As if the previous week and a half wasn’t enough to seal it from an intellectual and emotional standpoint, the Hawks losing both games to the Panthers this weekend has them on the brink of mathematical elimination as well, and are only spared by having scraped their way into OT on Thursday with the net empty. But if nothing else, these two games were ideal outcomes – some kids put more on tape (for both good and bad), and the glaring flaws both behind the bench and with the roster are also put on a display in a competitive game against an obviously better team that they lose. Obviously wins are more fun, but when the process matches the results. This team cannot afford to risk learning the wrong lessons with the complete dope behind the bench they’ve got currently.
It’s funny when you have something like last night. Because if WGN didn’t tell you, you wouldn’t have known it was the last Hawks game on their station. You would have seen the broadcast schedule released for next year, gone through it, and maybe you would have seen no games on WGN and said, “Huh.” That’s it. So it’s really a celebration/mourning they’re throwing for themselves, which is weird, and also have to make you aware of the occasion, which makes it weirder. You don’t go out with a friend and then have them tell you later it’s their birthday. Or maybe you do, I’ve lost touch with what people do.
Still, I couldn’t help but think back to when the Hawks first came back on WGN in 2008. It was just so bizarre. Before that season, the thought of the Hawks on television was something of an anomaly, at least the home games. McDonough and Rocky had only taken over the year before, and though they jammed as many home games onto CSN that first season as they could, there were still more than enough that were still house shows. We knew a full TV deal was coming of course, it was the most basic and first order of business.
But the Hawks on WGN? It didn’t really add up. Not only were the Hawks on television at the United Center, but they were on a free-to-air station? The home of the Cubs and Bulls? Yes, and Sox too, but the Sox have always felt like an intruder to everyone involved on WGN. Hawk Harrelson pretty much treated it as such. Not so much anymore, of course. There was an air of legitimacy that being on WGN gave the Hawks instantly. It was like they were fully part of the Chicago sports scene, not some dark corner where only the true creatures of the night would lurk. It was an invitation to everyone.
If memory serves, the first game on WGN was a home game against Detroit, a bonkers 6-5 shootout loss that was sealed by Marian Hossa making Nikolai HarveyBirdMan look superfluous in net. Yes, Hossa did play for other teams, and if you can believe it that arrogant as fuck slapper into the top shelf sent Hawks fans into a rage back then. On the ice it was an indicator that the Hawks were almost ready to be the heir to the Wings, but also very much not ready. It being on the Chicago Superstation meant the same for their place in Chicago. The latter would change within months.
Anyway, it was exciting to see the Hawks treated in such fashion back then. And we didn’t really mind that WGN didn’t have any clue how to cover a hockey game then. Or that their filters on their cameras were exceptionally dark and made it look like every game was in a garage. It was just so new.
But like a lot of things with how the Hawks are run and covered, once the novelty wore off then the glitches were the only thing you saw. The lack of anything new or effort beyond, “Look what we did!” became harder and harder to ignore from both sides. Mostly, it looked like WGN never really cared to look like it cared about covering the Hawks. Whether it was the vacant stare of Dan Roan or Rich King, having them positioned in some closet in their studios on the northwest side looked decidedly high school AV Club. Of course they were never going to hire their own analyst/expert, so Steven Konroyd would just stroll on over and provide the most listless, uncomfortable intermission segments known to man. The sets looked like something you would build if you were spoofing sports coverage.
The angles were off at times, the cuts rough, the replays never matching up. It seemed like WGN thought it had been doing Cubs baseball for so long it knew everything, and could apply the same principles. But baseball has no intermission, no postgame show, and the “Leadoff Man” was something the game broadcasters basically handled themselves (or Len Kasper has since he arrived, which is a really long time ago now). And by the end, it felt like both the Hawks and WGN were asking, “What are we doing here?” throughout the broadcast.
It’s only been 10 years, so it’s not like there’s much to hold onto. The Hawks want every game on CSN now, and I can only hope that being even more greatly invested in it as a third-holder instead of a quarter might up the quality. But I doubt it. It still amazes me how much better games look on NESN or MSG than they do on CSN. It’s like CSN forgot to turn a light on. Even after all this time Pat Boyle is still uncomfortable being a host. They’ve tried to do better by rotating in Jamal Mayers, Adam Burish, and Patrick Sharp as intermission and pre- and post-game analysts. But only Sharp has a knack for it, while Burish seems to be auditioning to take over Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em hockey. And the thing is I think there’s an analyst within Burish that could be pretty good. You can keep Mayers around for the clothes.
Still, it’s kind of startling that it only took 10 years for something that at once seemed to fresh and cool to not only lose its luster and become annoying but for everyone to be glad it’s over. I know the cycles of news and emotion and sports have been quickened in the last decade. The Hawks were on top just four years ago and now look at them. It doesn’t take long. It would take longer if either side had tried, though.
It’s rather fascinating to look at the state of these two teams now three years and some change after they matched up in the 2015 Stanley Cup Final. The Lightning were an ascending team at that time and a lot of people seemed to think they might end up being the next kind of team to have an Era like the Blackhawks had. It hasn’t happened for the Lightning in the postseason obviously, but they’ve remained one of the better teams in the NHL since then while the Hawks now find themselves closer to the cellar than the ceiling.
With the amount of young talent the Lightning have, it’s not exactly surprising they’re second in the league in points right now. They’ve built their team extremely well around their core stars in Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, and Victor Hedman while also supplementing the whole deal with really talented depth – hey, that sounds familiar, doesn’t it? They made what now looks like one of the smartest trades in recent memory to get Mikhael Sergachev from the Habs, and then got aggressive in adding good veterans along the way as well. They’ve made the absolute most of their situation as they look to win a Cup in what looks like a really wide open window for them.
But perhaps their greatest and no doubt the most surprising find has been Yanni Gourde, who I promise you is not some random pumpkin-themed comic book villain. If you’re reading this and thinking “who the hell is Yanni Gourde?” you are probably not alone. As a 25-year old rookie, Gourde came out of absolutely nowhere last year to post 64 points (25G, 39A) in 82 games last year and solidified himself as one of the Bolts’ key depth contributors. This year he’s gotten off to an even better start to the season with 21 points (9G, 12A) in 22 games, and he just signed a huge, six-year extension in Tampa with an AAV of $5.167MM. It’s not often you see that kind of rise from guys with just 22 games of NHL experience before they hit 25-years-old.
The thing that feels so weird about Gourde is that all of his success just seems so unsustainable, and yet he’s sustained it. He shot 18.4% last year and is shooting 19.6% this year. On his entire career he’s at 18.9% shooting. That’s basically a goal for every five shots he takes, which just doesn’t make any damn sense. Mike Bossy is one the best goal scorers in NHL history, and he shot 21.2% for his career. Gourde’s own teammate Stamkos is one of the best modern goal scorers, and he’s shot just 16.4% on his career. Alex Fucking Ovechkin is probably gonna end up as the best goal scorer ever, and he’s shot just 12.5% on his career (though he does shoot more than most). Gourde’s conversion rate isn’t just high – it’s almost unprecedented in the modern age.
Obviously that doesn’t discredit Gourde in any way, because at this point it’s easy to think it’s just more dumb luck. This might be who he is as a scorer. Maybe he just has a shot that fools goalies better than most players, or maybe he just picks his spots really well. He’s been a brilliant addition for the Lightning, obviously, and he’s exactly the kind of sneaky good addition that high level teams tend to fall ass-backwards into. It’s not like the Blackhawks didn’t have similar lucky finds – Patrick Sharp didn’t score 20 goals until he was 25, and from that point forward he was a virtual lock to reach that benchmark. But even in Sharp’s case he never shot higher than 17.2% in a season.
Gourde is a fun player to watch, and like I said before he is a fun story. I am happy for him, and I definitely don’t want him to stop being fun and good at hockey. I am not sure that he will keep being able to score at that kind of rate, but even if he does eventually falling off a cliff in terms of shooting percentage, he’s still going to be a productive player. But at this point, he seems to be a Cinderella Story with a clock that won’t strike midnight.
Game #23 Preview Suite
There’s little point in rehashing the details of Patrick Sharp’s farewell tour here. You know how it went, I know how it went, he knows how it went. And really, for the $1 million he was paid and the 4th line role he basically played, it wasn’t a disaster. Maybe his mentoring of Alex DeBrincat will become more important than we can realize here on the outside. Who knows? Sharp came back, it kind of just happened, we all shared our memories of him again (and there are so many), and we’ll all move on.
Still, Sharp’s acquisition raises some discussion about just what the Hawks do in the front office. Because no matter what your conclusion is, none of it makes you feel good about the inner workings of how the Hawks put together a team. So there are three ways this could have happened, right?
One, Stan Bowman saw Sharp decompose in Dallas, along with the hip surgery, and thought he could genuinely help this team. Maybe he figured it was only a million bucks, it was a signing his coach would actually give every chance to which most certainly has not been the case with a lot of signings, and took the plunge. Either way, there were many other fourth liners for even cheaper, and third liners, that the Hawks could have gone out and got and probably would have contributed more. Sharp hardly torpedoed the Hawks season, nor would someone else in that slot have saved it, it’s just somewhere you could have done better.
Two, John McDonough came down and told them they needed to sell more of the new jerseys with the reverse-preacher collar and bringing back ol’ #10 would help them do that. It would continue a pattern for the Hawks of getting the band back together, which has simply never worked in the past. The only “Old Boy” to come back and make any contribution that mattered that I can remember is one Kris Versteeg rush in Game 5 against Tampa that Antoine Vermette scored the winner off of. But McD has got to sell his shirts, he’s got to get his headlines, and he’s got to get pats on the back from the construction workers who yell at him outside his office window (even though that building is done now I assume McD keeps those workers there so he can have a barometer of how he’s doing).
Three, Joel Quenneville is still fuming from the trade of Niklas Hjalmarsson (and he would piss all over all season to the detriment of the team) so Stan and/or McD decide to throw him a bone by bringing back yet another player he once loved. And this has been the thinking in bringing back Versteeg, Ladd, Oduya, and whatever other stiff I can’t remember right now that basically gurgled in place once they returned. Stan recognizes a problem or deficiency on the roster, knows how other acquisitions have gone over with his coach, and resigns himself to bringing back a player at least he knows Q will play. Q’s circle of trust takes eons and miracles to expand, so Stan is restricted to getting players who were already in it and are past it or hoping and praying that a new player can enter within. It only took Connor Murphy 60 games, and he was the Hawks best d-man the whole fucking season.
So either the Hawks’ pro scouting sucks to high heaven (it just might!), the president who doesn’t know shit on shit about hockey is getting to make some calls that don’t have shit on shit to do with hockey, or the coach is still getting to make the call on some toys which quite simply has rarely worked out. Hmm, wanna know how you win three playoff games over three years?
None of this has much to do with Sharp, of course. He was what he was, and it’s not like he didn’t try or didn’t do what he could. And I don’t need to pile on. McClure has written a better eulogy than I could for his Hawks career when he was traded. Hess did it again in our final spotlight for the final game of the season. We had a podcast section about it.
So I’d love to wax poetic about the shorthanded goal in Game 2 against Vancouver in ’10, where he basically just decided he was scoring, but we’ve been there. What I will say is that watching Patrick Sharp’s first few games in red in the first season out of the lockout, it was really the first sign that Tallon and the Hawks got it and were working on something. It was immediately clear Tallon had gotten it wrong out of that lockout, and to him as well. There was no way to see what Sharp would go on to accomplish (unless you were McClure), but you could tell he was intelligent, fast, and there was more skill there than was billed on arrival. And you thought to yourself, “If Tallon can get a few more players like this, nail a couple picks, and have a couple kids develop out of nowhere…” It was a long road to envision, but Sharp helped you finally see it.
Anyway, good luck to Sharp-shooter in whatever’s next. He won’t be a Hall of Famer or anything, but he’ll go down as something of a cult Hawks hero. And that’s more than ok.
Now that this hell toilet of a season is behind us, the entire crew – Rose, Hess, Pullega, Slak, Feather, Sam, and some dickhead – all take stock of what was, what is, and what should never be, and of course we wait til the very end for everyone to give their favorite Patrick Sharp moment. That’s called a “tease” in the radio business. This one’s a behemoth, but it’s worth the listen, and of course it’s free to all with the audio after the jump.
RECORDS: Jets 51-20-10 Hawks 33-38-10
PUCK DROP: 6:00 p.m.
SOLID WALLS OF SOUND: JetsNation.ca
We’ve reached the end of the line. Tonight’s matchup between the second-seed Jets and the Chicago Post-Acid Emil Antonowskys will have all the vim and vigor of a midsummer Pony league game between two teams whose best players all went on a family vacation without telling the rest of the parents. There’s hardly been a game more useless than this, but she’s there, you’re there, and everybody’s there, and we’re in turmoil, as puzzled as can be. So let’s cut this vestigial tail one last time before the Hawks gather their clubs.
The Jets have won 10 of their last 11 (that’s allowed??) and are on a four-game winning streak. Their one loss in that time came via the 6-2 drubbing the Hawks doled out just one week ago. You might remember that as the Scott Foster game, one of the last beacons of fun we’ve had this year. With absolutely nothing to play for, being entrenched in the #2 spot and drawing the Wild in the playoffs, it’ll be a small miracle if we see anything resembling the A-team for the Jets. We’ll probably end up seeing Steve Mason—who last posted a 36-save, 90 SV% win over Montreal—or worse, because again, this game is absolutely meaningless to the Jets. The only thing they might do of note is continue giving Trouba his shifts as he shakes the rust off of his brown brain. Then again, this could be a nice little tune-up game for Hellebuyck, so who knows?
As for your Men of Four Feathers, the big story is that this may be will be Patrick Sharp’s final game as a Blackhawk, and perhaps final game full stop. There wasn’t much to expect out of him this year, but we’d all be remiss to forget the contributions he made to this team throughout his career. It won’t be a shock to see him play extra minutes tonight as one last sayonara, similar to last night. Given what an important cog he’s been in his Hawks career, I certainly wouldn’t begrudge the decision, especially since the only guys who came to play yesterday were Sikura and DeBrincat, anyway.
Tonight will also give Alex DeBrincat another chance to tighten his grip on his team lead in goals, which is about all there is to play for at this point. He’s been one consistent bright spot on this blighted potato of a team this year, and if I had my druthers, I’d want to see him, Eggshell, and Sikura as the top line, just for fun. But again, it hardly matters with a game as meaningless as this. After J-F Berube had another J-F Berube game, it’s likely we’ll see Jeff GL Ass out there once more to bolster his Masterton chase, which should be hilarious and fitting given that Keith has decided that he’s done playing for the year and Connor Murphy has been trying his hardest to make us look like big(ger), stupid(er) assholes for believing in him over the last two games.
The nightmare officially ends tonight, and no one will judge you for consciously missing this one. For the first time in, well, ever, we at FFUD leave you with our final Hawks preview during the regular season. It’s a strange feeling I don’t want to feel again next year, so savor the strangeness of it.
Thanks for reading this year, and stay tuned for the playoff coverage we’ll have and the postmortems we’ll do. I’ll never be able to bring myself to jump on the tank wagon, so one last time for the year:
Let’s go Hawks.
Game #82 Preview
The quick and obvious preface to what’s about to come is that nothing is announced, guaranteed, or set in stone yet. However, given the events at the end of last night’s loss to the Blues, the comments in the media, and the fact that he maybe should’ve done it last year, it appears as though Patrick Sharp is going to be retiring after tonight’s game. And I am genuinely, terribly sad about it.
I don’t know if Patrick Sharp will have his number hung in the rafters, but that’s more because of the era in which he was a Blackhawk – I’m just not sure this team is gonna hang up six numbers, and it seems like a given that 2, 7, 19, and 88 are gonna go up, and 50 probably should too. Had he played in any other era of this team’s history, he’d be an easy no-doubter to hang that number high.
Fifteenth in team history for points. Twelfth in team history in goals. One of the best two-way players this team had seen in a long time when he arrived, and a shot as devastating as his looks. A leader on three Cup winning teams, chased out of town because he got old and still carried an expensive cap hit. Another unfortunate casualty of the NHL salary cap and Canada’s once free-falling currency. Imagine were he’d rank all time on this franchise if he hadn’t been forced out.
Sure, there were some personality issues. His refusal to continue playing center created the 2C gap that this team suffered from for a while, but it didn’t really bite them that bad, seeing as they still won two Cups without one. He might’ve ruined Duncan Keith’s marriage. He was known to be cocky toward fans.
But his play was incredible for so long, he slaved away in a bottom six role in 2015 to give that team the depth they had. The impact of his presence on that line with Vermette and Teuvo cannot be understated. He is an all-time great Blackhawk, a true team legend, and his was the first Blackhawks jersey I ever bought with my own money, when I was 14 years old. If this is the end, allow me to say it: Thank you for everything Sharpy. Good luck in retirement. And please stay away from my wife.
Game #82 Preview
Like a day at the Robert Crown Center, this game leaves us cold, bored, and completely disenfranchised about things that are supposed to be fun. The good news is that none of it mattered, and it’s now almost over. To the bullets.
– This was less a hockey game and more a farewell to one of the most important Blackhawks of this era, Patrick Sharp. He got a nice video montage both before the game and in the third, and was slotted on the top line next to Kane, in hopes that he’d be able to recreate some of the magic of his younger years. While it’s no surprise that nothing really happened, it was a nice gesture from the organization. It hardly matters that Sharp was the worst possession player for the Hawks by far. Given that Colorado lost last night, the outcome of this game was window dressing, so giving Sharp a good sendoff was about as good as it was going to get.
It might be easy to forget just how good Sharp was for the Hawks in his prime, but I’m not going to take that away from whoever does his year-end wrap. All I’ll say is I’ll miss what Sharp once was and am glad to see him retire as a Hawk, which I assume is what he’ll do following tomorrow’s game.
– J-F Berube looked good until he didn’t, which is about par for the course. Crawford can’t come back quickly enough.
– One positive from this game was the chemistry between DeBrincat and Sikura. Sikura fed DeBrincat a few nice opportunities tonight, the best of which coming in the first period. Sikura took advantage of a Carter Hutton turnover behind the net and fed DeBrincat for a high-danger zone shot that Hutton managed to stuff. Then, in the second, DeBrincat returned the favor with a crisp pass through the Royal Road to Sikura, who also got stuffed by Hutton. The only real question is who’s going to center these two, because Ejdsell looks like a sore thumb out there with them. He’s going to need to progress by leaps and bounds if he wants to be the guy for these two.
– Duncan Keith had one of his worst games in recent memory tonight. He had three turnovers by the second period, and never looked comfortable on the ice. Again, this was a meaningless game, but watching Keith struggle as badly as he did is never fun. Like most of us, he’s obviously ready for this year to end.
– Connor Murphy also had a bad game, which makes two stinkers in a row for him. Only Duncan Keith had a worse possession night for Hawks defenseman, and what was worst about Murphy’s night was his regression into balloon hands in his own zone. He’s got a lot of potential as a defensive defenseman I think, but his struggles to exit his own zone are going to need to improve if he wants to stake his claim as the Top 4 guy we all think he can be.
– Outside of the Sharp farewell tour, this game was drudgery. The Hawks had 13 shots about midway through the third, and never looked alive at all out there. They finished with 20 shots, but I’d be hard pressed to describe any more than two. The highlight of the game was the two free chalupas and one cheesy gordita crunch I got in my Taco Bell order, which are currently calling my name from the microwave, the disgusting animal I am.
That’s it for the home games this year. In a game against a desperate rival, the Hawks rolled over, which doesn’t really deserve anything more than a shoulder shrug at this point. The last one’s tomorrow, and you should join Adam Hess for that one.
It’s been a pleasure writing for you all about this Hawks this year, despite the performances on the ice. We’ll be back at it for the playoffs and postmortems soon enough.
Beer du Jour: Dogfish Head Oak-Aged Siracua Nera.
Line of the Night: I didn’t catch the actual quote, but Brian Campbell suggested that the Hawks need a “character guy” like Andrew Shaw or Danny Carcillo during one of the intermissions. The perfect summary of this brat-fart season.
I don’t mean to do this every day, and seeing as how we’re now just a month away from likely player reviews, we’ll go back over this. But I was perusing around the stats pages the other day because my life is an empty desert of the real and I stumbled across something highly interesting.
We here at the lab like Vinnie Hinostroza. He’s quick, seems to be in the right place at all times, and if nothing else is an entertaining watch. We’ve opined that if he were to max out he could be a third-line winger, and grab your checking assignments and not let you down. He could be a Michael Frolik if you need to compare him to someone, as the Hawks are seemingly wont to do. Maybe even slightly more finish, as strange as that sounds given Frolik’s pedigree and billing.
Maybe that was a touch unfair to Vinnie.
As I pointed out on Twitter last night, Vinnie Hinostroza is 19th in the league in attempts per 60 minutes at even strength. The names right behind him? Taylor Hall, Patrick Kane, Kevin Fiala, Josh Anderson, Alex DeBrincat. The names directly ahead of him are: Timo Meier, Jonathan Marchessault, Arturi Lehkonen, Craig Smith, James van Riemsdyk. If you want to finish out the rest of the top 20 from there, it’s Atkinson, Ehlers, Bergeron, MacKinnon, Nash, Arvidsson, Ovechkin, Toffoli, Skinner, Gallagher, Tarasenko, Burns.
Other than a name here or there, those are all top six forwards, except for the unicorn that is Brent Burns. It doesn’t immediately equate that simply firing off a lot of shots makes for a scoring winger, but in reality it kind of does. It means you’re on the right side of the ice more than you’re not, it means you’re finding the space to at least get off a shot, and it means you’re not afraid to fire away. This is perhaps one of the reasons the Hawks thought Ryan Hartman was expendable, because we know going forward three of the top six wingers going forward are Saad, DeBrincat, and Kane. Sikura is certainly going to put his name in the discussion, and maybe they thought Vinnie had a better case than Hartman and thus decided to cash in where they could.
Also, it doesn’t just stop with attempts. Vinnie is ranks just as high when it comes to individual scoring chances per 60 as well. He ranks 20th. The names right behind him are Craig Smith again, Josh Anderson, and Brayden Point. The names ahead of him are Top Cat, Taylor Hall, Arturi Lehkonen, and Patric Hornqvist. Again, all the names in the top 20 are at worst top six forwards (Brandon Saad is 8th, leading more credence to the theory that Saad has been more unlucky this year than unproductive).
We should probably go over the caveats. One, it’s still not much of a sample size. At the moment, Vinnie has only racked up just over a season’s worth of NHL games. So we can’t say this is the norm yet, because all of these numbers are up from last season significantly. You’d like to think that it’s just a continuation of growth as well as getting to play up the lineup a little more this season. And his possession stats are spiking up from his 36 games last season as well. And the “better players” argument can go both ways, as you can say he’s benefitting from that but also that not every player watches his game and numbers balloon simply because he’s installed on the top six.
Still, looking at the names he’s around in these categories, you don’t see a lot of one-year wonders there. Almost every name you see there has been a consistent top six scorer for a few years, or are promising kids projected to be that anyway like Lehkonen or DeBrincat or Point.
While I don’t want to compare them fully, when I think of speedy forwards who shoot a lot it’s hard not to think of Patrick Sharp in his younger days. And you forget what a defensive dynamo Sharp was both at wing and center back when he first arrived in Chicago. Vinnie’s 13.6 attempts per 60 this year is right in line with Sharp’s 14.0 in 07-08, which was his breakout season. And Vinnie is dusting him when it comes to scoring chances per 60 from that season. What Vinnie doesn’t have is the shooting percentage (8.1 to 12.5 for Sharp then) or the power play goals.
Maybe Vinnie won’t ever have that shooting percentage, because we know what a rocket Sharp’s shot was then. Maybe Vinnie won’t get the goal totals because of that. But given the chances and attempts he’s generating now, thinking he can be a 20-goal guy on your second line or third line doesn’t seem as far-fetched as it did.
RECORDS: Flames 26-18-8 Hawks 24-20-8
PUCK DROP: 7:30
TV: NBCSN Chicago
SONS OF OTTO: Flamesnation.ca
The following is getting into “Jimini Jillickers!” territory, but tonight begins a crucial stretch for the Hawks. If that stretch didn’t already start last Saturday. Or after the break. Or a month ago. I’ve declared so many of these fucking things it’s impossible to keep track. The bottom line is the Hawks need to kick this pick if the last month or so of the season is going to matter. And we’ll probably say that again soon.
The Hawks get seven of the next 10 at home, except that hasn’t been a panacea for anything for them this year. Three of those home games are against teams that are with them in the Western muddle around the last playoff spot, tonight against Calgary, next week against the Ducks, and Saturday against the Wild. They basically need to take all three in regulation, plus a few others. If they don’t eat well at home over the next three weeks, then you’ll know it’s over. There’s another thing I’ve said way too often.
Apparently Joel Quenneville gets the desperation, as he’s throwing more shit at the wall in the hopes of proving his geniusness once again. “GENTLEMEN! I HAVE INVENTED….THIS LINEUP!”
It has a new 3rd/4th line, depending on your point of view, of Saad-Hartman-Sharp. I guess there’s some benefit in cloistering your three biggest disappointments altogether, and hoping the mass ennui just turns itself into a positive force. I have no idea what it’s supposed to do, though Hartman and Saad could actually do something if they had a playmaker with them to get them in space where they perform better. Sharp is not that guy, but there aren’t any other options besides Wingels or Bouma so let’s just go with this. Give them the same instructions that have made Jurco-Kampf-Vinnie Smalls successful. Just do shit and do it fast, even if Sharp isn’t capable. Let’s not complicate this.
Of course, no desperate Hawks game would be complete without Q setting up his d-pairs while fingering his own ass, so out goes Connor Murphy again for reasons no one can understand. Especially when it involves giving Jan Rutta and Brent Seabrook more time. It’s ok, not like the Flames didn’t run circles around these two just last time out! Glass Jeff gets the start and poor rebound control.
As for the Flames, they have their own work to do as they sit outside both the wildcard and Pacific playoff picture, which are both open to them. They trail both by one point, and you have to believe this team is going to haul in the Kings because they’re not really any good and the Flames should be. Yes, they have depth scoring problems, though Kris Versteeg seems to be ready to come riding in on his donkey to save the day. Because you know Steeger would ride a donkey instead of a horse. Don’t play. They have the best pairing in the West, a goalie playing pretty well, and a genuine top six. This shouldn’t be that hard but they seem intent on making it so. They’ll be the “Team No One Wants To Play (TM).”
Worth watching tonight is how cute Q gets with his matchups. The top six of the Flames simply stinkfisted the Hawks top six in Calgary, and that doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room for Q to get both away from Monahan or Backlund. But there are going to be spots when that is necessary, because the Hawks really need this one. He did it on the road in Nashville and in theory it should be easier at home. But it’s not something he’s done a lot of lately, and we all know Rutta is going to start every shift in the d-zone against Monahan and Gaudreau because GENIUS TREE CUPZ YOU DORK!
Just kill me already.
Game #53 Preview