Everything Else

It was worrisome for a minute, but then the Blackhawks remembered they were playing the Oilers, and their confidence that they weren’t the shittiest team in the league, or run by the biggest dumbasses in the league, or from the most miserable, cold location in the league managed to just overpower a confused Edmonton team, who also suddenly remembered they were the Oilers. By the end, all Run CMD could do was watch. To the bullets!

Box Score

Corsica

Natural Stat Trick

– Things started well enough but then the last half of the first period went to shit for the Hawks. They took four straight penalties, some of which overlapped leading to 5-on-3s, and Leon Draisaitl was having his way with the Hawks, scoring two goals in about two minutes, both on power plays. The defense looked generally lost, and in particular Seabrook got absolutely smoked by Connor McDavid. I know that’s not shocking and shouldn’t even be news, but in real time it was ugly to watch.

– Prior to the penalties and the Hawks basically falling to pieces for a while, our favorite beneficiary of the Fels Motherfuck, Erik Gustafsson, potted his 11th goal of the year and it came…wait for it…on the power play. We talked about it on the podcast last night, and I’m telling ‘ya, someone is going to take Gus for a real defenseman and if the Hawks play their cards right, they can cash in off the results of this motherfuck. We’ll be waiting by the phone for the kudos and our share of the spoils.

– But enough of all that—five goals in one period! If it had been against any other team I wouldn’t have believed it. But this is the Oilers, and despite Ty Rattie have a good night with three shots, Draisaitl scoring twice and Connor McDavid being Connor McDavid, it still wasn’t enough. And once the Hawks rattled them with Hayden’s goal, a fourth-line goal that was the result of a quick passing play from Marcus Kruger early in the third, the Hawks just kept scoring at will. In fact is was a DLR in the span of one period, and Ken Hitchcock had no idea how to help his team respond. Which is hilarious, except when you think about a generational talent being wasted on this shit organization.

– And I have to say, I’m bummed FOR McDavid. Sure, he makes a shitload of money and no, I’m not actually losing sleep or anything, but it’s hard to see a game like this, and records like what the Oilers have, while also seeing his capabilities and not rue the fact they’re being so blatantly wasted in this mis-managed and poorly coached dumpster fire of a team.

– But before it sounds like this was just another example of the Oilers fucking up royally, let me state for the record that the Hawks got their shit together and played better as soon as the second period started. They came back from the first intermission being on the PK but killed off the last of that string of penalties, and they bounced back from being underwater in possession in the first period to a 60 CF% for the second. The Kane-Toews-Caligula line in particular had a number of strong shifts in the offensive zone. Ward had a highlight reel save against Rattie to keep it 2-1. They played WELL during the second and just carried that into the third, which is when it translated into goals.

– The second line looked really good tonight as well. They only scored one goal (only! We can say only one because there were so many!), but they had a 67 CF% and had strong shifts all night. And not only did Dominik Kahun get an assist on Strome’s goal, he got one of his own in the barrage later in the third period.

– You know I love to complain about the defense, but get this: every Hawks defenseman had a 50 CF% or better, and as a team they only gave up 27 shots tonight. Despite the incident of McDavid lighting Seabrook on fire, and some early struggles during the bad half of the first, this was actually a relatively competent defensive effort. Is this the end of days?

So here we are talking about the Blackhawks being three points out of a playoff spot. Let that insanity sink in. To be completely honest, I don’t think this is actually a playoff team, and what we’re seeing is them benefiting from shitty opponents, a good power play, Patrick Kane, and a large dose of luck. But whatever, they’re on a hot streak right now and are beating the teams they should be beating. So I’m not going to look the proverbial gift horse in the mouth, and let’s enjoy it while it lasts. Because it won’t last. Onward and upward!

Beer de Jour: Slalom King, Crystal Lake Brewing

Line of the Night: “The senior citizen behind the Oilers bench…” –Foley, attempting to throw shade at or be polite to Ken Hitchcock, I’m still not sure which…

Photo credit: Chicago Tribune

Everything Else

The Hawks played well tonight…I’m struggling to believe I typed those words…they played better than a team that is demonstrably more talented and a legitimate Cup contender or at least conference finalist…and so I will try to make sense of this. To the bullets:

Box Score

Corsica

Natural Stat Trick

– Right out of the gate, the Hawks had a step on the Predators. Maybe this is a consequence of the Preds being on the second night of a back-to-back. You wouldn’t think that would necessarily be the case, given that Nashville is just plain better but whatever. I don’t know and I don’t care. In particular the top line had a number of quality chances and good puck movement early on, and the second line was right there with them. By the end of the second period the Hawks led in shots 28-18, and they had a 57 and 58 CF% respectively in the first two periods. They were faster to the puck, defensively competent, and they even scored a power play goal. A power play goal, guys! I don’t even know what to say!

– Related to the whole top-line-playing-well-thing is Brandon Saad, who once again had an excellent night. He ended the night with 4 shots and 56.7 CF%. In fact he had three shots on goal barely more than 5 minutes into the game. No, he didn’t score so there was a lack of finish, let’s just get that out of the way, but he played an effective two-way game all night. He was robbed via a desperation play on a short-handed breakaway that happened because he just wanted the puck more, Rinne made an outstanding save on his point-blank chance mid-way through the third, and defensively he was spot on. Saad may not have scored but his play directly impacted the Hawks’ possession and chances. If he can keep this up I won’t even bitch about him not scoring.

– Speaking of defense, that which usually scorches your face and melts your eyeballs like the opening of the Ark of the Covenant did not do that tonight. Connor Murphy and Carl Dahlstrom are just a random pairing that’s making it work somehow. They had a 57 CF% and looked, well, competent, including the final two-minute scrum when Rinne was pulled. I even saw Duncan Keith make a couple good plays to clear the puck out of the zone. Oh, and our defensemen did the scoring. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but there is this thing called the Fels Motherfuck, and it’s real and it’s a force to be reckoned with. Tonight Gustav Forsling was the embodiment, and after sucking out loud he potted one past Rinne who had been unflappable to that point. And then Cowboy Gustafsson had the aforementioned unicorn, a power play goal. Up is down, black is white.

Cam Ward isn’t better than Pekka Rinne, and that’s evidenced by the shots Rinne stopped tonight, including some excellent chances by Saad in particular but also Kane and a bunch of the other schlubs. Ward also gave up a fairly weak goal in the last minute of the first period after the Hawks had played really well, and I was honestly convinced that would be the end and the Hawks would shit the bed as soon as the second started. But tonight Ward WAS better. He is not objectively a better goalie but at least in this one instance, where it was clear Rinne was going to fuck us over, he was. Of course this means Collin Delia and his superfluous L will not get the chance he deserves (at least not for now), but fuck it, it’s a win.

– The second line of Strome-Anisimov-Kane was not as bad as I expected it to be. Before I go any further, do NOT take this as an endorsement of this being a line! I’m just saying that I expected a dumpster fire and instead for some reason Patrick Kane‘s give-a-shit meter was higher than usual tonight. He and Strome had multiple good sequences with shots and puck movement in the slot, from the circles, near the crease, everywhere you want them to be. Kane bulldozed over Anisimov in the first when his slow ass couldn’t get out of the way, and Anisimov was perennially a step behind his two linemates, but he wasn’t as much of a liability as he could have been. I still think that DeBrincat-Strome-Kane is as clear to see as the bulbous nose on Barry Smith‘s face, but at least tonight this worked.

– I won’t dwell here but Ryan Hartman should have gotten an elbowing penalty for embedding Marcus Kruger‘s mask into his face. No he didn’t jut his elbow into Kruger, but when he saw Kruger coming, Hartman definitely positioned it in such a way that Kruger would have to run into it. It’s kind of like an older sibling asking why you won’t stop punching yourself. Hopefully Kruger is OK soon enough.

The Hawks beat a better team in their division and did so in regulation, by holding onto a one-goal lead. I said it before but I have to reiterate—I can’t believe I just wrote that sentence. Does this mean the season is saved? Absolutely not. But it does mean that maybe they’re not an irredeemable mess EVERY night. We’ll take whatever breaks we can get, wherever we can get them. Onward and upward.