Hockey

vs.

RECORDS: Rangers 30-24-4   Hawks 26-25-9

PUCK DROP: 7pm

TV: NBCSN (but with us on commentary!)

THE CITY SO NICE IT SMELLS LIKE PISS: Blueshirt Banter

The Hawks return home for just two games this week, before heading back out for what looks to be an absolute Unblinking Eye of a road trip through Dallas, St. Louis, and then Florida. Which makes these home games an absolute must, and even that probably won’t save the Hawks from having their season come to an end on that trip.

Which of course, is far too late. The deadline is Monday, and the Hawks can pivot toward the future, and successfully, if they just give in and start cashing in on Gustafsson and Lehner and maybe one or two others. Perhaps losing these two home games will finally make up management’s mind. Two games shouldn’t do that, but we know how this works. And we know how this team works, where they could for absolutely no reason other than hockey weirdness take these two games on Madison, and then at least split that trip coming up and justify the front office doing absolutely nothing come Monday. They’ll say it’s in service to their vets, but the vets will be just as pissed off come April when they’re still five points out of a playoff spot.

Perhaps that’s for another time, but tonight’s opponent should make for sobering viewing for the Hawks. The New York Rangers are in the middle of a rebuild, and yet have more points than the Hawks playing in the tougher conference. The Rags tried to soup up their arc by signing Artemi Panarin in the summer and having Kaapo Kakko fall into their lap.

While the former has performed as you’d expect, Kakko has been a disappointment. Eight goals and 19 points for a player that looked like he could belch up 30 goals per season at least. More worryingly, Kakko has been getting utterly crushed metrically, and his game clearly is going to need more work than the Rangers would have anticipated for a #2 overall pick. He isn’t even getting into scoring areas and chances as much as you would have expected, and has played himself onto the third line for the moment.

But this is New York, so that’s not the only drama going on with the team. Alex Georgiev might finally, along with Henrik Lundqvist’s age (though you wouldn’t know it to look at him, asshole), make the Rangers face the hockey mortality of their stalwart in net. Georgiev has been the superior goalie, this is Hank’s second straight subpar year, and at 38 and with only one year left on his contract after this one both Hank and the Rangers finally can see what life without each other is going to look like.

Up front, the Rangers can’t seem to decide if they want to trade guided missile Chris Kreider or make him part of the future. The package the Devils just got for Blake Coleman surely is giving them pause though, because Kreider likely gets the Rangers more than that. He’s also just about the last chip the Rangers have to play, as the rotting corpse of Marc Staal isn’t going to fetch much more than sympathetic looks and the loose change found in jacket pockets.

None of that has kept the Rangers from putting up more points than anyone would have guessed, and some of that is to do with their high octane defense. Tony DeAngelo (who really couldn’t be more perfectly named for a New York hockey player), Adam Fox, and Brady Skjei (Chance’s buddy) can all make things happen from the back, which keeps the Rangers playing at a pretty high pace.

They might not have star power up front beyond Panarin, but they do have a collection of fast forwards (including one named “Fast”) that can be hell to play against. They had won four in a row and five of six before getting kneecapped by the Bruins on Sunday. This is also their Mom’s trip, and it’s nice to see a team bring their moms to a true destination like Chicago instead of whatever backwaters the Hawks dragged their matriarchs through this year.

All that said, and even with the speed they have, the Rangers are a woeful defensive team. Even worse than the Hawks, if you can believe it. They’re last in xGA/60 and among the worst in Corsi against. So this game has a chance to be utterly hilarious in that fashion. Skjei, Fox, and DeAngelo (HEY! HE’S HOCKEYIN’ OVAH HERE!) can get up and go they can also get up and fall over in their own end. None of the Rangers young forwards have any idea what they’re doing in their own end, so the Hawks will get chances.

Does it matter? I have no idea. I think they’re toast. I don’t think they think they are, and maybe this is the death rattle week for them.

But what you should do is download the Hot Mic app on your phone, and listen to us do our inaugural broadcast on there for this one! Also use code “SAM376” when you do. We’ll be doing a whole MST3K thing with the game tonight, and it should be fun. Hope to have you along.

Hockey

Minor note here, but the Hawks today claimed Nick Seeler on waivers from the Wild, who they play tomorrow as luck would have it.

This isn’t some monumental shift and it barely registers a level worth talking about. Basically, the Hawks don’t want to keep Dennis Gilbert in a suit full-time, which they would have to at the top level because he sucks. The IceHogs are also incredibly beat up, so they could use him playing minutes down there in his never-ending journey to not suck.

Seeler isn’t much better. He surprised the Wild out of camp last year and played 71 games, but has some serious, rock-headed tendencies, which we know the Hawks love for some reason. Think of Seeler as an older Gilbert, really. But he can easily replace Gilbert as the extra hand on deck in case someone gets injured.

In truth, Slater Koekkoek has earned his time above whatever swamp thing is taking up the #7 role, be it Gilbert or Seeler. Yeah, he had that cock-up on Saturday, but that will happen. What Koekkoek has that the other two don’t is mobility, and the Hawks need as much as they can get right now.

At least the Hawks seem to realize what Gilbert is, even if they just go the older version. This rates a whatever.

Baseball

I remember Joe Sheehan (who had an interesting and misguided angle on last night’s trade) writing about this the night after THE NIGHT in Cubs history. It was about how random it was for Mike Montgomery to be on the mound to get the last out. How he had been traded three times, never really flourished, seemed a surplus-acquisition at the time, ended up being pretty useful in a couple of roles, and here he was throwing the biggest pitch in Cubs history. Baseball can be strange that way.

And it can also be strange in that not even three years later, you’re now surplus to requirements and headed to the basement, standings-wise, in Kansas City. Baseball can be fickle, too.

So it proved with Montgomery, who kind of pitched himself out of a role this season. It’s rare that a pitcher can hang onto the “tweener” role for a lot of years. If you’re not good enough to start and pretty much not good enough to take a prominent relief role, eventually you’re just plain not going to be good enough. Something happened to Monty’s fastball/sinker this year and he’d been straight gasoline. The future wasn’t bright either, as if even two spots were to open in the rotation next year (one is more likely if any), then Adbert Alzolay is going to take it.

Montgomery made it clear he wanted to start, and that’s his prerogative. His stuff does lean toward starter, I just don’t think his stuff is good enough to negotiate a lineup two or three times. Not our problem now. He requested out, he got his request, and we thank him for his services. He wasn’t going to be the long man here with Chatwood around (though Joe Maddon doesn’t want to seem to use him in that role either), he’s never been a LOOGY and definitely should be aiming for higher than that, and doesn’t have the stuff to be a shutdown guy. No use trying to jam it into the puzzle here.

So to Martin Maldonado, who was available for just money in the winter. The Cubs demurred, preferring to let Victor Caratini assume the backup role, which he’s done with aplomb. It seems really odd that the Cubs would trade an actual something for a catcher merely to fill in one or two days while Willson Contreras is hurt. So what’s really going on here? And what changed between the winter and now?

The obvious answer, and one nearest the conspiracy theorist’s heart, is that Caratini is about to be part of a package to bring another reliever or bat to the Northside. You’d have to think there’s some market for a young, switch-hitting catcher who can hit and has decent enough framing numbers. He also walks. There is some puff to Caratini’s numbers, but his contact numbers suggest it isn’t much puff. Considering the rest he’s been able to provide Contreras over the past few weeks, you could see where the Cubs would be comfortable riding Willy hard (phrasing?) in the season’s last two months. That is if he were healthy, which he’s not, and while the Cubs are saying it won’t be more than the 10 days for his arch problem, the fact that it could have been made worse playing on it doesn’t exactly instill you with confidence about the rest of the season.

Maldonado definitely can’t hit, but he can catch and frame and all that, and is pretty much the definition of a backup catcher for hire these days. If he’s just third on the depth-chart, it would seem weird that the Cubs want to carry three catchers. Maddon hated doing it in the past when Contreras came up in 2016, but there was little choice given David Ross‘s and Miguel Montero‘s statuses.

If Caratini is traded, it would first obviously depend on the return, and second would put the Cubs in the exact same situation next winter that Caratini bailed them out of this time around. No backup for Contreras, signing some plug and perhaps overworking Willson. I guess that’s a minor problem in the grand scheme of things, though.

Some of the more mischievous around would opine that it actually means more of Contreras in right field, letting Caratini catch to boost the offense. Given how highly the Cubs rate defense (it’s why Russell and Almora still get starts, people), and that would give the Cubs possibly the worst defensive outfield in baseball (Heyward isn’t that good in center despite what you might think), I find that hard to believe. It would be creative, I’m just not sure if it wouldn’t be creatively destructive. Especially as so far this year, only Cole Hamels has kept things on the ground at more than an average or below-average rate.

For right now, the Cubs lost a nothing to gain really a nothing, and that’s all it may be if Maldonado is moved to Iowa when Contreras is healthy and is basically here to save us from the Taylor Davis Experience ever again. It’s what comes next that’s interesting.

Everything Else

Box Score
Event Summary
War on Ice

For the second straight game, the Hawks were damn near shut out by a team who had played the night before after having one or more days off themselves. They were outplayed, and none of the scoring chances came when anything in the game was in question. They made a struggling goaltender look positively heroic. They looked slow, old, and stupid. This is what happens to a one-line team when that one line isn’t scoring and half of the defensemen on the ice arguably should not even be in the NHL. This dislikeable group isn’t doing a goddamn thing as presently constituted. What a waste of fucking time.

Everything Else

Rolling right along into the bottom pairing. Oh, I’ve ignored David Rundblad because he played like three games so who knows? And Michael Kostka isn’t here anymore.

Regular Season: 42 games, 1 goal, 7 assists, 8 points, +7, -0.53 Behind The Net, 17.83 Corsi/60 (+3.4 Corsi Relative)

Playoffs: 17 games, 1 goal, 5 assists, 6 points, -2, -0.32 Behind The Net, 5.62 Corsi/60 (+11.9 Corsi Relative)

What We Liked: You know what’s funny? Before we get too deep into the players, it’s odd what a small Corsi number in the playoffs ends up being a plus number in the relative category. It shows you just how much the Hawks struggled in the playoffs and maybe were a bit fortunate to get where they were. Anywho…

Everything Else

oldschool at new-york-daily-news-house-of-turds-cover-boehner

Game Time: 6:00PM Central
TV/Radio: CSN, NBCSN, 87.7FM The Game
Politics Is All One Big Ass Blast: Japer’s Rink, Russian Machine Never Breaks

With the Colorado Avalanche winning last night and usurping the top spot in the division, the Hawks are now sealed into the #3 seed in the Central Division and will start the playoffs on the road. However, there are still two games left in the regular season, the penultimate of which will take place tonight in D.C. against the already eliminated Capitals. Exhibition hockey in April. Wonderful.