RECORDS: Stars 29-33-10 Hawks 47-20-6
PUCK DROP: 7:30pm
YU DARVISH FAN CLUB: Defending Big D
TEAM ADJUSTED CORSI%: Stars – 49.3 (2oth) Hawks – 50.8 (11th)
TEAM ADJUSTED xGF%: Stars – 48.3 (20th) Hawks – 49.2 (18th)
POWER PLAY: Stars – 18.1 (19th) Hawks – 19.1 (15th)
PENALTY KILL: Stars – 74.0 (Dead Ass Last) Hawks – 77.7 (26th)
What a strange little stretch for the Hawks. They saw teams at the top of the standings, didn’t play well for the most part, won all of them. They returned home to face two things from the bog in the Avs and Canucks, and had to pull a rabbit out of their hat to get a win and a point against them respectively. So where their attention level is going to be tonight is best estimated by throwing a dart at any wall in your office/apartment (and if you’re wondering if I really mean “coworker” instead of “wall”… I leave that to you). They get another look at sludge tonight in the Dallas Stars.
We’ll start with the Hawks, because it’s more fun that way. There are only one or two lineup changes, as it looks like TOOTBLAN will come in for Jurco for reasons. Rasmussen looks like he’ll stick around, and neither Ebenholts och Elfenben will need to be put in carbon freeze for a night. The major story, though I guess “major” should go in quotes, is that Ryan Hartman will stay at center between The Style Boyz tonight, an experiment we saw in the second half of the game against Vancouver.
Look, on one hand this is the time to “try shit.” The Hawks have the division basically sewed up, they’re going to have home-ice against the Sharks (because that’s who’s coming out of the Pacific don’t even play), and it’s probably getting way ahead of yourself to worry about home ice against the Caps, Pens, or Habs, or whatever else. So if you want to experiment, there’s little consequence now, especially against the Stars.
On the other, there’s always the fear that Joel Quenneville will bring his Dr. Weird moments to when it matters. Oh hi there, scratching-Teuvo-and-Vermett-in-Game 3. And I see you there making-Toews-a-4th-line-center-against-the-Bruins. We could go on. None of these put the Hawks to the sword, but it did have them dangling over the precipice when it wasn’t wholly necessary.
There is nothing in Hartman’s game that suggests he belongs in the middle. Being defensively responsible as a winger is a different animal than doing so at center. I don’t really care about faceoffs, but he’s not going to win any more than Chicken Fat is. I get that with Schmaltz in the middle that line gets awfully light in the ass and Hartman is a far superior puck-winner, so that’s the theory I guess. I just feel like you’re in for of a night of Hartman looking around guessing where he’s supposed to be instead of just letting loose as he’s done most of the year.
As for the Stars… the season is lost and they’re playing out the string. They’re going to have some decisions to make when it’s all over. Sharp, Hemsky, and Hudler all come off the books giving them some $12 million to play with, with a few RFAs to bring back that shouldn’t be that expensive. They’re going to have to solve this goaltending problem they’ve had for two seasons now, and it’s probably going to involve eating money to send Niemi to back someone up somewhere (and don’t be shocked if it’s right here). Signing Bishop is a quick-fix that could land them right back where they are now. Trading for Fleury or Howard could as well. A home for Scott Darling? The Chicago-to-Dallas highway is well-traveled.
As for right now, Ales Hemsky has returned to compliment what is still a pretty deep crop of forwards, even after flogging Patrick Eaves and his spiking shooting-percentage and not having Janmark all season. Antoine Roussel will miss out and Jason Spezza isn’t likely to make it either. And naturally after I spotlighted him to show his under-the-radar improvement Stephen Johns will be healthy scratched again because Lindy Ruff no longer can find any light switches.
You know the drill here. The Stars have no reason to lock it up now, so this one should be plenty open. But they don’t have the blue line or the goaltending to hold up, whatever the shutout of the Sharks in their last game teaches us about Chaos Theory.The one threat is that Lehtonen has been doubling up his solid efforts the past couple months before falling apart for two or three games, so the Hawks might get goalie’d again as they did on Tuesday. Then again, this is Kari Lehtonen.
Another day off the calendar already makes it something of a win for the Hawks. Adding points to it can only help.