Hockey

With the season all but over now, the only point to watching the Hawks going forward should be to see what the younger players have to offer in a couple of actual NHL games. Instead they’re all down in Rockford to help them in their “playoff run” in the AHL. That’s nice and all, but in reality they all need to be up here getting experience against legitimate playoff teams (because the Hawks are going to lose to a few of them in the next week and a half) at the highest level that hockey can offer. Lukas Reichel doesn’t need to be bum slaying down in RockVegas where he potentially could take an elbow to the head by some career minor leaguer. I also don’t need to see the pale, gooberish face of Erik Gustafsson on my TV anymore while Ian Mitchell and Nicholas Beaudin rot in RFD.

Honestly, other than the trade of Brandon Hagel to Tampa Bay (which to be fair was a very good deal), our Shiny New GM has not done much to fill me with confidence in his ability to steer the ship through Rebuild Bay. The rest of the deadline deals were somewhat meh, and his insistence of keeping some of the prospects in Rockford over playing up here is mysterious at best. His real work will begin this summer at the draft in deciding what he wants to do with Kane and Toews moving forward, but the initial returns are not promising.

BUT THAT’S NOT WHY YOU CALLED!

 

 

Wednesday 4/20

Hawks 4 – Coyotes 3 (OT)

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

 

It’s appropriate that this game occurred on 4/20, because being stoned out of your gourd would be the best possible way to watch these two bottom feeder teams slam their heads together like rams on the side of a mountain. It ended up being exactly what you’d expect from the Hawks and Yotes, except for the outcome where Alex DeBrincat potted the game winner in OT when he buried a sick feed from Kaner past something named “Karel Vejmelka” for his 40th of the season. The Hawks (as is their way) coughed up not one but two 2 goal leads before putting the game away in OT. Alex Vlasic also got his first career goal as a Hawk, so that’s something you can tell your children about 30 years from now when they put you in a home.

 

Thursday 4/21

Hawks 1 – Kings 4

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

Woof.

The Kings fucking smoked the Hawks right out of the Staples Center on this one (it’s always gonna be the Staples Center, no matter how much CryptoFartWankJob.Com might want it to be otherwise), scoring twice in 15 seconds at one point. On top of that, Phil Danault gave us yet another reminder about how much a fucking moron Stan Bowman is by opening the scoring 9 minutes into the game. The CORSI shows just how much a waxing this was by the Kings, as they averaged just over 70% of the possession time in the game, peaking in the 2nd where they held a 75% share. Unreal. Anyways, Kane scored his 26th of the season, and that’s about the only highlight for the Hawks in this one. Good seats still available!

 

Saturday 4/23

Hawks 1 – Sharks 4

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

 

Looking at that chart and nothing else, one would be lead to assume the Hawks beat the Sharks like a drum up and down the ice. Sadly, sometimes puck luck and a hot goalie can have other ideas, as Kaapo Kahkonen made 27 saves (quite a few of them being of the high danger variety) in his second win since being sent over from the Wild at the deadline. The Hawks also carried a 75% CORSI share in the 1st period, which is EASILY the highest number they’ve had all season, and potentially all decade.  Tyler Johnson potted one for the Hawks here, which is nice to see for his own sake in this injury-ravaged season that he’s having.

One thing that has become abundantly clear is the Hawks goaltending situation may be the single most important issue that Kyle Davidson deals with going forward. While Kevin Lankinen isn’t entirely to blame (the defense being played in front of him is eye-bleedingly bad), I think we’ve seen enough to show that he’s not going to be The Guy going forward. He would be a very capable backup for whoever the Hawks ultimately anoint as the goalie of the future, but his sole purpose going forward is to eat as many minutes as necessary while the next generation learns on the fly.

The march towards the inevitable heat death of the Blackhawks season continues this week with games against Philly, Vegas and Buffalo. Two of those 3 should be winnable games, but the only one that matters is the Vegas one as the Knights attempt to cling onto their playoff hopes as they chase down Nashville. While it probably won’t happen, it would be kinda fun for the Hawks to step on their fingers as they cling to the side of the cliff.

Onward.

Hockey

The Hawks did about what was expected the last three games, looking alive enough to win one game for Pat Foley before they ended up getting schooled by Nashville and Calgary, two playoff teams of differing skill levels that still skated circles around the Hawks. As is life on Madison these days.

Lukas Reichel’s first-year contract is now officially burned as he garnered around 31 minutes for a team playing for nothing. You would think doing this goes directly against the organization’s narrative of keeping all other Hawks prospects down in Rockford for the Tomato Can Playoff Push while players like Riley Stillman, Erik Gustafsson and others get NHL minutes instead of them, and turns out the front office realized the same, as it was announced last night he was heading back to Rockford this morning to go win the Tomato Can Hockey Cup. Good luck!

Thursday 4/14
Hawks 5, Sharks 4 (Hawks win! Hawks win!)
Box Score
Natural Stat Trick

The Hawks finally got their give-a-shit meters to work again, and all it took was their beloved announcer calling his last NHL game and a matchup against another garbage team on a losing streak of their own. Kane, the Cat, Strome and Amy’s Eldest had multi-point nights, while Raddysh with a Y extended his scoring streak to two games. On the other end of that spectrum, defense was nowhere to be found, Reichel took away a puck in the 2nd and then immediately gave it away again five seconds later for his highlight of the night, and Toews, Dach and newly signed Reese Johnson were pointless in this game that should’ve been a point-grabbing free-for-all for every player involved.

The Hawks and Sharks seemed to trade goals all night, as the goaltenders on both sides of the ice were downright bad. Lankinen’s positioning and rebound control were, of course, all over the place, and the Sharks always seemed to have an answer for whatever goal the Hawks scored. Overtime sucked, as both teams didn’t really do shit on either end, trying to get to the shootout, I guess. But the Hawks can still cling to shootouts as something they’re relatively good at, and were able to win the game because of it thanks to a nasty goal by the Cat. Someone’s gotta get it done.

Outside of all the offense, there was too much clowning in this game for my liking. The fact that the Hawks punched Timo Meier in the head because he did a snow spray on Kevin Lankinen was a choice, and then Stillman fighting Jeffrey Viel over it was also a choice, and then Jake McCabe taking a myriad of dumbass roughing and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties was by far the stupidest, most exhausting shit of the night. Remember when this guy was signed to be an effective shutdown defenseman or whatever the fuck? You can’t do that when you’re in the box. It’s time to move on from this style of hockey, I’m exhausted.

Saturday 4/16
Hawks 3, Predators 4
Box Score
Natural Stat Trick

Starting this game out by watching Jeremy Lauzon’s knee bend in ways it should never be able to bend was certainly not the best, and the Predators were able to get out ahead soon after that to set the tone for the game. The Hawks led once thanks to efforts by goals by Kane and Dominik Kubalik later on in the 1st and 2nd periods, one in which Kane mouthed off to some dude in front row seats because that’s hockey baby. Reichel and his newly-burned first-year contract got his first NHL point in a pretty neat assist to Kubalik’s goal, however, and we’ve all been waiting for that. It was a good moment.

Lankinen didn’t look too terrible in this game either, making more impressive saves in this game than the previous. But right after Mackenzie Entwhistle and Boris Katchouk were assessed penalties—including one game misconduct—for REASONS, the Predators completely turned the game around in their favor, with Roman Josi scoring just a minute later to tie things up. Two more Predators goals at the end of the 2nd and the 3rd sealed the deal for the Hawks—the first goal on a Nashville powerplay thanks to Alex Vlasic and a dumb high sticking penalty, speaking of clowning. Despite Kane making a passing play that any Joe Schmoe, including Stillman, can put into the back of the net, the Hawks were pretty overpowered in this game and it showed as they came up empty in the points column.

Monday 4/18
Hawks 2, Flames 5
Box Score
Natural Stat Trick

I predicted this outcome, and I’m sure you did too. And the Flames spent no time making the Hawks look silly, scoring 22 seconds into the game with a fluky goal that Lankinen will probably see in his nightmares. In fact, the Flames had two goals before the Hawks could even register a shot on the fucking net, as I continue to be perplexed as to why Raddysh with a Y was the one tasked to try and stop Johnny fucking Gaudreau from scoring, a mistake I’m sure Derek King and his man behind the curtain will not make again.

The two teams’ meatheads in Nikita Zadorov and Jake McCabe went at it after Zadorov continued to show his ass by putting a big hit on Toews in the first period. Toews then got high sticked right off the faceoff, had to leave to get stitches, and the Flames scored again to put them ahead for the rest of the game, though Alec Regula scored the second and final Hawks goal in the 2nd period with a shot from the point that probably shouldn’t have gone in. Then the Flames rested on their laurels for a majority of the 3rd period, getting only four shots on net in those 20 minutes, probably because they knew they’d have multiple empty net opportunities with the Hawks yanking Lankinen for the extra attacker like always. Johnny Gaudreau isn’t going to miss those empty netters, and this game was no exception.

Thank God we’re almost to the end, and this schedule will be a tad easier as the Hawks revisit the Kings and Sharks near the tail end and face the Coyotes, barely an NHL team, tomorrow night. Can’t wait to see who will muck it up this time!

Hockey

The Hawks seem very determined to end this season with a whimper, as the losing streak continues to stretch on for as far as the eye can see and quite possibly with no end in sight if the team’s play over the last few games is any glimpse into the future. McClure pretty much summed up how we all feel in his last wrap, which can be boiled down to “sick of everyone’s shit.” It also doesn’t help that we’re all jonesing for Lukas Reichel’s first NHL point, in which he was denied despite having multiple good chances in the most recent Hawks shellacking against the Kings.

There’s not a lot to look forward to as most Chicagoans have turned their sporting attention to whichever baseball team pleases them most, which can be easily seen in Tuesday’s crowd numbers at the United Center, appearing to be one of the lowest of the season. If you are one of the very few who will be tuning in to watch this dreck (or perhaps just tonight’s ceremony honoring the career of Pat Foley), here’s the rundown of the opposition.

4/14 vs. San Jose

Game Time: 7:30 PM CST
TV/Radio: NBCSCH / WGN 720
Nice Shark, Not a Mindless Eating Machine: Fear the Fin

It’s a battle of the bad teams, as the Sharks somehow beat out the Hawks for the longer losing streak, which is at seven games and against mostly playoff teams, though a 5-2 loss to Arizona is quite embarrassing. We should know, as we’ve recently been there.

The biggest news in the Sharks universe is that Doug Wilson has officially stepped down as general manager for health-related reasons. The team is already a bit of a tire fire on the ice, and now that an extensive search for the new GM has begun in San Jose, there aren’t a lot of Sharks who should feel safe. Like the Hawks, the goaltending situation for next year is very much up in the air, as none of the five goaltenders who have played for the team this year have particularly stellar numbers. James Reimer, with the majority of the starts, and Kaapo Kahkonen, traded from the Wild at the deadline, are looking at .915 and .913 save percentages respectively, which is about as average as it gets. Kahkonen is probably a lock as the veteran netminder who stopped 40 of 41 shots in the Sharks’ brutal 1-0 OT loss to Nashville, but there’s also Adin Hill to look at as well, who has started the second-most games this year and probably wouldn’t clear waivers. I do not envy whoever’s job it is to sort that out.

On the offensive front, there are only three players on the Sharks with more than 12 goals this season, and only two players over 50 points (though Logan Couture is at 49). In many ways, this team mirrors the Hawks with these kinds of stats, except that the Sharks organization is still in denial about their situation and is still trying their best to get back into playoff contention next year—that is, if owner Hasso Plattner has anything to say about it. Either way, this game could be high-scoring and amusing if both teams come out to play. Or not. The Hawks have nothing to play for and look it.

4/16 @ Nashville

Game Time: 11:30 AM CST
TV/Radio:
NBCSCH / WGN 720
Team from the North Country:
On the Forecheck

The Predators are currently fighting for their playoff lives against the Stars and Golden Knights (I guess) and find themselves currently sitting in the first wild card spot in the west. It seems unlikely they will be able to catch St. Louis for the third spot in the Central Division with a 7-point gap between the two teams. Dallas is only a point behind them in the 2nd spot, which neither team will want to be in, as the 2nd wild card team will have to play a game called “How many playoff games can you survive before the Avalanche inevitably crush you?” To make things more amusing, the Predators have the hardest schedule down the stretch with 7 of their final 10 games coming against playoff teams, including Colorado, Calgary twice, and Tampa Bay. This Hawks game is essentially must-win for the team, as it is far and away their easiest on the docket.

The Predators can mostly thank Roman Josi for being where they are now, as he has gone on an offensive tear that blows all of his previous stats completely out of the water. He has 19 goals and 68 assists for 87 points on the year, good for being in on 13% of all goals and assists the Preds have scored this season. To give more credit where credit is due, Matt Duchene bounced back from his horrific season last year to score career highs in goals and points. Filip Forsberg is also blowing away all his previous stats with 72 points this year. And let’s not forget the time-honored tradition (if you can call 2 seasons a tradition) of Juuse Saros putting up a .920-something save percentage. And considering your backup goalie is David Rittich (I shudder at the thought), Saros will likely be ridden hard into the playoffs and depended on for every game.

The Predators will be desperate for an easy win, so I’m sure this game won’t go poorly at all.

4/18 vs. Calgary

Game Time: 7:00 PM CST
TV/Radio:
SN, NBCSCH / WGN 720
You Don’t Care for Me, I Don’t a-Care about That:
The ScorchStack

An absolute ass kicking will commence here. Kevin Lankinen or Collin Delia or whoever Joe Schmoe the Hawks will trot out in net will get absolutely pummeled, shellacked, lit up by the Flames and their fearless leader Johnny Gaudreau, fourth in the league with 101 (!) fucking points because of course he is. There have only been 8 other Flames in the franchise’s history to hit 100 points, so Gaudreau hitting that milestone in their most recent game was a pretty big deal, and a big reason why the team is currently on a 5-game winning streak. (Feasting on the Seattle Kraken for two games in a row doesn’t hurt either.) His linemates, Matthew Tkachuk and Elias Lindholm, are both having career-best seasons offensively, but are just as much of a pain in the ass defensively as well—God help the Hawks as they try to get by or stop these three.

Other than the first line, secondary scoring is probably a bit of a concern for Calgary as they head into the playoffs. As everyone knows around here, it takes contribution from more than one line to win the Stanley Cup. The Flames have been doing well thanks to their solid defensive metrics, including having the third-least scoring chances against them in the league this season. It also helps when your goaltender Jacob Markstrom has a .924 save percentage, and Flames fans everywhere breathed a sigh of relief when Connor Mackey made his debut for the team against the Sharks, putting old pal Nikita Zadorov on the bench. Anytime his ass can be stapled there will improve the defense on whatever team he may be on.

Hockey

The new-coach glisten has begun to dull a bit as the Hawks won only one game this past week. Though the Hawks still seem to be a bit less lost than when Coach Cool Youth Pastor was at the helm, the Sharks game was tedious at best and the Flames game was not pretty. Though this team is getting better at resetting after a bad period, the elusive 60-minute game still seems just a bit out of their reach. At least the defense looked better than under Colliton—better, or at least adequately positioned enough to save Fleury’s ass from a goal on Sunday, see above.

Goals for this team also seem to be few and far between, at even-strength and on the advantage. Even when King pulls the goalie late in games to try and get something going, the Hawks just can’t seem to score. And now that Brett Connolly and Lukas Reichel have both gotten injured over the weekend on the IceHogs, the pool of players they can bring up to score goals has just gotten much shallower. Anyone want to ride the Alex Nylander train? Didn’t think so.

Hawks 2, Flames 5
Box | Natural Stat Trick

The tone for this game was very quickly set with Kirby Dach getting in a fight just a minute into the game despite having an injury history with his wrist, and then a Flames goal shortly after. Then Jake McCabe and Brandon Hagel seemed to get hurt within minutes of each other, and though they both returned to the game the narrative was set.

Though the Hawks would come back from their deficit to tie things back up thanks to Hagel returning to play, the Flames always seemed to be able to answer with another goal. Before the period ended, the gargantuan Milan Lucic was able to score on a Richardson assist that left Connor Murphy floundering to take back the lead. The Flames were able to out-shoot and out-attempt the Hawks for all three periods, not to mention the Hawks powerplay being in the deep freezer lately.

The Hawks were able to tie the game again in the 2nd period with Reese Johnson’s first NHL goal—he had two points this game and made a good argument for staying in the lineup. And yet the Flames scored three in the 3rd period, two of them being empty-netters at the end of the game when Derek King decided to pull Fleury a few times because fuck it. The good news is at least Nikita Zadorov is floundering defensively for someone else’s team now.

Hawks 3, Blues 2 (Hawks Win Drunken Three-Legged Race)
Box | Natural Stat Trick

Instead of losing a game they should’ve lost like the previous night, the Hawks won this game that they still should’ve lost. In true 2021 Blackhawks fashion, they immediately gave up a goal to start the game, this time not even a minute in on a three-on-one as the Blues simply outskated the Hawks to score. The Hawks seemed to tie it up a few minutes later as Toews appeared to score thanks to a flounder behind the net by Jordan Binnington, but it was ruled offside after a coach’s challenge, leading to some frustration that culminated in another late-period goal by St. Louis that just bounced around in front of the net before going in.

The 1st period ended up being the only period the Hawks didn’t have the higher CF%, as they were able to effectively reset, I guess, and were able to scrape together the two goals to tie the game and got Kevin Lankinen essentially taking care of the rest. First it was Khaira and the 4th line who put the Hawks on the board, and Brandon Hagel was able to score a beautiful goal with five minutes left in the game to force overtime—when you get to the net, good things happen, of course.

Everyone saw the OT-winning goal by DeBrincat and set up by Kane. Seth Jones should get credit, too, for getting the puck to Kane in the neutral zone by spin-o-rama-ing the puck away from two St. Louis defenders. It was about as greasy as a win gets, but at this point we’ll take all the wins we can get.

Hawks 0, Sharks 2
Box | Natural Stat Trick

The Hawks, who surprisingly had the better possession numbers in two of the three periods at play this game, just didn’t have the offense to back it up. It just so happens that when Hagel and the Cat have an off night of any kind the amount of goals this team can score absolutely plummets.

You’ve probably read online about the 5-on-5 goal numbers, and they really are that ugly. Currently tied with the Islanders for the least amount of 5-on-5 goals in the league certainly isn’t a stat you want to attribute to your team, and yet this is where we sit. And then there’s the powerplay…dear God. Although they are technically only the 11th-worst powerplay in the league, that number would probably be even lower had that unit NOT been the only thing working under Coach Jeremy Bevington’s regime.

The Hawks had their chances (and two powerplay opportunities) but weren’t ever able to capitalize on any of them. And despite playing better defensively—Marc-Andre Fleury only saw 22 shots, amazing by this team’s standards—the lack of offense ended up killing them. Timo Meier scored in the 2nd and 3rd periods for the Sharks, and by that time players like Kane and DeBrincat were visibly showing their frustration for not being able to get one past James Reimer. Meier’s first goal just bounced off his body and in and the second was an empty netter, so feel about that what you will.

This week’s opponents for the Hawks are almost entirely crammed into the weekend, with games against the Capitals, Rangers and Islanders on the docket for Thursday, Saturday and Sunday respectively. The Islanders could be a soft cushion for the Hawks to get an easy win (or the world’s dullest 1-0 shootout loss), but the Capitals and Rangers sit in the top half of the league in goals per game—the Capitals in the top 5. Perhaps some more line blending by King will get someone to score—otherwise, Lanks and Fleury had better be lights out if we want to win even two out of three.

Hockey

With the last stop of the mini circus tour tonight ending in Calgary, the absolute worst the Hawks can go is .500 on the trip which all things considered is pretty respectable. Which is not to say that the actual PLAY of the team has been up to snuff on the defensive end, because it has most definitely not been the case. Were it not for the herculean efforts of one Marc-Andre Fleury the Hawks would most likely have banked zero points on this swing as opposed to the 4 they currently own.

Looking at the metrics themselves, they bear this out as the Hawks have only managed a 45% share of CORSI in the last 3 games, which I’m being told is not great. A lot of this stems from the fact that Coach King’s new system of “just play some hockey” results in the forwards (especially the top line of Kane/Cat/Dach) flying the defensive zone Paul Kariya-style looking for an odd man rush. While this has definitely helped the Hawks on the scoresheet (all 3 goals against The Krak were on the rush), a fair amount of the time it results in the D getting pinned in their own end.

This is still in the honeymoon phase for Coach K, and to be fair it’s worked out pretty well so far with the Hawks winning all but one game under him. What we saw in Edmonton, however, is what you get when it doesn’t work.

 

11/23 At Calgary

Game Time – 8:00 PM Central

TV / Radio – NBCSN, WGN-AM 720

Read The ScorchStackScorchStack

 

Nothing like ending your road trip with the best team in the Western Conference. The Flames are (pardon the pun) scorchingly hot as of late. They have the best goal differential in the entire league at +27, and are 5th best in CORSI for. The Flames are tough to get around on the back end, with a very solid defensive corps headlined by Rasmus Andersson who has come into his own this season.

Offensively is where the Flames shine, with Andrew Mangiapane tied for 2nd in the league with 15 goals. They also still have Johnny Gaudreau and Elias Lindholm racking up the points, along with Keith Tkachuk’s garbage child stirring the shit with 17 points of his own. Speaking of shitbags, Milan Lucic is here along with monolith Nikita Zadorov, so DeBrincat and Kane need to have their heads up in this one.

Between the pipes, Vancouver cast off Jacob Markstrom should draw the start against the Hawks as backup Dan Valdar shut out the Bruins on Sunday night. Markstrom has been outstanding so far, with a 1.71 GAA and .942 save% so far. He’s only given up 24 goals in 14 games, so the Hawks forwards are going to have to make every shot count.

 

11/26 vs St. Louis

Game Time – 2:30 PM Central

TV / Radio – ESPN, WGN-AM 720

Wretched Hive Of Scum And VillainySTL Gametime

 

Ugh, these assholes again.

The first game back in the UC and the Blues come oozing into town, 2nd overall in the division but squarely in the middle of the pack statistically everywhere else. Their +12 goal differential is tied with Colorado in the division, but is less than half of what the Flames boast. That’s more a statement on the quality of the Central Division than it is an indictment of how good the Blues are.

Jordan Kyrou leads the team with 18 points, and seems to have taken the leap from “2nd round pick with potential” to “possibly a thing.” While his 17% shooting percentage doesn’t seem sustainable, the fact that 1/3rd of his points have come on the powerplay leads one to think that his value won’t dip too much when that comes back down to earth. David Perron is also here, and he still sucks.

Jordan Binnington and his 2.8 GAA average will most likely man the crease come Black Friday, and if the Hawks can get him moving side to side there will be gaps for them to shoot at. The Blues don’t give up a lot of space for offensive forwards, so the Hawks will most likely have to do their damage in transition (which is currently their MO).

 

11/28 vs San Jose

Game Time – 6:00 Central Time

TV/Radio – NBCSN, WGN-AM 720

Pied PiperFear The Fin

 

Last and least of the 3 teams here is the San Jose Sharks. Currently caught in the limbo of cap hell, the Sharks are a mix of overpriced vets (Erik Karlsson, Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic), expiring cap-friendly contracts (Tomas Hertl, Timo Meier), and rookies making a splash (Jonathan Dahlen, Alexander Barbanov). They also have Evander Kane here, at least until the casinos break his legs and leave him for dead in the desert outside of Vegas.

The Sharks are actually playing better than what everyone expected at this point in the season, dropping Carolina on their collective heads 2-1 last night at home. Karlsson and Burns are both playing well (though not $20 mildo per year good), with Karlsson in particular looking a little more like himself when paired with youngster Jacob Middleton who allows Karlsson to leap into the play as he is wont to do. The Sharks back end is a pretty good mix of old and young, with Karlsson, Burns and Vlasic pairing with the younger crew of Middleton and Mario Ferraro (who has steadily improved his play the last two years).

With James Reimer doing the thing he does in the first half of every season (1.87 GAA and .940%), there’s enough talent there to keep up with most teams and allow the younger players to make mistakes without every one of them ending up in the back of the net.

The Sharks are basically a better coached Blackhawks team, and I’m curious how this game in particular is going to go. Both teams are right on the periphery of the playoff race, but stuck with a couple of contracts that prevent them from going whole-hog on a rebuild. It’s games like these that can turn into the fun kind of track meet that makes for entertaining viewing. Or it could be a horrible slog. Either way, we’ll be watching.

Hockey

vs.

RECORDS: Hawks 31-30-8   SHA-ARKS 29-35-5

PUCK DROP: 7:00 p.m.

TV: NBCSN (WHAT A TREAT FOR THE NATION)

FLOTSAM, JETSAM, AND CHUM: Just follow @ItWasThreeZero

We’ll have our thoughts on The Maven’s well-deserved departure from this thing he created early next week. For now, the show must go on.

For all of our thrashing, wailing, and gnashing of teeth about this year, it’s nothing compared to what’s happened in the Armpit of Silicon Valley. Whereas some of us dummies unironically picked the Sharks to not only make the playoffs but also represent the Western Conference in the Finals, the Sharks may end up finishing with the worst possible outcome of all.

The Sharks currently sit in the bottom five in points, among other luminaries like the Red Wings, Senators, Kings, and Ducks. Though they’ve been a decent-to-good possession team all year (50+ CF% as a team), they simply can’t score. They’re bottom five in goals for. Their GF% is only better than Detroit’s. Shit, the Sharks are one of only about five teams to not have a single 50-point scorer thus far. Even Detroit has one of those.

Injuries have played a role. Erik Karlsson’s skeleton made of boogers Danse Macabre’d his season, as he’s been out since middle February with a broken thumb and won’t return this year. Tomas Hertl’s been out since January with an ACL tear. Logan Couture missed more than a month with a fractured ankle and might have a case of the dizzies tonight. The Sharks are seriously icing guys named Nikolai Knyzhov and former Blackhawk Brandon Davidson. Not great.

And the Sharks you do know have sucked. Brent “Glorified Erik Gustafsson” Burns is tied for second-most points on the Sharks with 45, which isn’t enough to cover for his disgraceful efforts in his own zone. Timo Meier is having a down year following his My First Real Contract signing last off-season, though he leads them in points. And though he’s been somewhat better recently, goaltender Martin Jones still has a sub-.900 SV% in the Year of Our Lord 2020, with a simply horrifying .863 SV% at evens.

And to top it all off, the Sharks were, in hindsight, pantsed and ass-slapped raw by Pierre Dorian in the Erik Karlsson trade. Despite likely finishing in a place that would give them lottery hopes, the Sharks will not have a chance at the lottery, having traded their 2020 first-round pick to the Senators as part of the Karlsson package. Though it’s hard to blame them for doing it then, it’s super easy to laugh at them for doing it now.

For the Hawks, the playoff run that never really was drags on. Though this is a Sharks team they should beat—based on the better top-end talent and real goaltending they have—we’ve often seen that, to quote Coach Cleft Asshole, the effort isn’t there against teams like this. Which, ironically of course, falls squarely on Colliton’s narrow and increasingly slouched shoulders.

Adam Boqvist will likely be out with a concussion after “Hacksaw” Oskar Sundqvist’s forearm shiver on Sunday, as will Lucas Carlsson. So, you’ll likely spend a third of the game peeking from behind your couch, as Nick Seeler, Olli Maatta, and Slater Koekkoek continue to be justifiably in a situation they’d rather not be in. On the plus side (?), we may get our first look at Brandon Hagel, thanks to Drake Caggiula hurting his hand in a fight. Here’s what Coach Gemstone said about him in January, according to Ben Pope:

“He brings something similar to [Matthew] Highmore in just his work ethic,” Hawks coach Jeremy Colliton said in January. “He’s a great skater, he wins races, he plays with a little edge. He’s got a little bit of rat in him, and we like that.”

Well, fuck.

We’ve said it all year: The only way this team has any hope is by Air Raiding and hoping their goaltending can be otherworldly. But too often, this team turtles at the first whiff of trouble. Or when they have the lead. Or when it’s tied. It doesn’t seem to matter. But this is a Sharks team whose defense might be as soft, if not softer, than the Hawks’s. If they come out with a KEEP FIRING, ASSHOLES game plan, they can continue ruining any shot they have at a lottery pick in a vain attempt to save everyone in the front office’s job. Because that’s the One Goal they have now. But if we’re looking for a reason, do it for Crawford. He deserves better than this.

Let’s go Hawks.

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vs.

RECORDS: Hawks 4-6-3  Sharks 4-10-1

PUCK DROP: 9pm

TV: NBCSN Chicago

THE BUBBLE BURST: Just follow @ItWasThreeZero, but it’s a little blue

I bet you didn’t think that a month into the season, we’d be sitting here with the Hawks with more points than the Sharks. And yet, that’s where we are. It has all gone pear-shaped on the Teal, while this is pretty much what the Hawks are. Is this what the Sharks are? They’d better hope not, because they have a lot of money committed to not be.

There isn’t one clear reason that the Sharks are currently using circles of paper. They tried to solve their goaltending issues from last year, which were some of the worst on recent record, by simply hoping that Martin Jones would become what he had been the previous three years through simply kindness from the gods. That has not happened, as he and Aaron Dell have been just about as bad as they were last year. But this time around, that’s not the only problem.

While the Sharks are one of the better teams in the league in the amount of attempts they give up, they’re one of the worst in the types of chances they give up. Quite frankly, their defense is Cottonnelle-esque. You might not be down in their end all that much but when you are you can get to the prime areas easily and fire away.

On top of that, the Sharks just aren’t generating nearly as much as they were, both in terms of attempts and chances. Erik Karlsson isn’t the engine he was, either through age or injury or still trying to find him the right partner. And the Sharks’ depth has eroded. It wasn’t just the departure of Pavelski. Valuable seat-fillers like Joonas Donskoi and Gustav Nyquist also made for the exits, and the kids that have come into replace them just haven’t lived up yet. They’ve needed more from the likes of Marcus Sorensen and Melker Karlsson and they haven’t got it.

That doesn’t mean their vets are off the hook. Logan Couture has been woeful, Joe Thornton can only do so much, and their half-court shot of bringing Patrick Marleau back has only revealed that he might not have a pulse. If Evander Kane and Kevin LeBanc weren’t scoring, they’d probably already be done. On the back end, they’ve missed Justin Braun, which is probably akin to missing Connor Murphy. Good player, adds to your team, shouldn’t pivot around him. Marc-Eduoard Vlasic is doing a fine Seabrook impression these days and is on the third-pairing.

What they can do about it is questionable. They obviously need a goalie if they’re going to make anything of this season, but by the time they can identify one they can have they might already be toast. They’re all the way capped out, so how they’d cram in a veteran goalie and/or a forward or two is a mystery. They’d have to get Martin Jones off the roster as a starter, but the line of teams willing to pick up a goalie who now resides in a bucket and has to be put there via damp sponge isn’t all that long. They don’t have much else to shift.

This is a team built for now, and the now is passing them by. Look for a big move, even beyond firing coach Pete DeBoer, if this continues much longer.

To the Hawks. They were mostly ok against the Ducks, so you can probably look for the same lineup aside from Crawford swapping in for Lehner, The former had his first really good game against the Kings, and even still that saw him give up four goals. The Hawks will need to get both goalies going at top speed if they’re going to make a run, or just turn to Lehner full-time which is another headache they don’t need.

The Sharks are one of the few teams that can’t leave severe windburn on the Hawks. They used to be able to dominate them by just having the puck all the time, but they aren’t doing that either right now. Both teams let you get wherever you want in their defensive zone, so this one will have chances and likely goals. The only known threat from the Sharks right now is the Hertl-Kane axis, so if Jeremy Colliton wants to get cute he can keep changing on the fly to get Kampf out there against them. But that might be a bit adventurous for the first week in November.

It might not have been pretty, but if the Hawks can get this one that’s five points on this trip which is one below the max. And that would be good, even if a total mirage given the method. They need anything they can build on right now. And right now, the Sharks are a very fragile team that you can fill with head-goblins early in the game. Then again, the Sharks probably think the Hawks are the slump-buster they need. Catch the fever.

Hockey

Over the summer, the Sharks made a pretty big call. Their usual M.O. has been to just strip their captain of the position when their season flamed out before they felt it should. Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau both felt the sting of that particular whip, with the former taking over for the latter and then Joe Pavelski taking it from Jumbo Joe. And then everyone would pretend everything was fine, in true Canadian fashion.

This time around, the Sharks just let their captain toddle off somewhere else. In order to fit other salaries and make room for some more kids, the Sharks let Pavelski walk to Dallas, and bestowed the “C” onto Logan Couture. It has been an ill-fit, shall we say.

Couture has been the biggest example of how the old and not-all-that-quick Sharks have struggled to recover from their long playoff run last year. Whereas last season you could argue they were only undone by the league’s worst goaltending, because the rest of their measurements were some of the league’s best. If they’d even had representative goaltending, they probably walk out of the Western Conference last year. And we’ll never forgive them for not doing so and saddling us with this cloud of despair.

The question-existence-entirely goaltending is still there, but the dominant process has gone away with it. The Sharks don’t have the puck nearly as much as they did, they aren’t creating as much as they did, they give up a whole lot more than they did, and Couture is at the center of it.

Couture has been crossed by some fiendish PDO treachery. He’s shooting below 7% at evens and 3% overall. But he’s also not getting to the spots he used to that would drive that shooting-percentage up dramatically to career norms. His shots per 60 are down a third at evens, his attempts down a quarter, and his individual expected-goals are half of what they were last year. Throw in the power play time and things look better, and that 3% number will go up. But the Sharks need serious help at evens and he’s not providing it.

His possession numbers stink, too. Couture has always been something of a high-event player, but he mostly kept those events to the other end even if he was on the ice for a decent amount of attempts and chances against. You live with decent amount against when a player gets a ton for. Well, the second part hasn’t happened this season, and now Couture is just a player who’s on the ice for a lot of chances against. Not good.

How much of this is due to the absence of Pavelski? Couture has seen him replaced with Patrick Marleau for the most part, who just might be clinically dead. Timo Meier is still the main running buddy, as he was with Pavelski and Couture last year. So if only on that limited evidence, Pavelski has been a big miss (and while Pavelski’s individual numbers in Dallas are down, his overall possession numbers are still very good).

So far this year, Couture has only found success with Tomas Hertl, but the Sharks would be bunching up their two biggest threats that way as well as weakening themselves down the middle, which has almost always been their strength. Joe Thornton isn’t taking on #2 center assignments at age 93. Quite simply, the Sharks aren’t as deep as they once were and they don’t have enough wingers to go around.

Perhaps as the year progresses, a couple of their kids can step up like Lean Bergmann or Dylan Gambrell. But it seems like an awfully big ask for neophytes to immediately take roles for what’s supposed to be a Cup contender. The Sharks might have to swing another trade, which will only kneecap their future even further.

The Sharks were always a bit up against it given their collective age. They don’t have one core piece under 30, other than Meier and Hertl. The kids haven’t caught up. But they couldn’t have expected it to catch up this quickly, and neither could Couture. But yet, here they are.

Hockey

Evander Kane – As always. But it’s a conspiracy against him, don’t ya know?

Erik Karlsson’s Effect On The Media – Should you be completely bereft of something to do, watch a Sharks game through the opposing broadcast. Because it won’t be much more than 5-10 minutes before the color analyst or studio one gets in a shot at Karlsson’s defensive play or paycheck or both. The grumpy old men or wannabe grumpy old men that comprise hockey analysis still can’t seem to wrap their minds around that Karlsson has always been a different type, and overall still one of the best in the league because he keeps his team out of its own end. Yeah, he might not play a 2-on-1 well, but he also is almost never in one because of his skills. But anyone who makes a big check and isn’t a good ol’ Canadian boy is the enemy. If they really need fodder, they only need to look to…

Brent Burns: Maybe the most overrated player in the league. He racks up points, and then when he plays any team with a plan and skill he gets rolled over. The definition of a flat-track bully who avoids criticism because he’s Canadian and at least hints at having a personality. Which up there only means to not have all your teeth. Seriously, walking around like that makes you teflon to the hockey media.

Hockey

We joke a lot around here. Mostly it’s to keep from crying. It’s certainly better than thinking about anything you’ve seen seriously with this team the past couple seasons. Anyway, if you’re somewhat new or just missed it, we refer to “Magic Training Camp” because every excuse for the Hawks last year seemed to get back to the fact that Jeremy Colliton didn’t have a training camp. It’s why the penalty kill sucked. It’s why they were defensively awful. It’s why Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook essentially un-velcro’d from the season. And we could keep going. It asked us to ignore that the fact that Colliton had five months in charge to install…whatever it was he was trying to install. The problem is we don’t really know.

So tell me, is this good?

Now it’s only two games. But it’s two games against one team that isn’t any good (Flyers) and another that wasn’t particularly interested in anything other than maybe getting their coach fired but couldn’t turn down the gifts the Hawks felt it mandatory to hand them (Sharks). So yeah, this is a problem. There’s all the time in the world to fix it, but it is a problem.

If it makes you feel better, the Hawks don’t have the worst PK in the league. Yet. The Devils have killed less than half their penalties. So we have that going for us. But still, batting 50% over two games, wherever they fall on the calendar, is less than ideal.

We probably all have a theory on why the PK sucks, and the thing is they’re probably all correct. Talent-level is an issue, Crawford probably could have made a save or two more, structure, entries, whatever. It’s all a problem. Ok, the goal on the PK against the Flyers was a fluke that bounced off Koekkoek, so let’s not hold that against them.

To me, the entries for the Sharks last night were way too easy. Again and again, the QB–generally Karlsson–would skate up to around the red line, hit a man along the boards on the blue line, and that player would immediately pop it to a charging teammates at the line through whatever Hawks forward thought it was a good idea to go charging out to the boards on the PK. Not only were they in the zone, they had possession and speed. From there you’re always chasing.

The first goal was off a scramble, but look at how it starts:

Somehow, Kampf ends up with three guys to cover. Karlsson at the point he’s fronting, then LeBanc on the wing, and Kane in the middle. Murphy and Toews both go out to Couture at the point. Now I’m no expert, but two guys covering one when you’re down a man already is a Custer-esque strategy. Maybe that’s just an individual goof…but when you’re fresh out of training camp–that got something of a bonus week thanks to the schedule–shouldn’t individual goofs not be a thing that happens? Also Keith never moves here, though never really takes anyone either.

So to the second PP goal against:

Again, another ridiculously easy entry, that has the Hawks chasing. Zack Smith (who is awfully close to the Bobs question of “What is it, you would say, you do here?”) chases Gambrell (who?!) far too low in the zone, and because he’s slow he can’t get back to the point to cover for Karlsson’s shot. Seabrook and Maatta can’t recover from the rush from Gambrell, then trying to get set up for the point shot, leaving all sorts of free sticks everywhere.

There were times last night when it also looked like the Hawks were moving out of the way of shots on the PK, which is…a choice. The idea of any kill is to front the point-men, force the puck to the wide areas and block off the cross-seam pass. You want the shots coming from beyond the circles from that angle. It’s easier to block off whoever’s in front of the net there. There is far less net to shoot at. The angles are easier to cover up. And yet it feels like the Hawks never force the puck there.

The other excuse I’m supposed to give you is that Calvin de Haan hasn’t played. That’s cool, but Calvin de Haan is Calvin de Haan. He’s not Larry Robinson circa ’77. He’s also not all that quick, so if everyone else is getting pulled out of position–or not in one to begin with–there is little he can do.

Not exactly the start they were hoping for.