The Hawks continue to suck out loud and for some reason we all continue to watch this team limp slowly toward the finish line that is the end of this season. Despite a faux reprieve from offensive terribleness on Friday with a double hat trick win against the disastrous Devils, it was bookended with two horrible losses against actually contending teams, the Panthers and Blues, successfully washing away any optimism that could possibly surround this team.
The real news around these parts is that they ripped off Kyle Davidson’s “interim” tag like a Band-Aid to name him the permanent GM over Mathieu Darche and some shmuck from the Cubs (hey, how about you fix my baseball team’s on-field product before you try to switch sports?). People are justifiably skeptical about the whole situation, which is understandable, but personally I’m still thanking God that Peter Chiarelli is not the Blackhawks GM—what a scare. Davidson has been able to take a deeper look internally at what this team is missing over the past four months, something the other two GM candidates haven’t been able to do, and theoretically this means he won’t fuck things up come the trade deadline.
In case you were trying to block it from your mind, the Hawks have needs in a lot of areas: drafting, prospects, goaltending, any amount of offense at all, way less infinitely replaceable clones that can only play bottom-six positions, a permanent head coach, and maybe a better player development department as Kirby Dach becomes a giant red flag to more and more people. It all begins at this year’s trade deadline at the end of the month, where any amount of wheeling and dealing could be done by Davidson that could make us see the departures of Kubalik, de Haan, Fleury, Strome—honestly fuck it, who isn’t available at this point besides Kane, Toews and the Cat?
Anyway, we have some games this weekend to preview, and it’ll probably end ugly.
3/2 vs. Edmonton
Game Time – 7:30PM CT
TV/Radio – NBCSCH / WGN 720
It Is Better to Live One Day as a Lion Than 1,000 Days as a Lamb – Copper N Blue
The Edmonton Oilers have briefly taken a stop off of the Hot Mess Express ever since Dave Tippett got canned for letting his team get beaten by…well, the Hawks. Since his firing, the Oilers have gone 7-3 in their last 10, clinging to dear life to the final Wild Card spot they currently hold for the West. Oilers fans shield their eyes and pretend not to notice they were able to harvest wins from crappy teams such as the Islanders, Sharks, Kings and struggling Ducks, whereas nearly all of their matchups against contending teams in this stretch have led to losses. It’s mostly because Oilers GM Ken Holland has quite possibly ruined everything by not signing a competent goaltender. Once again I must assume that this team might try to make something work out to bring Fleury to Alberta, though why Fleury would want to go there is beyond me.
In other news, two of the greatest Hawks defensemen of all time, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Duncan Keith, return to the United Center tonight in what will likely be an emotional affair. Had things worked out differently and if the front office hadn’t completely soiled the legacy of the 2010 team forever, the place would be packed and there would be positive vibes abound. Understandably, some fans may not want to see or hear tribute videos to anyone associated with that era, but I am personally pushing some of that aside for now as there hasn’t been a negative story about Niklas Hjalmarsson since I’ve been following the team. The man was a shot-blocking legend, a minutes-eater, and probably one of the best defensive defensemen of his era. His recognition is well-deserved and he seems like a good guy.
Keith will be honored in a smaller own way tomorrow, though he’ll be on the opposing team with the Oilers. Keith is my favorite Hawk of all time—he literally sacrificed seven teeth in the name of the sport, of winning the Stanley Cup, and whether or not you think that’s something worth sacrificing, you have to respect his dedication to the craft. That dedication has made it so he is still playing in the NHL at 38 years old, and he’s not doing so terrible, no matter what you may hear from Oilers fans. He’s having better numbers in Edmonton both offensively and defensively than he had with the Hawks last year; take a look at Natural Stat Trick.
Of course the great Boomer Gordon’s theory about ceremony games meaning automatic losses to the home team will probably come true, so expect a Blackhawks loss.
3/5 at Philadelphia
Game Time – 2:00 PM CT
TV/Radio – ESPN+, ABC / WGN 720
It’s Like When I’m Doing Good In The Game, I’m Doing Good In Life. – Broad Street Hockey
The Flyers are doing much, much worse than even the Hawks are at this point of the season, at find themselves in the basement of the Metro and continuing a similar aimless march toward the trade deadline. In this city, it is longtime captain and center dot staple Claude Giroux on the chopping block. Giroux, as old as Patrick Kane, is still a team leader in goals, points, even-strength goals, OPS and faceoff percentage. Trading him away would be…well, how much worse could it get? They’re also trying to deal Keith Yandle, who is at a team-worst -32 for the year and his other defensive metrics are just as terrifying, so good luck with that.
Flyers fans are probably excited that Carter Hart has had a bounce-back goaltending year from last season, although that just means he’s been putting up a middling .912 save percentage and a 2.87 GAA. For the Flyers, however, it’s better than the alternative, as Martin Jones has lost his last eight starts to teams like Buffalo, San Jose, LA and the Islanders. He also hasn’t started since February 22, but considering their schedule he might be in the crease against the Hawks just to give Hart some rest between games against more talented teams like Minnesota and Vegas.
3/6 vs. Tampa Bay
Game Time – 6:00 PM CT
TV/Radio – NHLN, NBCSCH / WGN 720
Are You Really Sure You Want To Watch This Slaughtering? – Raw Charge
Tampa Bay is once again really goddamn good, currently atop the Atlantic Division with 76 points, good for 3rd in the league. The Lightning are also currently on a 5-game win streak and considering they only have to play the Penguins and Red Wings before facing the Hawks, it’s very likely that streak will be extended to 7 when they arrive at the United Center on Sunday.
Despite the Lightning not being offensive analytic darlings like their cross-state rivals the Panthers or the even teams like the Avalanche out west, they allow the second-least shots in the league because of their solid defense and it certainly doesn’t hurt to have one of the league’s most reliable goaltenders in Andrei Vasilevskiy between the pipes every night.
The Lightning are also finally healthy, as it seems only Zach Bogosian is on injury report list, and he won’t be missed too much. Steven Stamkos at 32 is also top on the team in goals, points, powerplay goals, the whole nine yards—as usual. Nikita Kucherov is 9th on the team in points so far this season after he spent nearly all of last season on IR, but that’s fine with Lightning fans since he usually pops off in the playoffs when the games matter most. The Hawks are outmatched and outclassed up and down the lineup against this team, and I do not have high hopes for this game by any means.