Hockey

The Hawks surprisingly continue to not suck, eking out wins under Derek King and his amusing, incredibly human personality. After adapting to King’s style of defense, the team has seemed calmer, more in sync and surer of themselves. And considering how horrifically this season started (in more ways than one), I’ll take it at this point.

The Blackhawks’ defensive zone coverage at least makes sense, even without shutdown players like McCabe and Murphy in the lineup, and you’re hard-pressed to find a guy out of position these days, limiting the chances of their opponents pretty well. Of course, many teams in this league are just more talented than the Hawks which will lead to losses on occasion. But considering the garbage effort that was trotted out under Coach Vinny del Colliton, this more boring style of hockey is a welcome change. Maybe we can try out a regulation win or two?

Hawks 4, Capitals 3 (Hawks win menko match)
Box | Natural Stat Trick

The Hawks were able to win this one in spite of all odds, albeit in a shootout. But the entire team had a pretty good game, which included keeping the greatest goal-scorer of all time, Alex Ovechkin, without a goal that night. They also did it without Connor Murphy, who got hit by Ovie early into the 2nd period and had to leave the game to go into the dark room.

Kane and the Cat started things off near the end of the 1st period, their playmaking abilities on full show with a nifty goal that beat the goaltender backhand. Barely a minute into the 2nd period, however, the Capitals tied the game after, shockingly, Erik Gustafsson couldn’t break up the play.

Despite the Capitals dominating the possession game in the 2nd, the Hawks were able to take back the lead with not only a powerplay goal, but one by Dominik Kubalik, who was set up by DeBrincat. Amy’s Eldest made a good play near the blueline to keep things alive as well. Though the Caps ended up scoring two goals to take the lead back thanks to a Fleury fumble and a breakaway glove save gone wrong, the Hawks rallied back late to tie the game up thanks to a goal by Amy’s Eldest. Getting a point was just about all I was hoping for this game.

Nobody scored in overtime thanks to the goalies on both sides, and then Fleury had some good luck in the shootout as two Caps in a row hit both goalposts. Luckily it was enough to give Kane the opportunity to win it in the shootout in a way only he can.

Hawks 2, Rangers 3
Box | Natural Stat Trick

The Hawks won’t win them all, but I was pleased with the effort they put into this game and the fact that they didn’t seem to give up when they were down two (again). Both teams played quite conservatively to begin this game, with four shots total halfway through the first. And the Hawks even scored first (again) on a nifty play by Hagel, who swatted the puck out of the air and behind him for Kane to bury into a wide-open net. Now his goalless streak has been snapped.

Unfortunately, Dylan Strome’s brother Ryan scored shortly into the 2nd period to tie things up for the Rangers after a penalty by Borgstrom put the Hawks on the kill. Ryan Strome was set up easily by Adam Fox and old friend Artemi Panarin to get the puck past a sprawling Kevin Lankinen. Fox and Panarin would later team up again near the end of the period to get the Rangers the lead, sneaking the puck just under Lanks and into the back of the net.

The Hawks continued to get chances through the 2nd and 3rd, but Anton Georgiev was able to stop just about every shot. Panarin scored in the 3rd to seal the deal for the Rangers, although the Hawks’ effort in the waning minutes of the game should be commended. The Cat got a weird goal after a shot that was originally saved by Georgiev ended up just barely sliding across the goal line as he is absolutely clobbered by Kirby Dach in the paint. King pulled Lankinen in the final minute or two of the game, but the Hawks weren’t able to tie things up. We are going to need some steadier production from guys like Kane and Kubalik in the future, as relying on only two guys for all of your offense isn’t a good long-term plan for success.

Hawks 3, Islanders 2 (Hawks win Tiddlywinks competition this time)
Box | Natural Stat Trick

The Islanders were coming off their 10th straight loss with this game and it certainly showed. As expected, the level of offense to watch this game was quite low, as both teams play more defensive-minded games.

And dear God did this one drag awhile. There were only 18 shots between the teams by the end of the 1st, but the Hawks went up with The Cat’s slapshot going off Hagel and into the back of the net. The Islanders had only eight shots in the first period, though it seemed like less because of the Hawks defense breaking up a lot of chances, plus the occasional sprawling save by Marc-Andre Fleury. Neither of these teams have a lot of offense firepower, after all.

The Islanders were able to tie it up nearing the end of a powerplay chance they had in the 2nd. Unfortunately a myriad of sloppy plays made the second half of the period an especially PK-heavy period for the Hawks. Luckily for them, it was Dylan Strome in the 3rd who put them in the lead, a goal he sorely needed for his confidence going forward. In a game where I thought the Hawks were doing way more passing than they were shooting, that was a super neat passing sequence by the Hawks that gave Strome the open net.

Unfortunately, the bad penalties kept coming for the Hawks, as it was now the turn of Amy’s Youngest to be sent to the box for interference. The Hawks can thank the acrobatics of Fleury and the sludge that is the Islanders powerplay for getting out of that one unscathed. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to keep the Islanders from tying the game up with only two seconds left in regulation. After just about the most boring 3-on-3 that can exist with only a few shots off from both teams, Kane scored the only goal in a meaningless shootout (again) to get the Hawks two points.

They seem to be turning their season around, albeit far too late to make the playoffs and therefore losing their first-round pick for this year’s draft. Though that pick would be extremely valuable to the team’s future, I’d certainly rather see a good effort like the Hawks are putting in every night than watching them tank to keep their first-rounder. And yes, I’ll probably regret feeling this way in the next year or two. The Rangers, Canadiens and Leafs are next week—let’s hope for 2 out of 3.

Hockey

Since we last wrote, the Reckoning finally happened, and the Hawks won their first two games of the season. As we are all aware of now, Jeremy Colliton finally got ousted as Blackhawks head coach, and hopefully his galaxy-brained “Systems” are gone with him. After a 5-1 win against the paltry Senators, the Hawks went back to their usual play under Colliton this season, coughing up a two-goal lead to the Hurricanes and getting trounced by the Jets before the interim general manager decided after only a week on the job that it was time for a new coach.

Although many speculated it would be Marc Crawford who would get the interim job, it was instead given to Derek King, who had been head coach of the IceHogs and already has a strong relationship with a lot of the younger guys who came up through Rockford. Though he mentioned before last night’s game that he didn’t have time to be changing the Systems the team is currently playing with, I saw marked improvement on the defensive front last night and hope to see that continue. There’s nowhere else to go but up.

11/1/21
Hawks 5 – Senators 1
Box Score |
Natural Stat Trick

The Hawks finally get a win on the season, and all it took was for Patrick Kane to go off after returning from COVID protocol—no, the irony is not lost on us. He had a hat trick and an assist, being part of all but one of the goals scored by the Hawks. Brandon Hagel scored the other two goals, giving me a slight bit of hope that he’s learning how to finish. He also tends to be incredibly streaky with his points production going back to last year—if he can figure out how to score consistently, I think he’ll be productive in this league for years to come.

Seth Jones also had a pretty good game, stealing pucks away from opponents, making good plays, keeping pucks in the offensive zone, and getting another assist on the night. (He leads the team in assists and led in points until this game when Kane went off.)

Defensively, it’s still same-old, same-old. The Hawks got domed possession-wise in the first period, yet thankfully didn’t throw their hands in the air and give up midway through the game. Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 29 shots and put on a stellar performance despite this entire organization not being deserving of any save he makes. This came after he made 39 saves in the previous game and continues to get trotted out and asked to provide nearly all of the team’s defense via saves against the league’s best teams.

Finally, I’m not sure who’s big-brained idea it was to put Dylan Strome on a line with the likes of Reese Johnson and MacKenzie Entwistle, but I didn’t wonder for a second why he wasn’t producing this game. Surround him with likeminded players who can help him score if you actually want to capitalize on his offensive talents? Or don’t, I guess. It’s all a wash anyway.

11/3/21
Hawks 3, Hurricanes 4
Box Score | Natural Stat Trick

I don’t think anyone genuinely believed the Hawks would win this one, but the way they completely collapsed to start the 3rd period after sending the Hurricanes into their first two-goal deficit of their season was a sight to behold. Perhaps it has something to do with people like Reese Johnson getting playing time ahead of Dylan Strome and Ryan Carpenter on the PP1 instead of Dylan Strome. But obviously what do I know?

This loss was no fault of the Cat, who scored two of the Hawks’ three goals and had a quality chance during the four-minute powerplay to end the game that didn’t end up going in. He and Kane are the only reliable scorers on this team, as everyone else seems desperately unable to finish. Kubalik seemed especially snakebitten tonight despite his fine performance against Ottawa. He had only two shots tonight and was on the ice for Carolina’s first goal in which he was unable to defend Tony DeAngelo of all people from tipping the puck to Derek Stepan, who knocked it in past Fleury.

Speaking of, this loss can also be partially blamed on Fleury, though that doesn’t keep me from pitying every second he has to stand on this ice behind this team. The 3-2 Hawks lead going into the 3rd period was blown by a bad goal on his part. He got five-holed by Jesper Fast, a goal Fleury absolutely has to have especially when your defenseman Jake McCabe becomes a turnstile before everyone’s eyes. The Canes’ fourth goal could be entirely blamed on Fleury, as he got a piece of the puck but was unable to keep it from dribbling behind him and into the goal. Tough loss, and yet there’s more to come before the weekend winds down.

11/5/21
Hawks 1, Jets 5
Box Score | Natural Stat Trick

The game that finally got Colliton canned was a pretty horrific one, with the Hawks essentially mailing it in after giving up a quick goal to the Jets just 47 seconds into the game. It featured Seth Jones getting caught in the neutral zone, leaving Paul Stastny completely alone in the slot. About two minutes later, the Jets converted on a powerplay opportunity thanks to Marc-Andre Fleury being screened by like three people, two of them Hawks. It doesn’t get much worse than this.

The underlying numbers were horrific; the Hawks had only 18 shots on goal the entire game and were crushed possession-wise in both the second and third periods. An offside powerplay goal for the Hawks early in the 2nd period continued to frustrate the entire team. The lone Hawks goal was thanks to Entwistle on yet another powerplay opportunity because expecting 5-on-5 goals with a Jeremy Colliton team is not a realistic expectation. I turned this one off early, if I’m going to be honest, and opted instead for my yearly re-watch of Slap Shot to fill my time.

11/7/21
Hawks 2, Predators 1 (OT)
Box Score | Natural Stat Trick

For the first time this season, which already feels so long because of all the horrible things that have happened thus far, there was cause for excitement as the Hawks took the ice. Both Derek King and interim GM Kyle Davidson had said the right things earlier that day in their introductory press conference, and the fact that the Hawks were playing against the fodder that is the Nashville Predators made it seem like a win was entirely possible.

It almost seemed like night and day for this Hawks team, becoming reinvigorated with a new voice in the room and a fresh start. It was pretty even possession-wise for most of the game with both Kevin Lankinen and Juuse Saros making big stops to keep the game close through the end. This is progress.

Brandon Hagel scored the lone goal of regulation for the Hawks; he was able to deflect a Seth Jones shot from the blueline into the net. Unfortunately Hagel later left the game with a shoulder injury and did not participate in this afternoon’s practice either, because this team can never have nice things happen for too long. Entwistle also hurt his ankle this game after a spectacular collision with Mike Hardman in the neutral zone, meaning by the end of this one the Hawks were playing with only 10 forwards.

The Hawks allowed the Predators to tie things up a few minutes after that Hagel goal thanks to some wacky defense from both de Haan and Stillman. However, the D looked a bit better this game, perhaps thanks to King limiting Erik Gustafsson’s minutes as much as humanly possible down the stretch. For a 12-minute stretch, the Hawks allowed the Predators without a shot on goal, though that can also be chalked up to their offense being quite bad.

The winning OT goal was DeBrincat to Kane to DeBrincat just seconds into overtime—just another beautiful play to add to both players’ highlight reels. Ryan Johansen and Saros didn’t stand a chance.

The Hawks only have two games this week, seeing the Penguins tomorrow who are still without Crosby and the even more abysmal Arizona Coyotes on Friday. This gives King time to tinker with lines, systems, and whatever else before focusing on winning some theoretically winnable games. And with Hagel and Entwistle out we might see some other players get a chance in the lineup as well. We’ll see how things shake out tomorrow.

I leave you with footage of all three goals Lukas Reichel scored last night for the IceHogs; go check out Jon Fromi’s extended coverage of that game and the Hogs here.

 

Hockey

Box Score: Game 52 | Game 53 | Game 54
Game Log: Game 52 | Game 53 | Game 54
Natural Stat Trick: Game 52 | Game 53 | Game 54

The Hurricanes are good. The Blackhawks are bad. We all knew this going into this series, and that things probably would not look good for the Blackhawks since their playoff push is over and they’re now pivoting to playing every young/inexperienced/new player that they can find. But it didn’t make this series any harder to watch for the first part of the week. At least we got a semisweet victory to finish it off in OT tonight. To the bullets:

  • The Hurricanes are such a fast team and for 7 of the 9 periods the Hawks couldn’t keep up. There were many times throughout the series where the Canes’ first line just outskated our defenders. One of the goals on Sunday was just tough to watch as Connor Murphy went down trying to break up the play, Wyatt Kalynuk was tasked with trying to defend against two people and Kirby Dach gave no help. Subban didn’t have a chance on that 3-0 goal.
  • The Hawks got pantsed at the end of the game two in two different occasions where we pulled our goalie for an extra (at one point two extra) attacker and the Hurricanes scored on us. It’s one thing for that to happen once, but it happened twice in a row. And you immediately knew it was coming, too. Someone give this young defense some structure, thanks.
  • Kirby Dach is officially out of the season because of wrist discomfort. And all I can think about is how he openly admitted his wrist was hurting but the team thought it was fine to let him play. He’d better be healthy by the return of next season, that’s all I have to say.
  • Duncan Keith is the greatest defenseman in Blackhawks history. And last night I was preparing to write about how it’s probably past due that his minutes get limited. But after getting literally speared in the head with a linesman’s knee tonight and not returning to the game, he literally forced the minutes issue himself. Now he and Connolly both have concussions and won’t be back this season. And the fact of the matter is he wasn’t looking much better the first two games of this series, as he had multiple horrific plays and giveaways this series. Limit this man’s time so he can actually be helpful to the defense instead of being the overworked horse on the defensive end for the 15th year in a row.
  • The Cat is a monster, a speedy little devil, but we already knew that. In the month of May, he was a contributor to 6 of the Blackhawks’ 11 total goals. He is the one generating the offense as of late, as Patrick Kane has only contributed to 3 goals and is a -7 so far this month. Kane’s either injured or probably just exhausted; there was a stretch of this season where he was pretty much carrying the team offensively, after all. But at least in the offensive zone we have someone that can pick up the slack when needed.
  • Collin Delia finally got some NHL time, and it was time he deserved and certainly earned. Considering what this season has been like for him, he played super well and admirably for both of his appearances this series with a .939 save percentage over these games. Plus, just seeing someone absorbing shots on occasion and not give up 700 rebounds was a welcome sight, not to mention his first win.

And just like that, the final two games of the season are upon us, as Hawks fans are getting ready to happily pay $110.00/ticket for 300-level seats to watch a circus team with only one remaining dynasty member on it. (Inflation is coming, folks.) The Hawks will finish out this season against the Dallas Stars, who seem to be falling out of playoff contention themselves and will need two wins against us to have a prayer of catching Nashville. Onward.

Hockey

Box Scores

Game 1 / Game 2

Natural Stat Trick

Game 1 / Game 2

 

Sometimes hockey is dumb. Really, that’s the biggest takeaway from this series right now. All season long we’ve been harping on the fact that the Hawks can’t continue to get pantsed night in and night out in the possession department and expect to end up in the playoffs. So in game one of the set with the Red Wings, they went out and controlled the play at a 54% clip and got skulled 4-1. Then in game 2 they went back to a 44% share for the evening and shut the Scum out 4-nil.

Whatever.

 

 

Numbers Don’t Lie

-Kevin Lankinen has looked increasingly human as the season has progressed, which really isn’t a surprise considering he’s already surpassed the normal season length in the Finnish Elite League. One nice side effect of the shortened COVID-19 season is that it’s almost like Lankinen is on an innings limit like pitchers in baseball. It’s a good way to break him into the slog that is the normal NHL season. That being said, it’s not great right now when the Hawks need him for the stretch run.

-That being said, Malcom Subban had one of his better starts last night, making some higher difficulty saves in the 2nd when the Scum real started to press the attack. If Lankinen is gassed, it will be interesting to see how Coach Galaxy Brain handles the starts next week against the Preds.

-Patrick Kane is back to looking like a world killer again. After stalling out post-400 goal, he’s netted 2 in 2 games. Needless to say he’s gonna need to take the reins offensively if the team is gonna score against Smashville.

-Ian Mitchell has looked much better the past few starts, and is picking his spots to jump in the play much better. He still needs a center fielder for him to cowboy with, and pairing him with Zadorov is not the fucking answer.

-Brandon Hagel getting an assist off his nuggets is a highlight of the season for me.

-Wyatt Kalynuk is looking more and more like “a thing.” He’s made some mistakes in his own end, but I’m willing to overlook them if it means the kind of production we saw last night.

-Next up is the 3 game series against Smashville that will pretty much determine whether or not the Hawks move onto the playoffs this season. Thus far this year they’re 0-4-2 against the Preds, and have only looked decent in one of those losses. They’re also sub-.500 in games that matter with Colliton as coach. The stats aren’t in their favor, and I’m not holding my breath. The Hawks need at least 2 of the 3, and they pretty much have to be in regulation. Hope springs eternal.

Let’s Go Hawks

Hockey

Box Score: Game 37 | Game 38
Game Log:
Game 37 | Game 38
Natural Stat Trick:
Game 37 | Game 38

It’s what the Hawks are doing – treading water when they should actually be sidestroking away from the impending sea monster that is the Nashville Predators, leaving them in our wake. Instead, the Hawks did the absolute bare minimum possibly required to stay tied with Nashville in the playoff race.

Last night’s loss was a tough one. We all thought they were going to get at least a point, but the Hurricanes scored at the end just because they felt like scoring. They didn’t have much riding on this game. Can’t say I can blame them as much as I blame our defense unable to play defense at the most important possible time.

To the bullets.

  • The Blackhawks started this series out as poorly as possible. The Hurricanes garnered 10 shots in the first half a period on Tuesday and it was truly a gift from God that they didn’t score. The fire the Hawks should have had after getting embarrassed by the Predators last weekend was nowhere to be found. It was honestly awful. Carolina won this period in shot attempts (25-14), scoring chances (11-3), and shots on goal (13-5).
  • After what we could singularly call the worst period of Blackhawks hockey all season, the Hawks scored a minute into the 2nd period, because hockey. And then they scored again soon after. Dylan Strome opened the scoring after returning from seeing the birth of his child and had a really great game on Tuesday. He also scored the big goal last night to tie it up. I hope we see more big goals from him in the future.
  • Kirby Dach being back is incredibly important, even if he is making mistakes. There was a specific instance midway through the 2nd last night where he took the puck on the powerplay into the offensive zone and passed when he should have shot. And that wasn’t the only time. Additionally, it’s hard to put Kirby Dach up against a faceoff guru like Jordan Staal, but it just kept happening and Kirby just kept losing. For all of these things he can improve on, though, you see just as many chances he generates all by himself and you see him starting to feel more comfortable on the ice after being out for three months, so he’ll continue to improve.
  • When the Hurricanes pulled their goalie with two minutes left on Tuesday, we all thought it was over. For two and a half grueling minutes, we all watched behind our fingers as the Blackhawks tried to cling desperately to their one-goal regulation lead. To make matters more terrifying, Nikita Zadorov was on the ice the entire time. And the Hawks never really cleared the puck during that stretch. It’s a miracle we got out of that game with a regulation win.
  • Duncan Keith was on in the ice for the first two Hurricanes goals last night, trying fleetingly but failing to keep the puck out of the net. It’s unfortunate that our defensemen are constantly out of position, always on one side instead of both, and all the other crap you’ve heard this website explain over and over. I’ve literally given up on this aspect of our game improving.
  • If Kane’s not producing, the Hawks are a’losing. Seriously though. There are only two instances all season in which Kane had 0 points in a game and the Hawks still won, and both of those games were back in February against the dredge that was the Detroit Red Wings and a terrible Dallas Stars team. And sometimes even if Kane produces, we lose anyway. Kane had no points last night, and we lost. Something to think about during the Hart conversation even though McDavid will probably win it.
  • Wyatt Kalynuk had a very nice point last night on Dominik Kubalik’s goal. And almost faster than the broadcast could take his point total off the screen, he passed the puck right to a Cane for a scoring chance. He’ll learn.
  • Is anyone interested in a Calvin de Haan at the deadline? Take him, seriously. On us.

The hell circus that is the Blackhawks’ schedule continues on Saturday, where they play a one-off game against the Nashville Predators, who are still red-hot and somehow still tied with us for 4th in the Central thanks to a loss against Dallas last night. Onward.

Hockey

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

 

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

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

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

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

Hockey

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.

Hockey

Box Scores

Game 1 / Game 2

Natural Stat Trick

Game 1 / Game 2

 

This series was a perfect microcosm of the Blackhawks season thus far, showing exactly what happens when the team:

A) Does or does not get excellent goaltending and

B) Is or is not able to create offense via the power play

Game one showed us very clearly what happens when the Hawks get mediocre or below goaltending (much like the last Detroit series) and is not able to cash in on powerplay chances, and game 2 was the exact inverse of it. Watching game 1, it was pretty clear the Hawks “Give A Shit” level was next to zero, as they were dominated by Dallas almost as soon as they stepped out of the team hotel. While in a 82 game season you’re always going to get games like that (especially in February and March), the wonkiness of this year doesn’t provide much cover for stinkers like those. It’s magnified by the fact that the Hawks are attempting to put as much distance between themselves and the Stars as Dallas attempts to climb out of it’s own grave.

Game 2 continued the season long trend of the Hawks thumbing their noses at advanced stats, getting dongwhipped in CORSI up and down the scoresheet. Yet as he has done most of the season Kevin Lankinen stood tall and kept the Stars off the board until the 3rd period, allowing the Hawks offense to build up an almost insurmountable 4 goal lead (not that they didn’t try and allow the Stars back in the game, more on that later). While not in the area of a “Must Win Game” for the Hawks just yet, it might have been for Dallas. Keeping the Stars exactly where they were before the series started was the bare minimum for our Men of the Four Feathers, so in this aspect game 2 (and the series, I suppose) was a success.

TO THE BULLETS!

NUMBERS DON’T LIE

 

-I really might need to come up with a new subtitle and image there, as the Hawks have changed their season motto from “One Goal” to “Advanced Stats Can Eat Shit.” More often than not the Hawks are getting nuked in the possession metrics, yet rolling on to victory. Game 2 was the penultimate example of this, as in the first two periods Dallas had an even strength CORSI of 75% and 70%, and a shot advantage of 22 to 8 and yet the Hawks led 4-0.  Anton Khudobin had a cool .500 save percentage before he got yanked in favor of Jake Oettinger, which I’m being told is not very good for a goalie to have, but great for a team to have shooting percentage wise.

-Seriously, just look at the Gameflow chart from last night. If you had no idea of the score and saw that, you’d assume that the Hawks were the team down 4-0 and not the other way around. It boggles the mind. If the Hawks were a baseball team, they’d have a BABIP of about .654.

-As long as Kevin Lankinen continues to keep the Hawks in games like he did, the Hawks have enough weapons offensively to continue to get points. If that well dries up anytime soon, things are going to get itchy as far as the playoff race is concerned. Honestly, the Hawks entire postseason hopes rest on his shoulders because the team is a clown rodeo in it’s own end. On the first Stars goal last night there were not 1 but 3 different Hawks below the goal line. I don’t know if that happens due to a lack of communication, lack of defensive structure, or some other deadly combination but it cannot continue.

-Speaking of things that need to stop, Dominik Kubalik got a whopping 12:30 of ice time last night despite scoring a goal 2 minutes into the fucking game. What exactly does he need to do to get on the ice more? He’s 3rd on the team in both goals and points behind Kane and Top Cat, and yet he plays on average 40% less than those two. Meanwhile Kampf, Soderberg, Janmark and Carpenter all played at least 3 more minutes than Kubalik. Those four guys are nice players, but none of them can even come close to doing what Kubalik can do with the puck. THIS HAS TO STOP, but we all know it won’t.

-Adam Boqvist is going to be a world killer someday, but these last few games he’s shown just how unrefined he still is on the defensive end. His ill-timed jump into the play and subsequent confusion as to which man was his after Duncan Keith played the puck carrier lead directly to the Stars first goal in game 1. He was also one of the 3 Hawks defenders below the goal line leading to Roope Hintz (who’s name can be rearranged to spell Zither Poon) being all alone in front of Lankinen. Once he can fortify this part of his game he’s going to be pretty unstoppable, because his offensive abilities are otherworldy.

-Carl Soderberg might not be the second coming of Thomas Holmstrom, but as long as he continues to park his ass directly in the opposing goalie’s line of sight on the power play I’ll take it. His screen of Khudobin on DeBrincat’s power play goal in the 2nd was picture perfect, and it’s probably the most underrated part of his game.

-Game 1 was a mess, and the less said about it the better. Kane’s 1,000th game was only memorable for all of the video tributes shown throughout, highlighted by a message from The Captain himself, Jonathan Toews. I’m not going to speculate on what he’s fighting with, but I was very glad to see and hear from him again. The Hawks could definitely use his experience at the dot, as they got smoked at the faceoff circle 61-39 and 54-46 in the series. Get well, Cap.

-The split in the series puts the Hawks at 14-9-5 (33 points), putting them 7 up on Columbus after they farted away a 2 goal lead to the Panthers last night. They’re also 12 points up on Dallas, which burned through 2 of their games in hand.

-Next up for the Hawks in their stretch of difficult March games is Coach Q’s Panthers, the team 5 points ahead of the Hawks in the standings. If the Hawks can take half the possible points in each series for the rest of the month, it’ll be hard for anyone behind them in the rankings to catch up. Let’s hope Lankinen’s joints are up to the task. No pressure.

Let’s Go Hawks.

 

Hockey

Game 1 Box Score / Game 2  / Game 3 

Game 1 Natural Stat Trick / Game 2 / Game 3

 

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

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

TO THE BULLETS!

 

NUMBERS DON’T LIE

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s Go Hawks

 

Hockey

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

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

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

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