Hockey

After watching this game I had to sleep on it. And get an extra hour. There’s another one of these tonight, not to mention a Bears game, so let’s just get to it:

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

–The story was supposed to be Adam Boqvist‘s debut, so let’s address that right out of the gate even though his performance wasn’t all that exciting. In fact, his numbers with Duncan Keith weren’t great (37 CF% with Keith) but there were flashes of what could be future brilliance. On his lone SOG, he had a lovely maneuver in the second period that was set up by a Kirby Dach pass, showing that there may be hope after all with the next generation. Boqvist didn’t quite finish that attempt but it still left everyone’s pants a bit tighter. Overall he was fine, he at least tried moving the puck, but the possession situation was an issue. At one point he and Keith spent a full three minutes pinned in their own zone because neither they nor Kampf could get control of the puck. Luckily Crawford bailed them all out but whether or not he stays paired with Keith, Boqvist needs to at least get the puck before he can move it up the ice.

–And that really gets to the larger issue in last night’s game, which was the Hawks’ general inability to be functional. Should we be losing our minds over a kid’s shitty possession numbers in his debut game? No. But the complete lack of control by the entire team was downright disturbing. Letting this awful Kings team keep the puck for minutes on end, giving up 49 shots on goal (yes, you read that right), taking endless penalties, being completely incapable of exiting their own zone—these are still major problems this team has to deal with, and no excitement over a couple of rookies can mask that. Not anymore, at least.

–And the reason all this mediocrity didn’t result in the Hawks getting completely embarrassed was…wait for it…the goaltending. Duh, of course it was. In an odd bit of theater, the officials made Corey Crawford leave the ice early in the first period for concussion protocol after he took a shot off the facemask. This was immediately after the Kings’ second goal in less than 5 minutes, so it briefly seemed like Coach Cool Youth Pastor was pulling him (which would have been dumb because he got hung out to dry defensively on both of the first two goals, well, actually on all of them). I guess it’s a nice gesture to have “concussion spotters?” Who knows what level of vigilance that actually entails. But, Robin Lehner came in and made 5 saves on 5 shots in 5 minutes. While I love the numeric synchronicity, can we stop and ask why the fuck they’re GIVING UP A SHOT PER MINUTE? To one of the league’s worst teams? It’s mind-boggling.

Crawford then came back in and proceeded to be lights out, with the very unfair exception of the overtime winner that just dribbled behind him and he didn’t realize it after making an initial save. The barrages he faced in the second and third periods could have put the Kings up by a touchdown. So the good news is he wasn’t concussed apparently, and he found his groove after the unexpected break. He and Lehner are truly a ridiculous duo this team gets to put out there—a level of talent that this organization doesn’t really deserve.

Dominik Kubalik looked damn good and was key to the first two goals, scoring the first and assisting on the second. David Kampf didn’t look so good, and that was disappointing because if Kane is going to be on that line, Kampf needs to be defensively competent. I realize that if you look at the box score, you’ll see Kampf scored that second goal on the assist from Kubalik, and yes that was pretty much the highlight of the game. Jack Campbell did his best imitation of break dancing late in the first and made a save on a nifty Toews move. He tried getting acrobatic again while playing the puck and Kubalik stole it and set up Kampft. So it’s not that Kampf sucks, it’s just he had a 28.6 CF% at evens and couldn’t get out of his own zone. Kane and Kubalik have a share of this blame too, of course, but we need Kampf to be leading the way on that.

–But the lines got all scrambled by the third anyway, so who really knows or cares? Just showing CCYP has no real answers.

Slater Koekkoek sucks, OK? He just sucks. You already knew that, but watching him fall on his ass as Michael Amadio scored was performance art at its best. And let’s not forget that Andrew Shaw getting beat along the boards led to that third goal. But tell me again about how Shaw’s energy helps the team. While we’re at it, can we stop with the nonsense of playing Dach with oafs and bums? How playing with Andrew Shaw and Zack Smith is going to help his development is beyond me.

–Hey, Jonathan Toews was sorta back to a semblance of his old self! The tying goal was of course huge, but he had a couple other good chances including the break-dancing-inducing one in the first. This team needs offense, so if Toews is going to show that this first month has been just a temporary slump, there’s no time like the present.

It wasn’t for a lack of trying last night…the Hawks were just bad except for Crawford and a few flashes from others. If this is them making an effort, then it’s going to be a long rest of the season. We knew that anyway I guess, but…onward and upward?

Everything Else

Even with winning the last two games, I think it’s safe to say that this season is in the toilet and the possibility of the Hawks going on some insane run to squeak into the playoffs is rather low. The players will of course never say as much because, one, they’re going to keep repeating what they’re told to say, and two, I’m sure they’re not actually trying to be awful and would like to go on an insane run.

The front office will probably remain a little more subtle about it, although Stan Bowman’s latest comments about how they’ll “be better a year from now than we are now and two years from now” definitely belie the One Goal bullshit and reveal they know this season is a lost cause at this point.

So if we’re living in reality, and it’s clear the rebuild is necessary and not some on-the-fly nonsense, it’s time to evaluate what that rebuild actually entails, and not just the merits of whether or not to tank for a draft pick. I’m talking about something else: because to rebuild something you have to knock it down first, and that means the Hawks should look at trading Patrick Kane.

But Rose!, you’re saying. That’s insanity and he’s their best player and he’s part of the core and you’re a fucking lunatic and HOW COULD YOU SAY THAT. Calm down. This is a thought exercise around a move that probably won’t happen but maybe isn’t as disastrous as it initially seems. Let’s explore this together.

A Dose of Realism

As we’ve covered and as everyone basically knows, Patrick Kane is having a career year. As of this writing, he was leading the Hawks in points (by a wide margin), leading the team in goals, and his shooting percentage is the highest it’s been since his Hart-winning 2015-16 season. He’s also in the top ten league-wide for points and goals, and he’s the Hawks’ only representative at the All-Star game this weekend. Yes, his possession numbers are underwater but that’s never been his strong suit and my god, did you see Artem Anisimov on his line all those games?

On top of the numbers, there’s no reason to think this can’t carry over for a couple more seasons. Kane just turned 30, so undoubtedly the clock is ticking. But he implemented some new training regimen this offseason that apparently is working for him (it was described by another player in the article where I read about it as “jedi shit”), and we know Kane loves the adulation and the high of scoring (probably the high from other things as well but that’s none of my business). When he cups his hand to his ear to egg on the crowd or does his fist pump move, you can see him feeding on that energy. That’s why it’s also blatantly obvious when his give-a-shit meter is at –12.

And that meter has been pretty damn low for a lot of games, not just this season but over the last couple. It’s entirely possible Kane would welcome a trade to a team that’s actually a contender or could be one. What if, say, the Hurricanes or Sabres came calling? Or what if Erik Karlsson and Joe Pavelski both walk from San Jose after the season and the Sharks find themselves with $11 million? Or what if, now that hell has definitively frozen over and Pete Chiarelli has been fired into the sun, the Oilers start making smart decisions? None of these are necessarily LIKELY to happen, but just consider them. I highly doubt Patrick Kane feels such undying devotion to Rocky Wirtz and Jon McDonough that he wouldn’t even entertain the possibility of playing his last good years somewhere where it’ll matter and could result in some more hardware.

All Games, All Price Levels

But the front office would be insane to do it, right? Ticket sales would tank! Well, I’ve got news for you in case you haven’t been listening: judging by all those GREAT SEATS STILL AVAILABLE plugs from Foley and Olczyk, ticket sales are already tanking. And with how this season is going to end, there is nothing here currently to stop that process.

You know what does help? Being good. Consistently good. Even unexpectedly good. And the most likely way the Hawks are going to get there is by admitting the problem and rebuilding. Yes, they could try to make the right trades, add pieces, wait for Adam Boqvist, and close their eyes tight and hope. But how has that been working out so far? There are still issues like Seabrook’s contract and all the things we’ve pondered and dissected for lo these many months. Which brings us back to the inevitable need for a rebuild and the fact that Kane is the movable piece.

Denial, Anger, Bargaining…

Now for the Hawks, this would obviously demolish their scoring capability in the short term (at least). But if this is the way forward, it’s time to get a bunch of puzzle pieces and see if they fit. And Kane’s 10.5 mildo a year can buy a shitload of puzzle pieces. The other big contracts on the books are much less likely to be moved, for all the reasons you already know: Seabrook’s is an albatross, Toews probably does have undying devotion, Keith appears not to give a flying fuck about anything, etc. That leaves a willing Patrick Kane as the most sensible way to exchange a big contract for many small ones.

And it doesn’t have to be all at once. In this scenario, they should trade him this year at the deadline, but given the sullen paralysis the organ-I-zation appears to be in (five stages of grief and all that), trading him in the offseason seems likelier. In either situation, the Hawks would have time and space to tinker with whatever they got for Kane in the trade, and add guys on the cheap during the 2019-20 season.

With the youngsters coming to the defense, they might as well land a bunch more for the forward corps. In full-on rebuild mode it would no longer be necessary to get a solid top-pairing defenseman, so no more even pretending to pay Karlsson or Dougie Hamilton or anyone else to come here. Boqvist, Mitchell, and Beaudin, in some combination or all three, would be playing on Madison St. with zero-fucks-to-give Keith and Immovable Nachos as VETERAN PRESENCE. Maybe one of two of them gets packaged for a deal of equally talented youngins’. Toews would play the elder statesman role on the offensive side, and they could see what randos and kids can do with Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome for the next year.

This would also open up roster space for guys already in the Hawks system, read: Dylan Sikura. Oh, and remember Victor Ejdsell? What the hell ever happened to him? (He was hurt, yes, but I mean in the larger sense.) The Ice Hogs are bottom feeders right now too, so anyone in Rockford with any talent isn’t likely to develop in any meaningful way, so let’s see if they can do anything with the top club. And if they can’t, move them out. Then the pipeline is open to start gathering the talent and assets necessary for the Hawks to be consistently good again in a few years’ time.

Shut Up, Lana

I know, you understand how rebuilds work. But any logic or sensibility in this plan is overshadowed by the visceral feeling of loss. The loss of a player who, for better AND for worse, is beloved by a huge contingent of fans. And the loss of any pretense that the Hawks are still the same team we’ve known and loved these past 10+ years. Sure, some of the core would still be here, but without Patrick Kane this isn’t the same team, and there would be no chance of even pretending this is the same organization that won three Cups in five years. Quenneville’s firing was the wake-up call to that; Kane leaving would be the final death knell of any remaining argument.

That’s what hurts the most. Knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that a golden age has ended and that mediocrity and, at best, normalcy are stretching out interminably before us. But it’s coming sooner or later. Something has to change significantly or else this team and this situation isn’t going to get any better. And nostalgia shouldn’t stand in the way of progress—the good times can be remembered and celebrated, but if we ever want them to come back, this road is coming.

Everything Else

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

Corsica

By every measure, the Hawks got their asses kicked in this game—shots, possession (in the first and second), faceoffs, you name it. And yet, they capitalized on the Blues going full-on Blue-ing themselves, and the Hawks are halfway towards fucking them over completely and keeping them out of the playoffs. To the bullets:

–It was a big night for Hawks’ nobodies. Both Andreas Martinsen and Blay Killman took their first steps toward what is assuredly legendary status with the Blackhawks with their first-ever NHL goals. And Killman’s was short-handed! (That’s his name, isn’t it? Ah, who gives a shit.) Everyone gets their 15 minutes, right?

–It was a bigger night for Alex DeBrincat, who now leads the Hawks with 28 goals. He just undressed Edmundson midway through the third to tie the game at 3. We’ve said it before and it’s no surprise at this point, but this guy gives me hope for the future, which is about all we’ve got. Well, that and schadenfreude.

–And it was an even bigger night for Duncan Keith, who scored is second—count it second—goal of the year, and the timing couldn’t have been better. Patrick Sharp drew a penalty late in the third and Keith was able to miraculously avoid all shinpads in the area and get the winner. Dreams do come true!

–All that’s great and not to be Debbie Downer here, but Connor Murphy had a rough one. I’m particularly bummed to see it come near the end of the season when he really needs to finish strong, both for his own confidence and as a fuck-you to Quenneville. But no, his turnover in the defensive zone led to Bortuzzo’s goal in the first, and his high-sticking penalty later that period resulted in the power play to start the second that set up Schenn’s goal (time on the pp had just expired so it wasn’t a pp goal but it was one of those situations where they were cycling and still riding out the man advantage). Murphy recovered his composure by the end of the second but finished with a 42 CF% for the night. Overall, not one for the highlight reel.

–In other tales of questionable defense, Tarasenko scored in the second period after Jan Rutta turned over the puck at the offensive blue line, but honestly, as he reached the zone, Rutta was alone with three Blues closing in around him, and c’mon, it’s Jan fucking Rutta, what did you think was going to happen? Pierre and the rest of the broadcast team lost their shit over him giving the puck away, but again, it was Rutta for god’s sake. It just felt like a matter of time before Tarasenko capitalized on an opportunity; Rutta has had way worse offenses this season than this one.

–All that aside, we fucking beat the Blues and severely damaged their playoff chances. Sikura had some flashes, Jurco had a strong game and led the team in possession, and Berube was just good enough…better than Jay Gallon which may not be saying much but so fucking what?

This is my last Hawks wrap of the season, people! Pullega and Hess are going to bring it home for you for the last two games. It’s been absurd amounts of fun, and I want to thank all of you for reading even if we don’t love the way the season worked out. Onward and upward!

Beer du jour: Fist City by Revolution

Line of the Night: “Play like Scott Foster is in the net!” –Adam Burish, giving his best advice of the season.

 

Everything Else

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

Corsica

It felt a little like an Irish wake tonight. Yes the season is effectively over, yes the run of playoff appearances is dead (sky point), yet the mood was celebratory, and rightfully so. Nights like tonight are why we watch sports, because when and where else does this much crazy shit happen? We’ll get to the debuts by the kids and the goalie drama a little later, but the main story tonight was that Brent Seabrook hit 1,000 games. To the bullets:

–We give Seabrook a lot of shit around here, but neither his contract nor the natural aging process from which he’s suffering will diminish any of the contributions he’s made. Seabrook is only the fifth player in franchise history to reach 1,000 games, and it was both extremely fun and extremely nostalgic to watch the pregame ceremony and video montage. On the ice there wasn’t much to write home about tonight (one shot, 47 CF%). But it was fun to be reminded of all the positive Seabrook memories, and overlook the problematic present.

–Then later in the first period they ran another video montage, this one for Eddie Olczyk, celebrating him beating colon cancer and getting a clean bill of health recently. The fans gave him a standing ovation, and as this is a subject close to my heart, I was happy to see everyone cheering something positive, which is all too rare these days both in terms of the Hawks and just the world in general.

–And then there were the kids! Dylan Sikura made a very good first impression tonight, with four shots total, three of which came in the first period alone. He had an assist on Gustafsson’s goal for his first NHL point, and then followed it up with another in the third on Top Cat’s goal. The Sikura-Eggshell-Top Cat line was just plain fun to watch, even if they did make me nervous when they were in the defensive zone. (They obviously made Q nervous too because they took 75% of their starts in the offensive zone, but that’s cool.) I prefer my hockey with speed and skill, so despite their inexperience (not counting Top Cat in that) and two of the three of them being of small stature (counting Top Cat in that), I am legitimately excited about what these guys will achieve.

–The saga of the Hawks goaltenders continued. Seriously, we’ve reached Spinal Tap drummer status here, with Anton Forsberg somehow getting hurt in warm-ups or some pre-game shenanigans, of course just as he was having a couple good games and making a serious case for himself as the backup for next year (please backing up Crawford please backing up Crawford I ASK FOR SO LITTLE). He must have trashed a gypsy’s magical tent and gotten cursed or something, because Forsberg is truly the most unlucky man in the NHL.

In his place was Collin “One Too Many Ls” Delia, who WAS the second feel-good goalie story this year until the third period. He was stinking it up in the ECHL for most of the season, turned it around, got brought to Rockford recently, and now found himself here after Berube fucked himself out of the job. Delia looked better than the previous fuzzy-moments-story in goal, the Jeff Gl-ASS Experience. Despite giving up a goal to Bryan Little on a tough redirect, and one to Scheifele (which , come on, can you really hold that against the guy?), Delia looked relatively confident in the crease, made some big stops on the likes of Blake Wheeler and Kyle Conner, and had 25 saves until HE TOO got hurt, and had to be replaced by literally some dude off the street. I know it sounds like hyperbole, but it really isn’t—it was a guy named Scott Foster who’s 36 years old and playing in a men’s league at Johnny’s Ice House. You can’t even make this shit up. And yet Foster was perfect, and managed to make a few saves including on Patrik fucking Laine late in the third. It will certainly make for a good story that this guy can tell his grandkids one day.

In all seriousness, the Hawks really need someone to make it through a game for these last few coming up, but at this point, fuck it. They should just hit up the Salt Creek Sports Center in Arlington Heights and grab some roller hockey men’s league goalie, I know a few I can recommend.

–Tomas Jurco had two goals, who knew?

–Now, in all honesty the Jets weren’t REALLY trying all that hard, and you can’t blame them. So that sort of skews the results, making the score look more impressive than it really was. But this was genuinely a wild, feel-good, party atmosphere game. I really hope Delia is OK just because that sucks for him, and same for Forsberg. However it was one of those games where I’m just glad I saw it, because if someone just told me about it I wouldn’t have believed it. Despite everything—all the disappointment, missing the playoffs, all of it—this is exactly why we love this sport, it’s exactly why we keep watching even when it “doesn’t matter.” If you didn’t see it, I just hope this does it some justice.

Beer du Jour: 312 by Goose Island

Line of the Night: “Dustin Byfuglien woulda said ‘No, we’re going out there!'” —Foley ejaculating about how classy the Jets were for being on the bench for the Seabrook ceremony.

 

Everything Else

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

Hockey Stats

An eight-game losing streak. A two-goal lead squandered. Numbers are not our friend right now. To the bullets:

–We basically saw a unicorn tonight: Keith scored on a power play (a sentence I was beginning to think I’d never write). Saad also got a goal for the first time since early January. It’s hard to know which one to be more excited about, if one thinks they warrant excitement. Keith took a hard shot from the point early in the second, on a tripping penalty drawn by Top Cat (more on him later). Saad’s was exactly the type of goal he needed to maybe get his confidence going. It was off a beautiful pass from Our Cousin Vinny, and Gibson belly-flopped leaving Saad with a wide open net to just taaaaap it in. Both goals happened in the first half of the second period and things were looking up.

–And then the defensive breakdowns came. Forsberg held up well during the first, including when Keith went all shinpads which led to a breakaway that he (Forsberg) stopped. But Murphy and Kempny both fumbled and allowed turnovers that directly led to Ritchie’s and Kase’s goals. As someone who has sung the praises of both Murphy and Kempny and argued LOUDLY for them to remain in the lineup, I naturally cringed at these plays, not so much because I thought they were particularly egregious (anyone seen the play of Jordan Oesterle lately?), but because I’m afraid both will get benched for making mistakes. It certainly wasn’t their best game, not for either one of them—Murphy managed to end the night with a 55 CF% but had the bad turnover, and Kempny only finagled a 41.4 CF%. But I still don’t want to see talented guys who just need some confidence, and probably some predictability, get fucked over by the Q Double Standard. To wit, Kempny managed to lay out and break up a 3-on-1 in the first, but you know Q won’t be thinking about that when the time comes for Saturday’s lineup.

Oh, and on that note, Seabrook was a mix of dumb and unlucky on the go-ahead goal by Henrique in the third. The puck took some bizarre bounces and he was left standing there rather helplessly…think he’ll be in the press box again? Hahahaha, I know, funny joke amirite??

–The Ducks falling all over each other in an attempt to beat up Hartman, who was smart enough to not engage, was truly peak Anaheim. Hartman leveled Silfverberg late in the second but it was a clean hit. Manson & Co. couldn’t jump his ass fast enough, and despite Hartman playing it cool he still got called for roughing, which was yet another example of shitty calls not going the Hawks’ way lately. Of course it’s impossible to know what could-have-might-have happened if the Hawks had had a four-minute power play, but it was a bullshit call nonetheless.

–Foley and Eddie couldn’t stop drooling all over Tommy Wingels and Lance Bouma, but I’m here to tell you they sucked. If the Hawks were trying to showcase their wares in the trade marketplace (which I sincerely hope they were and I have to tell myself this is the reason they were playing on the top two lines), it probably backfired by reminding everyone how un-skilled they really are. I lost track of how many opportunities Bouma floundered away—a feed to Kane in the first, a pass from Hinostroza in the second, and on and on and on. The only silver lining of putting them on the top lines for this game is that thanks to the outcome, Q’s blender will dump them back in the bottom six.

–While we’re searching for silver linings, the kids once again showed us that there is hope. None of the younglings scored a goal, but Hinostroza set up Saad perfectly, he and Schmaltz had excellent speed throughout the game, and Top Cat was as good as we’ve come to expect. In the first, he was smart enough to stall on a delayed penalty while Anaheim was on a power play, effectively killing the penalty and extending what would become a Hawks power play. It’s the little things now where we have to find happiness.

–We’ve been saying it’s a goalie league, and this game was living proof. Forsberg wasn’t terrible but he got beat by Gibson being better, the latter of whom made a huge stop late in the third on Saad, and ended the night stopping 42 of 44 shots for a .955 SV%.

Well, this is where we are these days. Tonight they (again) didn’t play terribly, and for the most part they showed up and gave it the ‘ole college try. But sometimes it’s not enough, and this is one of those times. Onward and upward.