So we have our last full week of Hawks hockey before we see what shiny new GM Kyle Davidson has in store for the roster with the 3/21 NHL trade deadline looming. In between now and then, the Hawks have a much stiffer (heh) challenge with 2 of their next 3 games coming against legitimate playoff teams in the Bruins and Minnesota Wild. It’s also a Stupid Schedule Week™ with the Hawks at home tonight, then nothing until a 1:00 start in Minnehaha on Saturday, then they fly back here to take on the Peg. I get the NHL schedulers have had their work cut out for them with COVID blowing everything up and the players not going to the Olympics, but damn that’s a shitty set of game times.
3/15 vs. Boston
Game Time: 7:30 PM CST
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720
Those Apples Fucking Suck: Stanley Cup of Chowder
Less than a week after losing a heartbreaker to the Bruins out in Beantown, the Hawks get their chance at revenge tonight at the UC. Not a whole lot has changed since Summer hit up the preview from last week other than the B’s finishing off their homestand with a 3-2 win against the moribund Coyotes of South Glendale over the weekend. The offense continues to run through that Dunkin Donuts guy, as Pastrnak keeps piling up the points (including the game winning dagger against the Hawks last week). Taylor Hall and Patrice Bergeron are also here, along with the diseased penis Brad Marchand, who I’m sure will do something completely infuriating at some point during the game. Odds are Jake Swayman gets the nod again with him taking the bulk of the starts recently with Bruce Cassidy riding the current hot hand.
With our Large Irish Son Connor Murphy likely confined to the dark room for the foreseeable future while in concussion protocol, the Hawks D will be even more hard pressed than usual to keep Boston setting things up behind the net as they are wont to do. Keeping out of the box will be key, as with Murph out there isn’t really anyone on the PK who can clear the crease like he does. Could be ugly.
3/19 At Minnesota
Game Time: 1:00 PM CST
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, NHL Network, WGN-AM 720
First Round Failures: Hockey Wilderness
It pains me greatly to concede the fact that the Minnesota Wild are better than the Blackhawks right now, and most likely will continue to be for the next few years at least. They have a very solid mix of interesting veterans and exciting young players. This was made possible after shedding the dead weight that was the contracts of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. The biggest name among the exciting young players would be Kirill Kaprisov, who may very well be the heir apparent to Alex Ovechkin (assuming he ever actually, ya know, retires), as one of the best pure scorers to hit the scene in a very long time. The Wild recently signed him to a 5 year, $45 million extension after what seemed like an impasse that could’ve sent him back to Russia. They’ve also added Old Friend Ryan Hartman, who has now harnessed all the potential we saw during his time with the Hawks.
The back end is populated by a lot of familiar names as the Wild attempted to shore up what was a solid group of Jonas Brodin, Matt Dumba and Jared Spurgeon by adding Alex Goligoski and Dimirti Kulikov. The results have been middling thus far, as the Wild have a tendency (much like Vegas, who they’ve now modeled themselves after) to give up a boatload of shots. With only Cam Talbot behind them to stop the onslaught, the Wild basically need to just play balls to the wall offense to keep opponents out of their zone. That’s not usually a very solid playoff strategy, which is ok because it’s a team from Minnesota, and they never get out of the first round anyways.
3/20 vs Winnipeg
Game Time: 7:00 PM CST
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720
Everybody Freeze (Arnold voice): Arctic Ice Hockey
Last and most certainly least of these 3 is the Winnipeg Jets. While they’ve been on a mini heater over the last week or so, beating the Blues and Lightning by a decent margin, they’re still just 5-4-2 since they last lost to the Hawks in the middle of February. As we all know, playing .500 hockey down the stretch in Gary Bettman’s NHL does not a playoff team make. They’re only 4 points back of Vegas with a game in hand of the final wild card spot, which might actually be worst case scenario for them. With the team needing quite a bit to take the next step, their best course of action would probably be to sell at the deadline like the Hawks. Being only 4 out might make them hesitate to do that, and even worse for them would be to push their chips in like their GM was Stan Bowman. Even if they DO sneak into the playoffs, they face a total ass-waxing at the hands of Calgary or Colorado, both of whom are light years ahead of the Jets. Personally I hope they DO go all in, which would put them on the same trajectory as the Hawks now sit. Misery loves company.