Hockey

As the wheels continue to fall off for the Hawks and the trade deadline looms ever closer, we’re left to consider what, exactly, any of us are doing here. It’s been a very long time since I’ve felt this level of hopelessness in conjunction with this team. The front office is a tire fire, and the shine has worn off the Nü Coach with the team struggling to score night in and night out. The deadline deals might bring some of the interest back, until you realize that any pieces that the Hawks get in return are more likely than not going to be years away from being anything.

This is truly the doldrums of Hawks Fandom, and it’s very reminiscent of the period of time after the White Sox had ripped the band aid off and sent Chris Sale and everyone else worth anything (also Adam Eaton) to the East Coast. The initial excitement of all the shiny new prospects wore off and you were left with the realization that the next few years were just gonna suck ass. In this instance, however, the Hawks don’t have a Chris Sale on their team to flip so the excitement level about the return will be tempered considerably.

Anyways, here’s whos on tap for the weekend:

 

2/25 vs. New Jersey

Game Time: 7:30 PM CST

TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720

Kevin Smith Says Hi: All About The Jersey 

 

Oh, shit! A team that’s lower on the ladder than the Hawks.

Much like the residents at 1901 West Madison, the New Jersey Devils are looking towards the horizon and the future that it brings. More specifically, what type of return the Devils could conceivably get at the trade deadline for some of their available players. Unlike the Hawks, however, the Devils have a solid young core of players that are a year away (perhaps two) from making some serious noise in the East. Jack Hughes is obviously the prize horse of that group, but the rest aren’t anything to sneeze at either. 2017 #1 overall pick Nico Hischier has made serious strides this season in his game defensively to go along with his offensive talent (on pace to top his previous point total by 20+). The Devils might also have something in Jesper Bratt. The Swede has turned up his offensive game this year, already surpassing his previous career high in points by 11. Some of this is due to his increased presence on the power play, but his even strength game has matched his progress with his average CORSI up to 55% from 42% last season.

On the defensive end, PK Subban and freshly minted #1 d-man Dougie Hamilton hold down the fort. Offensively Subban is having somewhat of a down year (which isn’t helping his trade value), but he’s still able to push the play from his own end. Hamilton has been as advertised, chipping in 20 points on offense and still being able to play strong from the blue line. Behind them things get pretty dicey, as the goaltending for the Devils is some of the worst in the league. Jonathan Bernier signed a 2 year deal to be the bridge goalie for NJ until the netminder of the future arrived, but he went on IR back in December with what can only be termed “Shit Hip.” A month later, his season was over as he went under the knife. His replacements have garnered a sub .900 save percentage and a 3+ GAA in his absence, and there’s not much PK Subban or Dougie Hamilton can do about that. If the Hawks can up their shot total from 7 per period to double digits, they stand a decent chance of potting at least 3 in this one.

 

2/27 vs. Blues (AGAIN)

Gametime: 2:00 PM CST

TV / Radio –  HULU, NBCSN, WGN-AM 720

Wretched Hive Of Scum And VillainySTL Gametime

Look, other than the start time and the fact that the game is in Chicago this time absolutely nothing has changed since the last time these two teams met. Well, I guess the gap inbetween the two teams point totals has expanded, but other than that it’s the same ole shit. Two weeks ago the Blues completely waxed a Hawks team that was right on the precipice of the cliff that they now find themselves at the bottom of. The Blues are still a much better team offensively, defensively and behind the bench. The only wild card is Marc-Andre Fleury, who is still singlehandedly capable of stealing games. Which is essentially what the Hawks need here to escape Sunday with any points, but I’m not gonna hold my breath.

 

Hockey

A successful, if unspectacular stretch of games for the Hawks this Valentines’ week as they were able to bookend two wins in Canada with an absolute turd of an effort down in The Lou for the middle frame. During all of this actual hockey being played (how many people were actually playing attention with the Olympics going on and the Bulls being awesome is anyone’s guess), news leaked out that the Hawks were looking to get an insane return from teams inquiring about the services and availability of one Brandon Hagel. The return in question (according to Frank Seravalli in the Daily Faceoff Rundown podcast) is apparently a first round pick and a top prospect, which to me is absolutely mind boggling.

Look, don’t get me wrong. Brandon Hagel is a very solid young player on a Very Not Good team. Were he to be traded to Colorado or Vegas at the deadline he would be a very solid 3rd or 4th line player. Teams don’t trade first round picks and/or top prospects to fill out their 3rd line, no matter how young and cap friendly he may be. At 23 years old (24 when next season rolls around), is he the kind of player you build around for the future? His 27 points in 46 games is a nice addition, but if the Hawks are turning down 2nd and 3rd round picks for a guy they essentially picked up off waivers when the cupboard is completely bare is asinine to me. Not having a permanent GM at the trade deadline is also extremely asinine, but the Hawks aren’t one to be told what is dumb and what isn’t.

Anyways, TO THE RECAP:

 

2/9

Hawks 4 – Oilers 1

BOX SCORE

Natural Stat Trick

 

Guess signing Evander Kane wasn’t the kick in the pants the Oilers thought it would be, eh?

The Hawks jumped right into the Oil’s shit from the get go, with Patrick Kane firing a nifty cross ice feed to DeBrincat, who ripped it right past Professional Crybaby Mike Smith giving the Hawks their first of two power play goals on the night. It was all set up by the hard work of Sam Lafferty, who drew the tripping penalty after outworking Nugent-Hopkins. A minute later the aforementioned Brandon Hagel doubled up the Hawks lead when DeBrincat saucered a cross ice pass of his own during a 3 on 2 rush.

The 2nd period was all about Marc-Andre Fleury, as the Oil emptied everything in the chamber at him. Edmonton dropped 20 shots on MAF in the 2nd, with only Leon “Why So Pissy” Draisaitl’s power play tally sneaking past him. As expected, the Hawks got absolutely annihilated in CORSI in the second period to the tune of 75% to 25%. They supposedly had 6 shots in the period but I can’t honestly remember any of them. Predictably, Edmonton folded like a cheap tent after Strome put one past Smith in the first minute of the 3rd, with Fleury in no serious danger the rest of the way. Shit, even Kirby Dach scored a goal, which tells you everything you need to know about the state of hockey in Edmonton right now. Good win.

 

2/12

Hawks 1- Blues 5

BOX SCORE

Natural Stat Trick

 

This game fucking sucked. The team clearly didn’t give a shit from word go, and they got smoked in every facet of the game up and down the ice. Even Marc-Andre Fleury had the “Not Interested” sign hanging from his helmet. The Blues exposed the Hawks every weakness as a team, and capitalized on every mistake. When the Hawks needed a push in the 3rd to try and get back in the game, the Blues dominated CORSI 82%-18%. It pains me to say it, but they’re just better than the Hawks at everything, and it’s gonna be that way for a long while.

 

2/14

Hawks 3 – Jets 1

BOX SCORE

Natural Stat Trick

 

They can’t all be edge of your seat thrillers. Sometimes during an 82 game marathon, there are just going to be games that are flat out boring. Through the first half of this one, that’s exactly what happened. Just ask Ben Pope:

Really, nothing of note happened until Patrick Kane used a screen by Kirby Dach to rifle one 5 hole on Connor HellBuick. After that brief moment of excitement, things went quiet again until Mark Scheifele tapped in a puck that hit approximately 32 people on the way to the cage off the stick of Nate Schmidt six minutes into the final period. Then Alex DeBrincat decided he’d had enough of this bullshit and gave the Hawks a lead they wouldn’t give up with this absolutely disgusting snipe:

Stan Bowman did a lot of dumbass shit while he was here, but drafting Top Cat was definitely not one of those things. Anyways, shortly thereafter, Fleury helped himself out by shooting an outlet pass to Kane who tapped it up to Hagel for the ENG, thus bringing the game to a close. You really can’t complain about the win, but this game was exactly what you’d expect with two bottom of the table teams dry humping their way through 60 minutes of hockey. The Jets won the possession battle 54-46%, but they don’t have DeBrincat or Marc-Andre Fleury, so fuck em. Moving on.

Hockey

After Rocky’s pants-shitting at the town hall the other day, my give-a-shit level about this team has reached “Patrick Kane in Late February” territory. Yet still here I am writing about them, so I don’t quite know if that says more about me than Rocky but whatever. Some hockey is better than none I suppose.

These first 3 games out of the gate post-All Star break feature 2 Canadian reschedules bookending a trip to the Purina Factory down in St. Louis. After the aforementioned town hall shenanigans it’s probably best that the team opens up on the road so they can attempt to concentrate on just playing hockey and not dealing with the fallout of their evil Keebler Elf owner’s tirade.

With Alex DeBrincat’s solid showing at the All Star festivities in Vegas, the Hawks look to start the back half of the season out on a high note. Standing in their way are two underperforming Canadian teams and one offensive juggernaut from St. Louis. Here’s hoping the time off did Toews and Kane good, as the Hawks are desperate for scoring from wherever they can get it.

 

2/9 @ Edmonton 

Game Time: 7:00 PM CST

TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720

#FreeMcDavid: Copper N Blue

 

Man, shit has been rough in Edmo since Christmas. With a 5-8 record after Boxing Day, the Oilers spent the entire month of January getting their skulls cracked in, culminating in the amazing press conference where Canadian “hockey journalist” Jim Matheson asked Leon Draisatl why he was “being so pissy” after having to sit through his idiotic questions.

Oh, and they signed Evander Kane after the Sharks got rid of him before the Vegas Good Squads came to kneecap him and leave him for dead in the Nevada desert.

So things haven’t been very rosy for the Oil since the calendar flipped to 2022. They managed to string together a few wins before the Knights completely ethered them 4-0 heading into the all star break. What type of team the Hawks will see is anyone’s guess, but with 2 of the best players in the multiverse on their roster (even if McDavid has a wonky knee right now) Marc-Andre Fleury will have to be on his game to keep them off of the scoresheet. Regardless of how the game goes, Edmonton may end up with the last laugh if the Hawks brass continues to shoot themselves in the dick and hire Peter Chiarelli as their new GM.

 

2/12 @ St. Louis

Gametime: 7:00 CST

TV / Radio – NBCSN, WGN-AM 720

Wretched Hive Of Scum And VillainySTL Gametime

 

This game will not be pretty. We’ve reached the point where the Blues are simply a more “put together” team than the Hawks are, and outside of Alex DeBrincat and maybe Patrick Kane (if he gives a shit) the Hawks just don’t have the firepower to keep up with STL. Jordan Kyrou continues to tear a hole in the atmosphere with his play, and fresh off his first All Star appearance I’m sure he’ll be looking to continue that trend.

It’s not just Kyrou the Hawks have to be aware of, however. While the Blues still can’t completely get away from their special brand of Stupid, they’re definitely a more high powered team than we’re used to seeing. They have 7 skaters with double-digit goal totals, and Vlad Tarasenko has regained the form he lost after missing a shitload of time with multiple shoulder surgeries. Between him, Kyrou, Barbashev and Buchnevich there’s just too much to have to pay attention to.

In net, Jordan Binnington hasn’t been setting the world on fire with his .900 save percentage and 3+ GAA, but Ville Husso (yet another Finnish goalie. Suomi!) has more than picked up the slack with his .940 and 1.91 GAA and is pretty close to claiming the top spot in what has suddenly become a tandem effort.

Also Brandon Saad is here, which hurts me to my core.  *sad trombone*

 

2/14 @ Winnipeg (AKA North Grand Forks)

Gametime: 8:00 CST

TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720

Middle Of Nowhere: Arctic Ice Hockey

 

I’ll never forget how much my buddy Matt hated people from Winnipeg when I went to college in Grand Forks. He was a bartender, and despised working the one weekend a month when they all piled into their RV and drove south to GFK to shop at Walmart (because the Canadian dollar was more valuable at the time) because they didn’t tip for shit. This preview is for you, Matt Hammond.

Anyways, the Jets suck slightly less than the Hawks do. As of right now they sit 6 points up on them with 3 games in hand but are 7 points out of the last wild card spot. Which in Gary Bettman’s NHL may as well be 40, with Loser Points for everyone. Kyle Connor has officially turned into “a thing” as the 2015 1st round pick of the Jets has done nothing but rake at the NHL level since being drafted and may end up being the Jets best choice of all time.

Unfortunately for The Peg, it’s him and Mark Scheifele and not much else. The Jets are mired in the bottom 3rd of the league with the Hawks for 5 on 5 goal scoring despite being 10th in the league in CORSI for. While some of that may be due for a market correction (the team as a whole is top 10 in most advanced stats, but bottom 3rd in shooting percentage), it may simply just be a bad luck year for the Jets forward corps. With Connor HellBuick having a merely average year, most nights the Jets don’t score enough to run with the higher level teams in the west like the Avs and Knights. What they have will most likely be enough against the Hawks, however. Though that’s not exactly something to brag about these days.

 

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

Well, it was game #69 so insert NICE joke here…hahaha, I said insert. OK, enough Beavis and Butthead, we just had to sit through an awful game that was by turns boring and frustrating. The Hawks had opportunities and squandered them, the Blues were oafs and went after noted tough guys Adam Boqvist and Alex DeBrincat, which just shows you what bullies really are and why they’re such assholes. It wasn’t an embarrassing loss like the other night against Detroit, simply by virtue of the fact the Blues are contenders, but it doesn’t really feel any better. Let’s get through this together and break down this terrible game.

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

–So the first period was truly one of the most boring displays I’ve seen in weeks. There was a total of 14 shots combined (7 for each team) and it definitely did not feel like there were that many. I don’t have much else to tell you. Caggiula hit the post and Corey Crawford did his best Robin Lehner impersonation at one point–that was about it.

–Then the second period turned into an idiot-fest, with the Blues going full-on Blues, as Oskar Sundqvist basically pirouetted to make sure he jabbed Adam Boqvist’s face with his forearm and the butt of his stick, which resulted in a brawl between both lines. Duncan Keith managed to get taken down immediately and Drake Caggiula jumped in to take the heat off Top Cat. Now, I think at this point you know I can’t stand the fighting in hockey, and this maelstrom basically explains why. First, the fucking Blues went after Alex DeBrincat, who happened to be out there along with linemates Kirby Dach and Caggiula. So number one, you’ve got to be fucking kidding me, going after two children (Boqvist and DeBrincat). Literally you should fight me instead, you fucking pussies. Second, Drake Caggiula REALLY needs to stop fighting because of his concussion history. Third, the refs DOWNGRADED Sundqvist’s penalty to a minor! How is this even a thing?

It was a ridiculous example of everything that is lame with this neanderthal mindset in hockey, and even worse, Boqvist was knocked out of the game and this guy has finally had some strong games AND came back from whatever wrist issue he was having. If he’s got a concussion the Hawks need to shut him down for the rest of the season which is a fucking shame beyond words. Also, Caggiula didn’t return and while I’m not as concerned about the effect on the team if he doesn’t play again this season, I am concerned about his health as human fucking being. A ridiculous situation in every way possible, and the NHL should be fucking embarrassed that their reigning Stanley Cup champions and supposed big-market powerhouse from the Original Six had an important game (for one side) devolve into this bullshit that knocked out two Hawks players. Well done, dumbshits.

Connor Murphy didn’t have a great game, let’s be honest. He lost Bortuzzo in front of the net which led directly to the first goal. And while we’re at it, Alex Nylander didn’t have a great game either, and his turnover at the defensive blue line led directly to the second goal. Murphy I can forgive because he’s usually handling such shit work that you can’t be too mad about a fuck up here and there. Nylander gets no such credit.

–Corey Crawford was outstanding again. I’ve got to be honest, I really want Malcolm Subban to get some time both to see what he can do, and also to give Crow a bit of a rest here. It really no longer matters for the Hawks’ season–those playoff pipe dreams are just that. But regardless of any of that, Crawford was solid as usual, and it was downright refreshing to hear the broadcast give him the credit he deserves, including going so far as to say the only reason they’re even in the playoff discussion is because of him.

–Oh, and then the Hawks went like 12 minutes into the third before they even got a shot off. It seemed like they knew the jig was up and just stopped trying. Are they wrong? No. Will it be tough to watch this for the next month? Yes.

–So it’s International Women’s Day and the NHL attempted to do something sorta decent by having an all-female broadcast crew, and honestly I’m here for it. For a couple reasons: obviously I think it’s pretty clear at this point that I care deeply about representation and addressing historical disparities with opportunities. Second, because I enjoy listening to anyone who isn’t Pierre fucking McGuire. And while I’m uneasy about the token-ness of this night–i.e., hey we have women on a special broadcast, see we’re doing things!!!!–the fact remains that female broadcasters need opportunities to hone their craft. Kate Scott was outstanding as the play-by-play call, and I would prefer her 10 out of 10 times to Foley or any other dope. AJ Mleczko was excellent on the color call, but I have to say Kendall Coyne Schofield still sounds uncomfortable on camera. Again, this can be addressed with more opportunities and experience, as it should be. Remember how cringy Patrick Sharp‘s first few broadcasts were? If he can get better at it, so can Kendall and so can other women broadcasters. Hopefully this is can be more than a token.

Well friends, this weekend kinda felt like the nail in the coffin. Maybe it is, and maybe they can manage a decent draft pick; I’m too tired to decode this into some great revelation other than it seems like they’re screwed. But, they’ve got another string of rather weak opponents coming up so perhaps a fool’s errand? Onward and…upward?

Hockey

vs.

RECORDS: Blues 40-18-10   Hawks 31-29-8

PUCK DROP: 6:30

TV: NBCSN (All Women Broadcast)

MOS EISLEY CANTINA: St. Louis Gametime

There’s not much I can add to Pullega’s wrap from Friday night. There could not have been a more clear illustration of every failing of this organization–players, coach, and front office–then puking up a game to one of the worst teams in history that you claimed you had to have because you’re trying to sell the fact that you’re in a playoff race that abandoned you long ago. The players weren’t ready, the coaches didn’t have them ready, and the front office provided a roster that couldn’t stomach the losses of a 19-year-old defenseman and another one that has played five NHL games. It feels like after that, if they didn’t before, everyone but the Hawks see them for what they are. And if the Hawks continue to ignore it, nothing will ever change.

And of course, here traipsing into town is the team we used to laugh at for never getting it, that have now gotten it while the Hawks lost the plot. You can’t help but see the symbolism and weep until you seize.

Since the Blues performed their latest third period live-autopsy of the Hawks after the trade deadline, they’ve won three of four from the New York teams and Dallas, but that hasn’t seen them pull away from the Avs for the top of the division. Colorado is two points back with a game in hand, and have the decided advantage in regulation wins so the Blues can’t tie on points. And winning the division certainly has its prize, as it’ll mean avoiding two weeks of mud in the tires against Dallas and getting a first-round matchup with whatever nitwit team finishes as the last wildcard. The Blues and Avs finish the season against each other in Denver, which could be spicy.

The only note about the Blues of interest is that in those four games since beating the Hawks, they haven’t gotten a goal or point from their bottom six. That could be a worry going forward, as last year’s torture was partly based on getting the occasional goal when they needed it from the support players.

The Blues are back at it at home tomorrow against the Panthers, a game they’ll probably view as the harder of the two so the Hawks might get to see Jay Gallon tonight.

For the Hawks, Adam Boqvist will return to the lineup but Carlsson won’t, which means Nick Seeler can continue to make Connor Murphy question every decision in life he’s ever made. Seeler had an absolute disaster against the Blues last time, because he doesn’t have the feet, hands, or brain to deal with the Blues furious forecheck. Other than that, I can’t see a problem for him.

The Hawks will try and tell us that if they win tonight, it’s still six out of eight points this week which would have been the goal anyway. And they’ll tell you they still have the Sharks and Senators up this week. They’ll tell you, while really trying to convince themselves, that it’s still on. But their performance on Friday told you what they really think. A team that thinks it has a real chance doesn’t lay that egg in the home of the biggest collection of trash and discarded gum posing as a hockey team in recent memory. They know they’re done and the second of a back-to-back was simply too much work for them to be bothered to do.

Perhaps they’ll have the decency to try and save some face tonight, knowing they embarrassed themselves on Friday. Combine that with every effort against the Blues this year being sad in its own way, and they should be somewhat inspired. Whether that matters against a genuinely superior team who actually has something to play for, well… I think you know the answer to that one.

It’s something of a landmark night, as least in broadcast terms, as NBCSN will fully broadcast and produce the game with an all-female crew. If you can ignore the large swaths of both fanbases proving how adult they can’t be, it should be enjoyable. Maybe it’ll even cause Jeremy Roenick to finally immolate himself. One can only hope.

Hockey

When a GM is in a job for over 10 years, as Blues GM Doug Armstrong will pass into this summer, it’s either a sign of an organization’s inertia or incompetence, or a sign of sustained success. Or in the case of the Hawks, both. And it may be that’s the case in St. Louis as well.

Armstrong ascended to the GM chair while the Hawks were on their way to their first parade, and as things always worked with the Blues, everything they did seemed to be not to measure up to the class of the division (it was Detroit in the past), but to be in opposition to it. Of course, the Blues set some of this in motion when former GM Larry Pleau took Erik Johnson instead of Jonathan Toews.

But while the Hawks and others were getting faster and more skilled, the Blues seemed determined to plod and crush their way to success, which had predictable results. They hired Ken Hitchcock, which only made them more defensive. We know they emphasized size and GRITHEARTFAAAAART. And while they have been a consistent playoff team, there was only one conference final appearance.

It was the kind of record that usually gets GMs fired, and so would have the coaching boondoggle of installing Mike Yeo as an heir apparent to Hitchcock, and then watching all of that go to shit when the players rebelled against both of them. It culminated with the Blues missing the playoffs in 2018.

But that kicked a new direction and sense of urgency for Armstrong, something we’d love to see around here. Maybe he knew his job was on the line. But they traded for Ryan O’Reilly and signed Tyler Bozak to give them the center depth that they’d lacked and the Hawks or Sharks or Predators had picked apart in years previous.

A shift in drafting before that though were the real tracks. Robert Thomas, Jordan Kyrou, Vince Dunn, and an absolute theft of Brayden Schenn out of Philadelphia set the Blues on a path to be fast, dynamic, and skilled. All the things they hadn’t been before. And clearly, Armstrong was rewarded.

The final stroke, and perhaps the act of a man who was sure he was headed for printing up a bunch of CVs, was correcting the mistake of installing Yeo as coach after the players had turned on him and giving Craig Berube the job. Suddenly the Blues were playing faster and more aggressive, because with the speed Armstrong had installed in the lineup they could. We know how the rest goes.

Only Armstrong and his bosses will know how close he was to the axe, but everyone seems to think it was very much on the cards had the Blues not turned around at New Year’s last year. Armstrong deserves credit for realizing the mistakes of the past, seeing how his team had to adjust, and not being afraid to switch gears. Perhaps the Blues ownership deserves credit for letting Armstrong have the time to do it all.

Would that work here? Hard to say. Stan Bowman’s recent drafting record is already a strike against that. Recent player acquisitions would suggest they haven’t even diagnosed the problem yet. He’s made his coaching change. though Armstrong has been allowed three. And for every Armstrong who’s been allowed to dig themselves out, there’s Boston, Pittsburgh, Carolina and others who have found success changing things in the front office. There’s no set model for it.

What a state of affairs when you look down I-55 and wonder why things can’t be like that here. Life is meaningless.

Hockey

vs.

RECORDS: Hawks 27-27-8   Blues 36-17-10

PUCK DROP: 7pm

TV: NBCSN 

VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED: St. Louis Gametime

So, what could be the worst thing you would have to sit through after an underwhelming though probably explainable trade deadline where you hoped the Hawks would begin to outline their future but didn’t really? And you’re feeling the deepest malaise about team and organization that maybe you ever have? And it feels like it genuinely might not ever get better due to the front office’s incompetence and blindness? Why a game in St. Louis of course! Where the once red-headed stepchild has thrown off its labels and shackles and is the defending champ and sitting on top of the West and didn’t even feel the need to do much at the deadline because hey, they’re got pretty much everything they need! Oh, and they’re on a hot streak!

Kill us.

Blues fans will tell you it’s been a rocky season for them, and they’re a bit worried about what’s to come, which makes you realize what we sounded like when we were complaining about the #2 or #4 center on a 100+ point team and the Blues couldn’t find reverse on a Soviet tank (not Tarasenko). And the Blues have missed their best player basically all season, but he’s practicing again so that’s just fucking great. The Note did lose five in a row earlier in the month, which let the Avalanche and the Stars into the discussion over the division and conference. But they’ve since won four in a row by the combined score of 13-2 and have a small cushion at the top of things again.

For the Blues it starts in net, but it’s not just Jordan Binnington anymore. He did recover from a two-month-long sneeze and has been fine in February. But with the pressure off as a backup Jake Allen has been great in his starts, so the Blues get a minimum of plus-goaltending pretty much every night.

It would be inaccurate and unfair to say that’s all they are. They’re in the top ten in possession stats or close to it, so they do most things well. They don’t score a ton but they score enough, and they get that scoring from pretty much all four lines. And all four lines are packed with speed to maintain that hellacious forecheck they have. This is the misnomer about the Blues, and one the Hawks among others bought into. Because it’s THE BLUES, people assumed they forechecked hard because they’re just so tough and hairy and drooling and whatever else. But that’s not it. They’re really fast, so they can get on you quicker than just about any team. Yes, they’re not afraid to hit you when they’re there, but you can’t do that unless you can get there. The Blues can and well in time.

The Blues don’t generate a ton, there’s not much inspiration in this lineup, but they give up almost nothing because they make it so hard to get through them to even get to their zone, much less create chances. You’re basically coughing up the puck before their zone most of the time, which is what the Hawks have struggled with twice this season in their two losses to this outfit.

Are the Blues primed for another run? You might have to prepare for that. Colorado has enough speed to weave in and out of their tie fighters, but enough on the back end? The Stars don’t score enough, even if they almost pulled it off last year. The thought that only Vegas might be able to navigate this is enough to make you puke for a day.

As for the Hawks, they’ll begin the post-Lehner and Gustafsson-era with hardly a tear in their eye. The impression you get is that the dressing room and front office was sick of Lehner’s shit, and his pouty-face the past couple weeks didn’t help. This becomes a Crawford contract-drive, though the Hawks should be lining up getting him signed tomorrow. Assuming he wants to, which isn’t a given.

What to watch? Well, this will be the hardest path Lucas Carlsson has ever had to navigate, so how he does is worth assessing. It also might be nice to see Adam Boqvist move his feet once through it. Other than that, I can’t help you.

(Oh it looks like they won’t even let Carlsson try, because Nick Seeler’s brain and feet are certainly equipped to deal with this. How many times can one defenestrate himself?)

This is our lot in life now. Providing the fodder for Blues fans to marvel at just how far they’ve come and how much has changed. And to laugh and chortle. It should be a lesson in how quickly things can change, and they could always change back. But for now we just have to eat it. Because it doesn’t matter if the Hawks win tonight. It won’t change their playoff chase, and the Blues have eyes on bigger things. Just like we used to. Perhaps that’s what hurts most. Other than the history and proximity, is this even a rival right now for the Blues? They’ll play like it, and their fans will act like it, but pretty soon they won’t even think about the Hawks.

I guess you hold onto this, because if things turn around anytime soon it’s this kind of thing that makes it sweeter. Even if you can’t picture it now.

Hockey

We can rant and rave all we want, but Jordan Binnington doesn’t have to do anything for the rest of his career and he’ll be a St. Louis legend. We’re shocked they don’t already have a statue of him next to Federko and drunk Brett Hull. He’s the only goalie to backstop the Blues to a Cup, and hence he’ll always be a God. Funny how he only had to do that once and yet Corey Crawford has done it twice here and yet a large swath of Hawks fans still think he’s worth pissing on. What the fuck is going on in the world today?

The thing with Binnington is that he’s gotten caught in that web of hockey coverage and analysis–which again, has somehow eluded Crawford even though he’s done it twice (!)–that states if you’re a goalie that’s won a Cup you’re obviously great. Jonathan Quick rode that for half a decade or more and a huge contract and he’s really been nothing more than average for almost all of his career. And while Binnington hasn’t proven to be that low on the totem pole yet, it’s a little harder to judge what he actually is.

Binnington’s rep was built last winter in January and February. In 18 starts over those two months, Binnington put up a .943 and only lost two of those starts in regulation as the Blues rocketed from last in the league to safely into the playoffs (something the Hawks are still convinced can just happen and paying no attention to how the Blues were constructed, but that’s for another time).

But from there, Binnington was…ok? He was .912 through the rest of the season, which is just a tick over league average. The narrative is that he carried the Blues on his back through four rounds, but that’s not really the case. He went .914 in the playoffs, which is fine, even good, but hardly “carrying” a team. The Jets were quitting, the Stars still can’t score, and the Sharks played without a goalie and a healthy Erik Karlsson. That’s not to belittle the Blues run (well, maybe a little), you can only play who’s in front of you, but to illustrate that Binnington didn’t have to go Roy ’86 to get the Blues to the promiseland.

It hasn’t changed much this year. Binnington is at a perfectly reasonable .913 for the season, and the Blues sit atop the conference standings. He’s gotten some help as Jake Allen has really taken to a backup role, so the Blues get no dropoff there and can give Binnington more nights off than they might have planned.

But again, it’s been streaky. Binnington was brilliant in October and November, but then woeful in December and January. So perhaps we can just conclude he’s streaky? Which probably makes him like every other goaltender on the planet, but also doesn’t make him goalie royalty either.

Which might make the summer interesting. Binnington is up for an extension as he’ll have one year left on his deal after this one. You would think that the only goalie to have a ring in Missouri at age 26 is an automatic extension for as long as possible, and that’s likely what the Blues will do. However, they were reasonable with this current two-year deal he’s on now, which he signed after the Cup win. After all, we’re talking about a player who has only been in the NHL for barely a season.

If Binnington were to snuff it in the playoffs this year, which is what Blues should be doing, he would be on something of a prove-it season next term. Which sounds strange given what he’s already meant down there. The Blues being rational? This is getting out of hand…