Hockey

vs.

RECORDS: Hawks 3-6-2   Kings 4-9-0

PUCK DROP: 9:30

TV: NBCSN Chicago

BLEW INTO TOWN ABOUT AN HOUR AGO: Jewel From The Crown

We’ve remarked on it the past couple years when these two met, but it’s hard to believe that in just over four seasons, these two went from playing possibly the best and highest-paced seven-game series in recent NHL history to a game the rest of the league laughs at and scalpers take the night off. These have been two of the worst teams in the West, two of the worst in hockey, and they’ll get together tonight to do…something at Staples Center. The league is probably delighted this will take place in the dead of night and in the weird shadows where no one might just happen by it.

First the Hawks, who will at least be having a New Toy Night. Adam Boqvist will make his NHL debut, and the Kings are about as soft of a landing as you could ask for one. Many have remarked that there’s at least least an air of desperation about his promotion, if not a full-blown air-raid siren. And there is. But the thing is, the Hawks have to be desperate. Were they two whiff this road trip, the season might be over before Veteran’s Day. And while there might be one or two other d-men in Rockford who can provide more mobility (then again, any glass blower regularly makes products that would) and skill to the Hawks’ blue line, none of them have anywhere near the upside that Boqvist does. None are going to give you anything more than a third-pairing boost. If all the stars were to align for Boqvist, he can be so much more.

He could also be so much less. We don’t know, they don’t know, but the Hawks have played themselves into Hail Mary territory. That doesn’t mean that Jeremy Colliton can’t throw one in the wrong direction or take a sack, which he seems intent on doing with his lineup from practice yesterday. Keith is hardly a babysitter type, and asking him to clean up Boqvist’s messes won’t go well, and it’ll go worse if it has to go the other way. He has two, left-sided d-men who are perfect free safeties for a player like Boqvist in de Haan and Maatta, and has decided to pass on that for what’s behind Door #Stupid.

It gets better, as Patrick Kane is now a third line player and we’ve of course never seen him turn his nose up at such an assignment, and rightly so. The thing is this set-up isn’t too far from being pretty good, if Dach and Shaw were slotted up with Kane and Kubalik-Kampf-Caggiula can be a hybrid 4th line/checking line. We might get all that by the 2nd period.

Anyway, Brent Seabrook is back, and you can probably expect him to be until Connor Murphy returns. What that pairing with him and de Haan is supposed to do besides be an informercial for windburn balm…well, you figure it out.

Luckily for the Hawks, they’ll be playing as big of a mess as they are, if not bigger. Coach Todd McLellan called out his team after they got clubbed by the Hawks last weekend, and they responded by giving up 49 shots to the Canucks and their four players. So yeah, not great. They’ve also had a reshuffle, and McLellan tried to put everyone on notice by scratching deadline fodder Tyler Toffoli. He’s back, probably reminded he’s trying to cash in a big check next summer. Which will make his reaction to Ilya Kovalchuk‘s blank expression and koala-like effort something worth watching.

Despite their shit record, the Kings have actually pushed the play pretty ok this year, as McLellan teams do. They haven’t gotten a save from either Quick or Campbell all season, which has undone whatever good work they’ve produced. And considering the hair ball the Hawks just coughed up and how they’re being aligned tonight, don’t be surprised if the Hawks lose this possession battle. And badly. And if they don’t get some saves from Crawford that they did get from Lehner the past two games… well, you can probably start the foreboding organ music.

Saturday night’s all right for fighting…is it all right for whatever this is?

Everything Else

 vs. 

RECORDS: Hawks 6-4-3   Oilers 6-4-1

PUCK DROP: 8pm

TV: NBCSN Chicago

THEY’RE STRANGELY LIT, TOO: None, Oilers blogosphere is fucking touched, man

I suppose the good thing about an NHL season is after you cough up a confused kitten one night against a dog-ass team there’s a chance to put it right the next night. Except now you’re tired and the other team isn’t and you’re throwing your backup goalie out there on the road. And even though you got a decent performance out of him last time against this very opposition, there’s only so many times you can hit on Cam Ward before you go bust (are we still doing phrasing?) Whatever, that’s the spot the Hawks find themselves in tonight as they traipse eastward from the coast to the oil-rich darkness of the northern half of Alberta.

I can’t add much to what Hess said last night, other than to echo the unacceptable nature of last night’s loss. That’s a team aching to be beat that they took the lead on twice, and you have to have that. And getting railroaded in the 3rd smacked of complacency, and whoever let this team think they were anywhere near good enough to be complacent at any point in a game needs to be hit with a large-mouth bass. Hopefully that point has been made clear to the players, or will be before they take the ice tonight.

We won’t get word until they show up if Patrick Kane is going to play, but knowing his nature if he’s able to stand and hasn’t vomited in the five minutes before warm-up he’s probably going to. If he doesn’t, look for the same lineup as last night with Chris Kunitz filling in on the second line and the accompanying feeling of helplessness in a cold and unforgiving world. If Kane does play, I would imagine Kampf gets the suit for the night, but could see Kruger or Hayden doing so as well.

Brandon Manning‘s “Battle Of The Network Stars” reenactment for the blind last night should result in him…well, it should have resulted in him being catapulted into the Pacific but short of that Jan Rutta could easily draw back in at his expense to pair with Brandon Davidson. EAT ARBY’S.

The Oilers come in on something of the same roll they were on when these two last debated various musical topics last Sunday, though in the interim they dropped a 4-3 decision to the Wild in Minnehaha. Even in that they tossed 37 shots at Devan Dubnyk and he did Dubnyk things, so they’re playing quite well. After being McDavid And The Pips for the season’s opening weeks, they’ve gotten a surge from Leon Draisaitl‘s line and a smattering of help from others. If they do that then they’re close to a decent team. McDavid will always make sure they don’t suck.

In Edmonton, you can be sure that Todd McLellan is going to keep McDavid far away from Jonathan Toews, who had him basically pocketed all of Sunday evening. At least until overtime, which doesn’t count anyway. The thought of Run CMD lining up across from any of Artem Anisimov or SuckBag Johnson is certainly enough for your discounted Halloween candy to come rushing back out the way it came in in a state of panic. But this is how these things go. The reverse is if Toews can get to see Ryan Strome or Kyle Brodziak more often.

The Hawks closed the book on October, which they played at a 94-95-point pace for the season. That’s just about the minimum it’s going to be for a playoff spot, and that’s being awfully optimistic. As as fun as it was at times and the few signs of hope, the Hawks have to actually pick it up a bit. Not that they can avoid a mud-pit battle royale all season, but it’s a nice thought for now. They lost two points they should have had last night, so they need to start grabbing two points you wouldn’t count on them having beforehand. Maybe tonight isn’t that, but they do have ground to make up.

 

Game #14 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

I usually don’t get into the whaling about wasting the career of a generational talent. Connor McDavid will hardly be the first truly great player to not get to play in too many games that matter. This list could go forever. Off the top of my head: Dan Marino, Don Mattingly, Joey Votto, and Mike Trout will probably soon be on this list. Fuck, baseball fans don’t complain as loudly about Trout being on a go-nowhere team in a go-nowhere place, and Trout is like two of McDavids. BUT THAT’S NOT WHY YOU CALLED.

Anyway, the Oilers continue to fuck up having the best player of his generation on their team through surrounding him with basically nothing, and that seems like it’s going to continue for another season. Let’s see just how desolate it is.

2017-2018: 36-40-6 76 points  234 GF 263 GA  50.6 CF% 50.8 xGF%  7.4 SH% .917 SV%

Goalies: So when the Oilers faked being a relevant team two years ago, it was basically because Cam And Magic Talbot was really good. .919 overall and a .927 at evens. And he did that while basically starting every game. But you can’t do that to a goalie these days. The game is too fast and takes too much effort. Sure, Grant Fuhr or Martin Brodeur could do it back in the day when your defense was allowed to tackle, rope, and suspend any forward coming through the neutral zone from the rafters without a penalty. You had to make 25 low-pressure saves a night. Not so much anymore.

Talbot paid for that workload last year. He still made 67 starts but dipped to a .908 SV% overall and a .916 at evens. Talbot also saw his medium-danger and high-danger chance SV% drop, perhaps because he was just a tick slower than what he’d been in the past.

And Talbot is 31 now, so it’s not really clear how he’s going to bounce back from 140 combined starts the past two years. 31 isn’t past it as a goalie, but with that workload it just might be.

Backing him up is KHL refugee Mikko Koskinen, who spent the past four seasons backstopping what was clearly the best team in Russia in St. Petersburg. The numbers there are ok to good, but he’s going from a superior team in that league to being behind Kris Russell and Adam Larsson. At least the climate of Edmonton will be familiar to him. Seriously, why would you leave Russia for somewhere just as cold? That’s bad advice right there.

Defense: And this is obviously where the problems start. The Oilers were able to get Darnell Nurse into camp on a two-year bridge deal, so they don’t have that headache. On the flip side, as much as we love his potential and have pined for him on the Hawks for about four years now, he still hasn’t proven to be much more than a second-pairing guy yet. The foot-in-the-ass-of-the-world mercenary that he at times flashes hasn’t materialized full-time yet.

Which leaves the Oilers without a top-pairing d-man. Larsson will never live down “THE TRADE IS ONE-FOR-ONE,” which really has nothing to do with him. He’s a sort of fine middle-pairing guy. So is Matthew Benning. So’s Oscar Klefbom. Kris Russell is a fine second pairing guy on your beer league team. It’s not a complete disaster here but it’s far from good either. There are puck-movers and I suppose if Todd McLellan were inclined he could get-up-and-go through Klefbom, Nurse, and Benning, But his style has always been more conservative than that, and this unit just isn’t going to suppress chances enough to get away with it.

Forwards: Well, in theory this would be the best center-depth in the division. It’s really hard to better McDavid-Draisaitl-RNH down the middle. But the Oilers are so bereft at wing that they usually have to punt one of these guys to the top line wing spots so that Run CMD has anyone to pass to instead of seeing Milan Lucic‘s ogre-gape 50 feet behind him. They’ve added Tobias Rieder and Ty Rattie to the ranks, which is like seasoning your food with compressed air. The best winger on this team might seriously be Drake Caggiula. I don’t know what to tell you. This is a team with the best player in the league and we have to say they’re not going to score enough. How’s that even possible?

Outlook: McLellan generally gets the most out of what he has, though his offensive strategy is a bit boring and plain. It’s a lot of blasts from the point. In a division with the Sharks and Knights and possibly a spikier Flames team, the Oilers need to get out and run, basically. McDavid will get his 100+, Draisaitl will be really good, and RNH will continue to score points no one cares about.

But much like the local outfit, there’s a lot of ifs here. If Talbot can regain the form of two years ago, and if two or more of their young d-men make a huge leap, and if one of their wingers pops off for no reason other than the sense of humor of the gods, the Oilers can scratch out a wildcard spot in a bad division. But they need all of those, and that’s a big ask.

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Everything Else

oil plainview vs evil empire

Game Time: 7:30PM
TV/Radio: CSN, WGN-AM 720
Tikkanese Interpreters: Oilers Nation, Copper ‘n’ Blue

With all of the talks of streaks around these parts recently, one that flew under the radar is the six game winning streak tonight’s vistors the Edmonton Oilers only had snapped on Tuesday at MSG. And in an absolute kitty-litter-covering-kindergartner-vomit-on-astroturf-carpeting Pacific Division, that’s been enough to actually have the Oilers in the playoff conversation. And all without their most recent franchise cornerstone Conor McDavid.