Hockey

At last the long national nightmare is over. Coach Kelvin Gemstone/Vinny Del Colliton/Jeremy Bevington/Jeremy Trestman/Alpo Colliton/Jeremy Prinze, Jr./Cool Youth Pastor and his throbbing brain filled with defensive schemes so elaborate he forgets to even bother thinking about in game deployment are gone. It was about 18 months overdue, but the important thing is that it’s over, and with all of the other shit that happened two weeks ago in a cleansing fire, there’s actually finally a new prism to view this team through rather than utter nihilism. Interim GM Kyle Davidson was as forthcoming as anyone with an interim label could possibly be in his remarks after Colliton’s dismissal, saying that the message simply wasn’t getting through and correctable things weren’t being corrected, both of which are tremendous understatements but accurate nonetheless. Basically it only took him a week and a half of watching this disorganized and disinterested horse shit to see enough to get Stan’s golden child the hell up out of here and bring in Pigs bench boss Derek King.

King’s coaching resume is limited but had a pretty lengthy NHL career in the mid 80s and 90s (plenty will remember him being not a bum on Sega), but he at least had enough common damn sense to understand to tell these guys to just go out and play and not worry about adhering to some galaxy brained man-on-man high pressure SYSTEM. It’s well worn territory here, but the dirty secret in hockey is that it’s not exactly like they need to run elaborate blitz packages and disguise coverages on defenses in hockey. Puck side defenseman pursues and goes into the corner, weak side stays in front of the net, wingers on points, help if it comes up the wall, and ass on the boards at the hash for a breakout pass. This is what everyone who’s played hockey for any length of time just instinctively knows in their bone marrow and is what is just a default even when at an 11:45 on a Tuesday night rat hockey. Which is why having the D chase and stay with their checks everywhere in the zone was so counter-intuitive and the results clearly bore that out. Furthermore, in his post game comments, King remarked that he wanted to prioritize matching up Carpenter against Sissons on Sunday, and also had Erik Gustafsson barely play at all. So while he might end up ultimately proving himself A Moron, he’s at least got a baseline of common hockey sense that seemed to so elude his handsome predecessor, and all of the sudden the Hawks find themselves with actual winnable games on the docket.

11/9 vs Pittsburgh

Game Time  – 7:30PM CST
TV/Radio – NBC Sports Chicago, TVA-S, WGN-AM 720
Ben Roethlisberger Retire Bitch – Pensburgh

So after missing the first 7 games of the season with a wrist injury, Sidney Crosby came back for one game against the POWERHOUSE New Jersey Devils, was a -3 with no points, and promptly returned to Sick Bay with a mildly symptomatic case of Covid. With him being out and Evgeni Malkin out for a few more months still, things have gone about as well as could be expected with this last-gasp Penguins group, which is to say it’s barely .500-ish with a 4-3-3 record in 10 games, which is good for 11 points and the ass-end of the Metro division. When Danton Heinen is leading the team in goals and points at any juncture of a season, it’s probably safe to say that things aren’t particularly optimal. Most recently the Pens to the first place Wild (huh?) to a shootout on the road and ultimately ended up losing the Hog Shit Snarfing Contest, but Mike Sullivan still has the team playing relatively hard even if they’re pretty outgunned most nights without their franchise pillars. Tristan Jarry has at least been pulling his weight in a starter’s workload even after every Yinzer wanted to toss him into a variety of rivers last spring, with a .945 save percentage 5v5 and .925 overall. This is a team that has to play with structure and discipline because it can’t get away with skill right now, and one game with Derek King isn’t magically going to have the Hawks be able to counter that, even if on paper the Hawks’ current lineup does have more spice than the Penguins right now.

11/12 vs Arizona

Game Time – 7:30PM CST
TV/Radio – ESPN+, Hulu, WGN-AM 720
Kyrsten Sinema Is A Goblin: Five For Howling

The Coyotes are the only team in the league worse than the Hawks right now, and really it could be argued that they shouldn’t even count because not only are they willfully trying to be bad on the ice, but the entire franchise is basically a money laundering front/shell corporation for the league right now, and they’re going to get evicted out of their building at the end of the season anyway. It’s tough to say whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing that this game is an online exclusive- on one hand if this was a game ESPN/Hulu earmarked as being a selling point for the platform and ad dollars, they were catastrophically mistaken. On the other hand, it’s almost a public service that no one can accidentally find their way to this imminent disaster, one would have to be a true sicko to go out of their way to find and watch this game. But it will at least be the first time it’s been Hawks red vs white Kachina in like 15 years.

Hockey

As was stated a couple of weeks ago, it’s going to be a different approach this season with regards to previews and wraps, in part due to logistics and in part due to this franchise exhausting all but the last quark of patience around here both on and off the ice. Whille dodging and mishandling their most recent sex scandal, the Hawks decided to revamp their roster and double down on their idiot himbo coach, because apparently Duncan Keith wasn’t big enough or fast enough to run his SYSTEM, and he’s never had an NHL caliber roster before in four Magic Training Camps. Enter the reluctantly vaccinated Jones Brothers and Marc-Andre Fleury, along with Jonathan Toews’ return from Havana Syndrome or whatever, and the Hawks are primed to miss out on the playoffs yet again while the hemorrhage chances and pray Fleury puts up the Vezina numbers he did under a coach who actually works to supress shots in Peter DeBoer in Vegas. Time to get FIRED UP.

 

10/13 At Colorado

Game Time: 9:00PM CST
TV/Radio: TNT, WGN-AM 720
Epic Day Pass: Mile High Hockey

The big news out of Denver is that perennial Hart candidate and complete dietary psychopath Nathan MacKinnon will miss tonight and at least a couple other games in Covid protocol after testing positive yesterday. With the league’s claims of a 98% vaccination rate it seems like it’s just a temporary thing and that he’s asymptomatic, but given the reports in the NFL of faked vaccine documentation and Evander Kane’s most recent investigation being for trying to procure one, that percentage seems dubious. Even without MacKinnon, and Brandon Saad leaving for St. Louis, there’s still more than enough firepower to tear this Hawks defensive zone limb from limb. Philipp Grubauer has gone to Seattle, with Darcy Keumper now entrusted to backstop a team with actual aspirations instead of succeeding in obscurity in the Arizona, what’s left of the Kings, and whatever Minnesota was attempting for years. His counterpart in Fleury is going to have to be at the absolute top of his game, particularly on the PK, considering the Hawks just flat out forgot to work on it during the preseason.

10/15 At New Jersey


Game Time: 6:00PM CST
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, NHL Network, TVA-S, WGN-AM 720
The Many Saints of Newark: All About The Jersey

From a mile above sea level to below it in the Meadowlands, the Hawks jump two time zones in well less than 48 hours to play the Devils and see their new toy in Dougie Hamilton, the second biggest blue line acquisition this off season behind the Hawks and Jones. What Dougie brings to this team that gets them out of their transitional phase is anyone’s guess, as it’s all going to hinge on Jack Hughes taking the leap to being the #1 overall franchise defining pick he was supposed to be. Their other big acquisitions were Tomas Tatar now plaining for his 78th team in 5 years and Jonathan Bernier being given the 1A job for reasons. Apparently Tyler Dellow likes players from bad Wings teams over the past 8 years. Given that this is the front end of a back to back, it would not be surprising to see Lankinen start.

10/16 At Pittsburgh


Game Time: 6:00PM
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, NHL Network, WGN-AM 720
The Chilliest of Willies: PensBurgh

So the Pens had the “honor” of being the visitors on hand for the banner raising ceremony in Tampa, their second this calendar year, which is truly a weird feat. And as is often the case, the Bolts weren’t exactly fully engaged given the delayed start and all the pomp and circumstance it entails (if anyone remembers those sorts of things around here anymore). Even without Sid and Geno for quite a bit, the Penguins jumped out to a 3-0 lead and then things started getting wacky with empty netters in the final minutes to make things 6-3 when all was said and done. And despite the ESPN broadcast’s best attempts to turn him into a conquering hero, and no matter how tough his struggle against leukemia was or how nice a guy he might be, Brian Boyle is a 36 year old obelisk who in no way shape or form comes close in his wettest dreams to providing what even mid 30s Sid and Geno do. Same for Jeff Carter, who despite having 2 rings and was a key member of another finalist might be getting into Who Gives A Shit territory now as well. Tristan Jarry is still who the hopes and dreams in net are pinned on despite all evidence stating that that is folly, and this era might finally be coming to a close in western PA. But this is still a well coached team capable of playing hard and exploiting mistakes even when outgunned as they proved last night. And even if the Hawks will have more firepower on paper than the Pens, it’s not nearly as much as the Bolts have, and they were able to do so on the road without the benefit of matchups. Look for Flower to get this game given his history in the building.

Baseball

There is something pretty simple about identifying your best pitch and deciding you’re just going to throw the ever living fuck out of it and see what happens. Most pitchers have decided they need a mix to get through a lineup two or three times. Then there are pitchers like Patrick Corbin, who stand out on a rock and say things like, “I throw a goddamn slider half the time and I dare you to do anything about it.”

The past two seasons, which just so happened to be the last two seasons before free agency for Corbin in Arizona, he decided that’s what he was going to do. Only two pitchers threw more sliders than Corbin in 2017, and only Jhoulys Chacin threw more last year. You could understand why, as according to FanGraphs it was the most valuable slider in the game. When toting that kind of weapon, it’s probably best you use it as much as you can, especially when you’re eying a contract with nine-digits on it, as Corbin got from the Nationals.

The scary thing for the Nats, or maybe it should have been, is that pitchers that lean that hard on a slider don’t tend to do very well long-term. Last year the top slider-throwers were Chacin, Corbin, Luis Severino, Jakob Junis, and Jon Gray. Chacin and Junis have ERAs over 5.00 this year, and Severino has yet to throw a pitch thanks to a lat strain. Only Gray has improved on what he did last year, and only marginally really.

In 2017, the top slider-throwers were Chris Archer, Corbin, Jason Hammel, John Lackey, and Ervin Santana. Archer has backed up since, and you don’t need me to tell you what happened to the other three.

The year previous, Madison Bumgarner made his way into the top five as far as throwing a slider, and then 2017 was the first year he ever got hurt and ended up missing about half the season. Same goes for Michael Pineda. It’s a very hard pitch to maintain its sharpness over multiple years and also your health. This is the needle that Corbin is trying to thread.

It would appear Corbin is somewhat aware of this, as he’s backed off of it a bit, throwing it 5% less than last year and replacing it with more fastball usage. It seems to have cost him some strikeouts and increased his walks, but he’s still got an ERA and FIP under 4.00. He’ll be hard-pressed to ever match the 11 K/9 that he put up last year, and if that’s what the Nationals thought they were paying for, well that’s on them.

The thing is, Corbin’s slider is getting more movement, both down and across the zone, than it did last year:

So he might be better off just riding and dying with it, whenever that might be.

That doesn’t make his signing any less weird. Yes, the Nationals definitely had a hole in the rotation after Scherzer and Strasburg, and you wouldn’t want any part of this in a playoff series. But does that matter if you’re not getting to the playoff series? The Nationals have a pretty middling offense–partly due to the growing pains of Victor Robles and Juan Soto–and a woeful bullpen. They also have an overmatched manager. Was another starter really highest on the shopping list?

It’s definitely a Cerberus of a top of a rotation. It’s just a wonder if that’s worth it when it’s getting you 80 wins.

Everything Else

 vs 

Game Time: 7:00PM CST
TV/Radio: NBCSN, WGN-AM 720
Ben Roethlisberger Is A Rapist With A Gray Dick: Pensburgh

Ahh, the national TV spotlight for two of the league’s showcase franchises sporting signature stars with hardware to match. Cups, Hart Trophies, Ross Trophies, international gold medals and numerous other awards smattered across each roster, with the Cup Final matchup that would have defined an era that never happened, and is in all likelihood never going to happen as these two powerhouses now fade into the sunset, or in the Hawks case, completely implode over a two year span with no signs of being able to halt the inevitable.

Everything Else

 at 

Game Time: 7:00PM CDT
TV/Radio: NBCSN, TVA-S, WGN-AM 720
Noah Didn’t Take No Penguins With Him On The Ark: PensBurgh

Once again the Hawks find themselves a part of NBCSN’s RIVALRY NIGHT with a team they see a sum total of twice a year. The network should just call the event “Wednesday Night Hockey” and play up the rivalry when there actually is one. Though, to much of rockheaded fanbase of this league, there is still somehow a “rivalry” between the captains of these two teams, even though it’s long been established that the one on the Penguins’ side of things is far and away the better player. But a superstar matchup is a superstar matchup, even this late in the season when most of the playoff picture has been settled and teams like this are basically trying to not get hurt.

Everything Else

So it took a little bit longer than it looked like it was going to after the the first 10 minutes of the game, but the Penguins salvaged a split at home after Tampa won Game 1. These are two incredibly flawed teams, particularly on their respective blue lines, but the speed and dynamism among their forward corps is what got both within three wins of representing the East. Somehow Pengs coach Mike Sullivan allowed both Justin Schultz and Trevor Daley on the ice together at home in a conference final game, and behind Christ Kunitz (who fell down) no less. Predictably that shift resulted in the second Tampa goal. However, Sidney Crosby ended the OT period forty seconds in after cement mixer face Jeremy Roenick said that he wasn’t working as hard as Jonathan Drouin during the second intermission.

Everything Else

budicepenguintin vs evil empire

Game Time: 7:00PM
TV/Radio: NBCSN, TVAS, WGN-AM 720
Thanks Mean Joe: PensBurgh

In its infinite brilliance, the NHL schedule makers have once again knocked hammered out an interconference season series in the span of 28 hours, give or take with the time zone differential. Naturally tonight’s telecast will be the one that is nationally broadcast as a RIVALRY game, one which will likely feature the very telegenic goaltending of two backups, which seems appropriate given all of the announcements surrounding the All Star Farce earlier today.

Everything Else

evil empire vs budicepenguintin

Game Time: 6:00PM Central
TV/Radio: CSN, SportsNet, WGN-AM 720
Ben Roethlisberger Is A Gray Dicked Rapist: PensBurgh

In a matchup of rivals that never were, much to the chagrin of Gary Bettman and NBCSN (despite what they’re pitting tomorrow’s game as), the Hawks travel to Pittsburgh for the first of yet another inter-conference mid-week home and home knocking out the season series in 27 hours. And in an even more remarkable turn of events, both Jonathan Toews and Sidney Crosby are upright for at least tonight’s contest, something that’s eluded both of them in this non-existent battle. Though to what degree is debateable.