RECORDS: Hawks 28-30-9 Stars 35-27-5
PUCK DROP: 7pm
TV: NBCSN Chicago
WE ARE STARDUST: Defending Big D
I used to think that the elimination of the Circus Trip and Ice Show, and not having a road trip longer than three or four games, would be a boon to the Hawks. But looking over the recent schedule, you can see why the players are not exactly pleased with how things shake out. They just came back from a West swing, one they’ll have to do again in another week or two, were home for one game before bouncing down to Texas, then back home for just one before a Canadian swing, and then back home for just two before bouncing out again. Of course, this would matter more if the games did…which they don’t.
Anyway, the schedule says the Hawks have to provide the opposition for the Stars tonight. There they’ll find a Stars team that is starting to bunker into the playoff spots. They’re four up on the Coyotes and are only three points behind the Blues for the last automatic spot in the Central. They’ve done that by winning six of their last eight, five of them in regulation, including being the only ones to remember it’s still the St. Louis Blues after all and beating them twice in that stretch. They’ve shut out the Rangers and Avalanche back-to-back at home, so this isn’t exactly the time to catch them.
It’s not like the Stars have cracked some code or radically changed how they play. They’ve just benefitted from Ben Bishop (THE BISHOP!) shooting lightning bolts out of his arse. THE BISHOP! threw a .936 at the world in February, and is at .989 in March so far, having conceded one goal in three games. The injury layoff has done him some good, obviously.
The Stars have mimicked what the Wild have done the past couple seasons. They’re not a good possession team when it comes to attempts, but as you move up the charts in terms of quality of attempts the Stars get better and better. They’re just about even in scoring-chance share, and then just a tick under 52% in high danger chance share. They’ll let you have it to the outside, but you can’t quite get to the middle on them.
The Stars have moved wunderkind Miro Heiskanen with John Klingberg and they take all the offensive responsibility while the bottom two pairings take turns manning the bunker. While they tried to use the acquisition of Mats Zuccarello to spread out some scoring, he lasted a period and a half before something went CRACK! on him. So even though Seguin and Benn are on separate lines now, they still do the heavy lifting here with assistance from Alex Radulov.
For the Hawks, the chance of a real clunker feel tangible. They weren’t very good against the Sabres but got away with it, and now you have this one game trip in a season that’s lost. You could see where weariness would combine with carelessness and against a team with it all still to play for, it’s not hard to envision where it gets ugly. Corey Crawford will do his best to keep it from doing so. Would guess the lines look pretty much the same as Thursday, which means they’ll be a mishmash because John Hayden sucks and won’t skate with Toews and Saad for more than five minutes. Maybe Sikura slots back in for Kunitz or Hayden, but…whatever.
Keep on keepin’ on…
Game #68 Preview Suite