Hockey

To a certain extent it’s a mild relief that now the Hawks are losing games where they’re simply outgunned as opposed to looking like they’re playing a completely different sport than the opposition, or at best there like was a gas leak in their locker room (which would have explained Coach Jeremy Trestman hiding in the stalls). But regardless of who is coaching it, and that’s still currently up for debate seeing how much more of a role Marc Crawford has taken recently who is now playing the part of Dick Cheney in the Derek King administration, this team still really can only get goals from like 3 players even when things look how they’re supposed to. Basically if Alex DeBrincat and Garbage Dick don’t score, they’re not really going to, especially since the power play has completely dried up. Dylan Strome gets back into the lineup and back onto the first unit this evening after being healthy scratched for a while, and he STILL has their last power play goal that happened over two weeks ago. But with what Toews can contribute still a mystery, Dominik Kubalik still trying to gain his footing after having his ice time messed with by Kelvin Gemstone, really past the top 2 wingers there’s a big yawning void only occasionally filled by Brandon Hagel. Kirby Dach hasn’t scored in over a month, much of that spent between two guys with 40 goal potential, and that’s simply unacceptable for the third overall pick and who the Organ-I-Zation says the future is entrusted to. If that doesn’t turn around in a big way and in a hurry, there are going to be some extremely bleak and uncomfortable situations concerning the post-Toews era.

12/2 at Washington

Game Time  – 6:00PM CST
TV/Radio – NBC Sports Chicago, SportsNet, WGN-AM 720
Bulldog Front – Russian Machine Never Breaks

Look, the Hawks are going to lose this game. They literally have not won in DC since 1998, and the Caps are just better even without plenty of key pieces (Backstrom, Oshie) in their lineup, even though it does appear that Justin Schultz is supposed to return. When watching this game, just seriously take time to appreciate what Alex Ovechkin is doing right now. Yes he’s creeping up on the all time goal list having passed Brett Hull this season (Hull himself was gracious, his Garbage Son was not) in a race against time to possibly catch Gretzky. All things considered factoring in eras and equipment and style of play, Ovie already is the greatest goal scorer in the history of the league, but having that number to prove it would be something to behold, especially after it was once thought that literally no one could every ascend to Gretzky’s totals. But the fact that he is second in the league in goals and third in the league in points (19 and 37 respectively) through 23 games in his age 36 season is truly incredible. He’s on pace right now for 68 goals, which would put him just two shy of Gordie by year’s end. And even if that pace flattens out a bit, he still might be the oldest player to score 50 goals ever, passing Johnny Bucyk 50 years ago. And Ovechkin isn’t just camping out at his spot on the power play. Twenty four of his 37 points have come 5v5, 27 at all even strengths. The Hawks have 26 goals AS A TEAM at five on five.

12/4 at MSG

Game Time – 7:00PM CST
TV/Radio – NBC Sports Chicago+, WGN-AM 720
NUMBA ONE BAYBEE – Blueshirt Banter

After completely overhauling their front office and coaching staff where they decided they needed to get more rock-headed in launching Jeff Gorton and David Quinn for first timer Chris Drury as GM and red ass Gerard Gallant behind the bench, the team promptly announced that as a roster they intended to be stupider by trading for Ryan Reaves. Of course, this roster was already promising enough with a surprise Norris from Adam Fox last year, as well as Mika Zibanejad flourishing alongside Artemi Panarin, but it appears that they’re poised to make a return to the post season with 31 points in the airtight Metropolitan division. Chris Kreirder has cannonballed his way into 16 goals already, on pace to obliterate his career high of 28 – though shooting 26.2% against a career average of 14% probably helps with that quite a bit. There’s no one thing that this team does exceptionally well, they’re in the middle of the road statistically in pretty much everything, but Gallant teams always play fast and hard, and Igor Shesterkin’s .936 5v5 and .935 overall are certainly good to make it all stand up. Given the expectations set by the start and the new management, don’t be surprised if they try to make a big splash at the deadline.

12/5 at Belmont

Game Time – 6:30PM CST
TV/Radio – NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720
A Headache With Pictures – Lighthouse Hockey

Apparently the limits of Barry Trotz’s occult coaching wizardry are finally breached by a 13 game road trip to start the season, injuries, and a COVID outbreak that forced the Islanders to postpone three games last week. Perhaps playing in the the charmingly revolting toilet that was Nassau Coliseum is where those dark forces that allowed the Isles to reach two straight final fours/semifinals/whatever in modified playoff years, because their brand new UBS Arena at Belmont Racetrack has not been so kind to them to this point, as they’ve lost all four games they’ve had there in regulation. They’re currently in the midst of an 8 game losing streak, and will face the somewhat surprising Sharks tonight at home before they see the Hawks again, so that may very well reach nine. They’ll at least have the benefit of getting the Hawks on the second half of a back to back, but given the offensive struggles of both of these squads, it’s not likely to be a Sunday evening track meet.

Everything Else

Here in Chicago, we usually don’t get much of a spring. Even with the temperate/weak-ass winter we had this time around, the April-May stretch bounces between glimpses of actual summer and then visions of November. Usually in this place it’s just cool and gray until somewhere around Memorial Day, and then the next day is gorgeous and it’s summer/construction. We don’t slowly ramp up to summer. It just arrives like Monty Python’s foot.

So rites of spring, we don’t really recognize them. We see leaves on trees but are suspicious. Our allergies kick up at various times, so it’s not much of an indicator either. We have to make up our own. The ivy showing up on the outfield wall at Wrigley. Streetfests and outdoor music festivals start releasing their schedules and tickets go on sale. Sadly, shootings go up, if it’s even possible at this point.

And oh yeah, the St. Louis Blues reveal that nothing has changed, and they’re still a collection of dumbasses trying to play a game the sport has long ago left behind.

Everything Else

We keep moving along through the river, well to be more apt this underground garbage fire of a preview that is slowly encroaching on nuclear waste, to the forwards of the St. Louis Blues. And once you get past the first line, it gets pretty automaton, but you probably already knew that. It’s a raft of palookas and hired goons that are meant to make a bunch of sounds flashed on the screen from the Batman TV series (live-action, Pure West, not the cartoon, which I haven’t seen but am told isn’t bad). You know the plan, you know the players, it’s just a question of if the Hawks can execute the plays.

Alex Steen-Jori Lehtera-Vladimir Tarasenko

I’ve spent so long thinking that Alex Steen is just a guy that’s taken about two years for me to pivot and finally admit that he’s a plus forward. Is he really a first liner? No, probably not. But he’s struck up an understanding with Tarasenko that’s become pretty deadly and really Steen doesn’t do anything wrong. He’s always in the right spot making the right play, he just doesn’t do it with any flash so you have to really pay attention to him.

Everything Else

We’ll just keep rolling along with the grace from the Lord above, and finish out the Blues forwards corps.

3rd Line: Derek Roy-Patrik Berglund-Brenden Morrow

At least, this is my guess. Morrow and Berglund are injury worries. Berglund also may play on the second line with Steve Ott here before he and Morrow get into a fight amongst themselves.

Berglund is the Blues biggest enigma. You look at the size, the hands, the smarts, and he really should be one of the better centers around. Some nights, some shifts, he looks like that. But then a lot more nights, and a lot more shifts, you don’t even know he’s there. He should be the prime source of secondary scoring for the Blues, and he just isn’t enough nights. And this is when he’s healthy, which he isn’t now.

Sometimes I forget that Derek Roy is even on this team. He was hurt for a bit there, has been a healthy scratch too. He’s got nine goals. Maybe he’s their John Druce, but I doubt it.

Five years ago I would have been terrified of playing Brenden Morrow in a playoff series. There were few players better bred for playoff hockey. Nasty, big, with a knack for scoring killer goals. Now? Slow, still nasty but in all the wrong ways, and half your skaters on the ice would have to come down with vertigo for him to score regularly. He’ll be part of their thug-squad and causing ruckuses after whistles, but I don’t see where he does much else. If Berglund isn’t on this line, the Hawks could really expose Ott and Morrow with speed.

4th Line: Magnus Paajarvi-Maxim Lapierre-Dumpster Boy

I’ve always liked Paajarvi when he was an Oiler, but it took injuries and an age for him to crack the lineup, and he may be the first one out if Tarasenko plays. He’s a smart two-way player with some offensive flash that has been snuffed out in St. Louis either by Hitch’s ways or playing with utter garbage. The rest is more of the thug-squad. Lapierre can win a draw and that’s about it before he goes off to cross-check Patrick Kane in the back of the head or slash at his knee or whatever other cheap bullshit he’s going to pull before running away wetting himself when anyone with any size comes to confront him. Ryan Reaves… well, if Cieslak will allow me, lives in a dumpster behind the Purina factory (TM).

Wild Card – Vladimir Tarasenko: The story is that he is going to play at some point this series, but we don’t know when. How effective he can be after six weeks off with a broken hand is up for debate. He also doesn’t exactly have a playoff pedigree, because he was scratched for most of last year’s flameout against the Kings. But if healthy and not shying from the moment, Tarasenko is the only other source of inspiration that the Blues have. He can create his own shot and space, but he can also get buried along the walls. Maybe rested, maybe rusty, may be back after it’s too late.