Hockey

A successful, if unspectacular stretch of games for the Hawks this Valentines’ week as they were able to bookend two wins in Canada with an absolute turd of an effort down in The Lou for the middle frame. During all of this actual hockey being played (how many people were actually playing attention with the Olympics going on and the Bulls being awesome is anyone’s guess), news leaked out that the Hawks were looking to get an insane return from teams inquiring about the services and availability of one Brandon Hagel. The return in question (according to Frank Seravalli in the Daily Faceoff Rundown podcast) is apparently a first round pick and a top prospect, which to me is absolutely mind boggling.

Look, don’t get me wrong. Brandon Hagel is a very solid young player on a Very Not Good team. Were he to be traded to Colorado or Vegas at the deadline he would be a very solid 3rd or 4th line player. Teams don’t trade first round picks and/or top prospects to fill out their 3rd line, no matter how young and cap friendly he may be. At 23 years old (24 when next season rolls around), is he the kind of player you build around for the future? His 27 points in 46 games is a nice addition, but if the Hawks are turning down 2nd and 3rd round picks for a guy they essentially picked up off waivers when the cupboard is completely bare is asinine to me. Not having a permanent GM at the trade deadline is also extremely asinine, but the Hawks aren’t one to be told what is dumb and what isn’t.

Anyways, TO THE RECAP:

 

2/9

Hawks 4 – Oilers 1

BOX SCORE

Natural Stat Trick

 

Guess signing Evander Kane wasn’t the kick in the pants the Oilers thought it would be, eh?

The Hawks jumped right into the Oil’s shit from the get go, with Patrick Kane firing a nifty cross ice feed to DeBrincat, who ripped it right past Professional Crybaby Mike Smith giving the Hawks their first of two power play goals on the night. It was all set up by the hard work of Sam Lafferty, who drew the tripping penalty after outworking Nugent-Hopkins. A minute later the aforementioned Brandon Hagel doubled up the Hawks lead when DeBrincat saucered a cross ice pass of his own during a 3 on 2 rush.

The 2nd period was all about Marc-Andre Fleury, as the Oil emptied everything in the chamber at him. Edmonton dropped 20 shots on MAF in the 2nd, with only Leon “Why So Pissy” Draisaitl’s power play tally sneaking past him. As expected, the Hawks got absolutely annihilated in CORSI in the second period to the tune of 75% to 25%. They supposedly had 6 shots in the period but I can’t honestly remember any of them. Predictably, Edmonton folded like a cheap tent after Strome put one past Smith in the first minute of the 3rd, with Fleury in no serious danger the rest of the way. Shit, even Kirby Dach scored a goal, which tells you everything you need to know about the state of hockey in Edmonton right now. Good win.

 

2/12

Hawks 1- Blues 5

BOX SCORE

Natural Stat Trick

 

This game fucking sucked. The team clearly didn’t give a shit from word go, and they got smoked in every facet of the game up and down the ice. Even Marc-Andre Fleury had the “Not Interested” sign hanging from his helmet. The Blues exposed the Hawks every weakness as a team, and capitalized on every mistake. When the Hawks needed a push in the 3rd to try and get back in the game, the Blues dominated CORSI 82%-18%. It pains me to say it, but they’re just better than the Hawks at everything, and it’s gonna be that way for a long while.

 

2/14

Hawks 3 – Jets 1

BOX SCORE

Natural Stat Trick

 

They can’t all be edge of your seat thrillers. Sometimes during an 82 game marathon, there are just going to be games that are flat out boring. Through the first half of this one, that’s exactly what happened. Just ask Ben Pope:

Really, nothing of note happened until Patrick Kane used a screen by Kirby Dach to rifle one 5 hole on Connor HellBuick. After that brief moment of excitement, things went quiet again until Mark Scheifele tapped in a puck that hit approximately 32 people on the way to the cage off the stick of Nate Schmidt six minutes into the final period. Then Alex DeBrincat decided he’d had enough of this bullshit and gave the Hawks a lead they wouldn’t give up with this absolutely disgusting snipe:

https://twitter.com/NHLBlackhawks/status/1493437331008901123?s=20&t=vAoJOVViVfq06HVVi2B8Rg

Stan Bowman did a lot of dumbass shit while he was here, but drafting Top Cat was definitely not one of those things. Anyways, shortly thereafter, Fleury helped himself out by shooting an outlet pass to Kane who tapped it up to Hagel for the ENG, thus bringing the game to a close. You really can’t complain about the win, but this game was exactly what you’d expect with two bottom of the table teams dry humping their way through 60 minutes of hockey. The Jets won the possession battle 54-46%, but they don’t have DeBrincat or Marc-Andre Fleury, so fuck em. Moving on.

Hockey

After Rocky’s pants-shitting at the town hall the other day, my give-a-shit level about this team has reached “Patrick Kane in Late February” territory. Yet still here I am writing about them, so I don’t quite know if that says more about me than Rocky but whatever. Some hockey is better than none I suppose.

These first 3 games out of the gate post-All Star break feature 2 Canadian reschedules bookending a trip to the Purina Factory down in St. Louis. After the aforementioned town hall shenanigans it’s probably best that the team opens up on the road so they can attempt to concentrate on just playing hockey and not dealing with the fallout of their evil Keebler Elf owner’s tirade.

With Alex DeBrincat’s solid showing at the All Star festivities in Vegas, the Hawks look to start the back half of the season out on a high note. Standing in their way are two underperforming Canadian teams and one offensive juggernaut from St. Louis. Here’s hoping the time off did Toews and Kane good, as the Hawks are desperate for scoring from wherever they can get it.

 

2/9 @ Edmonton 

Game Time: 7:00 PM CST

TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720

#FreeMcDavid: Copper N Blue

 

Man, shit has been rough in Edmo since Christmas. With a 5-8 record after Boxing Day, the Oilers spent the entire month of January getting their skulls cracked in, culminating in the amazing press conference where Canadian “hockey journalist” Jim Matheson asked Leon Draisatl why he was “being so pissy” after having to sit through his idiotic questions.

Oh, and they signed Evander Kane after the Sharks got rid of him before the Vegas Good Squads came to kneecap him and leave him for dead in the Nevada desert.

So things haven’t been very rosy for the Oil since the calendar flipped to 2022. They managed to string together a few wins before the Knights completely ethered them 4-0 heading into the all star break. What type of team the Hawks will see is anyone’s guess, but with 2 of the best players in the multiverse on their roster (even if McDavid has a wonky knee right now) Marc-Andre Fleury will have to be on his game to keep them off of the scoresheet. Regardless of how the game goes, Edmonton may end up with the last laugh if the Hawks brass continues to shoot themselves in the dick and hire Peter Chiarelli as their new GM.

 

2/12 @ St. Louis

Gametime: 7:00 CST

TV / Radio – NBCSN, WGN-AM 720

Wretched Hive Of Scum And VillainySTL Gametime

 

This game will not be pretty. We’ve reached the point where the Blues are simply a more “put together” team than the Hawks are, and outside of Alex DeBrincat and maybe Patrick Kane (if he gives a shit) the Hawks just don’t have the firepower to keep up with STL. Jordan Kyrou continues to tear a hole in the atmosphere with his play, and fresh off his first All Star appearance I’m sure he’ll be looking to continue that trend.

It’s not just Kyrou the Hawks have to be aware of, however. While the Blues still can’t completely get away from their special brand of Stupid, they’re definitely a more high powered team than we’re used to seeing. They have 7 skaters with double-digit goal totals, and Vlad Tarasenko has regained the form he lost after missing a shitload of time with multiple shoulder surgeries. Between him, Kyrou, Barbashev and Buchnevich there’s just too much to have to pay attention to.

In net, Jordan Binnington hasn’t been setting the world on fire with his .900 save percentage and 3+ GAA, but Ville Husso (yet another Finnish goalie. Suomi!) has more than picked up the slack with his .940 and 1.91 GAA and is pretty close to claiming the top spot in what has suddenly become a tandem effort.

Also Brandon Saad is here, which hurts me to my core.  *sad trombone*

 

2/14 @ Winnipeg (AKA North Grand Forks)

Gametime: 8:00 CST

TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720

Middle Of Nowhere: Arctic Ice Hockey

 

I’ll never forget how much my buddy Matt hated people from Winnipeg when I went to college in Grand Forks. He was a bartender, and despised working the one weekend a month when they all piled into their RV and drove south to GFK to shop at Walmart (because the Canadian dollar was more valuable at the time) because they didn’t tip for shit. This preview is for you, Matt Hammond.

Anyways, the Jets suck slightly less than the Hawks do. As of right now they sit 6 points up on them with 3 games in hand but are 7 points out of the last wild card spot. Which in Gary Bettman’s NHL may as well be 40, with Loser Points for everyone. Kyle Connor has officially turned into “a thing” as the 2015 1st round pick of the Jets has done nothing but rake at the NHL level since being drafted and may end up being the Jets best choice of all time.

Unfortunately for The Peg, it’s him and Mark Scheifele and not much else. The Jets are mired in the bottom 3rd of the league with the Hawks for 5 on 5 goal scoring despite being 10th in the league in CORSI for. While some of that may be due for a market correction (the team as a whole is top 10 in most advanced stats, but bottom 3rd in shooting percentage), it may simply just be a bad luck year for the Jets forward corps. With Connor HellBuick having a merely average year, most nights the Jets don’t score enough to run with the higher level teams in the west like the Avs and Knights. What they have will most likely be enough against the Hawks, however. Though that’s not exactly something to brag about these days.

 

Hockey

vs.

RECORDS: Hawks 26-24-8   Jets 29-25-5

PUCK DROP: 7:30pm

TV: NBCSN Chicago

SEARCHING FOR AN AIRPORT: Jets Nation

In the brilliant scheduling genius of the NHL, the Hawks will spend a second consecutive Sunday in Winnipeg, after having to bus in from Calgary last night because y’know, there’s no airport in Winnipeg. Once again, as they’ve seemingly done a dozen times this season and a dozen times last season, after last night’s win the Hawks have a chance to keep their season afloat with a win tonight.

It’s getting tiresome of course. We know what this team is, and what they probably need to do, but the longer they stay in the race the more justification they’ll have to kind of just float there, without making aggressive moves to bolster next year which should be the real goal here. A win would see the Hawks be within one point of the Jets, and four points within the Coyotes in the last spot with two games in hand. There’s a light week ahead with just two games at home against the Rangers and Predators, before what looks to be a killer roadtrip to close out February.

And we know how this goes. The Hawks probably can’t string together enough losses to fall out of it, due to both their own individual brilliance at the top of the roster and the Western Conference’s inability to not become a Cluseau-esque waiter. Which means three wins in a row are always around the corner to keep them right on the cusp, and then three losses right behind that to look over the edge of the precipice without going over. So it goes.

In the week since the Hawks were last here, the Jets biffed home games against the Rangers and Sharks, and deservedly so. Which somehow got Paul Maurice a contract-extension. This team has hated Maurice for two seasons at least, continues to be one of the worst defensive teams in the league and a good portion of that is because they simply don’t care to be anything else. But when they actually can be bothered, as they were for the last 40 minutes last week, they can still blow just about any team out of the building. Much like the Hawks, you can bet on them to keep yo-yoing between getting into the playoffs and ending their season without making a decision either way.

The Jets are still injured, with Lowry and Perreault still out and Letestu and Little long time casualties. That’s eroded something of their depth, which has led them to lean heavily on the top six and Andrew Copp and Jack Roslovic. There’s been some talk of shifting Blay Kweeler back to wing and Copp to 2C, and they’ll try both looks tonight you can be sure. They tore the Hawks asunder last week either way.

It’s been a pretty horrific roadie for the Hawks, and winning tonight will at least give them cover for not doing much at the trade deadline. They can argue they were robbed in Vancouver and lucky in Calgary somewhat, though eight goals is eight goals. They can say they split with the Jets, which is about what you’d expect from two games in a week against the same opponent. So the only blip, in their minds, will be losing to EdMo without McDavid. It’s the lowest hurdle to clear, but it’ll be enough for them.

We’re in this together.

Hockey

Friends, you’ve probably been frustrated at some point watching some moron you work with get a promotion you were sure you were more qualified for, or even just a promotion you know they had no business getting. Or perhaps you just watch things in society and wonder how someone you’re sure can’t tie their shoes can end up with so much more money than you. For instance, Jim Crane clearly has a whistling sound working between his ears, and yet he’s rich enough to own a MLB team.

Maybe hockey isn’t for us if that’s how we feel.

Paul Maurice earned another contract extension this week. That’s the same coach who in six years at the helm has won two playoff series, both in the same year. That’s with perhaps the best top six in the league, one of the deepest forward corps around, and before this year at least a serviceable defense. Oh, and two of the past three seasons he’s gotten near Vezina-level goaltending from Connor Hellebuyck.

And that’s still been the case this year, and the Jest are still outside the playoff places. Sure, the defense has been stripped of Dustin Byfuglien and Jacob Trouba, but losing the former shouldn’t hurt your defensive structure much if at all. And the Jets remain one of the worst defensive teams in the league, in terms of the shots, attempts, and chances they give up.

But if you watch the Jets, it’s not just lack of talent. They just don’t care. Some night, their lack of effort in their own zone is so noticeable it’s laughable. The Jets are one of the worst metrics teams in the league. Even with that defense, given the wealth of talent at forward, they shouldn’t be drowning in attempts and chances against on a nightly basis.

And this has been going on for a bit. The Jets tried to get Maurice fired during their playoff series lost to the Blues last year. They blew assignments, they lacked desire, they played selfishly at times. They didn’t want to be there, most of all. And yet Maurice wasn’t fired. He wasn’t fired in the middle of this year when they haven’t been in the playoff spots all season. And now he’s installed for more years. How?

Maurice and GM Kevin Chevldayoff let Patrik Laine force their hand in the lineup and play on the top line, which used to be Blake Wheeler’s spot. They let Trouba stick around for multiple years when he made it clear he hated it there and hated Maurice until they had to trade him (and did get Neal Pionk out of it, but could they have gotten more previously?).

Chevyldayoff’s draft record is impressive enough, as a good portion of this team is his doing. Though the only player in the last three drafts to even make it to the NHL is Laine. He’s made trades for Paul Stastny and Kevin Hayes to bolster the team for what he hoped would be Cup chases. But it may be up now. The Jets have only just north of $7M in space for next year, and the only players signed are Hellebuyck, Morrissey, Pionk, Poolman, and the top six. If the Jets lose their forward depth, the sink could go even farther.

But is Maurice really the guy to guide these players? His pedigree is non existent. He has one Cup Final appearance in 22 years coaching in this league. He has two conference final appearances. That’s in 22 years. While the Jets no longer are one of the dumber teams in the league in terms of penalties, which used to be a Maurice staple, it’s still in their locker. And as you’ve seen against the Hawks, this is one of the biggest and fastest teams at forward in the league. But they so rarely play like it, which is how they’ve gotten tonked by the Hawks twice. Last Sunday, when they actually decided to play up to it, the Hawks couldn’t cope. Few teams could.

But this is the NHL. You get one job, you get 17 (unless you’re Mike Kitchen). And you get to keep coaching in a place you wore out your welcome in long ago.

Hockey

Patrik Laine –¬†All jokes about how he looks like he’d ask you three questions to let you cross his bridge, the Jets have bent over backwards for this guy in recent years and he’s pretty much just been a floater. They listened to him bitch incessantly last year about playing on the second line. So they handed him a new contract, shifted their captain back to center and Laine up to play on their top line. He’s given them a fine 30-goal pace season but also doesn’t impact the game in any other way. He is what everyone wanted to believe Alex Ovechkin was back in the day. His metrics are woeful. This guy stands around and waits to shoot and nothing else, and the Jets might want to consider what they could get for him in the trade market one day soon.

Kevin Chevyldayoff –¬†Apparently two playoff series wins in team history is enough to re-sign your dumbass coach. Easier and easier to tell he used to work for the Hawks, huh?

Mark Scheifele –¬†For someone 6-5 and built like a house he sure does end up on the ice a lot, doesn’t he?

Hockey

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

You guys, I’m telling you, I keep trying not to be too cynical/skeptical about this Blackhawks team. I keep wanting their little runs of success to be legitimate, wanting Coach Cool Youth Pastor’s system to finally be effective, wanting the blue line to overperform their on-paper skill, wanting Erik Gustafsson to just do one thing right in his own zone. And yet every time I think I may be getting what I want, the other shoe drops. Well tonight, that other shoe crashed down from the sky and landed hard in Winnipeg, though obviously not at an airport, because they don’t have one of those there. Let’s just get this over with:

THE BULLETS (UNFORTUNATELY NOT THE KIND THAT COULD LODGE THEMSELVES IN MY BRAIN WHEN I”M WATCHING THE HAWKS)

– First and foremost, my biggest takeaway from tonight is this – I cannot remember the last time I saw Alex DeBrincat have a game this bad. There just were very few moments where he really stood out for doing anything extremely well, and he had far too many there he stood out for doing something extremely bad. Two of those in particular led to really dangerous scoring chances for the Jets, one of which resulted in them scoring a shorthanded goal. In a season full of bad luck and disappointment that hasn’t always been his fault, a night like this from Top Cat was tough to watch.

– Moving on, this was something of a wild ride to watch, because it almost felt like two different hockey games. The Blackhawks absolutely dominated the first period, to the tun of a 70.59 CF% at 5v5!!! That is NOT a typo! Things were looking up after that period, folks! And then that period ended, and then second period started, and then the Hawks got absolutely shellacked in possession in the second period, with a pathetic 41.67 CF%, and then again in the third with a 45.45%. They were getting overwhelmed constantly, and while they were able to generate 15 scoring chances in those two periods, only 5 of those were considered high danger. Otherwise, it just felt like the Jets were completely dominating the Hawks in the final 40, and the results obviously reflect that.

– On top of the lackluster performances in the final 40 minutes, the Hawks gave the Jets entirely too many power plays tonight. You simply cannot give an opponent 6 tries with the extra man and expect to win a game, especially on the road. And *especially* when your own power play is running around with its pants around its ankles.

– Yet again, we remind you that Corey Crawford is not appreciated nearly enough. While the Hawks really only lost this one by one goal (the Jets added two empty netters) they could’ve easily been down by three or four if not for the play of Crow, particularly in the second period. This man deserves to be treated as a legend by this organization and this fanbase.

– One more thing I am repeating for the umpteenth time: launch Erik Gustafsson into the sun!

– Hawks go next on Tuesday, against Connor McDavid and the Oilers, and guess what folks you have to deal with me for that one too. See ya then.

Hockey

vs.

RECORDS: Hawks 25-21-8   Jets 28-23-5

PUCK DROP: 6pm

TV: NBCSN Chicago

QUEEN ELIZABETH IN THEIR LIVING ROOM: Jetsnation.ca

It’s at points like these that you can understand Jonathan Toews’s frustration with the schedule of the NHL. There’s no logical reason that instead of spending consecutive Sundays in Winnipeg, with having to swing out to Western Canada in between, the Hawks and Jets couldn’t play just two consecutive games against each other and keep everyone more comfortable. But that’s not the world we have, so the Hawks will begin and end this vital road trip in Winnipeg. It’s even more of a bitch because you have to bus in every time, because they don’t have an airport as you know.

However it’s laid out, the Hawks can shape the rest of their season with this trip, both good and bad. The Hawks enter tonight three points back of the last wildcard, but with three teams to leap to get there. But the next five games are all against teams around them. Even if the Oilers and Canucks are a bit separated, it’s not hard to see how either or both could slip right into range over the coming weeks. Given how the Pacific can’t seem to stop stepping on a rake this season, any and all combinations out of there are possible.

The Jets come in having beat the Senators yesterday at home, and have also clubbed the Blues twice in the last week while also taking the Predators or OT. They’re three points ahead of the Hawks, but have played two games more. So you can see why this is a pretty big game for the Hawks. It’s your customary four-pointer.

The story remains the same with the Jets. They are woeful structurally, and do their best to try and outshoot and outscore it with their wealth of top line talent. It’s been harder for them this season, as the defense has been truly wretched with the departures of Jacob Trouba and Dustin Byfuglien. They haven’t been helped by injuries, but through the combo of that and general helplessness they’ve played 10 different guys. Morrissey and Pionk have been the only constants, and the only ones they can even dream of counting on.

Connor Hellebuyck has combined with their top tier scoring to keep them afloat, with a SV% of .920 while being under siege most nights. He didn’t start yesterday so he was saved for the Hawks, which makes you think the Jets think they need this one badly too.

As for the Hawks, they’ll be something of a lineup shuffle, at least as much as there’s been of late. Adam Boqvist will be given a little more time to heal his shoulder made of cardboard, so Nick Seeler will make his Hawks debut. Don’t expect much, and if you get a game where you barely notice him, so much the better. He’s slow, he had a tendency to be dumb, so this might be Connor Murphy’s biggest project of the season. They’ll be paired together tonight. Matthew Highmore will also come back in for Alex Nylander on the fourth line.

Three points is a bigger gap than it sounds in this everybody-gets-a-trophy NHL, but it’s also not insurmountable. The Hawks have to not get buried on this trip. 3-2 is probably the minimum they need, though 2-2-1 probably won’t kill them. But none of these teams on the schedule are monsters. The Hawks have already beaten the Jets twice, and soundly, and outplayed them for long stretches of their OT loss to them. The Oilers, Canucks, and Flames can all lay an egg on any given night, and the Hawks have wins against them this season.

This is supposed to be where it gets fun. The Hawks can make it so.

Hockey

We’ve perhaps, although maybe this is just our tendency to toot our own horn, led the charge on labeling Patrik Laine a passenger on the Jets. This will be the third straight season, likely, that he won’t live up to that 44-goal campaign he had. They’ve bent their team around him, they’ve given him a prove-it contract, and they’re mired in the muck. There are plenty of other factors, like Dustin Byfuglien fucking off to the ice fishing hut and Jacob Trouba escaping as soon as he could , which has stripped their blue line bare.

But perhaps they can find more answers in exchange for Laine, because they have a ready-made replacement on their top line in Nikolaj Ehlers.

The weird thing is, it seems like GM Kevin Chevyldayoff already likes Ehlers more than Laine, and has for a while. Whereas Laine went through a whole drama about his second contract, Ehlers was given one as soon as possible that will take him in unrestricted free agency in five years. There was no hesitation, as he was signed to it a full season before his entry level deal was up.

And there was little reason not to. Ehlers was coming off a 64-point season, which he would match in the first year of this contract. And while the Jets have always been a weird team in the sense they’ve usually been able to outshoot what their metrics say, Ehlers was the one player who had great underlying numbers. He has consistently been way in the black in Corsi and expected-goals, and this year his mark in the latter is a full six points above the team-rate. When he’s on the ice, the Jets have the puck more than they do when anyone else is out there.

Ehlers can’t manage the goals and points-total of late of Laine, but that might have a lot to do with getting less than half the power play time that Laine does. The first PP unit for the Jets has four forwards, the top line (Laine-Scheifele-Connor) plus Blake Wheeler. And they stay out there as long as they can. So Ehlers and the rest only get slightly more than a minute of time with the man-advantage.

You wonder what Ehlers might do with it, as he has the same amount of even-strength goals and points as Laine’s floating ass this year as he did last year. Other than his 20-PPG binge of ’17-’18, Laine hasn’t put numbers up on the power play that Ehlers would find impossible to reach.

Without the Finn, and a top line of Ehlers-Scheifele-Connor, the Jets would still have Wheeler, Copp, Roslovic, and a few forwards to make for one of the better bottom sixes in the league. The question is what Laine’s value is now. He only has one year on his second deal, though it’s only at $6.7M and he’ll still be restricted when it’s up. Can the Jets still get a top pairing d-man for him? It’s what they need desperately, as they lost both they had for this season and beyond.

Perhaps it’ll depend on how this season finishes for both. The Jets are in a scrap just to make the playoffs, and neither Ehlers or Laine have proven to be playoff dynamos yet. But if Ehlers comes to play these last 25 games or so, and Laine continues to wait for the game to come to him every night, the Jets’ roadmap should be obvious.

Hockey

Patrik Laine –¬†All jokes about how he looks like he’d ask you three questions to let you cross his bridge, the Jets have bent over backwards for this guy in recent years and he’s pretty much just been a floater. They listened to him bitch incessantly last year about playing on the second line. So they handed him a new contract, shifted their captain back to center and Laine up to play on their top line. He’s given them a fine 30-goal pace season but also doesn’t impact the game in any other way. He is what everyone wanted to believe Alex Ovechkin was back in the day. His metrics are woeful. This guy stands around and waits to shoot and nothing else, and the Jets might want to consdier what they could get for him in the trade market one day soon.

Paul Maurice:¬†Not easy to keep a job you clearly suck at. This is still one of the most talented forward groups in the league, with a goalie playing at a Vezina level. They’re still not in the playoffs, his players clearly hate him, and they haven’t played defense in two seasons. And yet he can’t get fired. God bless the NHL.

Hockey

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

Funny, on a night when the Hawks finally defeated a direct competitor for the playoffs, it won’t even grab the headlines. And maybe that’s the way they want it. They’ll have to do it more than a few more times between here and April, but every journey begins with one step. On the second of a back-to-back, where the Hawks have been strangely dominant, against a Jets team that should give them problems (though they have far more of their own), the Hawks not only got the win but eased to it.

I’m not saying you should get excited, but if you want to start at least inching that way, go right ahead. Maybe the bye comes at the wrong time for them.

Of course, none of this is why it’s a historic night. Let’s get to it.

The Two Obs

-The headline will be Patrick Kane reaching 1,000 points, and it should be. I have more than a few tangled thoughts about it, which I’ll get to tomorrow. But we should probably start labeling him, rightly, as the best the organization has ever had. Again, more tomorrow.

-I mentioned in the preview that a big reason that the Hawks have ripped this off is that they’ve settled the bottom of the roster a bit better. Koekkoek and Maatta have gelled on the third pairing, and while neither are world-beaters or even definite NHL players, they’re better options than both Dennis Gilbert or Brent Seabrook right now (sorry, it hurts to say, but it’s true). Both were once again above water in possession tonight, and it’s a bigger deal than you might think to not have to run for the bomb shelter for 12-15 minutes a night when you toss out your third pairing.

To boot tonight, the fourth line came up with two goals, and you’re going to win most times that happens.

-Not a night Keith and Boqvist will want to hang on the wall, as they’re going to struggle with the size the Jets boast. Whatever, they got through it.

-Flip side, Kirby Dach’s line had a great night, capped by Kampf’s goal. Kampf still is wildly a fish out of water playing as a wing on a scoring line but let’s leave that aside for tonight as his goal was the result of what Kirby Dach can be. A 150-foot rush where he looked pretty springy and got to the net and at least caused a rebound. The Hawks have shown the proper patience with Dach even though he hasn’t scored in ages, and you hope tonight’s performance is something he can build on. Certainly fatigue has to be playing a role and the bye will do him good. Wouldn’t mind seeing Caggiula on his line in the future as he’s a puck-retriever who isn’t lost on a scoring line, but that’s another discussion for another time.

-Didn’t notice Patrik Laine until the goalie was pulled. It seems the Jets have done and are doing just about everything they can to bend the team around him, and he’s still giving second-line production. The dude might just be a passenger. Wouldn’t be shocked to hear trade rumors this summer.

-Also their defense blows, and if you miss Tucker Poolman or an aged and swelling Byfuglien that much I can’t help you.

-It would be easy to go pessimistic about this streak–pointing out that the Leafs were about to be on their bye, or that the Ducks, Habs, and Sens suck out loud, or that the Jets are a mess–but these were five games the Hawks had to have. And they got them. They’re still three points out, but now have no other teams to leap. They probably have to play at this pace for a long while to stay in it. But you have to believe there will be a Top Cat binge somewhere around here. And probably the power play will have a good few weeks just because. The goalies will always provide a high floor. And while I’d still bet the Knights and likely the Preds to eventually¬† zoom up the standings, i wouldn’t count on any of the Yotes or Oilers or Canucks to get too far away from the Hawks either.

Basically it’s not going to take acts of God to keep the Hawks at least in it until the end of the season. And hey, it’s more fun and interesting when there’s something riding on the games. So let’s have some fun.