Hockey

So the Hawks managed to come back and win against a good team the other night, only to turn around and get their asses handed to them by a bad team. Such is life these days with this team. Let’s get through it:

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

–The first period was the Devils personifying why their state has a reputation for trashiness. They took a grand total of seven penalties in the first, including a nasty boarding on Kirby Dach, Wayne Simmonds slashing Crawford, and that’s just what got called. There was another dangerous hit on Connor Murphy that went apparently unnoticed by the officials. The Hawks should have come out of the first with a commanding lead, but instead they were tied at 1. Why? Mostly because our power play was clown shoes, and the Hawks were just as messy as the Devils were malicious. Dennis Gilbert made a STATEMENT with a useless fight against John Hayden (who would have the last laugh with a goal that made it clear the game was getting out of reach). And of course, the broadcast was ejaculating all over the fight but it did absolutely nothing to help the Hawks win a period they should have owned.

–And Adam Boqvist got hurt, so there’s that. I’m honestly not even sure which play it was but given the Devils’ shittiness physicality it could have been a few different ones. That doesn’t matter at this point; what matters is that our co-top prospect now has a bum shoulder, which is the same issue as Calvin de Haan is dealing with so the timing really couldn’t be worse. Hopefully it’s not that bad, and given Boqvist’s tender age he has a chance at healing quickly, but it’s literally the last thing the Hawks needed to deal with tonight.

–Just when you thought the first period was bad…then the second period happened. The Hawks were just completely outplayed, and yes, by the New Jersey fucking Devils. They gave up 23 shots in the second (not a typo). After leading in possession with a 62 CF% in all situations in the first, the Hawks plummeted to a 37 CF% in the second (using all situations because of the rampant power plays and 4-on-4’s). Oh and they gave up four goals, leading to Crawford getting pulled (when it was 4-1, and Lehner gave up one more for good measure). The numbers will tell you the story, but for those of us watching it in real time it was painfully clear the Devils were in control the whole time. Dumb shit like Alex Nylander making a blind backwards pass that was nearly a goal, Gustafsson nearly giving up an own goal, the defense screening Crawford leaving him helpless—it was a completely lopsided performance.

–And about all those power plays, can we just agree that Erik Gustafsson is terrible as the QB? He really shouldn’t be on the top unit, but now with Boqvist (the natural replacement) injured, the Hawks are truly fucked. Anyway, Gus was either too slow with a shot or making a bad pass or turning it over, as is his way. Never forget—they could have traded him last year.

–Hearing the crowd cheering as Robin Lehner came out to replace Corey Crawford just broke my heart. I don’t even know what else to say. Yes Lehner has been great lately but Crawford kept them in this game as long as was humanly possible. The Severson goal he should have had, I’ll give you that. It was a fairly soft five-hole goal. But that came after a crazy sequence where he made about four highlight-reel saves while the rest of the team stood around holding their dicks looking confused. His own defense screened him on the goal prior to that (I believe it was the one prior, if not, it was the prior prior one). I know Crawford is the least appreciated player by the press and the general hockey world, but it kills me when our own fans don’t know better.

–And besides, Lehner gave up a goal on the first play of the third period, so everyone cheering for him can fuck off. The shorthanded goal he gave up late in the second wasn’t really his fault…this team is really, really bad at defense.

Alright, this one was ugly. It was the counterpoint to what was probably their best game, and definitely their best third period, against Colorado the game before. But inconsistency is par for the course right now, so let’s all take a moment, enjoy Christmas if you celebrate it, and find out which Hawks team is showing up on Friday against the Islanders. Onward and upward…

Line of the night: “Give me a soft serve swirl and you’ve got a happy Irishman.” —Pat Foley, with the best possible phrasing to make birthday treats sound incredibly X-rated.

Beer de jour: Pinball Pale Ale by Two Brothers

 

 

Everything Else

Another game, another heartbreaker. The Hawks actually generated a shitload of shots. Even more surprising, they didn’t give up a shitload, but rather just a regular load. And the power plays…so, so many power plays. And yet, they still couldn’t close it out. I want to watch the Bears game as much as you do, so let’s just get to it:

Box Score

Corsica

Natural Stat Trick

–Oh, those power plays. The Hawks had a total of eight. That’s right, eight power plays, including one double minor when Jordie Benn hacked open Dylan Strome‘s face with a high stick in the third. Yes, Patrick Kane did score on the first power play, so that’s…something? But to have that many chances and not convert on more of them is just embarrassing. There were conspicuously fewer drop passes getting into the zone, but way too many Seabrook shots from the blue line that Price and everyone else could see coming a mile away. John Hayden was positioned well to screen, but the puck kept bouncing off his chest and he ended up doing Price’s job for him, rather than him deflecting it in or finding a rebound. It was absurd. Really, at this point, I don’t know how else to describe their power play.

–  Other frustrating numbers include the shots on goal. The Hawks only gave up 28, which is downright normal. Instead, THEY were the team with 39 shots. This is what they need to be doing and it would suggest their defense played better finally. The third goal wasn’t terrible but still one Crawford would of course like to have back. It was just deflating after they ostensibly did what they’re supposed to do.

– Patrick Kane had the two goals, which was good to see after a bit of a drought. Also, our Irish Son Connor Murphy played well in his first game back. He had four shots on goal and a 62 CF%. I didn’t understand why Colliton made a lot of the defensive changes that he did, but Murphy had over a 60% with both Keith and Gustafsson, so at least he may still be versatile with the blender.

– And really, what the fuck was that all about? Keith and Seabrook were paired back together in the second and third, and their possession number was 0.00. I thought that was an error, but no. Their CF% with each other was zero. Meanwhile, Keith and Jokiharju had a 55 CF%. Relatedly, Joker’s numbers with Brandon fucking Manning, who he got stuck with for far too long, was a dismal 28.6 CF% (these are in all situations, which I looked at because there was so much damn power play time it seemed disingenuous to look at only even strength). I realize Colliton is working with a lack of talent and clearly is in over his head, but using Q’s blankie of Keith and Seabrook is nonsensical at this point. And why, for the love of god, would you put your teenage talent with a useless jamoke from whom he can only learn mistakes and failure?

– I will end on one last sort-of positive note: Alex DeBrincat had a good game after not doing much of anything lately. He and Dylan Strome do seem to still have some chemistry (duh), and Top Cat had multiple pretty chances (three, to be exact), including drawing one of the five million penalties. He even pulled off a nifty spin-o-rama to keep possession in the offensive zone, and finished the night with an 82.6 CF% (again, all situations). If only he’d been a little more effective with his power play minutes, then he really would have had himself a game.

It’s exhausting. It’s exhausting to decry the same problems game after game. And it’s even more difficult to do it when they’re slowly improving in fits and starts, and yet the results aren’t there. Again, there’s no rest for the wicked as they’ll be seeing the Jets twice this week along with the Penguins and Sharks. Onward and upward?

Photo credit: Chicago Tribune

Everything Else

Tonight’s game was quite a throwback—to stupidity, dirty hits, pointless fights, everything you remember from the bad old days! This marks two games in a row where the Blackhawks have had a player thrown out, which tells you nearly all you need to know. Let’s get to it:

Box Score

Corsica

Natural Stat Trick

–The Hawks actually made it over 10 minutes without giving up a goal in the first period. This is where we’re at now, when going half of the first without falling behind is a major step. Putting aside the blackness of that reality, not only did they avoid giving up multiple goals early, they even answered the Flames’ first goal with a classic forehand-backhand by Jonathan Toews, which just de-pantsed Mike Smith. So the game didn’t get off to TOO terrible of a start, although it must be said that the Flames outshot the Hawks 18-6 in the first. Think about that for a minute. They gave up 18 shots in one period, which is bad enough, and that was a full three times the number of shots they themselves managed. What does this tell you? One, is that they barely clung to life in that period. Two, is that the only reason they did so was because Corey Crawford is unreal. He had multiple saves in the first that kept the game from getting out of hand early, including after Forsling had a bad giveaway, and also on the PK after Kunitz took Dumb Penalty #1 (more on that later). Crawford hasn’t exactly been lights out in his last few games, but none of the goals tonight can be pinned on him as bad or soft ones. He was definitely back to form.

–And man did we need him to be. The level of stupidity tonight was really something to behold. After getting out of the first tied at one and with a tenuous hold on things through 4-on-4 to start the second, Chris Kunitz went full-on Neanderthal and elbowed Travis Hamonic in what can only be described as a dickhead play. Hamonic’s head was down, but Kunitz went high with the elbow and he was getting rid of the puck so it was both foolish and dangerous. Kunitz fully deserved the major penalty and game misconduct. And of course, the Flames scored twice on the ensuing extended power play. Those goals made the difference in the game, and they were entirely because of Kunitz being a stupid asshole. If he isn’t stapled to a chair in the pressbox for the rest of the season that will prove once and for all that the Hawks’ brass is incompetent, doesn’t understand how to win, and doesn’t care to figure it out.

–In an attempt to not be outdone in the stupid asshole department, everyone’s favorite dung heap Brandon Manning got in the most useless and wimpy fight possible with Garnet Hathaway (which btw is NOT an actual name). The two skated around each other with fists brandished like old timey boxers, and hit each other far less than that. It didn’t “change the momentum” or “send a message.” In fact, the only upside was that Manning spent most of the rest of the game in the penalty box and thus unable to offend our eyes with his playing.

–Clearly I’m not one for fighting, but I will say this: in the second period when James Neal basically stomped on Corey Crawford and Crawford came after him and nearly punched him, I was cackling with delight. If Crow wants to hit someone because he’s frustrated with this shitty team and the defense allowing him to get curb-stomped, I’ll set aside my issues and I’ll be here for it.

–The power play…it’s just so bad. And on paper it really shouldn’t be: Toews, Kane, Saad, DeBrincat and Jokiharju…this should be a functional first power play unit! But they can’t make a zone entry to save their lives. Seriously. They cannot get out of their own zone, they cannot get through the neutral zone, and they most certainly can’t get across the offensive blue line. It’s like a god damn force field, and that stupid-ass drop pass in the defensive zone has lived on in the Colliton era like a recurring nightmare. There are too many issues to cover in these bullets, but suffice it to say that the clown shoes are still firmly entrenched.

–Alright, enough doom and gloom. What was good from this game? Toews’ goal was pretty and we need the top line to keep scoring. The Kahun-Kampf-Kane line may be something that works. Their 43 CF% didn’t bode all that well but they were certainly fast (and besides, the entire team was underwater in possession). Dylan Strome had a nice goal. And once again, for the cheap seats in the back, Crawford finished the night with a .927 SV% and an assist, and had to face 41 fucking shots on goal.

Tonight was ugly, dumb and frustrating. If the Hawks had gotten blown out it would have made sense and been deserved. The Flames are playing much better, but again this could have been a winnable game—Mike Smith is Mike Smith which means there’s always a chance, and the fact that it came down to the stupidest of penalties is downright painful. But, there’s no rest for the wicked with three more games this week. Fire Chris Kunitz into the sun. Onward and upward.

Photo credit: Chicago Tribune

 

Everything Else

bruins country bear jamboroo vs AltLogo

Game Time: 7:00PM Central
TV/Radio: NBC, CBC (Anglo), RDS (Franco), WGN-AM 720
The Impression That I Get: Cup of Chowder, Days of Y’Orr

Now the real fun begins. After an abbreviated 48 game season of intra-conference play and three playoff rounds with their fair share of scares for each team, the Hawks and Bruins will meet in the post season for the sixth time ever, and for the first time ever in the Stanley Cup Final. With the Bruins two years removed from their last title and the Hawks three, it’s a juggernaut matchup that the league has dreamed of, but probably doesn’t deserve after what it’s put everyone through. And though superficial analysis would have one believe that these two teams are diametrically opposed stylistically, they’re actually far more similar than one would expect.