It would seem a near impossible task to ferret out who should stand atop the pile in a week when the Hawks have lost every game, a couple in bad fashion and a couple in heartbreaking fashion. But that is our charge, and why you come here, dear reader. Because we run the hard miles over the tough obstacles. Or something. Anyway…
The Dizzying Highs
Jonathan Toews, I guess? – I suppose it’s symbolic in a way. At a time when we thought we’d seen the last of Jonathan Toews bending a game to his will, to take over pretty much every shift and pretty much force a win from his team, he can’t do it. Not because the effort wasn’t enough, because it was. It’s just too much to ask one person on this team to lift it above the morass it’s created for itself. I’m sure afterwards, Patrick Kane looked at him, put an arm on his shoulder and said, “Y’see?” The numbers aren’t wholly impressive, as Toews racked up two goals and three points in the four games. But if you watched the games, especially in Vegas, it was a glimpse of what Tazer used to be every night. Winning every puck battle, forcing the puck up the ice and toward the net, creating things out of sheer want-to. It’s comforting to know that it’s still in the chamber. It’s dispiriting that the final amount of bullets, however many there may be, are wasted on this outfit. Will there be any left when it matters again?
The Terrifying Lows
Corey Crawford – It hurts more and more to keep doing this. But we can’t run from it. .901 is .901. And while he has no defense in front of him, there are other goalies in the league facing almost as many good chances as Crow is and doing more with them. David Rittich, for example, as the same xSV% at evens as Crow. His ES SV% is .943. Crow’s is .903.
It is a herculean task, what Crawford has been asked to do, of course. Step in from 10 months out in THE GREY and then stabilize a Hawks team that essentially looks like kindergarten recess in its own zone. Where was Andreas Martinsen going last night and what was he doing out there with a minute to go? Another time for that question.
Crow let the Hawks down in Vegas when they had actually fought well and played better and deservedly had taken the lead. Same in Anaheim. It’s not good enough. And maybe this was always going to be part of the process, that his recovery would be longer and uglier than we anticipated, and more to the point, hoped. Maybe the new pad restrictions are also combining with everything else to make for hard adjustments. The rebound control would suggest. But the Hawks simply aren’t getting a save right now. And against the Ducks and Canadiens last night, he wasn’t tasked with an abnormal load.
Thankfully, there’s basically nothing riding on this season now, and the Hawks can spend it finding out if Crow can be saved (he almost certainly will round out again sometime) or whether they start have to plan for a transition of influence to Collin Delia (who’s seeing a similar workload in Rockford so at least they’re training him well).
The Creamy Middles
Patrick Kane – I’m not sure he cares. I’m not sure he’s got the patience to see out whatever this is (I know his dad doesn’t and he’s calling the shots). And there are still shifts where you can tell the give-a-shit meter has collected at the bottom. But he still makes goals happen, as he racked up points all three games this week and had two goals last night to bring the Hawks back into it. While we weren’t looking he’s back up over a point-per-game, which is mightily impressive considering some of the linemates he’s been dragging around at times. Some think this could be the end of his time here. or we’re starting that path. I’m not so sure. And there will be a lot of writing to be done if it is.