Everything Else

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Game Time: 7:30PM CDT
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720
Trillions of Tech Dollars Won’t Solve Homelessness Because It Is Cruel: Fear The Fin

No, unfortunately the season isn’t already over after one game 8000 miles away a week ago. In fact, there are still another 80 of these to get through after tonight’s home opener against the visiting Sharks, which will kick off a seven game homestand, which might be the longest this team has had in over a decade. And fortunately for them, tonight’s opponent comes in as an abject mess.

Everything Else

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SCHEDULE: Game 1 Thursday, Game 2 Saturday, Game 3 April 16th, Game 4 April 19th

We all know the format for the NHL playoffs is pretty stupid. In fact the NHL playoffs, if you really think about it, are kind of stupid. We just played an 82-game regular season to figure out who the best teams are, and now we’re going to subject them to the vagaries of luck and injury in a two-month battle royal that doesn’t really give us the best team, just the hottest one. But let’s leave that and say the divisional system as constructed is a problem. So when fans and media say it’s not fair that two of the seven best teams in the league have to face each other in the first round, they’re not exactly wrong.

But because it’s Toronto and Boston, I don’t give a flying fuck. Fuck ’em.

Let’s break it down.

Goalies: There can’t be a worse person to be than the Leafs goalie in the playoffs. No one is watched by more and more closely. And really, Freddie Andersen has always been just good enough to break your heart. He was excellent two years ago in the first round against Nashville, but only played five games. His three other campaigns in the playoffs have not been impressive, though some were effected by Bruce Boudreau’s treating his goalies like they were foosball players. Really, Andersen had the same season this year that he did last year, and he was fine against the Caps. But fine wasn’t enough then, and fine probably isn’t going to be enough against the Bruins. He is capable of more, we’ve just rarely seen it.

If we wrote this a couple months ago, we’d say the Bruins have a big advantage here. But Tuuke Nuke ’em has only been ok since the end of February and was horrific in three April starts. However his playoff pedigree is far ahead of Andersen’s, and he wasn’t the problem against the Senators last year. So it’s whether we go with his current form, which is basically “meh,” or what he’s done in the playoffs before which is much more. Still, I would expect Tuukka to be slightly better than Freddie at worst.

Defense: It’s kind of a measure of the firepower of the Toronto forwards that they amassed as many points as they did with this blue line. It’s still not very good, even if they figured out that Travis Dermott was a neat toy to have every night. It’s not that Jake Gardiner or The Mike Rielly Assassination or Rod Hainsey are bad… it’s just that you’d struggle to think of them as top pairing guys. They’ve been fascinated with Nikita Zaitsev for a couple seasons and yet no one’s quite explained what it is he does. Roman Polak is a circus bear. Even with the Bruins banged up whoever they throw out against Bergeron and Marchand and Pastrnak you’d have to give the B’s the advantage. And if you don’t keep a top line from scoring in a series, you’re kind of fucked.

The Bs will be without Brandon Carlo, as his ankle went Gumby, but they did get the moon-faced mouth-breather Charlie McAvoy back which is more important. He’s reinvigorated Zdeno Chara to a new contract, and he’s one of the bigger reasons that the Bruins were so good this year. Torey Krug as a bum-slayer is what you’d want, and Kevan Miller is better than I think even though his first name is stupid. Adam McQuaid has a big, dumb face and a big, dumb game but thanks to McAvoy the Bs have a top pairing where the Leafs don’t.

Forwards: Whatever arguments you might have with their defense, the only team that can even claim to have the Leafs’ top nine right now is Winnipeg. When JVR and Tyler Bozak are on your third line, you are the envy of pretty much the whole league. Which means the Leafs can get at Krug in his own end and McQuaid anywhere through Kadri and Marleau and Marner and even Plekanec on the 4th line. The depth is scary and the Leafs’ best hope. It’s also a ton of speed the Bs are going to ask Chara to deal with, and he don’t got none no more.

The Bruins will start this series without both Nashes, Riley and Rick. Though missing Rick in the playoffs really isn’t a big deal. Without them though, this starts to look a little one line-ish. It’s a hell of a line, with Pastrnak-Bergeron-Marchand, but they’ll need more. Krejci and Backes on the second isn’t the worst you could do, but comparing it to the Leafs and you see the problem. Donato and Heinen are kids farther down the lineup that could be weapons, especially against the iffy Leafs defense. But the Bs will need some people to return before too long. And Babcock is going to play Komarov 25 minutes anyway. The other thing to note is that since 2011, Brad Marchand has been a playoff dog, and if that continues this definitely tips to the Leafs.

Prediction: I want to pick the Leafs, I really do. Their forward depth is going to be hard to deal with. But I don’t trust their blue line or Andersen to keep the Bs top line off the scoresheet, and the important players on the Bs have all done this before. Unless Marchand pulls his Copperfield act in the spring again, the Bs seem too much. It’s going to take a while, though. Bruins in 7. 

Everything Else

We can’t give you his name, as he’s shrouded in secrecy. He used to run PensionPlanPuppets, but now he just sits in a dark room plotting his revenge. You can follow him @MLSE, if you dare. 

We’ll start with simple stuff: Just what the hell is going on with this team? 
They’re doing better than last year somehow (better goal differential and more points through the same number of points) but most fans aren’t happy with how they’ve done it. Last year’s team was a swashbuckling team of kids that played with no fear. This year’s team is now a chip and chase team that is more focused on stopping the other team than in trying to force the game on their terms.
Is Mike Babcock, in fact, not a genius?
Babcock is an incredible coach. He does, however, have a few blind spots that we knew from his time in Detroit. Mainly, it’s that he favours (don’t you dare “fix” my Canadian spelling) veterans over youth and he has a clear idea of how he wants different aspect of his team to be built (muckers on the fourth line, defencemen with cement-filled skates that can absorb shots on the PK). Randy Carlyle was a little similar in that regard but obviously with a lot less ability (his own and the team’s). It does look like Babcock is starting to come around. Travis Dermott finally got a shot, Matt Martin may finally be a scratch, and Leo Komarov will be on the fourth line instead of dragging down Marleau and Kadri. Of course, that’s just for road games because Babcock doesn’t have last change. And it’s that need to control every aspect of the game that I think is his biggest issue.
What are the Leafs going to do at the deadline? We have to believe a d-man is on the list, no?
It’s been on the list for the last 12 years! If they could add a top pairing defenceman that pushes everyone down one spot on the depth chart (and gets Polak in the press box for good) then the defence suddenly becomes a pretty good group. If you can give Rielly better support and then have Gardiner/Zaitsev/Hainsey facing second tier competition and Carrick/Dermott eating up the rest then you have good skaters and puck movers on every line which is what this team needs to get back to being a fast, skilled team.
Name Kadri was a 30-goal scorer with 61 points and impressive metrics last year. All have dropped. What’s going on here?
Same thing that sewered the year before last: luck. You can split his season in two and you’ll see that the second half has seen him produce more shots but his shooting percentage plummet. His line has been struggling in terms of carrying the play compared to his career. Part of that is that I don’t think Komarov can face the toughs anymore and I’m not sold on Marleau being able to either (despite being a good addition). If Babcock trusted the Matthews line more at home then I think you’d see Kadri’s struggles turn around really quickly. Plus, in the last two games he’s made amazing passes to Marleau for goals that have been miraculously saved. It’s been that kind of stretch for him.
Is it time for Leafs fans to crack each other’s skull open and feast on the goo inside? Or is this kind of just a midseason lull and they’ll give Tampa everything they can handle in the playoffs?
It will always be skull cracking time with Leafs fans but that has nothing to do with how the team is doing so much as the feeling you get from talking to them. I think that the Leafs could possibly be having some come to Jesus moments that will bear fruit in the long term and they’re lucky enough to be in a division that is a total mess so there’s no pressure other than knowing they’ll face one of the two top teams in the NHL in the first round. I think that best case scenario, barring any big trades, is like last year: a gallant effort, some excitement, and a 5/6 game series loss to Tampa or Boston. After last year we’d all hoped for more but I don’t see much that gives me hope for more unless Babcock really starts changing how he dresses the team and Lou and Co. can get them a bit more help. But no big deal, these teams of young (looks at LA) studs (looks at Pittsburgh) always (looks at Chicago) eventually come good, right? (Looks at Edmonton, barfs)

 

Game #48 Preview

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

 at 

Game Time: 9:30PM CST
TV/Radio: CSN, WGN-AM 720
The Ol’ Diamondback Sturgeon: Fear The Fin

Now that the All Star wank-fest weekend has concluded in L.A., the NHL resumes what can be construed as the beginning of the end of the 82 game road to nowhere- the month between the the break and the trade deadline. And the Hawks will begin this stretch in San Jose at the start of a six game road trip while looking to correct some mistakes made to some of the also-rans of the league last week.

Everything Else

Hawk Wrestler vs. shark

RECORDS: Hawks 13-5-2   Sharks 10-8-1

PUCK DROP: 9PM 

TV: WGN Local, NBCSN Elsewhere

SHARKS TWITTER (Because it’s better): @ItWasThreeZero, @Stace_OfBase

Projected Lineups

blackhawks-lineup-card

sharks-lineup-card

TEAM CORSI: Hawks – 51.0% (11th)  Sharks – 54.0% (2nd)

POWER PLAY: Hawks – 18.1% (14th)  Sharks – 16.4% (17th)

PENALTY KILL: Hawks – bit of a setback!  Sharks – 87.8% (3rd)

It’s the traditional Blackout Wednesday fare, where if you’ve played your cards right you should be in the bag by the time the puck drops. Hopefully the players won’t be. But the Hawks and Sharks have met in the Tank on this day before Thanksgiving for years now, except for that one year they were in Colorado which threw all the timing off. The Hawks will be coming in after getting shutout, and the Sharks will be coming in after pitching one themselves against the Devils. Not that shutouts of New Jersey really count.

Everything Else

There’s an added buzz to the hockey world when the Stanley Cup actually enters the building. It will be in Pittsburgh tonight, and one gets the feeling it’s almost certainly going to come up for air. You tend to feel like that when one team hasn’t had a lead all series. At this point it almost feels like we’re just putting the Sharks out of their misery.

You would think that being on the brink would finally force DeBoer to empty the tanks, tell Dillon and Polak that they’re playing eight minutes each at most and try and keep his top four d-men out there as much as possible. But if it hasn’t happened yet it probably won’t now. And basically no matter how well the Sharks play tonight, one shift or two from those will turn the tides.

Everything Else

salsa shark vs evil empire

Game Time: 7:30PM Central
TV/Radio: CSN, WGN-AM 720
Optimal Tip-To-Tip Efficiency: Fear The Fin

Due to a fortunate bit of scheduling, the Capades’ stand at the United Center coincided with the NHL All Star game, and as a result the Hawks’ only played four games away from the West Side in their 16 days since last being at home. And they’ll do so tonight against the Sharks, a team no one can figure out what exactly it is they’re doing.

Everything Else

With the Summer Doldrums officially in full effect thanks in no small part to the League taking its sweet ass time to announce an agreement for Olympic participation in Sochi this coming February, and as a result its own regular season schedule, it’s time to take a spin into a couple matters beyond the Blackhawks.

But one local matter needs to be addressed first.