Fair warning, I’ve just finished The Road by Cormac McCarthy so anything referencing a road might cause me to throw myself out the window in the middle of this blog. You’ll get to trace it though, so that’ll be fun.

The Hawks will return to practice tomorrow and then to game action on Saturday, and they really won’t get much of a chance to play their way back into top form. They’re still three points out of a playoff spot, with only Winnipeg to leap, but basically everyone in and around the wild card spots will play another game before the Hawks get back to it on Saturday night. Which means the Hawks will have games in hand on most, but those only matter if you win them.

So how does it stack up? Right now, the West’s last wildcard holder is on a 90-point pace (still very sad). The Hawks are on about an 87-point one, and it took them winning 11 of 16 to even get to that. So to get to 90 points, the Hawks will need 36 points from 31 games, which would be a 95-point pace. And that’s if you believe that the target won’t arc up a bit, which you would think it would just a touch.

You would be tempted to go through the schedule, but that’s kind of folly for hockey because individual games come up weird. Your goalie has a bad night or theirs has a great night or you hit three posts in a period or something. As you look at it now, February does look like it’s a good runway, as the only games against the league’s glitterati are one against St. Louis, one against Boston at home, and one against Tampa. The rest are either against teams the Hawks are around in the standings are also-rans like the Ducks or Rangers. Essentially the Hawks have it all in front of them this month. They can play their way right into the thick of it or they can play themselves right out of it.

March looks even tastier, with the Ducks, Wings, Sharks, Senators, two against the Wild, Kings, and Canadiens all on the docket mixed in with tougher games. That’s the kind of slate you’d like when you’re competing for something, especially as some of those teams if not all will be stripped for parts by then.

So can the Hawks keep this pace up? We’d like to see things trending that way, so let’s et graphical!

Here are the rolling five-game averages for their CF% (blue) and xG% (red):

So those are going up. Their xG% ends at 53% and has been in the upper 40s for the last seven, but have been under 45% most of the season. Their average Corsi has been over 50% for the past nine. Again, small samples but at least trending the right way in five-game averages. They’ll have to keep going to get to the 90-point mark.

Of course, with the Hawks it’s about their defense. So here’s their five-game rolling average of Corsi against per 60:

And their xGA/60 rolling five game aveage:

Again, trending down, which is good. Still, since December 1st, when the Hawks have picked up their games somewhat, they rank 26th in Corsi against at evens and 30th in xGA/60 against. So their trendlines might just be part of a league-wide belt-tightening, which we see every season as scoring goes down as the season goes on and people don’t care as much. The numbers are no better from January 1st on, so it’s hard to see how the Hawks can be this bad defensively and remain competing for the playoffs. They’ll need those trendlines to continue to go the ways they have been the past couple weeks, let’s say.

Still, as we said before the break, there’s probably a Debrincat binge waiting, and the power play will spasm a good couple weeks you’d think for no reason other than HOCKEY! So it’s hardly out of the question the Hawks can defy their defensive averages or rates a little longer.

Everything Else

Few things to clean up today:

-Stan and Q had their press conference today to discuss Marian Hossa and the draft. Q had the look of a man who just saw his one top six winger who can backcheck effectively ripped away from him, because he is. There’s not much Q can do at the moment, as we get the feeling he’s going to be less involved on free agency and trades and personnel decisions than he’s been.

So it came to Stan, who had to wax poetic about how complicated it’s going to be using Hossa’s cap space in LTIR. And he’s right, it isn’t as simple as most believe.

Everything Else

As we sit around and wait for tomorrow night’s draft, when assuredly something will move off the Hawks’ roster and possibly on but something will actually happen, the NHL released its schedule today. There’s a couple quirks in it for the Hawks.

The first thing that jumps out is that there doesn’t appear to be an Ice Show trip in late January/early February as we’re accustomed to seeing. There’s a four-game trip from January 26th-February 6th that goes to Raleigh, Denver, Glendale, and Dallas but it’s broken up by the All-Star Break. So really it’s just a three-game trip. And that’s it. Normally, around that time the Hawks take a six or even seven-game sojourn, so you’d have to call that a break.

So other than the normal Circus Trip in November–which takes back its normal form with the Black Wednesday game in San Jose as it should always be– the Hawks won’t face more than four consecutive games on the road.

Everything Else

Few things floating in space today. Let’s clean them up.

-While the main goal of these last five weeks is tightening up the Hawks’ game and that alone, so that they hit the playoffs with momentum and a confidence, that doesn’t mean things aren’t up for grabs in the Central. Because of the Preds regression, anything is possible here. Though thanks to the Wild’s surge, there now really isn’t anything you’d call a “good” matchup. If you think getting the Wild at any point in the playoffs will be easy, then you’re very much mistaken.

Everything Else

So the break is over, I’m back from vacation (NOLA!!!), and I think it’s a good time to reset and see where we are and what we should be watching for.

-The Hawks sit three points back of the Preds, though having played two more games. And making up ground this week is not looking all that likely. While the Hawks are doing the California swing (not as daunting as it could be but certainly not easy), the Preds get the Avs twice around one game with the Blues, which you know is going to overtime or a shootout.

If ground is going to be made up, it’s probably after that. During the second leg of the Hawks’ trip, the Preds see the Ducks and Rangers, though also the Maple Leafs. And then when the Hawks hit that eight-game homestand (which actually serves up a fair amount of hanging curves), the Preds see both Florida teams, the Jets, the Sharks, and the Islanders before their schedule softens up.

If the Hawks can stay where they are with the Predators through this road trip, which shouldn’t be that hard without Pekka Rinne, and then collect 13 of a possible 16 points on that homestand (look at the schedule, not unreasonable), the Preds would have to go just 5-4 through the same stretch to stay even. And by then they’ll have Rinne back. So yeah, it’s going to be tough.

Everything Else

A couple things to cover today, so let’s get to it.

-The Hawks took back second place last night, as the Avs decided to give Semyon Varlamov a week off and threw J.S. Giguere and Reto Berra out there with a straight face. Which completely exposed just how bad their blue line is as both the Habs and Jets lit them up.

As we know, the Hawks won’t get the tie-breaker due to significantly less regulation wins than the Avs. But the schedule ahead for Colorado is not exactly a popsicle (first of all, it’s Fudge-cical).

Everything Else

I was bored, and while we wait to see if all the Hawks make it out of Vegas alive before heading to San Jose today, I thought it would be a good idea to see how the schedules shake out for the Hawks and Blues who will duke it out for the Central. Also for the Ducks, as all three teams will dance for the #1 seed in the West. It’s uncertain as to whether these things actually matter. After all, the #1 seed could end up in a very annoying and punchy series with the Canucks that should be a pretty easy victory but could take a toll, whereas the #2 could end up with a much easier (travel-wise and other) Minnesota date, whatever the Hawks record against the Wild may be. Of course, once the Coyotes overtake the Canucks and Vancouver slips out of the playoffs and OH MY GOD THAT COULD TOTALLY HAPPEN AND I’LL DIE LAUGHING AND THEY MIGHT SINK INTO THE PACIFIC AND I HAVE TO STOP NOW I’M GOING INTO SHOCK…

Everything Else

Well, it took two days longer than it was supposed to and now was released on what is always a great place to release big news, a Friday afternoon. But the NHL schedule is out. Let’s see what’s up.

The first thing you’ll notice is that John McDonough finally got his way and now all home games start at 7pm Central (except for Sundays obviously, and whenever NBC comes calling). This has been something the Hawks have wanted for a while, and though it’s a bitch for those who work far away from the UC or those who like a lot of pregame time (or those who sell programs outside every game), it will be nice for everyone to get home before 11pm after most home games. No biggie there. Bulls games have always started then, so the Hawks probably should too