Game Time: 7:00PM CST
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720
Wabbit Season: Anaheim Calling
After the absolute shit show that was last night on Figeuroa, the Hawks venture a bit south to complete the Southern California two-step, and hope they don’t once again trip over their own dicks on their way to hell.
For the Ducks, they’ve been keeping things together with dried snot and goaltending, as pretty much everyone has been hurt either long term or intermittently, but somehow Dallas Eakins has this team 9-6-0. Most of that has been thanks to John Gibson, who has been in net for 6 of those 9 wins, and sports a .926 overall and .935 at evens. Ryan “Ian Curtis” Miller has settled quite nicely in his dotage as a spot starting backup as well, giving the Ducks an even bette .929 overall and .949 at evens. Combined at all strengths the duo have produced a .926, good for third in the league, and it’s certainly been good enough to prop up this island of misfit toys. Gibson will get the start tonight, and will surely thrwart whatever minimal attack the Hawks are able to throw at him.
In front of Gibson is a blue line that recently acquired Erik Gudbrandson on purpose in the absence of Josh “Yes, that’s actually Dave’s kid” Manson. As difficult as it is to believe, Manson The Younger is actually a solid puckmover when he’s upright, which is not something Gudbrandson has been able to claim in any of his now four stops in the league. Fortunately for him, he only has to play free safety to blog favorite Hampus Lindholm on the top pairing. Eakins has the duo taking the dungeon shifts and to this point they haven’t really flipped the ice much, but in two games they’ve only been on for one even strength goal against. That leaves Cam Fowler and Michael del Zotto to push the play from the second pairing with heavily tilted zone starts. It’s not an ideal pairing as Fowler is the better puck mover and defender, but given del Zotto’s wanderings (when he’s not texting porn actresses), he’s left to cover for his messes. The third pairing for this evening appears to be rookie Josh Mahura in his third game ever punished with Korbinian Holzer as his partner.
Up front, Ryan Getzlaf is still drifting through his responsibilities as the Ducks’ number 1 center, and at 34 whatever footspeed he still has left or deigns worth using is spotty at best. The vision and strength on the puck aren’t going away, but it’s always a question of just how engaged he feels like being on a nightly basis. He’s been given some relatively speedy wingers with Ondrej Kase hurt in Nick Ritchie and Max Comtois to make up for this, but the line as a whole has gotten shelled territorially in their couple games together. The second line of Rickard Rakell and Jakob Silvferberg flanking Adam Henrique is the real issue here, with all three able to move and finish, while not necessarily drawing the top assignments from the opposition. The Ducks bottom six has a bunch of names that look vaguely familiar like Max Jones and Nicholas Deslauriers, but no one outside of even the Ducks organization or its fans can honestly say that they’ve seen any of them actually play, and even within that grouping it’s probably a toss up.
As for the Men of Four Feathers, the hemorrhaging simply will not stop. For about 8 minutes this team looked like it could potentially flirt with competence defensively with Duncan Keith re-engaged partnered with Connor Murphy, but then Murphy got hurt, which is a thing he does often, and there has been no turnicate over the last 3 games, where the Hawks have surrendered 229 attempted shots, 139 of which hit the net. Last night’s showing was the most insulting, as the Kings, while decent in their possession metrics, had just come off surrendering 49 shots at home to the Canucks and their single competent forward line. There is simply no excuse for what Coach Kelvin Gemstone has been trying to pass off as a “high pressure” defensive system. As has been said before, the fact that running a system like that with this (admittedly poorly constructed) blue line shows that he’s either arrogant, oblivious, stupid, or a combination of all three. The Magic Training Camp that was promised to allay any defensive concerns has only made things worse from last year. There’s not a soul alive who can look at the Islanders’ (who have won 9 straight) and their roster of skaters and think it’s superior to what the Hawks potentially have, especially considering they’re getting basically equivalent goaltending given the quality of chances the Hawks yield. The difference is that Barry Trotz has that team bought in given his pedigree, and while it’s boring as fuck, he presents a structure that makes sense given his team’s limitations. Even if Alpo Colliton had a coherent trap in his Toolbox Of Concepts, he doesn’t have any of the cache in the room to get anyone there to buy in, especially not after the shit he pulled this week. This team is less than the sum of its parts because their coach is a clueless dipshit, the end.
At this point the only wish anyone can have for the Hawks is for them to not get utterly embarrassed, and even that’s a tall order. There is no telling what the lines and pairings will look like with no morning skate other than Robin Lehner will get the start in net even after last night’s weird concussion protocol do-see-do. All told however, it’s probably a better choice to just watch Watchmen instead, it’s far more likely to give the viewer a more optimistic view on humanity that whatever this is going to be.