Hockey

The Dizzying Highs

The Top Line: We don’t usually split this but what’re you gonna do? It’s hard to talk about Jonathan Toews without Domink Kubalik, considering they piled up 15 points and eight goals in just four games together. Toews especially has been delirious, with 42 points in 39 games. That doesn’t mean his possession-dominance has returned, but when he’s piling up the points that seems a bit nitpick-y. And he definitely domed whatever the Leafs threw at him on Saturday, which is always nice. Reports of his demise, some of which were authored by me in October, were obviously greatly exaggerated.

Kubalik is yet another showcase of the Hawks’ European scouting, and hopefully this time they don’t cash him in for a plodding, third-pairing d-man. Kubalik’s success of course makes the offseason even trickier, as if he does get to 30 goals then you can’t just hand him $2.5M and tell him to take it as they were probably hoping, even as a restricted free agent. But we’ll save that for May and June and whatever. No, he’s not going to shoot 30% for the rest of the year as he has this week, but it’s clear he is something of a ruthless finisher and also has a sense of how to get open.

The Terrifying Lows

No One? – It’s hard to pick someone out when you go 4-0 during the week and do it to the tune of 18-7 in the aggregate. So yeah, Drake Caggiula’s four penalties last night weren’t ideal, but who cares? Kirby Dach could be scoring more, but then he goes and does that last night and you see what might be possible down the road very quickly. The power play still hasn’t really chimed in yet, and the hope was Boqvist would goose it a bit more. But when you’re killing every penalty and finishing at evens at the rate the Hawks are, it’s not a big deal. That’s why Quenneville never really cared about the power play.

So maybe we’ll set it at the hype for tomorrow night’s game, which we’ll cover in-depth tomorrow. You know it’s going to get a little out of hand, but the video package is probably going to bring a tear to everyone’s eye. And frankly, I’m crying too much these days (though usually out of joy thanks to Gini Wijnaldum).

The Creamy Middles

Corey Crawford – While the headline has been how good the Hawks goaltending has been, the truth is that most of that has been Robin Lehner. Corey, who I will always defend and root for and am basically going to be the leading voice stating he should be the one kept and not Lehner next season, has only been all right at best. He flashed the form we know and love earlier in the season, but that went away. And even with these two great performances in Montreal and Toronto he’s only at .910 for the year, which is not the standard he’s set. And maybe he can’t get there again, but I don’t necessarily believe that.

I had thought he was still adjusting to splitting starts. But he got a row of them when Lehner had a bit of a knee-knack, and his performance against Detroit and Nashville were…iffy. Earlier in the year when he got a stretch of starts for the only other time, he was much better in Vegas and in Pittsburgh. Maybe he still hasn’t quite come to terms with the gaps between appearances. Now he’ll likely go two or more weeks.

Still, the Hawks will need him. And they’ll need him to be really good. It’s still there. I know it. And it’s more satisfying when we see it from him.

Hockey

Maybe I’ll do more on this tomorrow, but it’s funny that you’re getting all the decade retrospectives now about the Hawks, and in reality they only had like, half a decade. The Penguins have had a whole decade. You could argue the Caps have too, though with less silverware. But the Hawks ruled the first half of the decade. Then Patrick Kane happened, and they haven’t won a playoff series since or even a playoff game in the last four seasons (I’m going to go ahead and include this one if you don’t mind. Not stepping out on a ledge I don’t think).

BUT THAT’S NOT WHY YOU CALLED.

Anyway, who did what the past week?

The Dizzying Highs

Robin Lehner – He’s about the only candidate thanks to that pre-Christmas kerplunk against the Devils. Two wins, four goals surrendered in two games, and didn’t even have to work all that hard against the Jackets. He even won a shootout, which he certainly has made a big deal to everyone even though it’s a complete lottery. But hey, we’re with him, the shootout is garbage and should be chucked yesterday. Anyway, it seems like he’s about to seize the starting job, which will have at least the benefit of upping his trade value come the deadline. The Hawks could get an actual thing back for him if they had the actual stones to deal him, which I’m sure they don’t. Anyway, he’s your winner this time around.

The Terrifying Lows

Jeremy Colliton – Could be him every week, but we got a glimpse of coaches this week who are doing more with less. Look at the Islanders roster, and tell me you’d honestly switch it with the Hawks every day of the week. You probably wouldn’t. John Tortorella has a raft of injuries, and the Jackets have more points than the Hawks in a much tougher conference and division. And they do it because they know what their teams can and can’t do, and they plan accordingly. It might be boring as shit, and the Jackets certainly are, but these guys aren’t here to entertain. They’re here to win. Trotz certainly does, though comparing Colliton to him isn’t really fair.

Beyond that, though they got two wins that he’ll feel is a vindication the lines are completely fucked. Dylan Strome is not a winger, and as this season becomes more and more about development you’re doing him no favors by bouncing him to a wing. Kane with Carpenter and Nylander is laughable. And then you don’t play Nylander, which is fine with me but probably not going to get the most out of him. John Quenneville and Matthew Highmore continue to play and Dylan Sikura doesn’t, even though the latter is the only one with NHL-grade speed for a team that doesn’t have enough of it.

Adam Boqvist is playing scared, which was the opposite of the point. He needs a better babysitter than Keith, though the Hawks probably don’t have one without de Haan anymore. They’re stunting his development as well. And when your team completely shits it the day before the Christmas break against a team you have to beat, that’s because they don’t listen or respect you. Yes, puking up the game before the Christmas break is something even Quenneville had trouble avoiding, but those teams earned the runway. This one hasn’t.

The Hawks took a headache away from Colliton by fridging Brent Seabrook. Let’s see what he does with it. So far, not impressed.

The Creamy Middles

Dylan Strome – Three points in the last two games, including the goal that kickstarted the comeback yesterday. Has taken to the shifting positions without losing effectiveness even though it does him no favors. And is getting better around the net, though I sometimes wonder if the Hawks aren’t sticking him there simply because they see he’s big and not realizing the strengths of his game are his vision and playmaking. Maybe it’ll lead to an all-around game one day. Anyway, he’s on pace for a 60-point season, which no one will complain about.

Hockey

Three overtime games this week as the Hawks ended up with five of six points that somehow doesn’t feel as good as it should? Anyway, who did what this week?

The Dizzying Highs

Top Cat – Scored in all three games this past week, so it makes him a pretty easy choice. And two of them were the kinds of goals that only he and maybe Kane are coming up with–the snipe against the Bruins that hit top cheese and the finish from in close last night.. There hasn’t been too much panic about his lack of goals so far this year, because everyone knows this is a world-class finisher whose shooting-percentage is almost half of what his career mark is. Some of his metrics are slightly down from his first two years, and you never know how someone will respond to their first real contract even if it starts next year. But the slightly less attempts and chances he’s getting could be partially attributed to constant line shuffling, and since being paired with Strome and Kane and being left alone we’ve seen those numbers start to arc up. And the Hawks need it. The assumption was they’d find enough goals, but that hasn’t been the case with Toews’s struggles. Top Cat and Kane have to be scoring at a top-tier pace or this team is sunk every which way. Hopefully we’re getting back to that.

The Terrifying Lows

Andrew Shaw – This isn’t anything about what Shaw has done of late, and that’s the point. This is about how the Hawks handle Shaw from here, because you probably can’t get a more clear case of a player who needs to be protected from himself. We know that if given the choice, Shaw will head out there tomorrow and throw himself face-first into anything and everything. It’s pointless to try and do a concussion count on Shaw, because we know there were times even in his first stint as a Hawk where he played through it. Looking back on his Game 6 in Boston where he was knocked out cold and yet still barely missed a shift…that almost seems criminally negligent now. Shaw would tell you that’s what he wanted, and most players would in that situation. Would he tell you that 10 years from now? 15? Is he going to be able to remember it?

We’ve been critical of the Hawks’ handling of concussions in the past, pointedly with Marcus Kruger. Of late that doesn’t seem to be an issue, and perhaps Corey Crawford forced them to really make changes. Yes, Dylan Strome played a game through one, but he didn’t report anything to the Hawks and took himself out after that. Again, this is an injury that somewhat relies on the player being honest with the medical staff, which we know a lot of them aren’t. The Hawks and hockey have a long way to go, but at least they seem to be headed in the right direction for once.

Shaw was put on LTIR today, and it would not be a surprise if he’s out a lot longer than the minimum of past Christmas. It would behoove the Hawks to have a long talk with Shaw and really explore whether having him sit out the rest of the season is a viable option. We know of four or five of these for him already, and he missed some serious time with the Habs because of it. We can be pretty sure what Shaw wants, because what else is he going to do? But the Hawks might want to have his better interests in mind.

And when he gets back, perhaps the applauding of any fight he picks should be put down? He can still be physical and play a Shaw game without taking unnecessary risks, because you feel one good straight right and his career is going to be over. These are the kinds of things Shaw needs to be told, because if left up to him…again, we know the answer. If he’s not 100%, and really 100% and not close enough to it that the Hawks can give themselves a pass, by the time his LTIR stint is over, it feels like the risks to have him play this year are too great.

The Creamy Middles

Dylan Strome – Did you know Strome was playing at a 63-point pace? I guess I didn’t realize it that much either until now. But he’s been pretty damn consistent when healthy, and even if that’s his ceiling that’s solid #2 center production which was the idea the whole time. Strome’s metrics, while by themselves are hardly shining, are much better relative to the team than they were last year, which is encouraging. He got clocked a bit last night but had some glittering numbers against the Bruins and Devils. He’s been exactly what you would have asked for, even if you don’t notice him pop quite as much. In a stretch of time where it feels like Stan Bowman hasn’t gotten anything right, this one counts as a good move.

Hockey

The Dizzying Highs

Brandon Saad – It would be easy to put Patrick Kane here, thanks to his point-streak, but I don’t do easy. But Saad is the only forward I notice every night, and I know I’m not alone. He scored against Dallas in their only win the past week, and got the opener shorthanded against the Avs on Saturday. Whereas Kane can go missing when games have been close and occasionally has been cherry-picking to benefit the point-streak he’s probably all too aware of, Saad just gets on with it. And he’s been the Hawks best forward the whole season whether you like it or not. He’s piled up 18 shots in the four games here, and he’s on his best expected goal per game of his career, and he’s top-25 in relative Corsi and xG percentage among forwards in the league. He’s played so well, it probably makes sense to explore trades for him in the way they didn’t for Erik Gustafsson last year. He’ll have one more year after this left on his deal, and he’s a difference-maker on a good team’s second line. That is if he’s not part of the long-term vision here, which no one knows. He’s been good enough where you probably can’t go wrong either trading him or keeping him, but if anyone can it’ll be the Hawks.

The Terrifying Lows

The Front Office – Boy there were a lot of candidates for this. But let’s just review, and there will be more on this later, but the Hawks organization has been part of two of the current abuse/racists scandals this week in hockey (Peters and Crawford) and have turned their palms up at both with the, “Me no speaka da English” defense. Either the front office is that willfully ignorant that their AHL captain having to confront their AHL coach about his racist remarks doesn’t send alarm lights to the main office, and their assistant hire’s past abuse of players being documented in a book or two, which means they’re just about the clueless bunch of dopes around (could be!). Or they knew all this stuff…and they just didn’t care.

Much less important, but worth mentioning, is that they’ve built a team that again, is one point off the bottom of the West more than a quarter through the season, and is capped out to the point they couldn’t ice a full team last night. This collection of ne’er-do-wells and the truly bewildered costs as much as any team in the league. Your four offseason acquisitions that make significant money total  which cost $15.6M (Smith, Shaw, de Haan, and Maatta) have got you one fourth-liner who’s slow, a bottom-six winger they keep trying to play into the top six even though all he’s done this year is take o-zone penalties and wave to the crowd, a middle-pairing d-man who also can’t move, and a barely-third pairing d-man. This is how you get capped out, because all these positions are supposed to cost a fuckton less than this.

But hey…ONE GOAL.

The Creamy Middles

Patrick Kane – It’s really not surprising when he keeps scoring. He might fire in some garbage time (symmetry) goals to keep his streak alive, and he may be trying to do that too many times, but he’s also the only other threat besides Saad these days. Without either, the Hawks get clubbed 4-1 every night.

Hockey

Not easy to do this when they biff all three games in the week, but hey, our is not to reason why…

The Dizzying Highs

Patrick Kane – It’s not really all that different for him, but when the Hawks score five goals all week and he sets up four of them, this is going to be your spot pretty much every time. Even though it felt like he was just kind of “there” in the season’s first month, there he is in the top-10 in league scoring, even though he likely doesn’t have the amount of talent around him as the players ahead of him do. Or their teams actually have the puck, when the Hawks generally don’t. While the Hawks had to attempt two dumbass-luck comebacks this week against Carolina and Tampa, two teams that are just vastly superior to them, they actually have a chance to do that because Kane’s around to either set up Gustafsson with a chance he can’t miss or get a shot through that Strome can pot the rebound of or the like.

The Hawks would be utterly fucked without their goalies, but they might not ever score if it wasn’t for Kane.

The Terrifying Lows

Team Harmony? – The Hawks weren’t offensively bad at least against Tampa or Dallas, so it’s hard to single out a particular player. But still, something was off with Jeremy Colliton scratching a clearly not-deserving-of-it Domink Kubalik, in order to get Slater Koekkoek into the lineup against his former team where no one remembers him. Toews called him out on it, the players openly derided going with seven d-men, and it all just harms the overall picture.

The reasoning was poor, the outcome probably worse, and now it just feels like Colliton is making things up on the fly. There’s no reason to scratch Kubalik ahead of Zack Smith or even Andrew Shaw, but these are both now entrenched vets that Colliton has also become afraid of. Shaw you sort of understand, and he’s been better of late, but Smith doesn’t draw any water. Meanwhile Kubalik has been your second or third most consistent forward at both ends of the ice.

That doesn’t mean the players have up and quit on Colliton, based on Saturday’s effort alone. But it seems that comes out of professional pride or a duty to each other or both more than a belief in the whole structure. That won’t last forever.

Also, this:

Maybe this deserves its own post, but why is the first thing an opposing coach notices about the Hawks is that they spin their wheels better than anyone else?

The Creamy Middles

Connor Murphy – It wasn’t his most solid week, and the Tampa game was kind of ugly, and he’s being wasted on a pairing with Olli Maatta, and I could keep going, but this season is going to end with me screaming from whatever hill I can find in this godforsaken flatland that he’s the most underrated player in the league. Murphy was excellent against Dallas, and turned over the ice with mostly Miro Heiskanen on the other side and an anchor on his. And he at least kept Andrew Cogliano from scoring against the Hawks again, and Fifth Feather from tumescence. He’s the Hawks best d-man, and I can only pray that Kelvin Gemstone treats him like it sometime this season instead of playing Erik Gustafsson into a five-year extension.

Hockey

The Dizzying Highs

The Goalies – I suppose you’re slightly ahead of being a total moron when you can admit what you don’t know and take appropriate steps. You’ll never convince us the Hawks have any sort of plan to the past couple seasons or this one. And yet there probably was some humility in thinking they might not have gotten everything right, so they’ll just shore up the goalies to one of the best tandems in the league and if everything else falls apart, which it very well might, those two will at least give them a chance every game.

And so it has proven of late. Robin Lehner kept them from getting embarrassed in San Jose and at least allowed for the possibility of a miracle comeback late. Corey Crawford stopped 36 shots against the Canucks. He held the Penguins to two goals and really should have gotten another two points there. Lehner stopped 743 shots last night against the Leafs to get the Hawks another two points. Five out of six points, with the goalies being the main reason.

We should be used to slow Corey Crawford starts by now, it’s kind of his thing. In three November starts he’s at .929. Lehner is at .934 for the year, and .931 in four November appearances.

Whatever else it is the Hawks are doing, and that is unclear to just about everyone including themselves, their goalies have performed of late exactly as the Hawks had hoped. Which they’ll take far too much credit for, but it’s better than getting your brains beaten in every night. Last year, Cam Ward would have given up 12 goals to the Leafs on a night like that.

The Terrifying Lows

Slater Koekkoek And Not Admitting A Mistake – I don’t know what the blindspot is for the Hawks and subpar d-men. We went through this with David Rundblad. We went through this with Trevor van Riemsdyk. And what’s infuriating about it is not that the players themselves are bad, because teams have bad players. It’s that the Hawks continue to insist on trotting them out there when they’ve both proven they’re not up to it, and there’s also little investment.

Sure, Rundblad somehow cost a 2nd round pick (!). And I guess there’s some drive to prove that it was worth it even when that no longer seems possible. But given where the Hawks were in their trajectory at that point, did the 55th pick or lower really matter that much?

All Slater Koekkoek cost you was the equally awful Jan Rutta. You’re not in deep on this one. Enough is enough. He’s not going to be a diamond in the rough (hey! poet and I don’t even know it!). He’s bad, he’s going to continue to be bad, and while once is explainable never again should Adam Boqvist sit so he can air out and cost you points.

And Koekkoek cost them points on Saturday night, or a point to be correct. If the Hawks get to the second intermission up 2-0, they probably win that game. Giving the Penguins life by mishandling a puck, being indecisive, and then letting Evgeni Malkin pick his pass is exactly what you can’t do late in the second with a two-goal lead. Whether the Hawks are aimed at this season or the ones to follow, Koekkoek doesn’t fit in either scenario. If he’s not waived when Connor Murphy is healthy then that should be a pretty high bullet-point in the case that McDonough makes to fire Stan Bowman. Which won’t happen, but we can imagine at least. We’re just an animal without imagination.

The Creamy Middles

Patrick Kane – Until last night, you wouldn’t say that here had been a signature Patrick Kane game this year. He’d only had two multi-point games in October. And even the ones that have come in November were boosted by empty-net assists and the like. And yet there he is sitting on a 98-point pace. The metrics may be terrible (and they are) and constantly-shuffling linemates may have thrown him off rhythm (they most certainly have) and yet he just collects goals and assists. You may never notice him for 58 minutes of every game, and you look up and there’s two points. Imagine when he gets to carve out a constant role and you really do start to notice him again.

Hockey

The Dizzying Highs

Robin Lehner – This might be a touch weird to put a goalie who merely went 1-1 over the week here, and even the good “1” was an OT win against an unimpressive Ducks squad. But Lehner stopped 84 of 89 shots he saw in two games…let’s let that marinate for a moment…and had he not been at the top of his game the Hawks would have been on the ass end of an embarrassing result that would have had the whole league talking for a week. Even last night he held off a charge from the Ducks that could have resulted in the Hawks leaving SoCal with just one point instead of three.

Strange fact I learned yesterday, in the past four seasons Lehner has the third-best SV% of all goalies. Better than Vasilevskiy and right behind John Gibson. And that’s with a couple different teams, so he can’t be called a systems-goalie. He got that label by playing for Barry Trotz for a year, and the Hawks were able to use that as cover for a pretty good bargain, and getting better as their defense continue to turn every offense they see into the Bolivian army while Butch Lehner and Sundance Crawford reload in the corner of the building. The Hawks couldn’t be much worse off than they are, but they would firmly have their face in the toilet if it wasn’t for Lehner.

The Terrifying Lows

Andrew Shaw – We obviously had some trepidation when Shaw was reacquired, because it smacked of A. once again subpar pro scouting from the Hawks who again defaulted to “Hey I know that guy!” and B. wanting to cash in and sell tickets to the nostalgia crowd, even though they also say every ticket is also sold. Still, Shaw’s underlyings playing with Max Domi and Brendan Gallagher last year were good, and he has a skillset that the Hawks, in theory, could really use. Yes, signed for multiple years, but we could squint and see it if we ignored the name and number on the jersey.

Guess we know who was doing the real work in Montreal.

Shaw hasn’t been anything he was supposed to be–he hasn’t been a puck-winner, he hasn’t shown what used to be nifty hands around the net, and he hasn’t even really been an irritant to anyone except his own team and fans. The only thing that we recognize are the dumb, lazy, offensive zone penalties that seem to be cropping up because Shaw can’t keep the pace. He’s been a black hole, culminating in playing just seven minutes last night on the fourth line, where he managed a 30% Corsi and a 7(!) xGF%. Seven.

Clearly Coach Cool Youth Pastor has had it, and rightly so. But that’s ok, Shaw’s still signed for two more years to remind people of that time he bled from the face in Boston and played after getting knocked out cold, which is a totally healthy and responsible thing for a player to do and a team to let him do.

The Creamy Middles

Alex Nylander – Though it’s going to cost me a Greektown dinner in the spring, Nylander has been solid in California after being a horror-show in Tennessee. Though none of his teammates could escape that moniker either. Two assists in the two games, earning his way to play with the big boys, and one of the few Hawks who look like they can play at NHL speed. Getting better at making plays in traffic and not just needing space to do it. Now that we’re out of October and the grind starts to set in we’ll get a better idea, but solid production is needed from more wingers and he’s provided it.

Hockey

Ok, so it was the second week but the Hawks only played one game in the first week so it’s the first week of the Sugar Pile and fuck you. That’s how we do things around here.

The Dizzying Highs

David Kampf – While Marcus Kruger‘s rep was at least a little tarnished by his years away from Chicago and then his second tour of duty here (though they were better than you might remember), what shouldn’t be forgotten is just how much of a unicorn he was and how vital he was to the second and third Cup teams. He was a purely defensive center who flipped the ice consistently, and you just don’t find those. Just last season, of the 20 centers who had the worst zone starts, only two had positive, relative Corsi-percentages to their team. They’re just not that common.

And one of those centers was David Kampf, which means the Hawks have a knack for finding these players (or at least their European scouts do).

In the Hawks first four games, Kampf–along with Brandon Saad and Dominik Kubalik–has been identified as a straight checking center. Finally. His only rough game came against the Jets, where he wasn’t deployed as that straight-up against Mark Scheifele, though the Jets obviously have other threats.

But last night was a perfect example, as his line matched up with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl exclusively and rolled out with a 3-to-1 difference in attempts and doubled them up in expected goals, and most importantly played them even in actual goals (+1 if you count the empty-netter, where Toews centered him and Saad). Which no one had done this season in the Oilers 5-0 start.

If the Hawks do anything this season that matters, Kampf will be a very unheralded but very important part of it. If used properly, and if he continues in this fashion, he relieves Toews of the duty of taking on other #1s, which at his age he can’t do and score as much as the Hawks are probably going to need him to. If he keeps turning over other top lines, he forces coaches to make some weird adjustments, as we saw last night with Dave Tippett triple-shifting McDavid just to give him room against someone else.

How Colliton manages Kampf on the road will be a watch. It’s probably too early in the season to start pulling guys off immediately to get Kampf out there against the biggest threats on the fly, but it is a tool Colliton should go to later in the year. For now, starting him in his own zone should see a decent enough amount of matchups against other top lines.

The Hawks have a real tool (in a good way, jerks) here. Pretty sure they know it, now let’s see if they maximize it.

The Terrifying Lows

Jonathan Toews – No reason to panic, as before last season the slow start was something Toews just did. October over his career sees his lowest amount of goals and points, He has averaged .,31 goals per game and .72 points in October, which are below his career averages overall. Last year’s seven goals and 12 points in 13 October games are the anomaly, not this.

Still, in the first three games of the year, Toews got absolutely clocked. 28% Corsi against the Flyers, 16% against the Sharks (what?), and 45% against the Jets. His xGF% was 33%. He was better last night as Kampf spared him having to play against the one center the Oilers have. When you spend most of your night against Riley Sheahan, good things should happen.

Still, Toews has looked a half-step or worse off the pace this year, which was the problem a couple years ago. Again, could just be a slow start. Could be some goofy linemates too, as combined with Alex DeBrincat and Caligula he has too much to do. He has to be some of the puck-winner and some of the playmaker, and that’s not really his game anymore. Caggiula is a good soldier but the Hawks need something more dynamic there (Kirby Dach on a wing?).

Toews has earned all the leeway, but they’ll need more from the captain soon.

The Creamy Middles

Connor Murphy and Duncan Keith – This was probably how it was supposed to look three seasons ago, given that it’s only been two games. But as Niklas Hjalmarsson was moved out, and Joel Quenneville‘s heart with him, Hammer had already supplanted Brent Seabrook as Keith’s main partner. It was the two of them getting turned into person-shaped piles of ash with blinking eyes by Nashville in ’17 that inspired Stan Bowman to look for someone more mobile than Hjalmarsson. Mostly due to  being Q’s red-headed step-child, Murphy only got sporadic looks with Keith, and they didn’t go well. But we imagine this is what Stan envisioned when he made the deal.

Only two games, but Colliton has opted for this as his top pairing and through those two games they’ve been great. They were matched up with Wheeler and Scheifele on Saturday and came out ahead, and did so again last night against McDavid (with help from Kampf, of course). Given what’s on the roster, this is the best the Hawks can do right now. And in these past two games, it’s been more than enough.

Murphy is just about the only other d-man on the roster with the mobility and defensive awareness to cover for Keith when he goes out a-walkin’ after midnight, and gives Keith something of the cushion to still try it. Which he’s going to anyway, but when he’s panicky it only gets worse and Murphy at least takes that away. For now.

Everything Else

The Dizzying Highs

Brendan Perlini – Get on with your bad self, son. Perlini posted his first career hat-trick, then added tallies in Toronto and Montreal. Perls still has a little work to do to top last year’s 17 goals in Arizona, so before we go all gaga we should understand he’s done this kind of thing before. Up until the last three games, Perlini and his linemates were putting up some seriously impressive metrics as well. But they’ve crashed to Earth with the rest of the team in Canada, and weren’t particularly impressive last night against a trap that no one on the team seemed to recognize or deal with. But hey, five goals is five goals. Hopefully he closes strong and gives us a good, “HE’S ON THE TEAM FOR NEXT YEAR!” feeling.

The Terrifying Lows

Gustav Forsling – In what was a pretty decent week for the Hawks, at least results-wise, it’s hard to find anyone to pick on. So I’ll go with my usual target, and really weep that I’m in a world where I have to justify hating Forsling getting in the lineup over Carl Dahlstrom. Seeing as neither should be on the team next year anyway. Whatever, Forsling got himself clocked by both the Leafs and Habs, and the Coyotes in a six-goal win as well. If I watch him lose another race or bail out of it altogether I’m basically gonna plotz. No, Slater Koekkoek isn’t any better, but at least he stood up Brock Boeser last night to draw a penalty, which is one more defensive contribution than Forsling has made all season.

The Creamy Middles

Corey Crawford – That seems harsh, as his last five appearances he’s carrying a .960 SV%. That should put him in the first column, but the thing is we kind of just take Crow’s brilliance as the norm. We shouldn’t, and after his injury odyssey of he past year-plus, we really should treasure any kind of spirited displays we get from him. We don’t know how long they’ll last. But we knew before the season, and we knew during the season, that Crow remains the Hawks most important player. Look, he’s playing well for the most part since he came back. He’s made eight appearances, and the Hawks are 6-1-1 in those. This is not a coincidence. He’s going to get every start save one half of the back-to-back against Colorado at the weekend until the season stops mattering. And if he continues to do this, it might matter all the way to the end.

Everything Else

Still doing it. Let’s get through it.

The Dizzying Highs

Brendan Perlini – Four goals in three games will get you here. Sure, his charge and stretch for a hat trick last night with three seconds left was downright comedic, but hat tricks are special and he’s hardly the first or last (and how many tantrums have we seen Christiano Ronaldo throw when a player doesn’t serve him up his hat trick? It’ll look the same when he goes to prison). Bring Perlini up to 11 for the year, which seems a decent total for what should be a third-liner. Which is what he almost certainly is going forward on a team that’s intent on doing something that matters. The one game he didn’t score his coach called his best, and a 62% share backs that up.

Is he more? These last 13 games might say more than you’d think. Of course we’ve seen plenty of players pile the goals in when the games stopped mattering, and then the next season they returned to a faceless part of the rabble. We’ve also seen players like Patrick Sharp drive hard in the season’s last throes to achieve some benchmark–with Sharp it was 20 goals in 2007–and then use that as a platform to become A THING. Perlini is only 22, which is easy to forget. He’s getting a chance to play with real talent in Top Cat and Strome, and in their few games together he’s lifted their peripherals to heights they weren’t getting to with Dominik Kahun.

I don’t know if Perlini will ever be a real piece. He might be Jack Skille with assignments (Skille never really got a look on a top six, nor did he deserve to) What I do know is he has the type of speed that the Hawks need more of, and put him in position he does seem to have a sense on how to get the puck in the net. There are worse uses for these last stretch of games than to audition Perlini.

The Terrifying Lows

Draft Position – There’s not really much else to put here when you’ve won all three games this week, and this matters to a lot of people. The way things are going, the Hawks could draft anywhere from 7th-12th, and maybe even lower. The schedule remains pretty damn soft until the last week, so who knows how silly this will get? Are you likely to get an immediate difference-maker drafting 9th? You are not. Can you package the 9th pick with say, Jokiharju or Beaudin or Boqvist to get you one? Yes, yes you can. Which is what the Hawks should be thinking about. But in reality, losing every game from here on out and drafting 4th would be better. long-term. But they’re not going to do that, so we need to deal with what is.

The Creamy Middles

Jonathan Toews – It’s hard to believe that Captain Marvel could easily reach career-highs in goals and points this year (though it’s important to note that in the season-in-a-can of 2013 Toews played at a 40-43-83 pace). Don’t fool yourself, it’s come at a sacrifice of some of his all-around game. But the game now is about offense, and if he had a better blue line behind him you wouldn’t mind as much. Another four points this week, and though things are reversed now where teams are throwing their best at Kane and Toews can clean up against lesser now, you still have to do that. The way we talk about him makes him out to be 35 or 42 years old. He’s only 30. There’s still some planning to be done around him.