Game Time: 6:00 CST
TV/Radio: WGN Ch. 9, WGN-AM 720
Housing Crisis: Fear The Fin
As the Hawks continue on this absolutely brutal stretch of the schedule which as salted the earth on an already napalmed season, tonight they welcome a presently underachieving Sharks team to West Madison.
Christmas came in September in San Jose when they acquired the prize of the off season in all world-defenseman Erik Karlsson, and they had to give up a big bag of tripe to get him, even if it’s only for this year, as Karlsson is set to break the bank as an unrestricted free agent this summer. To this point, Karlsson is well off his goal scoring pace which can likely be attributed to his only 1.9% shooting percentage, as opposed to his customary 7-ish percent in his peak years. He’s on pace to be right where he needs in terms of shots on goal, so it could just be a case of being snakebitten. Either way, in being paired mostly with Brenden Dillon, as he’s slated to start with tonight, the pair flip the ice at a 60% rate, though the do have the advantage of having the veteran pairing of Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun take the dungeon shifts in the human shield role. This also allows shaved yeti Brent Burns to run free and bum slay, which he’s been doing a fine job of, and is fifth in the league among defensemen in points, and third in assists with 27.
Up front for the Sha-arks, the forward corps boasts the usual cast of stalwarts, oddly named childen, and in the case of Evander Kane complete fucking jagoffs. Joe Pavelski leads the team with 20 goals, and has even moved back to center for the time being, which has slotted Joe Thornton down to the third line, which makes sense as his scoring production has dropped precipitously at age 39 with only 5 goals and 8 assists. Jumbo is still a load and is incredibly smart with the puck, and boasts a 58% share of shot attempts when on the ice, so there are worse options to have than him as a checking center. Timo Meier and Logan Couture have found some chemistry together in between, and Meier is on pace to obliterate last year’s goal total of 21 with 18 already. Jumping from shooting 10% to 18% certainly has plenty to do with that, but he is getting a half a shot more on net per game this year as well.
The real issue keeping the Sharks stuck in 3rd gear (and third place in the Pacific) has been the play of Martin Jones, whose .901 overall and .896 at even strength aren’t going to cut it anywhere, let alone on a team a) built to dominate territorially at evens and then cash in on the power play, and b) has championship aspirations. Aaron Dell has been no better in 4 appearances with an identical .901 overall, and an only slightly less horrible .915 at even strength. If neither of them are able to get right between now and the end of February, the oranger-than-Ditka Doug Wilson may have to pull the trigger on some outside help in net, though what any of those options might be at this point is left for serious debate, and the Sharks only have a minimum of cap space, so something would have to come off the present payroll for any kind of real splash.
As for the Men of Four Feathers, they’re apparently in the business of moral victories now, as they actually took a lead in a second straight game, didn’t lose in regulation thanks to a last second goal, and didn’t get completely clowned by the Jets seeming never ending waves of forwards. As a result there likely should not be too many lineup changes, and the fewer Brandons that are in everyone’s lives, the better, with Carl Dahlstrom already looking the part two games in and getting trusted with more minutes with Our Big Irish Boy.
The Sharks play at a slightly more methodical pace than rest of what are considered other Cup contenders in the league, but the amount of push they get from the back end with being able to have Karlsson and Burns out there against middle-to-bottom six forwards more than makes up for that. Combine that with a goalie who can’t stop a medicine ball, and this is a better matchup than it looks like for the Hawks, so it’s possible they could jump up and surprise the Sharks further hastening Martin Jones ticket to oblivion. Anything’s possible.
Game #35 Preview Suite