Well here’s a week to analyze. Clocked twice by actual real teams (neither of which is higher than third in their division though, so that’s fun!), and then getting past two dregs with 13 goals combined. Let’s do the thing:
The Dizzying Highs
Brandon Saad – Two goals and four points in four games might not sound like much, but it’s a little more than that. Also, Saad being a point per game and goals in every other would be a very fine season, obviously. What’s drawing my eye to The General is that possession-wise, he’s been flattening everyone in front of him. He threw up 70%+ Corsi against both the Devils and Jackets, and even in the loss to Boston where he was under water he was actually well ahead of the team-rate. Only last night was he below what the team was doing, and he managed two points anyway.
It would seem Saad has found a home on a third-line, which is obviously not what anyone pictured when he was brought back. I’m still a big proponent of putting him back in the top-six after he’s had his longest stretch of dominant hockey in these two seasons, just to see what he can do with better talent and the gained confidence. But he’s a weapon to have there where most teams can’t defend him, and if you were to swap him with say Kahun you’d only get the proper defensive work on a third line without any of the dash. That would probably work better when David Kampf is back in the lineup. Perhaps most impressive about this little streak is that Saad basically has had to create all his own offense (with a little help from Dylan Sikura, who needs a goal to validate the good work he’s been doing), which is something we’ve cudgeled him with before.
As we’ve said, it’s probably past time to give up on what you thought Saad could be, or ever winning that trade. That doesn’t mean Saad isn’t useful, and very much so, and you’ll find life easier if you just appreciate what the Hawks have. That probably won’t stop his name in trade rumors in the summer, and maybe that will be something the Hawks have to do to get what they really need. For now, let’s leave it.
The Terrifying Lows
Carl Dahlstrom – The numbers look ok on Dahlstrom, at least the last two games do. But these are ones you have to get past the numbers and see with your eyes. And it’s horribly unfair on Dahlstrom, who went from in and out of the IceHogs lineup to taking on the dungeon shifts and assignments with Connor Murphy after like a game and a half up in the big league. He is not cut out for this, and you can even have a debate whether he’s cut out for more than #6 or #7 duty. Still, there have been some ugly, ugly shifts.
Dahlstrom isn’t as slow as you might think, but that doesn’t mean he’s fast. And while he’s shown a willingness the past two or three games to try and skate himself out of trouble, sometimes the results have been icky. And that’s not even the main problem, as he’s been wildly chasing out of position, ending up in a corner or behind the net when the puck isn’t there anymore. Perhaps he thinks he needs to be the aggressive one with Connor Murphy more built for the safety role, but that doesn’t mean he’s built for it. The Hawks and Dahlstrom don’t have much choice because this is what they have, but there are going to be more shifts and nights like these as we finish up whatever the hell this is.
The Creamy Middles
Alex DeBrincat – It might be a tad harsh on someone to describe their seven-point week as merely par for the course, but despite what a whole lot of scouts trying to cover their ass think, DeBrincat being a premier scorer in this league is just the facts of the case. He’s now 10th in goals in the league, and has an outside shot at getting 40 this year. You could look at his 18% shooting-percentage as wonder if it’s not a touch lucky, but that’s not that much beyond his 15.5% last year when he was rookie. Some would probably want to dismiss most of his total on merely being dunks from the left circle. But if it were so easy, wouldn’t everyone do it? The kid scores. He gets where he has to without anyone noticing, and he finishes. Now imagine what he could do in a season where he’s taking as many shots as Kane is this year (currently 240 for Kane and 170 for Top Cat). And seeing as how he’ll be playing for a contract next year, it might only get better (and William Nylander‘s deal is probably making Stan Bowman awfully sweaty).