Since our last installment of Sugar Pile, the Hawks went on a bus ride from hell and the outcome was, well, let’s just say they kinda got kicked in the dick. Crawford in particular actually did sustain a groin injury and then had to rush his return, thanks to a combination of shitty defense, Forsberg’s bad luck, and Q acting like a skittish horse that bolts for safety at the first sign of trouble. Benchings, a call-up from the AHL, really these last couple weeks have had it all. So how does it all look from this vantage point?
The Dizzying Highs
Alex DeBrincat: Against all odds, Top Cat has muscled his way not only onto the Hawks roster as opposed to the Ice Hogs, but also into the top six where he undoubtedly belongs, regardless of Q’s predilections. DeBrincat has eight points in his last seven games, including the popping of his hat trick cherry against the Ducks a couple weeks ago. With a total of 21 points, he’s our second-leading scorer right now, behind only Garbage Dick. And that means (in case you forgot) that he’s leading Toews and Saad in scoring. I’d also like to point out that his last goal even came on the power play, which has been a damn near impossible feat for any of the Hawks (but more about that in a minute).
Up until last week, DeBrincat was on a line with Sharp and Hartman and he still made a difference despite their inability to keep up with him, and in his 4-point hat trick game he took advantage of changes to score with better players than his linemates. All that meant that when Q hit the blender he was eventually forced to land on a Saad-Toews-DeBrincat top line. Now, one would expect that his 22.6 shooting percentage is going to plateau a bit in the near future, but up to this point he’s earned every one of these opportunities, despite the moronic, barely controlled tendencies of his coach.
The Terrifying Lows
The Power Play: I won’t dwell here for long because you know how bad the power play is. But still, I’d be remiss if I left it out because there is no low more terrifying right now than the Hawks on the man advantage. Their power play percentage is 15.83, which puts them at a dismal 29th in the league. What’s worse is that they’ve had 120 pp opportunities, still leading the league here and yet still managing to be so terrible. They’ve had 19 pp goals thus far (remember, that’s out of 5,824 chances), and there’s little evidence to suggest it’ll get better soon. Their zone entries fail constantly, their personnel is ever-changing, and guys are on their wrong side (or, in the case of Kane on the point, just in the wrong role all together). It really is quite the remarkable dumpster fire right now.
The Creamy Middles
Connor Murphy: Murphy is slowly becoming the defenseman we need him to be, and who we thought he could be when we made the Hjalmarsson switcheroo. Seeing as the latter isn’t even playing right now due to injury, we’re definitely on the better end of things. But it was a rocky start, and Q still hasn’t brought Murphy into the circle of trust. But he’s adjusted well on his wrong side (is it really “wrong” if he’s playing well? Whatever), and his puck movement has improved as of late. He’s still taking mostly offensive zone starts (53.5 oZS%), but his CF% is a healthy 57.4. Let’s keep this going.