PUCK DROP: 6:30pm Central
TV/RADIO: CSN, WGN Radio
Senators War On Ice
It seems a bit cruel of the NHL schedule makers to have the Hawks go out on the road for two straight weeks, get a taste of home for all of three days, and then punt them back up to the Canadian capital (capitale) a mere day later. Quite the tease. But such is the task put before the Hawks, and seeing as how things went pretty well on the road (deserved or not) and didn’t at home on Tuesday, maybe it’s a good way to get their game back on track. Whatever their game might be right now.
What they’ll find across the ice from them in the Senators (Senateurs), well, hard to say as the Sens remain probably the most non-descript Canadian team in the league. They don’t even have a loathable or loud fanbase unless you actually live there.
There’s all-world Erik Karlsson, and basically I can’t tell you anything that Andrew Berkshire doesn’t about him in this article. The Sens require Karlsson to do just about everything on the ice to drive them the right direction, and his occasional defensive foibles can sometimes be chalked up to the weight he carries. He’s an incredible watch, either live or on TV as there just isn’t a better skater in the league. He’s also pretty easy on the eyes, if you didn’t hate him already.
Outside of him, Bobby Ryan is their leading scoring forward (Karlsson is their overall leader), along with dangerous forward you haven’t heard of in Mike Hoffman. Kyle Turris has turned into a #1 center, or at least he’s turned into a really good #2 center that the Sens have to use as a #1 because there’s no one else. Mika Zibanejad remains great for hockey Scrabble, and has 16 points but hasn’t lived up to the promise (and won’t play tonight anyway after Radko Gudas did things you would assume someone named “Radko Gudas” would do). Curtis Lazar is still living off the glow one gets for being on a Canadian junior team that wins gold, and that only lasts for like 15 years north of the border.
Elsewhere on the blue line, well, they just called up Mike Kostka. So I don’t think I need to add much there. Chris Phillips is somehow still here. Wasn’t he trade bait like seven years ago?
The Sens sit third in the Atlantic Division, somehow, one point behind the Wings for second (and what are they doing there anyway?). But it’s pretty illusory. Ottawa is the third worst possession team in the league, just behind the Panthers. They’re not even getting that good of goaltending, as LOCAL BOY WHO DIDN’T GET A GOALIE COACH AS A HAWK IS A STORY YOU SURE WON’T HEAR AGAIN TONIGHT Craig Anderson has about a league average .918 SV%. The Senators are rocking the league’s fourth best shooting percentage at evens at 9.3%. They’re 24th in shots per game but 5th in goals per game. That’s what we call “unsustainable” in the old country. There just aren’t a lot of weapons here.
While the Hawks thought about shaking up their completely borked forward lineup at practice yesterday, the theme coming out of the skate was that they’re going to stick with the current form, at least for a period when it doesn’t work or all game if their consistent second line can score more than once (and that’s been the only hope lately). So Toews will still skate with confused weasels, Dano and Teuvo will look somewhat dangerous while Kruger wonders just how in the hell he got in the offensive zone, and Teuvo will be checking the price of flights back to Finland while skating with Kero and Mashinter until he’s swapped with Kruger for three shifts. Crow gets the start.
The Senators certainly aren’t boring so it’s unlikely they’ll try and slow this down. If their coach Dave Cameron isn’t a complete giblet, he’ll get Turris out against anything that isn’t Keith and Hjalmarsson, which provides the Hawks all sorts of problems. With Zibanejad out that’s only Turris and Stone and Hoffman. They’re probably fast enough to run and gun with this Hawks’ outfit at forward, but certainly not on the blue line.
This could be another trap-like games, because the Hawks have six of the next seven at home and eight of the next 10. You know they’re probably looking at that longingly. But this Sens team, whatever their standing in their division, is certainly gettable.