RECORDS: Stars 31-19-4 Hawks 24-21-8
PUCK DROP: 7:30
TV: NBCSN Chicago
NORTH DALLAS 40: Defending Big D
I’m tired of saying it. You’re tired of reading it. So let’s skip it. Let’s just ask the Hawks to play another good game, which they have been for the most part lately, but actually finish more chances and get a win. Just one. Whatever they’re going to do, or pretend to do, or fool themselves into doing, is going to start with one win. Or it’s just Daffy Duck in the car that Bugs already pulled the one pin out of and is just falling apart around him as he grips the wheel. Of course, a win over the Stars would be a first this year.
The Stars have taken off a bit, and now only sit one point behind the Blues for the third spot in the Central for the last automatic spot, and they have a game in hand. That’s about as high as they can climb, as they have played two more games than the Preds. Then again, that would assume the Preds ever really “turn it on,” despite their standing. But that’s another discussion or another time.
The big factor for the Stars, as you might have guessed with Jabba The Hitch behind the bench, has been the defense. They’re fifth in the league in goals against, third in shots-against, second in even-strength attempts against, and sixth in scoring chances per 60 against. Clearly, Hitch has gotten his paws out of the donut box and into the Stars psyche. They’ve gotten good enough play at least from both THE BISHOP! and Kari Lehtonen, but unlike previous Stars teams they haven’t asked them to do too much. And this is what you get when you do that.
The forwards are still a touch messy. They have a wicked awesome (?) top line of Benn-Seguin-Radulov, which Hitch has tried to break up at times to spread things out. But they’re too good together to do that for too long. Jason Spezza decomposing and thrown something of a wrench in the plan, but Radek Faksa’s grabbed the second center role finally so they’re not as dependent on him. Janmark, Ritchie, and Shore have contributed here and there without quite breaking through, but again, they’ve been enough.
The real strength of the Stars is the blue line. John Klingberg’s 44 assists and glittering metrics should have him at the top of the Norris discussion. Esa Lindell has turned into the perfect partner for him. Perhaps Hitch’s greatest miracle is turning the pairing of Dan Hamhuis and Greg Pateryn into his shutdown one, though Pateryn is something of his Cody Franson at this point. The jig will be up soon enough. Stephen Johns and Julius Honka have been a great third pairing, which will make for something of a headache when Marc Methot is ready to return. Hitch still loves a veteran, after all. The first pairing of Lindell and Klingberg and the third pairing of Johns and Honka (HONKA! HONKA!) dominate possession, and the second one soaks up whatever pressure is around. 1-6 it’s hard to find a better unit outside of Nashville.
For the Hawks, shouldn’t be too many changes. Connor Murphy is no longer sick, so he should slot in for Jan Rutta (and in our dreams, Brent Seabrook). Anton Forsberg should get the net back. But as for lineup changes there isn’t a lot to be done. The Hawks didn’t play badly on Tuesday, they just didn’t finish or get any luck. We know Q likes the look of three of the four lines, and does it really matter what you do with Saad-Hartman-Sharp at this point? No, no it does not.
Let’s not treat this as some referendum. One win isn’t going to change anything. Fuck, three wins on the spin isn’t going to do much. It would just be nice to enjoy a Hawks game again. It’s been a bit, probably since Nashville. Start there, and we’ll figure out the rest later.
Game #54 Preview