RECORDS: Hawks 14-20-6 Avalanche 19-13-6
PUCK DROP: 8pm
TV: NBCSN Chicago
HOW HIGH? SO HIGH I COULD TOUCH THE SKY: Mile High Hockey
The Hawks continue whatever this little streak of barely managed competence means by a second trip to Denver in eight days. But hey, is there anywhere else you’d rather go twice in a little over a week? Yes, yes there is. But you don’t get to decide those things. So there. Enjoy all the fucking breweries, dipshit.
Since beating the Avs right before the Christmas break, the Hawks have sent the Avalanche into something of a tailspin. Though to be fair, the Avs weren’t playing all that well before, either. They’ve lost their two games in the interim, both on the road, to the Coyotes and the Knights. That gives them an unsightly December record of 4-7-1, which has seen them drop off the pace a bit of the Jets and Predators, which they were keeping up with. Then again, no one was really expecting them to tussle with the glitterati of the Central all year.
The main problem for the Avs is that their one, gushing source of goals has dried up. They only scored once against the Knights last out. Same thing again with the Coyotes the game before that. As you remember they came up with only one goal against Collin Delia the last time these two flamenco’d. None of this is a huge shock, as when the Avs were surging to the surprise of the league in November they were shooting 13.8% as a team. That’s never going to last. December’s 7.8% is actually pretty normal, but well below what they had been doing.
Which probably means they’re getting a market correction against the Hawks, right?
When the Avs aren’t pouring in an inordinate ratio of goals to shots, their defensive shortcomings come to the fore. They are not a great possession team, or defensive team, as Samuel Girard (the big dog is always right!) and Erik Johnson are the only pair you’d trust with anything. They have gotten better goaltending of late from Phillip Grubauer, who has only given up nine goals in taking the last four starts from Semyon Varlamov. He may have permanently usurped the starter’s role, but we’ll see what they do tonight.
Obviously, with the Avs the whole story is how you deal with the top line of Gabriel ThreeYaksAndADog, Nathan MacKinnon, and Mikko Rantanen. They’re still putting up boxcar numbers, and if you can’t get them on a leash you’ll lose. The Hawks kept them off the scoresheet last time by some miracle or witchcraft, and that’s the order of the night again. Do that, and the Avs struggle with support scoring. Only J.T. Compher and Carl Soderberg have more than nine goals beyond that, and Soderberg hasn’t scored in his last 10 games. It’s not really what he does anyway.
The Avs will get really good when their kids like Tyson Jost or Alex Kerfoot start cashing in on their promise and they can beat you from various angles. Until then, it’s what the top unit can do and nothing else. So far, that’s been more than enough to secure a playoff spot.
For the Hawks, there shouldn’t be too many changes, if any. There’s utterly no point in going back to Cam Ward tonight, whether the Hawks still think they have something to play for or they’re already into their development for next season, other than some whacked “Gotta be fair to Holly, dude” nonsense. Collin Delia is the better option no matter how you’re looking at it. Don’t overthink it.
Lineup-wise, the Hawks have been better with Brandon Manning‘s and Chris Kunitz‘s ass stapled to a chair in the pressbox, so no reason to change that either. Maybe Martinsen comes in for Hayden or some such meaningless garbage, but that doesn’t matter. We’d like to see Perlini and Dylan Sikura switch back to where they were before, but again this is nit-picking.
Again, the schedule isn’t too daunting to the bye and All-Star break. Weird things happen in outdoor games, and then there’s a fair amount of New York teams on the schedule in January, who all suck. It’s also pretty light, so head coach Cool Youth Pastor will get some practice time to implement whatever it is he’s supposed to implement. If the Hawks think there’s something to be saved from this season, and they do even if it’s deluded beyond all belief, this is the stretch to do it.
Game #41 Preview Suite