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Atop The Sugar Pile – Oh, What a World

Since about the time the organ-I-zation fired Q, this year has been a Sisyphean attempt to roll the boulder up the hill after slamming your hand in a car door. Except now, with Crawford’s year (and perhaps career) in jeopardy, we’ve got a rabid dog chewing around the crotch, picking at what little usefulness this team has left in it. So let’s.

The Dizzying Highs

Dylan StromeHe’s certainly passed the eye test recently, and he’s got two goals in his last four games to boot. It looks like Colliton is done pretending to throw the ball and then laughing when the dog can’t find it, as Strome has begun skating with Alex DeBrincat and Patrick Kane from the outset recently. The biggest knock against him, his skating, hasn’t been as bad as advertised, and the instincts and hands are there. He’s only 21, and unless Kane’s dad decides that his son is done playing in Chicago, a DeBrincat–Strome–Kane line is something to rebuild around.

The Terrifying Lows

Corey CrawfordWe featured him here last week based on performance. In the two-plus games he played since then, he looked to be working out whatever bugs he had in his system. Sure, a .903 SV% isn’t winning any awards, but he managed to drag the Hawks into three of four points against the Penguins and Jets. And he didn’t look terrible last night against a Sharks team that outclassed the Hawks with all the playfulness of a cat dropping a spider in its water bowl and batting at it while it drowns, waiting for the perfect point of saturation to finally eat it and end its suffering.

But Crow isn’t here for his performance necessarily. He’s here because watching him smack the back of his head against the post because Evander Kane can’t be bothered to do anything like a fucking human being with any understanding of any kind of social contract in any context was by far the worst moment of this foregone fuckfest of a season. He’s confirmed to have a concussion, and with how long and difficult it was for Crow to come back from the last one—which itself occurred on Dec. 23, 2017, because whichever god Crow has bothered adheres to an awful schedule—there are serious questions about whether he comes back at all. Sometimes, hockey just isn’t fucking fair.

Concussion recoveries vary, so it’s possible he’s back this year. You hope he is, because at least with Crow in the net, there were hopes that the Hawks could win a given game. Being elbow deep in this season, I simply can’t get onboard the tank train, even though I understand the sense it makes logically. I still want to watch this team win, even if it hurts their chances at Jack Hughes. So, in that context, watching Crow go down to a concussion again is a double heartbreaker. He wasn’t at the top of his game, but he gave this team hope. Now that he’s gone—at least for a while and in the worst case for good—the light has gone out of our lives.

The Creamy Middles

Connor MurphyYou knew we weren’t going to do this without mentioning my sweet Irish boy, didn’t you? Murphy was never going to be a savior for the Hawks, as that’s simply not his game. He’ll always top out at “good,” but for a team that yearns for “competent” and rarely gets it, Murphy may as well be a savior. He got the primary assist off a point shot yesterday for his first point of the year. He’s slightly above water in CF%, with a 50.31%. He’s playing primarily with Carl Dahlstrom, but no matter whom Murphy’s been paired with, that’s consistently looked like the best pairing on the ice. We’re five games in and it’s safe to say that Murphy’s the Hawks’s best D-man, which, as you all know, isn’t saying much. But it’s hard not to like him, both on and off the ice, and on the ice, he’s looked as good as a tall guy with a bad back can look.

Henri JokiharjuOur other “tops out at ‘good’” D-man, I wanted to be mad at him yesterday for a couple goals. But looking back, Jokiharju has two things working against him: First, he’s 19. We knew the learning curve was going to be steep, and at times, it has been. Second, Duncan Keith—and you’re going to get tired of us reminding you about how much we love him before we dump on him, but with all he’s given this team, he deserves the kisses we blow before the punches we throw—refuses to adjust his playstyle to what his body can do. That often leaves Jokiharju to clean up messes he’s probably not capable of cleaning up yet. Still, over his last four, he’s on the plus side of the possession ledger. His 98.6 PDO on the year probably tells the story for Jokiharju best. I’d love to see what a Murphy–Jokiharju pairing would look like, but the price of admission for that is Keith–Seabrook and Gustafsson–Dahlstrom.  I don’t think any of us have the emotional or physical wherewithal to watch those two snuff films night in and night out.

Dylan SikuraHe’s been a ghost since his call up, but his power recovery, penalty draw, and SOG that led to Brendan Perlini’s goal last night were outstanding, so he gets a mention. He’s probably not much more than a third liner at the end of the day, but that’s fine.

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