Hockey

We’ve got some late games coming up as the Hawks are heading out on a west coast road trip this week. And perhaps thanks to the sugar rush that comes after a coaching change, the Hawks find themselves having won their last three games and looking ahead to some surprisingly gettable opponents (except Edmonton of course).

Despite the three-game win streak, the Hawks’ underlying numbers haven’t looked very different than they did before Colliton got the axe. The past three games, the team has been at or below a 50 CF%. The Penguins game gave them a paltry 30 CF%, their lowest of the season. Once again, this team is getting bailed out by good goaltending and just enough offense to get them through. We’ll see if their luck will continue.

Additionally, it sounds like Caleb Jones is making the trip. With the incoming return of both him and Wyatt Kalynuk, it’s pretty safe to say Erik Gustafsson’s days as a Hawk are once again coming to an end, God bless. Derek King has been attempting to bury him with as little ice time as possible in the meantime, but it will be interesting to finally see Jones the Younger get his chance.

11/16 at Seattle

Game Time – 9:00 PM CST

TV/Radio – TNT, TVA-S, WGN-AM 720

Swept Out Through the Cracks Beneath the Door – Kraken Chronicle

The Hawks will play the Seattle Kraken for the first time in the team’s history, visiting their shiny new Climate Pledge Arena with their double scoreboards and intentions to be as energy efficient as possible. Unfortunately, the Kraken as a team have been underwhelming at best, not getting off to the same start we saw Vegas get to in their first year as an organization. The Kraken seem to be incredibly defensively porous and aren’t getting the goaltending they need to cover that up. Philipp Grubauer’s numbers took the nosedive of a century as he, like Marc-Andre Fleury, is having trouble adjusting to a team that can’t play defense. His .880 save percentage is the worst in the NHL among goalies with five or more starts. In addition, this team can’t score on the powerplay, going 5-for-46 so far this season—only the Penguins have a worse powerplay percentage.

The Kraken are on a three-game losing streak and after playing the Hawks their next five opponents are the Avalanche, Capitals, Hurricanes, Lightning and Panthers. If they don’t get a win here against the Hawks, things will look pretty bleak for this team. I assume they will give all they have on home ice tonight against the Hawks, but hopefully the Hawks can continue their winning ways with the newfound confidence they’ve found under King.

11/20 at Edmonton

Game Time – 9:00 PM CST

TV/Radio – NBCSCH, WGN-AM 720

Better Believe It’s ‘Berta Beef: Copper n BlueOilers Nation

The Hawks will visit Edmonton for the first time since Duncan Keith sailed off into the horizon to move as far north as possible just before the entire organization here fell from grace. Though many thought the Keith trade was a disaster for Edmonton—and we did win out on that considering we didn’t have to eat any of his salary—he has been serviceable playing second-pairing minutes with Cody Ceci, where he likely belongs. The two find themselves together on the 1st PK unit and continue to take a majority of their starts in the defensive zone.

Luckily for Keith and Ceci, the Oilers still boast two of the most electric goal-scorers in the league on their top line, and so the Oilers find themselves at the top of the division with only three losses so far this season. It’s been Leon Draisaitl so far leading the league in goals and points, though Connor McDavid certainly isn’t too far behind him. Perhaps this team’s biggest question mark is whether or not their AHL-level goaltending can hold up for the rest of the season and into the playoffs. Perhaps they’d be interested in Fleury at the trade deadline?

11/21 at Vancouver

Game Time – 7:00 PM CST

TV/Radio – NBCSCH+, WGN AM-720

We Still Hate Raffi Torres Around Here – Nucks Misconduct

Unlike the Hawks, the Canucks are only a disgrace on the ice, not off. But boy do they really try to outdo us anyway, as they have recently reached a crisis point from an organizational perspective that culminated in a series of recent hush-hush meetings between their owner and GM. Canucks fans are calling for the heads of their coach, GM, and likely just about everyone in the front office except for their beloved Sedin twins who are now Special Advisors to the General Manager (really giving off those Assistant to the Regional Manager vibes).

The Canucks are also in a four-game losing streak and off to their worst start in over fifteen years. They’ve been giving up goals left and right—19 goals in three games, to be exact. Thatcher Demko starts between the pipes just about every night and has a .898 save percentage so far this season, killing fantasy owners everywhere. They also have the worst penalty kill in the league, giving up 20 goals in 53 chances, and give up some of the most high-danger chances in the league. The Hawks will hopefully take that to their advantage as they attempt to get their powerplay out of the freezer—they’ve only scored one PPG in the last five games despite 17 opportunities. What could go wrong?

Hockey

It’s not getting any better, folks.

The Hawks have now lost 6 games in the fledgling 2021-22 season (Motto: Good Seats Still Available) and have set an NHL record for shame and futility having now gone 360 straight minutes to open a season without having a lead in a game. In addition to that heaping pile of pathetic, the Hawks sellout streak ended in acrimony on Sunday night with an announced attendance of 19,042 but in reality looked a lot more like this (courtesy of Ben Pope on the Tweet Machine):

The end of the sellout streak resulted in this unintentionally hilarious statement from front office bobblehead Danny Wirtz, which basically implied that yes, good seats ARE INDEED STILL AVAILABLE:

With a slate of games upcoming against higher tier opponents like St. Louis and Carolina, its very possible that this Hawks team will start the season 0-8-1. While everyone assumes the team is going to HAVE to launch Jeremy Colliton into the sun if that were to happen, I’m not entirely convinced Stan will put him out of his misery. The two are irrevocably tied together, and Old Yeller-ing one would require the same of the other.

I personally have no evidence of this, but I’m wondering if the Wirtz Clan is keeping Stan around to take the fall for the sex abuse scandal when the discovery phase of the trial hits. Either way, this shit has become nigh unwatchable and based on ticket prices on Stubhub I don’t know if Danny Boy will be able to wait that long, or if there will be anyone left to care when he does.

TO THE BULLETS:

NUMBERS DON’T LIE

 

October 19th, 2021

Islanders 4 – Hawks 1 

Box Score | Natural Stat Trick 

 

One period into this game, it kinda sorta seemed like the Hawks were going to make an effort of it. They kept the Isles pinned in their zone to the tune of a 60% CORSI for (their highest number for a period thus far in the season), and had a couple of dangerous chances against Ilya Sorokin that should’ve had the Hawks feeling pretty good about themselves heading into the locker room after 1.

The reality of it all was, however, that the Isles were simply playing the perfect road game there on Madison and they merely waited for the Hawks to (inevitably) make a stupid mistake and then capitalized on it. That mistake came in the form of Henrik Borgstrom, Riley Stillman and Erik Gustafsson (of course) chasing Oliver Whalstrom below the fucking goal line, leaving Anthony Beauvillier all alone to slip one past a sprawling Marc Andre Fleury, making it 1-0 and giving the Isles a lead that they’d never relinquish.

The Isles made it 4-0 on two goals by Whalstrom and one by Cal Clusterfuck before MacKenzie Entwhistle was able to end Sorokin’s shutout bid with 26 seconds left in the game. As we’ve been saying all along, any coach worth his salt will eventually pants Jeremy Colliton right out of the building and Barry Trotz is worth mountains of it. This outcome was preordained and shouldn’t have been a shock to anyone with a functional parietal lobe.

 

October 21st, 2021

Canucks 4 – Hawks 1

Box Score | Natural Stat Trick 

 

Once again, it seemed like the Hawks might have a chance in this one as the first really wasn’t the dumpster fire the other first periods were during week one of the season. The Canucks did score first, and predictably it came from Erik Gustafsson being out of position chasing a hit below the goal line again and leaving the slot wide open for a Jason Dickinson one timer. The Hawks were able to answer not 2 minutes later however when Kyle Burroughs was sent to the sin bin for tripping up DeBrincat. The Hawks power play (which has been the only fucking decent thing so far this year) went right to work, with Kane winning a board battle against Dickinson and Tucker Poolman (porn name) and sent the puck up to Seth Jones who set up DeBrincat with a nifty one timer that beat Thatcher Demko far side.

Looking at the CORSI for the game, you’d have to assume that the Hawks got goalied as they held a 52 and 61% share of the possession in the 2nd and the 3rd, and had a majority of the high danger chances the rest of the way, but it never really felt like Demko had to work much to keep the Nucks on top. Meanwhile at the other end, every time Vancouver crossed into the Hawks zone you pretty much expected the puck to end up behind Lankinen and that’s pretty much what happened. Demko made some choice saves and Lankinen didn’t. 0-4-1.

 

October 24th, 2021

Red Wings 6 – Blackhawks 3

Box Score | Natural Stat Trick

 

Honestly, there’s not much to say here. The Hawks got absolutely domed in all facets of the game by a team that had played the night before (and been scorched to a crisp by what had been a winless Montreal team up to that point) and was on it’s 3rd game in 4 days in 3 time zones. Marc Andre Fleury looked completely disintristed, and really who can blame him when most of his “defenders” avoid the area in front of his crease like Tyler Bertuzzi and scientific evidence.

With Patrick Kane out as a close contact exposure to BERTUZZI-19, the power play was pretty lifeless, pissing away two 5 on 3 opportunities. Tyler Johnson made a nice play in the 1st powering his way to the net, but then wiped it all away by taking 2 dumb stick penalties immediately after the Hawks had score, killing any momentum generated. The UC was half empty, and the half that was filled was at lest 50% Detroit fans. The sellout streak ended, but it’s been replaced by a much worse one with the Hawks now owning the dubious distinction of going the longest to start a season without a lead. Then the cherry on top of the shit sundae happened in the 3rd:

Un-fucking-real.

There’s no end in sight for any of this, as much as we all want to get off this poorly maintained carnival ride. The roller coaster is out of tracks, and Stan Bowman is the carnie asshole who forgot to finish building it. There’s no coaching going on, there’s no fun being had by anyone, and there’s little hope that anything could possibly be turned around before the coaster flies into a brick wall, but at least there are still good seats available.

Eat At Arby’s

 

Hockey

We didn’t ask for this. The Canucks made it so. One, they have such a nondescript team that we’ve already highlighted Quinn Hughes and Elias Pettersson so who gives a fuck about anyone else now? We didn’t pick this fight.

So the Canucks are having the Sedin Twins jersey retirement against the Hawks. Bet they think that’s pretty cute. Better yet, we’re pretty sure if you asked them, the Canucks brass would tell you they picked this date because the greatest Canucks victory ever came against the Hawks. Let’s review, shall we?

That victory, the dragon-slaying as it’s known up there, was merely the Presidents’ Trophy winner avoiding blowing a 3-0 lead to an overmatched, exhausted, and undermanned Hawks team. It should have only been relief, not a marker. Jake Dowell and Fernando Pisani got serious run for that team. Ryan Johnson did too. This was hardly the juggernaut that had gone upside the Canucks head the previous two seasons.

And that’s the thing about the Canucks and the Sedins. They can look back and try and claim how much those series with the Hawks meant, but it doesn’t mean the same here. Sure, the Canucks were part of it, but as Hawks fans and they cherish the one series win over Detroit (kind of the same thing as ’11 for the Canucks, except it resulted in a Cup win and had much more history to it) far more than anything then happened with Vancouver. Or the win over the Bruins. Or the two battles with the Kings. Hell, the Hawks have the same playoff history with the Predators.

If the Canucks and Sedins wanted to be truly apt, they would stand in the shadows during the ceremony tonight, because that’s all they did when it mattered. Especially Daniel, or Shooty-Twin. Are they the greatest Canucks of all-time? Absolutely. Should they walk into the Hall of Fame? Of course. Their numbers should have been retired immediately upon retirement. But they can’t ever shake the legacy that they couldn’t bring Vancouver what it doesn’t have, and were some of the biggest reasons they don’t.

2009 against the Hawks: Daniel had two goals, both in Game 6 when his team forgot to play defense.

2010 against the Hawks: Daniel didn’t score once.

2011 against the Bruins: One goal.

Daniel would go on to score one playoff goal in 11 more playoff games as the Canucks still look for their first series victory since going to the Final in ’11. Haven’t managed one yet. Henrik continued to put up assists through all this, as he Getzlaf’d his way through games on the outside while watching it all pretty much pass him by. And it’s not like they found success before this in the postseason. Daniel had two goals in 12 games in 2007 and the record will read 25 goals total in 102 playoff games. Henrik managed 78 points in just about the same amount of playoff games, but ask Canucks fans if they remember any.

Sometimes it’s not fair to judge players on what happens just in the playoffs. The competition kicks up, teams are focused on stopping you, and in a handful of games the percentages and bounces can just abandon you even if you’re doing everything right. But at some point, when you’re the top line players and the biggest reason your team is there in the first place, you have to stand up and be counted. It didn’t stop Toews. Or Kane, Or Crosby. Or Malkin. Or Ovechkin. Or Kopitar. But it stopped the Sedins, multiple times.

Vancouver can ignore it for a night. Maybe even a lifetime. But it’s part of the record in the rest of the hockey world. So have your ceremony against the Hawks if it makes you feel good. No fanbase or team knows the truth better.

Hockey

Antoine Roussel: Honestly, we kind of miss having him out of the division. While the marriage of him and Vancouver is perfect, and even more so as they grossly overpaid him, now that he’s on the West Coast, never on our TV, and has got his money his antics don’t even really exist. And this dude tried so hard to be considered annoying. Like he tried harder than Springstreen tries to convince you just how hard it is to play his shit-ass songs. That’s so hard! Ah well, nothing lasts forever, especially the truly wonderful.

Alex Edler: The elbows still work.

Adam Gaudette: Isn’t it weird that given a chance, Dylan Sikura’s running buddy at Northeastern has carved himself out a role on a third line for a team basically running a 3+1 model? Isn’t that strange? Wonder where else that could happen?

Hockey

vs.

RECORDS: Hawks 18-17-6   Canucks 21-15-4

PUCK DROP: 9pm

TV: NBCSN Chicago

GARBAGE THROWERS: Canucks Army

The Hawks start 2020 in Vancouver, which in some way was where everything started. Not only was it their biggest rival and site of some of their biggest wins, but it’s where Seabrook, Keith, and Toews won a Gold Medal before they’d won a Cup, which you could argue only set off their appetite for more silverware. Now they’re just barely alive in the playoff race. Tonight they’ll see another one chasing the postseason after an absence, which hasn’t been something that’s gone well for them in the past.

The Vancouver Canucks have won five in a row, which actually has them in the third spot in the Pacific but only one point above the trap door in the West with the Flames, Jets, and Oilers right on their ass. You’d think the Flames will get their act together soon, which probably means the Canucks are still looking at a wildcard spot. The Hawks claim they’re looking at those two. Which would make this something of a four-pointer. But the Hawks have biffed pretty much every one of these when they’ve had the chance. You remember games against the Avs, Stars, or Coyotes last year where they couldn’t even manage a point that they needed. If they’re serious, a regulation win is needed and then to be backed up with a bunch more.

So how did the Canucks get here? Mostly goaltending. Jacob Markstom has been great in December, with a .927 SV%. The Canucks mostly have been getting domed in games of late, but Markstrom has seen them through. They don’t do anything particularly well other than the power play, which is just an extension of their magnificent top line. The trio of J.T. Miller, Elias Pettersson (WHO WANTS TO WALK WITH ELIAS?!), and Brock Boeser has some of the best metrics in the league, and has been murder in both zones. Earlier in the year they were some of the best defensive marks in the league, though that’s slipped of late.

But beyond that, the Canucks have the common problems of not enough depth. Jake Virtanen has done what he does which is score goals you’ll never remember, and Bo Horvat is much more comfortable as a second center behind Pettersson. But beyond that there isn’t much, and that’s something the Canucks will have to improve in the near future.

There is a genuine star on the blue line in Quinn Hughes, who has 25 assists. Tyler Myers sucks, has always sucked, and will always suck, but the Canucks were hard-ons to sign him as a free agent for years so he’ll be polluting their third-pairing for the next five years. Christoper Tanev and Alex Edler are still here, though one might think moving both at the deadline will improve the Canucks long-term. But the long-term has never been their priority, and if they’re in the thick of it–given the nature of the Pacific they probably will be–they’ll never justify stripping their blue line of the two dependable veterans they have.

For the Hawks, nothing much should change. One would think Robin Lehner will continue to ride the roll he’s been on, though they won’t want Corey Crawford to go stale. Sikura has earned another game, there’s not much more he can do honestly. Maybe Koekkoek comes in for again but you’d tend to doubt it.

As stated above, the Hawks have utterly sucked in games against direct competitors at the bottom of the picture. They won’t get anywhere if they can’t change that. As we’ve said, the schedule is a little light right now. They’ve won three in a row, but they’ll need more. They need weeks of this, not days. So keep it going.

Hockey

We comment on it every time the Hawks and Canucks get together of late. It’s just still so jarring how little you think of the Canucks now, given what they used to mean around here. Then again, Canucks fans probably don’t think about the Hawks much either anymore, aside from Duncan Keith. Even if the Hawks outlasted the Canucks relevance in ’14 and ’15, they’ve both faded from the scene in the past three or four years.

For the same reasons? Maybe. While it’s always fun to laugh at Jim Benning, and you should, the real obstacle in Vancouver is the Aquilino family that owns the team. They have never sanctioned a full rebuild, and strive to make the playoffs every season. There’s a feeling amongst the ownership that the fanbase would never accept a total teardown, even though most of the fanbase was screaming for one for a while now.

And perhaps that window has passed. Benning has done an excellent job of providing Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, and Quinn Hughes as the building blocks of the future. There was even a nifty trade for J.T. Miller. With just the first three, you’d say that’s a great base to build a contender down the road with.

But because of the playoffs-or-fuck-you mantra from above, the Canucks are saddled with comedically bad contracts. Now, it’s Benning after all who chose those players and deals, and he gets most of the blame as he should. But he still has bosses to answer to, and they’ve sent out this directive.

Which is why the Canucks have only $30K in cap space this year. It’s why they’re dragging around Loui Eriksson, who was finished four years ago, or Antoine Roussel, or Tyler Myers. Even Jay Beagle is overpaid, as is Brandon Sutter. We could dig into the past and find more bad deals, but we’re not trying to be cruel here.

Which leaves the Canucks on a funky path. There’s some cap space next year, with only Jake Vrtanen an important piece to re-sign though how important is hard to gauge. Maybe Chris Tanev, but that’s not vital either. But they need a second line. They’ll need a long-term partner for Hughes, and it’s not going to be Tyler Myers no matter how many drugs they take to delude themselves. They probably need a second pairing. They’ll also need to either re-sign Jacob Markstrom or find a new goalie, which is going to cost a hell of a lot more than $3.6M they’re paying Markstrom now.

With Boeser, Pettersson, and Hughes, the Canucks are past doing a total rebuild. If they’re not stupid, they can buy out Eriksson or just pray that he retires early (he won’t). Another complication is that they’ve got $3M in cap-recapture penalties from Roberto Luongo retiring for another two seasons. Edler has one more year left. Sutter has one more. Beagle two. There’s some light at the end of the tunnel, but they can’t afford any more impulsive mistakes, otherwise they’ll be what they’ve been for the past five seasons, just sitting outside the playoffs with no clear direction.

But will the Aquilini’s finally show some patience? The Canucks haven’t seen the playoffs since ’15, even though that’s always been the stated goal. They have an outside shot this year, though you wouldn’t bet on it. Will they see that six or seven years without the playoffs is no different than five? Or will they go all in for more free agents next year? It feels like if they do, they won’t go anywhere again.

Hockey

Tyler Myers – May we present…

Alex Edler – We seem to be the only ones who know this, but Edler even this deep into his career still hasn’t met a hit he can’t jump his elbows into. Luckily these days he’s not mobile enough to get to most of them. A bigger villain in that cold war at the beginning of the decade than he got credit for.

Antoine Roussel – Back from injury and stealing a shit ton of money. People will realize that much like Andrew Shaw, you don’t pay a pest a ton of money because A.) their shelf-life just isn’t that long given they style and B). they may decide performing all the silliness makes less sense once they’re secure. They don’t have to prove much now.

Hockey

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

Just one night after I commiserated with Sam, McClure, and Feather over just wanting to see the Hawks play competitive hockey, they delivered in spades. It wasn’t a straight up dominant performance, but that wasn’t what we were looking for. The Hawks finally looked like a team playing confidently and playing fast, and the end result was an impressive win over a Vancouver team came into this game with the third most points in the West. Let’s do it:

DA BULLETS MY FRENT

Patrick Kane said this a little tongue-in-cheek in his post-game first star interview, but a huge factor in this game for the Hawks was that they were able to play with a lead. Not having to play catch-up for the first time in a while (yes I know they were leading in Anaheim but even that was different) allowed them to play faster and a bit more loose, and that resulted in better overall hockey. It also helped that they had started edging toward outplaying the Canucks before that first goal, so they could probably smell a little blood in the water.

– Speaking of the first goal, I think Alex DeBrincat is not eligible to be named a saint by the Catholic church (not that he’d want to) because that goal had to be a miracle. I have probably watched it 25 times now and it never looks less impossible. My guy was getting hooked and tripped at the same time, the puck was rolling, and he kinda lost control of it as he started to fall, and yet he still picked his spot top corner and got more velocity on the puck than I could ever muster even if I was roided up and on cocaine. It has to be one of the goals of the year NHL.

– Overall, the 12-17-88 line being together led to big results, and gee if only a very handsome 25-year old hockey writer who lives in central Indiana had suggested that could be possible before the season. Ho hum. Alas, Kane and Dylan Strome provided three points each and Top Cat scored his miracle goal. The possession numbers for them are confusing, though, as Kane and Strome both got domed and finished with ~40% CF and ~10% below team rate while DeBrincat ended up at 55% and 6% above team. But I am not asking too many questions.

– Speaking of guys getting their brain pounded in possession wise, I was kinda blown away to see that Adam Boqvist finished a 35.29 CF%, which was damn near 18% below team. Obviously we do not expect hugely dominant results from him this early in the career, but you’d like to see that number be better. Another perplexing pairing result because he played with Olli Maatta a lot (by observation) and Maatta ended up at 48%. WHAT IS GOING ON?

But I say I was surprised by it, and that’s because I thought he played quite well tonight. I noted it on Twitter, but he had at least 3 incredible poke checks that were expertly timed and completely put the kibosh on Canucks rushes. He also is smart in terms of defensive zone positioning, so the results will come. For now I will take the consistent flashes of those special skills game-in and game-out.

– Big night from Crow, who deserved it. He was great all night, not that it’s any surprise.

– Now, not to ruin the mood here, because they did skull fuck the Canucks in the first period and close them out well, but what does it say about this team that the best game they’ve played in two weeks still saw them get completely owned in the second period, play even hockey in the third, and end the game losing the SOG count 38-37 and the 5v5 CF count 42-40? Like, sure the Canucks are third in the west, but is playing teams even really the best the Hawks are going to be able to do? Is that going to work when they’re not playing with a lead?

– Next up is Pittsburgh on Saturday. Until then.

Hockey

vs.

RECORDS: Canucks 9-3-3   Hawks 4-7-3

PUCK DROP: 7:30

TV: NBCSN Chicago

THEY FILMED DEADPOOL THERE: Canucks Army

We’ve had to do this the past couple years now. Whenever the Hawks meet up with the Kings or Canucks, we have to do something of a “Remember when these mattered?” comment. This used to be the the fiercest rivalry in the league. That stopped some seven years ago. With the Kings and Hawks, there just isn’t much more to discuss because both teams are lying face down in the muck. Sadly, that might not be the case for the Canucks anymore.

The Canucks find themselves one point out of the lead for the Pacific Division, behind the Oilers and one ahead of the Coyotes, just to let you know how backwards everything is and how many different teams seem to have better ideas than the Hawks right now.

Is it real? The numbers suggest it might be. The schedule does not. The Canucks have seven regulation wins, and they’re over the Sharks at home (some teams can do that, in fact a lot of them have), the Kings twice (some teams do that), the Red Wings twice, the Rangers, and over the Panthers at home. Only the last one is a team that’s probably good and playing well at the moment. But hey, you can only play whom the schedule says you do, and the Canucks have made hay against that.

And they haven’t just squeaked by, as their metrics are pretty glowing. They’re one of the best teams in the league in terms of Corsi and expected-goals, and they’re doing some explosive work in the offensive end. Most of that comes from the top line of WHO WANTS TO WALK WITH ELIAS?-JT Miller-Brock Boeser. They’ve combined for 52 points in 15 games, with Elias Pettersson on track for a 109-point season. That’ll play.

Coach Travis Green has taken the training wheels off this line, starting them in any zone against any opponent, and pretty much doing the same with his second line centered by Bo Horvat. This has freed him up to put his plugs in more advantageous spots, which is maybe why you’ve seen scoring spikes from the likes of Brandon Sutter and Tim Schaller. What a time to be alive…to cut yourself.

That doesn’t mean Lady Luck isn’t waving her ass a bit at the Canucks, too. Again, the soft schedule helps, and they’ve ground up the chuck they’ve been served (is that how that works? Let’s just go with it). But this is a team with a 102 PDO that’s getting a .918 from Jacob Markstrom and a .938 from Thatcher Demko. The latter has been the hope for the future for what feels like 17 years now, but he’s not a .938 goalie. The Nucks are also shooting at a team-rate of 9.4% at evens, and while Pettersson and Boeser are most certainly top-level scorers, the rest of this outfit most certainly is not.

That said, they’re a top-10 specials teams outfit on both sides, with an excellent penalty kill, and with the possession they’ve gotten at evens and what they’ve done with it, you can’t really ask for any more.

And they have hope on the blue line. Somehow, and this for sure won’t last, Tyler Myers has been a possession-driving monster, with a Corsi of 56.5% while just shading most of his zone starts in the defensive zone. Should you expect that to continue? Cue Russell Westbrook:

Still, nice to have for now. That has freed up Quinn Hughes, who is going to be a thing, to take easier assignments, and he’s dinging opponents upside the head to the tune of a 57 xG% while getting third-pairing minutes and 67% of his shifts in the offensive zone. Must be nice to be able to bed in a young, dynamic d-man like that so easily. We’re looking longingly at Vancouver, folks. Eat Arby’s, puke it up, and then eat that.

Right, the to Hawks. Corey Crawford will rotate back in to the starter’s net after Lehner once again did enough to keep the Hawks from getting utterly embarrassed. This is starting to be like the end of “Little Miss Sunshine,” where Paul Dano is trying to convince Toni Collette that she has to keep Abigail Breslin from getting embarrassed by the actual pageant girls. I think Lehner is Collette in this metaphor, but I’m not entirely sure as the Hawks have basically broken my brain.

Coach Kelvin Gemstone, in his infinite wisdom, has decided to scratch one of the Hawks’ best two-way and fastest forwards tonight in Dominik Kubalik to give us more Zack Smith. Because all the kids out here with their skateboards and backwards hats have been demanding more Zack Smith. The world needs more Zack Smith. Zack Smith is the key to salvation…

…I’ve just had a brain bubble.

Everything is fucked.

Anyway, the Canucks can do pretty much whatever they want here. They can try and out-skate the Hawks, which they can. They probably have the defensive structure to use the “advanced trap,” that the Sharks used to strangle the Hawks into paste, which is just a trap but ahead of the red line. Or anything in between. And the Hawks will probably still try and dump the puck in and get it back with their not-fast-enough and not-strong-enough forwards.

I’m going to go look for a strong tree branch. You folks enjoy the game.

 

 

Hockey

Imagine a world where a team could bring up a very promising rookie, one that was worth a top-ten pick, and play him on the third pairing, shelter him as far as zone-starts and the competition he sees, and let him hang loose on the power play where his generational skill can really shine. Imagine getting 11 points out of him in his first fourteen games, as his mistakes don’t kill you because they come against third and fourth lines.

That world exists, people. It’s just in Vancouver and not in Chicago.

Whereas Adam Boqvist essentially was tossed into the deep end full of ornery badgers (and they tend to get that way when you toss them into a pool where they don’t belong) due to his organization’s incompetence, the Canucks have allowed Quinn Hughes to land softly in the NHL and already showcase what the Canucks think will be a franchise-turning skill-set on the blue line. Oh for a different way.

Hughes has started his NHL career skating with steady-as-a-rock vet Chris Tanev in a third-pairing role. Tanev is still capable of much more, but is also the perfect centerfielder for the freelancing Hughes. As the Canucks didn’t have too many aspirations when the season started (that could be changing), they can keep Tanev in a more reserved role to develop a future star. It also helps having Edler, Myers, Benn, and Stetcher who are, at worst, representative NHL d-men. Tanev and Hughes have started 63% of their shifts in the offensive zone, keeping Hughes where he is best and letting him learn the defensive side of the game at a slower pace.

And it’s actually Tanev who has been lost without Hughes, as he has sported a sub-40% Corsi in the 40 or so minutes on the season he’s played with someone else. So clearly, Hughes is special.

And he’s shown that on the power play, where he already has eight points and one of his two goals. The top unit is being QB’d by Hughes with Pettersson, Boeser, Miller, and Horvat as the four forwards, which can be a scary one for a long time. You can see where this thing would become self-aware like the Sharks one did a couple years ago, with talented players playing together on it for season upon season until they just knew where each other was.

If you want hope for Boqvist through Hughes, keep in mind they’re just about the same size. Hughes is listed at 5-10 and 170, which is generous to the hilt. And as the years roll on, the Canucks will expect him to displace Alex Edler on the top pairing. But they don’t need him to now, as things are going well and expectations within the organization–except for ownership which is kind of a problem–are tempered.

The future looks bright in Vancouver, if they can keep owner Aquilini out of hockey side of the business too much. Something they’ve failed to do for a while now. Acquilini has never given in on doing a full rebuild, trying to do half of one while also trying to compete for playoff spots, which has handcuffed the Canucks for half a decade now. It’s why they have some unconscionable contracts on their books to the likes of Eriksson, Sutter, Roussel, and now Myers while actually producing a promising young core of Pettersson, Boeser, and Hughes. It feels like it could keep them from going in any direction.

Still, within the next two seasons they could probably free themselves up from Tanev, Edler, Eriksson, Pearson, and Sutter’s revival might make him marketable as well. Then the Canucks would really have room to boost their future. A future in which Hughes looks like he’ll be driving.