of peg solitaire)
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The Hawks saw a lot of pressure from the Kraken to begin this game, which shows with their horrific 19.05 CF% in the 1st. The Hawks were spending the whole first period in the defensive zone, getting drilled physically and not being able to control the puck. Luckily for them the shots on goal were pretty even throughout and Fleury was once again saving every shot with his usual acrobatics in front of the net.

The Hawks looked a bit better in the 2nd with a few good chances and less time in their own zone. The powerplay continued the game-long trend of being complete buffoonery, as the Hawks were unable to get a shot on net it seemed in the 1st period and just a few meager powerplay chances in the 2nd. Luckily a Kubalik breakaway shortly after the powerplay put the Hawks up 1-0, though that lasted only a few minutes before the Kraken scored a weird tip-in goal that no one on the ice seemed to see.

The Hawks scored their last of the game nearing the end of the 2nd period with Brandon Hagel getting set up by The Cat. Kubalik was back on the ice, too, right at the net where he needs to be. I hope his hot streak continues.

The Kraken were able to tie it up in the 3rd with help from Amy’s Youngest who knocked over Fleury at just the right time for the puck to sail into the back of the net. The overtime was a horrific slog despite all the Fleury acrobatics, and the Kraken became the winner of the meaningless shootout on goals by Ryan Donato and Joonas Donskoi.

Seth Jones will make his return to the lineup this weekend in a home-and-home against the Wild on Friday and Saturday. The Wild are clinging to a wild card spot who just recently got Kirill the Thrill back from injury, so they should be a challenge for the Hawks. Read more about it tomorrow.

Hockey

It’s been a hot minute since this fair website did one of these, and for a while this season the team hasn’t looked that horrible in 12 years. Although we’ve seen some improvement over the past 25-ish games with Derek King at the helm, the Hawks are still fraught with issues that will take quite a few years to fix. Let’s get on with it, shall we?

The Dizzying Highs

Alex DeBrincat – God help him if he ever leaves us. The Cat has been the main scorer as of late, netting a quarter of the Blackhawks goals so far this season. His offense is so valued that he has been bumped down to the second line to try and generate more chances with Toews and Kubalik, and it worked out well for Kubalik last game as he was able to score on a play set up by the Cat. DeBrincat is also the pity representative for the Hawks at the All-Star Game this year, and it is well-deserved considering the plethora of highlight-reel goals he has scored for us this season.

Defensive Improvement – Compared to the galaxy-brained Systems that Jeremy Colliton was forcing on young and impressionable hockey players, Marc Crawford has been able to help restructure the back end so they give up slightly less chances than they did before, and look better while doing so. Under Colliton, the team had a 46.3 CF% and under King they’ve improved slightly to 47.2%. Their newer, grinding style has almost everyone playing more defensive-mindedly, preferring to get greasier goals at the net or waiting for Kane or the Cat to work their magic. It also helps the defense that the Hawks are getting better goaltending from Marc-Andre Fleury, as the man continues to garner up wins and another shutout or two for his storied career.

The Terrifying Lows

The Offense – It’s gotten a little bit better as of late, but more guys are definitely going to need to step up in the immediate and distant future, especially considering we can likely kiss this year’s first-round draft pick goodbye. Kane and DeBrincat are in on 35% of the team’s goals, and after them the top points-producer is Seth Jones with 25 points (22 assists). The 3rd-highest scorer on the team is Brandon Hagel, who is tied with Kane for 9 goals. Kubalik has recently been picking up the pace with two goals over the past two games after a six-game pointless streak, and hopefully he can continue to produce because God knows we need it. The Hawks have the 4th-worst goals for per game in the league with 2.37, and because of it there is a very low margin for error for the defense in order for the Hawks to pull out a win these days.

Future Goaltending – Let’s be honest: the Blackhawks will be a bit of a stopover for Marc-Andre Fleury. Although I’m not sure the Hawks will be able to deal him at the trade deadline because of how hesitant he’s been in the past to uproot his family to a new city, he will become a free agent this summer and I think it’s unlikely the Hawks will re-sign him. Kevin Lankinen’s contract will also be up this summer, and although he’s been a serviceable backup, his numbers don’t exactly scream NHL starter: .884 save percentage, .899 at evens this year? No thanks. Arvid Soderblom is next in the pipeline, but at only 22 years old and playing his first season in North America, he will need more time before getting thrown to the wolves in front of this team. It will be interesting to see how the Hawks deal with this glaring issue in the offseason.

The Mushy Middles

Derek King – It wasn’t hard to rise up from rock bottom, which is where Coach Cool Youth Pastor left this team when he got fired. But interim coach Derek King has been serviceable so far. Everyone keeps talking about how much more confident they are on the ice, although that doesn’t stop Kane from looking like he doesn’t give a shit if his team is losing during a mid-January game. (And can anyone blame him?) They’ve had a lower goals against per game with King: 2.92 vs. Colliton’s 3.91. However, after a 4-game win streak to begin King’s tenure with the Hawks, they leveled out a bit with a 14-9-3 record, which included a six-game losing streak and another four-game winning streak. He’s doing about as much as can be expected with the current roster, but it’s still hard for me to see him staying on as the permanent head coach unless Marc Crawford becomes The Man Behind the Curtain. And if that happens, then God help us all.

Landon Slaggert? – I recently watched the Hawks’ 2020 3rd round draft pick have a career game against Ohio State on Friday night, where he absolutely dominated offensively. He scored a goal and assisted on the other two Notre Dame scored, including the overtime winner. And the Hawks coaching staff should be pleased to hear he showed GRIT and HEART when he flattened a Buckeye and took a roughing penalty in the 2nd period, watched as the Bucks couldn’t complete a single successful zone entry in the ensuing powerplay, and scored minutes after coming out of the box. He was super quick on his feet and might be able to max out as a Brandon Hagel-like surprise success in the NHL. Granted, this is all after seeing by far his best game of his college career so far, so maybe I need to temper my expectations. He’s still a few years away from being able to sniff the NHL, but at least there could be SOMETHING bubbling down the pipeline.

Hockey

Pardon the title of the preview, but I watched Get Back on Disney Plus the other day and have been listening to Beatles tracks ever since. Anyways, the Hawks played as expected the past 3 games since coming back from their extended Xmas Vacation, getting smoked in all facets in the Nashville and Calgary games and then playing a solid 58 minutes against Colorado but ultimately falling to a simply disgusting Makar OT goal.

What is becoming clearer by the minute is that the Blackhawks are desperately short on skaters that can finish off their shots. Outside of Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat (who is shooting absolutely lights out at a 19% rate, and will eventually come back down to earth) the cupboard is bare at the NHL level. This was never more apparent when Kirby Dach got run down in the 2 on 1 in the 3rd period against the Avs. Ultimately this will result in more of the same for the Hawks, making it only so far in games as Marc Andre Fleury can carry them and hoping Kane and Cat are able to pot a few before the dam breaks.

Reading the tea leaves as to why Lukas Reichel hasn’t been called up from Rockford yet is a pretty clear statement from Kyle Davidson as to what he thinks of the Hawks chances going forward. Why waste a year on his rookie deal for half of a wasted season? While the analytical part of my lizard brain agrees with this, the hockey fan in me wants to see what this kid can do. It would at least give us something to write about other than “the Hawks sucked again,” which feels like what I was doing in 2017-18 covering the White Sox for this joint.

Anyways, here’s who’s next for the Hawks this week:

 

1/6 @ Coyotes

Game Time: 8:00 PM CST

TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720

Hockey Fans More Depressed Than Us: Five For Howling

 

If there were ever a salve for a hockey team that just had it’s ass lit on fire by 3 top tier teams, playing the Desert Dogs would be aloe vera. Not only are they constantly playing under the threat of being locked out of their own arena, the city they call home is actively trying to get them to leave. Not a very conductive work environment, and it shows. Sitting at or near the bottom in every advanced metric the internet could concieve of, the Coyotes are the A#1 team in contention for the first overall pick in the summer. While the Hawks are terrible in goal differential, the Yotes are taking it to an entirely new level with a -56 mark less than halfway through the season. To put that into perspective, the worst goal differential in 2018-19 for the whole SEASON was -64 (hello, Ottawa), so yeah. They’re bad.

There are some pieces that can be salvaged at the deadline for them, however. Professional Hot Dog Man Phil Kessel is here, and 3rd on the team with 21 points and entering his free agent season. Shayne Ghost Bear has one year left on his 4.5 million dollar deal and is producing nicely from the back end on the PP. Assbag Antoine Roussel is also here, and brings that idiotic element that teams so love to acquire for the playoff run. Nick Schmaltz is also here and has 6 points, so…I guess that’s one trade that Bowman actually won.

The only player worth talking about with a future in the organization is Clayton Keller. Drafted 1st overall in 2016, the Yotes handed him an 8 year, $57 million dollar extension last season. He’s rewarded them for doing so by being the team’s leader on the ice night in and night out. While he’s generously listed at 5′ 10″, Keller plays a much bigger game than you would expect, and has the type of finish that reminds you of Alex DeBrincat. More impressively he does most of his damage at even strength, as only 3 of his 21 points have come on the man advantage. If the Hawks D can keep a lid on him, the odds of picking up 2 points goes up exponentially.

 

1/8 @ Vegas

Game Time: 9:00 PM CST

TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720

Degenerates Unite: Sin Bin Las Vegas

 

After a very rough start to the season (7-8 in their first 15), the Knights have righted the ship and find themselves back atop the Pacific Division having gone past the surprising Ducks of Anaheim in the last week. Much of this is due to the Knights forwards finally remembering which end to shoot at. And boy do they shoot at it, because if the Knights don’t pot more than 3 goals a night it’s tough for them to win. After choosing Brain Genius Robin Lehner over MAF, the Knights GAA sits above 3.00 for the first time in their existence. As a team, the Knights have given up merely 2 more than the Hawks have (granted they’ve played 3 more games) and 37 more than conference leader Calgary.

The flip side of that is the Knights lead the West in scoring by a pretty large margin. Leading this charge is Washington castoff Chandler Stephenson who is tops on the team with 34 points. After him come the usual suspects in Reilly Smith, Shea Theodore and Mark Stone. The Knights can run 4 lines out there and have all of them score, and this is even before the eventual debut of ole Slinky Neck Jack Eichel. Take the over in this one.

 

1/11 @ Columbus

Game Time: 6:00 CST

TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720

Did You Know Ohio State Is In Columbus?: Jackets Cannon

 

Another team slumming it at the bottom of the league statistically, the Blue Jackets are another opportunity for the Hawks to pick up some points on this Sherman-esque march to the sea. Columbus is very similar to the Hawks in terms of being unable to keep other teams from scoring, and only getting their own goals from very limited sources. The good thing for the Jackets is that all the goals they ARE getting are from the younger draft pick crowd. Alexandre Texier, Oilver Bjorkstrand and Zack Werenski are all going to be bright parts of the Jackets future. Even some of the “older” players like Boone Jenner and Gus Nyquist are still well South of 30, and could be a part of that future.

Boone Jenner currently leads the team with 11 goals, half of which come on the man advantage where he does most of his damage between the dots. Bjork Bjork Bjork leads the team with 23 total points, and is a lot of fun to watch with his combination of speed and hands. Also Jake Voracek is here.  In between the pipes is where the Jackets have issues, as their GAA over the last month and a half is North of 3.50. CBJ had brought up Daniil Tarasov up from the AHL to fill in for the broken (and terrible) Joonas Korpisalo, where he performed pretty admirably before leaving the game against Carolina with a lower body injury. Korpisalo is back now, and he’s been teaming with Elvis Merzlikins to be extra terrible. The Jackets have given up 7 goals in each of their last 2 games, and weren’t exactly setting the world on fire before that. This game seems like a good chance for Fleury to steal one for the Hawks, but again I’d still take the over.