RECORDS: Wild 16-12-5 Hawks 12-15-6
PUCK DROP: 6pm
TV: NBCSN Chicago
BEYOND THE WALL: Hockey Wilderness
Well, should be quite the tasty atmosphere at the United Center this evening, no?
Tonight is all about finding out if this is bottom or not. The Hawks will be in front of what has to be a cantankerous home crowd after their worst loss of the season last night (which is saying something, given the variety of defeats already on offer). And it might not be all that full, though it probably won’t be anywhere near Bulls-levels (yet). Any sign of more incompetence is going to be met with boos and a hearty amount, you would think. Have the Hawks ever faced that from their fans? Their previous seasons have mostly been met with indifference. This will not be that.
And it’s really about how the team responds to not just that. After a crushing setback and their recent form, we’ll know if they have totally quit tonight. Or do they still have some professional pride left, which can be just called fear of embarrassment, and scrape together something to at least let everyone know they aren’t in fact dead? They may hate the coach, they may think the front office has steered them wrong, but surely they don’t want to keep getting their dicks kicked in and save some face? If they can’t manage anything beyond limp for most of the contest tonight, major changes have to be made the very next day. They won’t be, but they’ll need to be. If you’ve ever wished for Jonathan Toews – Player/Coach, you just might get it Monday.
As for the Wild, this nothing squad has managed to go 14 games with only one loss in regulation, going 9-1-4 and zooming up the standings to the fringe of the playoff spots. They’ve overcome inevitability catching up with Devan Dubnyk, and then injury, and have made do with Alex Stalock and Kaapo Kahkonen. They’ve have a revitalized and healthy Parise scoring goals. Somehow Eric Staal is still a genuine #1 center, and Jason Zucker is also pouring them in.
And once again Bruce Boudreau has employed a system that is fine with giving up attempts and shots from the outside, but gives up very few quality chances. The Wild are a middling at best Corsi team, but have the second best xGA/60 in the league. They can’t create a ton, but they don’t give up much and are more than happy to collapse to the middle of their zone and let you have it on the perimeter. What an interesting idea. When the chance comes, they will get up the ice off turnovers and mistakes and have the d-men to join in as well in Suter, Dumba, Spurgeon (when healthy) and Brodin. And even if Boudreau’s “structure” at times gets loose, his charges show up every night and skate hard because they have to.
In the end, it’s not likely to go anywhere, but he usually gets the most out of what he has. The Wild can’t ask for much more, as they try to figure out how to transition their next phase.
For the Hawks, there aren’t that many lineup changes they can make. Robin Lehner will start. Alex Nylander should be thrown into a trash pile somewhere along Damen Avenue, but it seems orders from on high will dictate that he be jammed into the lineup in the faint hope that he magically turns into something. Dylan Sikura should be back in the lineup, but he’s run afoul of both coach and front office in just two games it seems.
If Colliton were really going to go down swinging, he’d promote Boqvist with Murphy and put Dach in between Saad and Kubalik. Why? Because you’re already suffering lapses defensively and missed checks and turnovers, so how much worse can the kids be than what the vets have given him? What are we hanging onto here? If it’s time to move on from what came before, and it is, why wait around? Want to make sure you’re in dead last first?
Really curious to see how the whole organization responds to this weekend. Something tells me they won’t be able to stick their head in the sand much longer.