Once again, this publication was right in our analysis.

The Blackhawks played like dogshit to start this season off, and if it were up to any of us the coach would’ve been fired two days ago. Perhaps you were at least trying to hope that the Hawks would be somewhat watchable coming out of the gate this year, and with the players they added that’s not a lot to ask for. And yet here we are with some really ugly losses to start this season off. For those who channeled their inner Tony Montana and said to hell with this team before the season even started…good move on your part.

October 13, 2021
Hawks 2, Avalanche 4
Box | Natural Stat Trick

Once the puck finally dropped fifteen minutes after the game’s scheduled start time, things went just about as expected for the men of four feathers. By all logic this team should be much better than last year’s since we acquired two players in blockbuster trades and theoretically strengthened the defense. But no, instead we watched the Hawks defense be non-existent, with giveaways and a failing System everywhere you looked. Jake McCabe tripped over Tyler Johnson to lead to an Avalanche giveaway that scored the first goal. Minutes later, Seth Jones gave the puck away to Bowen Byram which led directly to a softie goal by Marc-Andre Fleury that can also be partially blamed on Calvin de Haan for screening his own goaltender. Fleury very noticeably got angrier and angrier with every dipshit goal scored against him, and Jones posted a -2 and had some horrifically defensive plays all throughout this game, in case you were wondering—one of which happened just a few minutes after the second goal when Gabriel Landeskog stole the puck from DeBrincat and set up Byram for his first NHL tally.

The Hawks were able to score two goals in this one despite getting completely clocked in possession for the entirety of the first period. And the only reason why the Hawks had 50+ CF% in the second and third periods was thanks to the Avalanche very obviously taking their foot off the gas once they secured their Most Dangerous Lead. Kirby Dach had a few really good chances he couldn’t finish, which he should definitely straighten out, and then he got plastered by Landeskog in the 3rd period in an illegal hit that probably should’ve seen a longer suspension. Don’t be fooled by the score, however, because this team looked horrendous and could barely get out of their zone—a trend that will continue, as you see below. Oh, and did we mention Nathan MacKinnon wasn’t even playing?

October 15, 2021
Hawks 3, Devils 4 (OT)
Box | Natural Stat Trick

Kevin Lankinen started this one, and unlike Fleury he’s seen this shit before and isn’t in for a culture shock regarding how terrible The System is around here. And as usual, the defense ended up hanging him out to dry on a myriad of goals. The Hawks were almost immediately trailing in this one thanks to Jake McCabe getting outmuscled by multiple Devils, which was…special to watch. But a sweet pass from Kane to the Cat was able to tie things up on a powerplay opportunity (the only way this God-forsaken team can score goals under this coaching staff).

Jack Hughes spin-o-rama’d a goal and then Kevin Lankinen let in a tough one midway through the third to make things an even more uphill battle for the Hawks. Somehow we were able to score two with four minutes left in the game, thanks of course to a Blackhawk powerplay and a Hawks empty net that put an extra man on the ice. (See the scoring pattern?) The good news is that Seth Jones wasn’t as atrocious for this game, helping to keep the puck in on the tying goal and keep the play alive. However, it was Jack Hughes with a highlight-reel overtime goal reminiscent of the younger, not-injured Kane of yore that ended this game with another Blackhawk loss.

October 16, 2021
Hawks 2, Penguins 5
Box | Natural Stat Trick

This is genuinely the most embarrassing game of Blackhawks hockey I’ve had the mispleasure to watch in a very long time. (Ever?) Poor Fleury, in his return to Pittsburgh that should’ve been a good experience for him, ended his start so quickly, horrifically and embarrassingly that I just had to turn this game off for a while. The Hawks, who ONCE AGAIN should’ve lucked out with their opponent’s best players in Crosby and Malkin out this game, still let this Penguins team skate circles around them. For the second game in a row the Hawks allowed a goal just seconds in, on the opponent’s first shot of the game, a goal Fleury likely should’ve had. The second goal was a second Fleury fuck-up, as he traveled to get a loose puck behind his net and wasn’t able to get a handle on it quickly enough, letting Drew O’Connor stick it right in an open net. A third goal from the same fucking bottom-six line continued to crush Fleury’s confidence, and less than a minute later the defensive System left him out to dry with one more goal against to send Fleury packing.

Fleury was yanked to a chorus of boos, both because Fleury is a Penguin GOAT and also because it must be so much fun to pillage a team like this and get four goals in the first twelve minutes of a game. Without Crosby and Malkin. A (powerplay) Kane one-timer and a pretty nifty Dach goal in the 3rd accounted for the two Hawks goals, in case it matters to you at all. Lankinen allowed one more Penguin goal because he couldn’t control a rebound that ended up going off Murphy’s skate and in the net, a perfect summation of how well The System is working so far.

Finally, Kane’s secret injury seems more than just a “nagging” one to me. Why didn’t they figure that out in the offseason? Even a surgery that puts him out the first part of the season would be preferable to what I’m seeing now. And yet he’s still the points leader on this team by a mile! I need a Tylenol.

The clown show never ends, as the Hawks look to face off against the Islanders, Canucks, and Scum this week. Meanwhile, the front office has announced God-like figure Marian Hossa will return to be honored on November 9th in order to sell as many tickets as they can to this clown show, which the team will probably lose to the Penguins again. (They would honor him more by letting him just stay home in Slovakia, poor guy.) Coach Bargain Bin Rivers Cuomo will be booed to my heart’s content in tomorrow’s opener, and hopefully by the next wrap we have a new coach, even if it’s just Marc Crawford. God save us all.



RECORDS: Hawks 5-7-3   Penguins 9-6-1


TV: NBCSN Chicago, NHL Network


Something of an old home week for the Hawks. It started with the Kings, whom they once sat upon the top of the West with for years. Then it was the Canucks, with whom they shared the league’s fiercest rivalry, but long enough ago that you have to start to squint to keep seeing it. And now it’s the Penguins, their Eastern counterpoint, a team they were always compared to, and one that’s outlasted them in NHL relevance. They will always be connected as long as Toews and Crosby are around, the two pillars of two Canadian gold medal teams. But that’s about where they stop sharing similarities now.

As is always the case with the Pens, they’ve steered their ship successfully through injuries, and injuries to just about the same guys as always. Geno Malkin has only played five games but recently returned. Kris Letang and Patric Hornqvist are out at the moment, as is their way. They’ve had up and down performances from Matt Murray. But there they sit, comfortably in a playoff spot in the Metro Division. It was ever thus.

As you might expect, Engine #87 is leading the way, as he and Jake Guentzel (who simply must give half his paycheck to Crosby) are leading the Pens in scoring and doing most of the work. They’ve been able to create more depth than they had last year with the additions of Domink Kahun (a tear rolls down our cheek) and Jaren McCann last year without having to give up anything of note. McCann has flourished since arriving, with 17 points last year in 32 games and nine this year in 12 outings. This is his third stop in the league, so perhaps he heard the footsteps of oblivion calling and kicked his ass into gear. Or he just found a team that plays a way he can adapt to.

In fact, the results might have betrayed the Pens a little. They’re the second-best team in the league in Corsi and xG%. They’re top-ten in both goals for and goals-against per game in the league. Only their goaltending has been a little suspect at even-strength, but hardly terrible at .920. They just halted the Islanders March To The Sea, so don’t be shocked if their record picks up in a hurry and aggressively. They’re doing just about everything right, and might just be victims of some weird sequencing.

If there’s one aspect they need to get going it’s their power play that’s worse than the Hawks’ at the moment. Geno’s return will certainly help, and they won’t shoot just 8% on it forever (for comparison’s sake, the Caps are shooting at 20% on the man-advantage at the moment).

There’s a clear delineation on how the Penguins deploy everyone, as Malkin and Crosby pretty much are restricted to starting in the offensive zone and the third and fourth lines in the other. Their fourth-line has been a true weapon so far this year, with the trio of Aston-Reese – Teddy Blueger (I almost forgot my beautiful babies!) – Brandon Tanev being used almost exclusively in the defensive zone and consistently turning over their opposition. Their success has lessened the pressure on Crosby to do everything every night, which he’s taking to as well. Must be nice.

To the Hawks, and there are more changes than you would have guessed coming off their most complete game of the year. The two kids, i.e. the only two reasons you’re watching, are both going to watch this one. It’s an odd call to scratch them both at the same time, but the occasional night off for two teenagers negotiating an NHL season for the first time isn’t a complete crime. Still, it makes the bottom six way less interesting, and pairs Gustafsson with Keith likely, and that’s been an utter disaster every time it’s been tried. Maybe de Haan slides up with Maatta rejoining Seabrook…except that hasn’t worked either. There are no complete answers.

It’ll be a return home for Olli Mattaa, and he’ll be greeted with the Pens gleefully trying to attack him at every turn. Pittsburgh kind of started the whole get-it-the-fuck-up style of hockey that got them to two Cups in a row, and it’s still a style the Hawks have yet to prove they can handle. Look for the Pens to do no messing about in their own zone, and trying to spring their forwards onto the Hawks defense as early as possible every chance.

The strange thing is as fast as the Penguins have played the past few years and how much more skilled they’ve been than the Hawks recently, they haven’t beaten the Hawks in six seasons. The Hawks have won 11 straight in this matchup, which goes all the way back that Eddie O suggested the Hawks replace Corey Crawford as starter on air and Fifth Feather had a brain bubble about it.

Wednesday was probably the Hawks most complete game of the year. The Canucks did their part, but everything pretty much worked. Whether it was a one-off or an actual turning point, we’ll find out this weekend.


Let’s get it out at the top, we don’t miss Eddie Olczyk’s insistence on calling Dominik Kahun “The Big Kahun-a.” Somehow, no one ever bothered to explain to Eddie, or he just never bothered to listen, that “The Big Kahun” would suffice easily. We’ll get the joke. Really, we will. It made it sound like he had indigestion every time he said the goddamn name. Fuckin’ eh hockey people have the worst sense of humor.

Anyway, the Hawks fortunes probably don’t hinge on whether Dominik Kahun is here or not. But if you consider the kind of game the NHL is these days, and the one the Hawks are trying to play in it, what makes more sense? Having a quick, smart forward who is interested and effective in both ends of the ice? Or cashing him in for a slow, not all-all-that-skilled d-man and then having to plug up the forward spot you just vacated with a dumber, slower, less interested and far more expensive player? Not to mention older? You see where this goes.

We know the Hawks figured that with the arrival of Domink Kubalik, that the other Dominik was expendable. Maybe even more so if they had an inkling they could pry Alex Nylander loose. And yet wouldn’t you be happier with Kahun taking Shaw’s shifts right now? He’s certainly more flexible, and less prone to ride on his reputation with the locals to loaf around the offensive zone until it’s time to take an idiotic and lazy penalty.

And conceding that the Hawks knew they’d end up with Nylander would concede that they also had any sort of plan, which is clear they didn’t. If the front office was committed to building a team that can play the way Jeremy Colliton wants to play, and that’s assuming the front office has any idea what their coach is doing, you’d want quicker and more dynamic d-men than you had. Ones that can win the races and play the high-pressure way and not lose their man simply because they can’t keep up or get back to where they need to be quick enough. You wouldn’t go out and get a plodder, much less two of them.

But that’s what the Hawks did. Which smacks of acquiring Maatta simply because he was available without ever considering if he truly fit. Same thing with Calvin de Haan, though they didn’t give up anything of value to do that. Worse yet, both are signed for multiple years, which strangles any flexibility. How do they plan on getting Ian Mitchell and Nicholas Beaudin and even Chad Krys on this roster in the next two seasons?

So where would the Hawks be better off? The $7M they’d have saved by just keeping Kahun, never bothering with Maatta or Shaw? Or this? You tell us which path actually speaks to having a plan and which speaks to throwing shit at a wall? And sure, Kahun will be due a raise after this season, but do you really think he’ll get anywhere close to the $3.9M that Shaw is getting? No, you don’t, because you haven’t been hit by a crowbar recently.

As we figured, Kahun has taken to the Penguins’ system like a dog to peanut butter, simply crushing the competition to the tune of a 57% Corsi and a 62% expected-goals share. He’s been used in the offensive end more often than the Hawks did, to be fair. He’s mostly skated with Jared McCann in The Confluence, and now with Evgeni Malkin back will probably slot into a third-line role which he was built for.

We still find it hard to believe that Jim Rutherford knows what he’s doing. But as GM of one of the three modern forces of the league this decade, he seems to be the only one getting it right. And by some distance. Fleecing the Hawks for Kahun is how you do that.


Jack Johnson – All the normal antagonists are hurt these days for the Pens, so will go with this moon-faced tomato can. Not that he’s a particularly ornery or annoying player, he just sucks. We’ve seen players suck before, but the’s the suckiest suck that ever sucked. And he’s also definitely going to be a Hawk in the near future, because if there’s one thing they love it’s a big, slow, dumb defenseman. Hey Jack, where’s all your money gone?

Sidney Crosby – He doesn’t get enough John Stockton comparisons, but maybe that’s because John Stockton never bitched as much as Crosby does per game. When you’ve been the game’s best player for a decade, that happens of course (hey, LeBron wants his calls too). But Crosby is also sneaky dirty and not-s0-sneaky strong. Watch him closely down low, and you’ll see some dark arts…followed by some whining. They go hand in hand.

Nick Bjugstad – Only because we spent about five years thinking this guy was going to be a premier power forward in the league, after watching him at Minnesota during the lockout because we had nothing else to do. And it’s never happened, it’s probably not going to happen, and when you’re a big player that Dale Tallon gives up on, you know you’ve fucked it.


For going on damn near three years now, it’s been obvious to anyone with a brain that the Blackhawks have had lacked a lot on the blue line. We knew that good ol’ Duncan Keith would never be able to keep up his cowboy ways at the elite level he had played at before, and there seemed to be little to-no-help on the way. Last year the Hawks desperately lacked an effective puck mover on the backend who could also defend well. Going into the offseason, they needed to find someone who could shut down the opponent in the defensive zone. Who could, ideally, take away half the ice the way Keith used to, even if not quite as well. They needed someone who could do all that while also being able to get the puck out of the zone once he had it, either by skating or passing. And if they could get all of that in one guy, that’d be ideal.

So they traded for Olli Maatta, who can do none of that.

2018-19 Stats (w/ Penguins)

60 GP – 1 G, 13 A, 14 P

46.51 CF% (-4.42 CF% Rel), 43.36 oZS%

53.75 GF% (-0.08 GF% Rel), 51.53 xGF% (-0.27 xGF% Rel)

15:27 Avg. TOI

A Brief History: At one point Maatta was considered one of the better prospects in the NHL, but due to a series of injuries both on and off the ice, including an unfortunate battle with cancer, he never fully delivered on all the promise. Once considered someone with high offensive upside, especially after having 9 goals and 29 points in 78 games during his rookie season, Maatta has struggled to produce since and has never topped either of those numbers, though he did have 29 points again in 2017-18 when he played all 82 games for the only time in his career. Last year he failed to match that scoring pace and ended up going on IR with yet another injury in March, this one an upper-body injury after taking an uncomfortable hit. He missed all but 5 games from that point on.

Maatta has settled somewhat nicely into your typically “defensive defenseman” role, as despite missing 22 games last year, he finished third on the Penguins in blocked shots and hits. If that sentence sounded positive, it was not meant to. Basically what that means is that despite being a quarter of the season, Maatta spent so much fucking time in his own defensive zone that he had no choice but to throw his dumb body in front of pucks, likely because he was tired of skating around, because that isn’t exactly a strength of his. Blocking a lot of shots is good when you’re Niklas Hjalmarsson, who is good at both preventing shots and getting in front of them, but when you’re getting face-fucked by the opponents at a near-54% clip and 4% below your own team rate, blocking those shots is less impressive skill and more necessary duty.

It Was the Best of Times: Just staying healthy for the full 82 would be a best-case scenario for Maatta as an individual, because again, he’s only done that once. As a player and contributor to the Hawks, it would be ideal if he can return to his scoring pace from ’17-’18 and could end up somewhere in that 23-29 point range. Expecting more than that is foolhardy, but it’s not unrealistic to think he could do that. Moreover, it’d be nice if he cleans up his shit in the defensive zone and is able to fight above the 50% mark on shot attempts. If he can do all of that and be a steady presence on the back end, this could end up being a not-terrible acquisition. On the other hand….

It Was the BLURST of Times: If Maatta plays like he did last year – getting brained by the other team and playing well below team rate on shot attempts, and getting by-and-large lucky on the overall goal differential, while also providing little to nothing of note from a production standpoint, Maatta runs the risk of compounding the issues that ailed the Hawks’ blue line last year rather than offering himself as a solution. If that does end up being the case, him getting injured – which he probably will – would not be such a bad outcome, as bad is that is to say and as harsh as that sounds.

Prediction: Maatta deals with some minor injury stuff but nothing too major, and plays more than 65 but less than 75 games for the Hawks. He makes a modest improvement in the CF% but still finishes below team rate and probably leads the team in blocked shots, which will earn him praise even though it probably shouldn’t. He won’t get back to 2017-18 production but will score 5 goals and 15 points, which will be fine but not make much of a difference.

Stats from and Natural Stat Trick.

Previous Previews

Robin Lehner

Corey Crawford

Adam Boqvist

Carl Dahlstrom

Calvin de Haan

Erik Gustafsson

Duncan Keith

Slater Koekkoek


The other dynasty. And one that might be heading the way of the Hawks more than they’d like to admit. It was something of a nothing season in The Burgh, if a 100-point season can be described that way. Maybe it can after the Pittsburgh Penguins turned out to be not much more than cannon fodder for the Islanders in the first round, and promptly rolled over for a team that rolled over to the next one to a team that rolled over for the next one. There doesn’t seem to be much forward momentum with this bunch, and it seems to be about hanging on to what they have. We know how that goes. Will it go that way for the Pens this term?


44-26-12  100 points (3rd in Metro, lost in 1st round to NYI)

3.30 GF/G (6th)  2.90 GA/G (14th)

49.6 CF% (15th)  51.5 xGF% (11th)

24.6 PP% (5th)  79.7 PK% (19th)

Goalies: As it has been, as it will be, the Penguins will trust Matt Murray with the crease. He’s been just about everything in just four seasons, barely, at the top level. He’s been a playoff hero, nothing more than tissue paper, hurt, and then revitalized and he’s barely had time to learn the street (they’re difficult there). He ended last season with a .919, which is more than acceptable, but he went the roundabout way in that he was woeful in October and November last year, then brilliant in December (.950), before evening out in the season’s second half. At 25 and his fourth full season in the NHL, this should be when he enters his prime, and if he does a lot of the other questions about the Penguins seem less daunting. Still, he’s got a clunky month or two in his locker, and this Penguins outfit probably can’t as easily survive those as past ones.

He’ll be backed up by Casey DeSmith, who is a raging piece of shit, but a capable backup as he provided a .916 last year.

Defense: And here is where things get sticky. The Pens will still count on Kris Letang and Brian Dumoulin for their top pairing, but Letang has managed a full season of work in one season out of the last eight. He’s 32 now, which is just about the time things turn for a d-man whose game was built on mobility. When he did play last year, he was nearly a point-per-game, and his metrics were glittering again, so it’s unlikely he’s going to fall off a cliff here. But the end does come quickly, as we know around these parts.

Beyond that pairing, they seem serious about running it back with Jack Johnson and Erik Gudbranson, quite pleased with themselves they got away with using the latter after the trade deadline last season without sending the entire city into the combination of rivers. That won’t work a second time. The kid who could start to take more and more responsibility–and helped pave the way for Olli Maatta‘s immobile ass out of town–Marcus Pettersson, remains unsigned. The Zach Werenski contract should help with that, but the Penguins need him because they can’t seriously give the two monoliths in front of him second pairing minutes.

Justin Schultz is still here, or at least is when everything is attached to him, which isn’t often. He only played 29 games last year, and 63 the year before that. He’s a power play weapon when actually dressed, and provides more swiftness to cover for Johnson or Gudbranson.

If Pettersson and Schultz are healthy, there is a chance for some real spice to this blue line. If they aren’t or Pettersson takes a step back, then Guddy and JJ are going to play far too often and there are going to be guys in Hazmat suits patrolling the Penguins’ defensive zone, no matter how well Murray plays.

Forwards: Interesting group here. It’s always a boon to start with two Hall of Famers in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, but the latter threw up a….well, he just threw up last year. 72 points in 68 games, which is still really good but below what you associate with him. Just 21 goals. the lowest per game mark since the Season In A Can. His metrics also took a hit, and there were a lot of nights where he was either petulant, or too lazy to even be that. He’s 33 now, and while that’s starting to age it shouldn’t be the mark where he turns into something a raccoon gets drunk off of.

The top line will still be Crosby and Jake Guentzel, with other forward to be determined. Phil Kessel and his continual mush of sadness has been shipped off to Arizona, with Alex Galchenyuk coming in return. Neither Montreal or Arizona were able to unlock what seems to be within the American with the Russian name who used to play for the Canadiens, and now it’s a question if it’s there at all (or serious questions about what is).

Another question mark is getting a full season of Nick Bjugstad. All the tools are there to be a dominant power forward, either at center or wing, and yet it’s never happened. Jared McCann seemed to fair a little better in Pittsburgh from Florida, but they’re going to need both of these guys to be more than they’ve been. Dominik Kahun could play himself into top line minutes at times, but is certainly more than enough on a bottom six. Brandon Tanev arrived in the summer to shore up that part of the roster as well. With just a couple pops from guys who haven’t popped before, this could be the usual deep crop of Penguins forwards who never stop that you’re accustomed to. But if guys like Bjugstad and McCann don’t make a move forward and Galchenyuk can’t get his face out of a mirror, then suddenly they look awfully top-heavy again.

Prediction: With Murray, Letang, Dumoulin, Crosby, and Malkin, it’s nearly impossible to imagine the Penguins being bad. And if they get some luck in the health department with Schultz, Letang, and get Pettersson in the fold, you could see where they could be really good again. They need guys to do things they’ve never done before up front, but that has happened before in Pittsburgh. Then again, Derick Brassard also happened there, as did others. This is a team that seemingly could be anything. It could win the division, it could slide down into a wildcard fight with a couple injuries and stall-outs in development. They’re Cup-winning days just might be over, but they still might get a say in who does.

Previous Team Previews



New Jersey

New York Islanders

New York Rangers


Everything Else

I suppose I should rejoice that they’re doing SOMETHING. And the quickness with which it was done lets you know the Hawks know they need to make changes and are urgent to do so. I’m not sure that matters when your changes are wrong.

In case you didn’t see the news, the Hawks traded Dominik Kahun and a 5th round pick this year to Pittsburgh for Olli Maatta. I’m not going to sugarcoat this for you. Olli Maatta sucks. He’s sucked for years now, and the only reason anyone would be attracted to him is a first-round draft pedigree that is now seven years old and buried under the dust of underwhelming when not straight-up bad performance. This is how Pierre McGuire would make trades.

Maatta is SUH-LOW. In a league that’s getting faster and for a team that lacks any mobility on the blue line, I guess he’ll fit right in but he doesn’t fix anything. He also can’t make up for it by making plays or the like, as the Hawks could get away with a slow d-man who can at least get the puck out and up to the forwards quickly and crisply. Maatta cannot do that, or at least hasn’t shown he can.

Maatta spent a majority of the season on the Penguins third pairing, which he was eventually punted from when Marcus Pettersson proved to be more useful and after the acquisition of Erik Goddamn Fuck You Gudbranson. That’s right, Erik “If And Italian Beef Shit Were A Hockey Player” Gudbranson was much preferred over Maatta in the playoffs. And before you say, “Well, maybe the coach is an idiot?” remember Mike Sullivan has two rings.

You can at least try and find the pinch-hold that Maatta started an overwhelming amount of his shifts in the defensive zone this year. But his zone-starts weren’t really noticeably worse than Letang’s or Dumoulin’s (the guy the Hawks probably should have been calling about) but his metrics far worse. And in the previous three seasons, Maatta’s zone starts have been more forgiving and his possession numbers are still awful.

Maatta has never managed more than 30 points in the league, so he’s not offensively gifted. He’s not like, an awful passer, but he’s far from a dynamic one.

To add to that, he’s made of duct tape and snot. He’s gone the route of 82 games just once in six seasons, and has missed more than 15 games in a year four times in his six year career.

One more thing, he’s not even that cheap! Maatta makes $4M for the next three seasons, but seems awfully expensive for a third-pairing d-man, which is all Maatta has ever proven to be. Good thing the Hawks already had like, five of those.

And this isn’t some love letter to Dominik Kahun. He’s a useful player that can help a team a lot from the bottom six, but he’s also the type of player you’re supposed to be able to find with regularity. And the Hawks might already have with Dominik Kubalik, any step forward from Dylan Sikura, and possibly a surprise from Phillip Kurashev who I’ve decided to adopt as my guy for really no other reason than my love for Xherdan Shaqiri. Kahun will do well with the Penguins, but the Hawks should be able to plug that hole. You’d hope.

Where Maatta slots is another questions. He’s left-sided, so he’d be best paired with a fast, puck-moving, right-sided d-man. Let me look over who fills out that role for the Hawks. Oh that’s right, fucking no one. Boy, guess we’d better hope Boqvist makes the team out of training camp, huh? Except that Maatta won’t be able to cover for all his booboos in the d-zone. Wonderful. I’m now going to go eat a stainless steal pan.

If this is what the Hawks diagnose as their problem, they’re fucked. If they’re scouting Maatta as the mobility or assuredness they need, they’re fucked. Maatta is a bottom of the roster fix when the top is still emitting noxious fumes. You have to pray this is only the start and not the coup-de-useless.

Otherwise, great trade.

Everything Else

And now the Penguins have their own 2017 Predators series. We’re not alone.

Two years after their third Cup. Swept out. Looking out of ideas, out of energy, out of speed. Those who had been pillars of historic success simply nowhere to be found. A GM floundering and picking up slow, past-it d-men, holding onto methods that no longer apply. A former playoff chew-toy rising up and vanquishing those that hadn’t even considered them an adversary before. A raucous crowd behind them, swinging wildly between euphoria and disbelief that it’s finally happening (though let’s thank Isles fans for finally stealing European soccer songs instead of just college chants, a la Music City). A sense of of it truly being over.

Sound at all familiar? The difference here of course is where the Predators simply sped past the Hawks at every turn, the Islanders boa constrictor’d the Penguins from the off, and there wasn’t any air anywhere for them. You can’t really blame the Pens. After the past three years, it would take an utter miracle to find the energy to get through a Barry Trotz team. Especially when you’ve run into a Barry Trotz team the previous three seasons. At some point, everyone just says, “Fuck this, I’ve had enough.” Victory has defeated you, as they say.

It seems every defining team goes through this. The Hawks in ’17. The Kings missing the playoffs altogether after their second Cup and then being utterly destroyed by the Sharks a year later. The Wings being flattened by the same Predators in 2012. The endings are never clean or graceful. As Sick Boy put it, “At one point you’ve got it, and then you lose it and it’s gone forever.” In the NHL now, that moment where it switches doesn’t let you down gently. It goes upside your head with a mace.

Oh, I’m sure Penguins fans will scream until they wretch up an Iron City that as long as Crosby and Malkin are around they’re never out of it. We said the same thing around these parts, and look where it got us. If Sidney dyes his hair purple and tells the assembled press in September he’s really gotten into writing his own poetry, you’ll truly know where you’re headed. They’ll pout and stamp their feet about how Jim Rutherford will figure it out. The same Rutherford who signed Jack Johnson and traded for Erik Gudbranson and then wondered why they couldn’t bust a Trotz trap. And remember, that was all for a still useful Carl Hagelin, who just happens to still be playing. I’m sure Rutherford has a real master plan here. After all, he wasn’t responsible for all of the Canes playoffs-less decade. Just most of it.

Oh, they’ll tell themselves that Jared McCann and Nick Bjugstad will put it together at The Confluence. That they just need to be in a winning atmosphere and suddenly they’ll blossom. Sure thing, that’s why the Panthers are so good. Maybe they can bring back Matt Cullen again, assuming they can find enough virgin’s blood between now and training camp to keep him upright. Signing centers over 40 is always such a keen strategy.

Next year will be the 54th straight that Olli Maatta is going to have a breakthrough. Or maybe next year is finally the one Justin Schultz can make it through without catching legionnaires  or having half of a construction site fall on him. Stranger things have happened, I suppose. Maybe if you try hard enough, Pens fans, you can close your eyes and focus and suddenly Marcus Pettersson will just become Elias.

Matt Murray is still young, they’ll tell themselves. Really had a surge in the second half of the year. All that’s true, except he just put up his second subpar playoff performance to go with his two good ones. Are they ready for another Marc-Andre Fleury roller coaster? They didn’t like the first one much. There are no answers here either.

No, realizations like Patric Hornqvist proving that if you’re an asshole power forward and you take the power forward away, you’re just an asshole, aren’t going to get any better and brighter when he’s 33. Come December the Pens will have their very own Milan Lucic! They must be so excited.

And there’s little salvation to be found. The only big contract coming off the books soon is Schultz’s, and that will mostly be insurance after he’s eaten by werewolves. This is entrenched. This is what you are. It was good enough not so long ago. It’s not now, and it  won’t be again. There are glories past to be celebrated, and you’ll have to hang on tight, because what comes next isn’t very fun. Ask us. We know. Keep the DVDs close.

So fare the well, Pittsburgh Penguins. Don’t worry, the NHL will keep shoving you in outdoor games and on national television. The name recognition doesn’t fade. But that only shines a brighter light on what isn’t there any longer. Believe us, we got here first. When all you want is to remain in the shadows so no one will notice you trying to white-knuckle through another Gudbranson shift, the masses will keep coming back to scoff and mock, and try to remember what it was like before, while decrying that they still have to watch and pay attention to you. And you’ll tell them you don’t want them to either, but NBC keeps bringing you back. Everyone is going to know your pain when all you want is to be left alone.

It’s a dark ride from here.

Everything Else

Last year, we attempted to sum up every playoff night with like, real analysis. But let’s be real, you can’t watch five games at once. It’s hard enough to watch three games in a night. So this year, we’re just going to give you the quickest possible thoughts on the previous night’s happenings. 

Blue Jackets vs. Lightning Game 1: What the fuck?

Penguins vs. Islanders Game 1: What the fuck ever.

Blues vs. Jets Game 1: Fuck, but also fuck the Jets.

Dallas vs. Nashville Game 1: Fuckin’ Stars!

Knights vs. Sharks Game 1: Fuckin’ Sharks!

That’s all.

Everything Else


SCHEDULE: Game 1 at Islanders – Wednesday 6:30, Game 2 at Islanders – Friday 6:30, Game 3 at Penguins – Sunday 12pm, Game 4 at Penguins – April 16th 6:30

Ho-hum, here the Penguins are with 100 points again, and likely as anyone to get out of the Metro Division. Before anyone tells you what the Hawks have gone through the past four seasons was unavoidable due to the cap and success, ask yourselves if the Penguins ever went four seasons without a series win, or three without a playoff win, or even two without the playoffs. The answer…is no. They’ll meet up with the league’s biggest surprise, and its tightest defense. Which will probably make this one a slog to watch, other than the Nassau crowd being utterly bonkers and frothing and smelly, because it’s Long Island. This will be the first series the Islanders have started at home since the Mesozoic Era. Let’s run it through.

Goalies: You have to start with the Isles, and their tandem that brought home the Jennings Trophy. As of now, Barry Trotz hasn’t announced a starter, and the Isles might just tandem it up as they did throughout the season. While Trotz certainly did lock things down defensively after Doug Weight had turned the Isles’ zone into what Springfield Elementary looked like when Flanders was the principal, both Thomas Greiss and Robin Lehner both performed above their expected ranges. Which makes beating the Islanders quickly almost an impossibility. However, playoff runs rarely work out when you’re switching goalies, the 2010 Flyers being something of an exception and that was due to incompetence. Generally you get one trigger-pull. The Isles are unique, and if one drops the ball they can just go with the other. But then there won’t be the safety net they’ve had all season. It’s a tough balance.

And if New York was hoping that their playoff fortunes hinge on getting significantly better goaltending than their opponent, they’ve picked the wrong fight here. Since December 1st, Matt Murray is rolling up with a .929 SV% overall. And a .933 at evens all season. And he’s already gone the route twice, so the stage won’t frighten him.

Defense: While the blue and orange faithful are probably hoping Barry Trotz can conjure more magic from last year, he doesn’t have the horses on the blue line this time around. I would argue John Carlson, Matt Niskanen, and Dmitry Orlov are better than anyone the Isles can boast. While promising, Pelech, Pulock, and Mayfield have only ever projected to be middle pairing guys. Nick Leddy was woeful for most of the season, as his freewheeling style doesn’t fit in with Trotz. Devon Toews has been something of a revelation, but you see how far Trotz trusts a rookie in the postseason. They play a style that shields them well enough, but there’s also a couple legends on the other side.

The Penguins will actually head into this series healthy on the blue line…for about five minutes. Again, it has the experience. There’s just way more firepower here with Letang and Schultz. Somehow, Erik Gudbranson didn’t sink them, and the Isles aren’t going to play fast enough to expose him and Jack Johnson. Maybe they capitalize on a mistake or two, but aren’t going to constantly cave them in.

Forwards: There have been series in the past when the Penguins won because they had Crosby and Malkin and the other team didn’t. Malkin had what everyone called an offseason, and he was pretty bad at times, and he still ended up with 72 points in 68 games. It’s still Evgeni Malkin. Jake Guentzel had 40 goals, and I’m not sure he does anything but stand still and let Crosby bank it off of him in the net, but he’s good enough to finish all those chances. Hornqvist is a nasty playoff weapon because he’s just around the net all the time, and especially in a series that could easily be trenched the fuck up, those kinds of goals and those kinds of scorers are paramount. PHIL!’s goal-scoring has dropped off a touch but he’s actually a better playmaker now. Again, the Pens don’t starve for weapons.

The Isles aren’t bereft of skill, it’s just not used that way. Barzal led them in scoring with 62 points. The Penguins feature four players who topped that, and a d-man who wasn’t far behind in Letang with 56. Brock Nelson is a hell of a second center, and Anders Lee could be a Hornqvist in the playoffs. But boy, beyond that…

You can write off Jordan Eberle now. This isn’t his time of year. His one playoff journey in EdMo saw him manage an 0-fer in 13 games. Sure, playoff narratives are built around grind-y, check-y, grunt-y guys like Casey Cizikas and ClusterFuck, but I’ll still take the Hall of Famers on the other side, thanks.

Prediction: Trotz is going try and make every game 2-1, because the Isles sure can’t shoot it out with the Penguins. And he did get one over the Penguins last year. He also lost to them twice. You honestly can’t count on the Islanders getting better goaltending than the Penguins will with how Murray is playing. Sure, it’s hockey and when things are this tight bounces can go either way. Still, if the goaltending is even, the offenses aren’t. Who do you think is more likely to get the 2 than the 1?

Penguins in six.