Game Time: 7:00PM Central
TV/Radio: CSN, WGN-AM 720
Sons Of Flin Flon: Arctic Ice Hockey
Regardless of how long Duncan Keith is suspended for this afternoon- and he will be suspended for at least the remainder of the regular season- the Blackhawks are still in a position wherein they’re for all intents and purposes locked into their playoff spot barring losing the remaining five games or getting a tremendous amount of help from the opponents of the Stars and Blues. And while the former can’t be ruled out, the latter is still an incredibly low probability, as the schedule makers certainly did the Hawks plenty of favors by putting batting practice like the long out-of-it Jets on the schedule for the home stretch.
There’s nothing really different about the Jets as a team since the Hawks were last at the MTS Center two weeks ago, other than the fact that Tyler Myers has been shutdown for the remainder of the year to get a jump on recovering from both knee and hip surgeries. Because knee surgeries tend to work out so well for really tall guys. As usual, there is some size and speed here for the Jets, and Paul Maurice isn’t an imbecile, but there’s just simply not enough depth and somehow Kevin Chevyldayoff manages to keep his job. Blake Wheeler might be the most underrated force of nature in the league this year, and could have very well been the reason his former linemate Andrew Ladd was so productive with the Thrashers/Jets. Naturally, Wheeler is a former lottery pick whom the Bruins traded away. It was for Rich Peverley (sky point) in 2011, who was a good player and a contributor on a Cup team, but looking at what the 6’6″, 230 lb Wheeler is doing basically by himself on a wing these days (69 points, 55.2% share) , it’s once again hard to not point and laugh at the Bruins for making a fucking imbecilic trade. In Bryan Little’s absence, Mark Scheifele has scored 19 points in the month of March centering Wheeler, second only to Sidney Crosby for the month. Brandon Tanev, Chris’ younger brother, fresh off signing at the conclusion of Dartmouth’s NCAA season, will make his NHL debut tonight.
Ondrej Pavalec starts in goal for the Jets tonight, and he is as a general rule very bad. His .907 save percentage is far more reflective of the results of his career so far despite being a very athletic goalie capable of making acrobatic saves. Regardless, the Jets cannot wait to be rid of his millstone of a contract and give the reins full time next year to Connor Hellebuyck.
As for the Men of Four Feathers, Keith’s absence along with Marian Hossa’s tonight should have little bearing on the Hawks’ ability to deal with these Jets. But then again, gaining two points tonight has little bearing on the Hawks’ station in the Western Conference either. At 103 points, the Stars need just 3 points to salt away the division from at least the Hawks. The Blues get the Bruins at home tonight, who themselves are in the midst of another late-season pants shitting. Should the Blues win, it’d put them in the same spot with the Hawks on the precipice of failing to get any kind of home ice. On the other end of the spectrum, the Preds can max out at 99 points and the Hawks currently sit at 95 with 5 to play (4 for the Preds). So basically the outcome of this game doesn’t matter a damn bit, and it’s not even against an opponent where the team could be observed to make any kind of qualitative improvements.
Tomas Fleischmann continues to he Joel Quenneville’s Czech Army Knife, and takes Marian Hossa’s spot with Toews and Ladd, and Dale Weise will get back into the mix on Teuvo’s right, along with Manshitter because he’ll surely make a difference. Artem Anisimov also will draw back in after missing two games.
On the blue line, Keith’s absence creates a void that is simply vomit inducing. Teflon Van Riemsdyk will join Niklas Hjalmarsson, where it’s at least it’s clear that he’ll be in charge of providing any kind of puck movement on that pairing. Bottomless Pete returns and will be paired with Viktor Scalibrene, where both can get ragdolled by Wheeler all night long in the corners. Erik Gustafsson and Michal Rozsival form the third pair, which would be fine if the two pairings above them weren’t hot garbage. This will all take place once again in front of Scott Darling.
There is no good reason to watch this game other than an intense desire to punish one’s self or being a pathological sycophant for this Organ-I-Zation. There is nothing to be learned here and there are no style points to be earned.