It’s the good, the bad, and the moderately acceptable in the world of the Blackhawks this week…
The Dizzying Highs
Drake Caggiula: Two goals in two games from Caligula earns him a spot in the Highs this week. The first came when he was on the top line against Columbus, and the second came during his stint on the bottom line against Washington, off a great pass from Alex Nylander, showing that while Caggiula is really a bottom six guy, he is producing throughout the lineup (such as it is) right now, so more power to him.
The Third Line: Saad-Kampf-Kubalik is the real deal. Every time they’ve played together they’ve dominated possession, and they can score to boot (example: third goal against the Capitals Sunday). Whether it’s stats or the eye test, they’re passing it. It feels like a resurgence for Saad as well, as he finds a place in the lineup where he can make an impact without all the outsized expectations. Luckily Beto O’Colliton seems to have realized this as well and is keeping them together so far.
The Terrifying Lows
Erik Gustafsson: To be honest, there are a lot of guys on this team that could be here right now. But I don’t make the rules, and I can’t put the entire team in the Terrifying Lows (yet), so we’re going with Gus, who’s been demoted to the third pairing and is still managing to suck balls. He’s had four assists but most of them were a couple weeks ago, he’s got no goals, his possession numbers are underwater, and Calvin de Haan has had to drag his ass around because Keith and Murphy are a more trustworthy pairing then Keith and Gus. Plus, de Haan is an actual defenseman and Gus clearly needs a babysitter. QB’ing the power play was his only redeeming quality and that hasn’t resulted in much of anything lately. We’ve been saying sell high…
The Penalty Kill: As of this writing it was 28th in the league. Same as it ever was.
Pat Foley: Whatta jamoke. Not only did he make a mildly sexist comment about female hockey players’ appearance, but he did it mere weeks after making a mildly racist comment about a player’s name. There isn’t much I can add to what Pullega and Sam have already said, but ultimately it’s up to the Blackhawks as to whether they want to deal with the Hawk Harrelson level of dumbassery that’s clearly here to stay (and I say this as a lifelong Sox fan with many fond memories of Hawk calling games throughout my childhood).
The Creamy Middles
Goaltending: So we’ve all been waiting to see how the Crawford-Lehner duopoly would work out and…it’s too early to say that one guy has the hot hand and the other doesn’t. To be fair though, Lehner looked outstanding earlier in the weekend against the Blue Jackets with a .949 SV%. Crawford has been a little shakier, with an .862 SV% against the Capitals on Sunday but a great performance against the Oilers before that (.964). A few of the goals by the Caps can’t really be blamed on Crawford (e.g, Wilson’s goal when Seabrook was actually interfered with and didn’t just fall on his ass on his own, for once), yet he hasn’t always been sharp. To be clear, I am not advocating to bench Crawford. I am just pointing out that the goaltending has been a mix of great and mediocre and so we’re still waiting to see how this goes.
Kirby Dach: Yes, it’s the smallest of sample sizes, so let’s just be up front about that. But Dach was thrown into the deep end immediately and handled it well. At least, he didn’t cause any problems or make anything worse. And he had a beautiful pass to Kane that should have been a goal on the backhand (I think Kane wasn’t expecting such a spot-on pass), some quality backchecking, and even put his babyface in the right place at the right time to draw a four-minute penalty (the fact that the Hawks ended up DOWN after that wasn’t really his fault). There’s not much else to commend him for, but he wasn’t bad.
Alexander Nylander: I’m being fair here, everyone, give me some credit. You know I don’t like him and will hold against him something that he can’t control (being traded for a player I think is better). However, Nylander had two assists on Sunday against the Capitals and even got elevated from the fourth line (which was actually clicking quite well so no shit-talking here about the fourth line). Over the weekend he’s had a 53 CF% and has generally been helpful wherever Colliton has put him. Small sample size again, but it’s taking the sting out of that trade right now.