A 1–4–0 road trip in the throes of a playoff hunt does not inspire confidence. And whatever confidence you had in this team should be revealed as false based on one roster decision. A win may have kept whatever telltale heart we still have for this team beating. But looking up at six points and down the barrel of a hell trip at the end of the month makes the idea of a playoff berth even less sustainable than the style of play Colliton has this team adhere to night in and night out. Let’s mop this mess up.
– The most telling move the Blackhawks made tonight was starting Nick Seeler over Adam Boqvist. Boqvist had a bad game last night. On a team whose fate and direction aren’t as nebulous as the Hawks’s, you understand that move at least a little bit. But starting Seeler over Boqvist in a must-win game (as pretty much all of these games will be going forward) is the most concrete evidence that the front office truly, unironically believes that this is a playoff-caliber roster.
This is the kind of move you make when you earnestly believe that you are just a roster tweak away from making the playoffs. Had this team fully committed to grooming the next core, they would have chalked Boqvist’s night last night up to “being fucking 19.” Instead, in a game they had to win, they slotted Seeler—who was about as good as you could have hoped—over what is supposed to be the defenseman of the future for this team.
If you had any doubt about what this team thinks it is—and you should, since they’ve claimed there is no plan, only a process—tonight should have made it clear. The front office thinks this team can eke into the playoffs. We should judge everything it does from here on out on that basis. If this were a team that realized the chance to make a real run passed them by before last night’s game, you’d have seen Boqvist out there trying to learn from his mistakes. We didn’t, so we can only assume that they believe this is a playoff roster.
It’s not, and when they don’t make the playoffs, everyone should be fired for that failure.
– But hey, the Blackhawks still have the high-end talent that lays the foundation of a playoff team. And it all starts and ends with Patrick Kane, who kept the Hawks in it with two outstanding plays.
On Carpenter’s goal, you got a look at why Patrick Kane will go down in history as the best player to ever lace them up for the Blackhawks. He charged up the near boards, shook Pionk out of his skates around the dot, then fired a bad-angle pass from the goal line that crawled up Carpenter’s stick and in. You’re not going to see plays like that for years from the Hawks after Kane retires.
– On the Hawks’s second goal, you saw Kane do Kane things and Toews do Toews things, dropping a perfect pass through two defenders in the slot. But the thing that ought to impress most was Dominik Kubalik’s patience on the play.
Kubalik draws Kulikov to him with his patience, giving Toews the half step he needed to streak past. Then, Kubalik feathered a pass that gave Toews the chance to drop his perfect pass back. The Hawks have found something special in Kubalik, and when he’s given the chance, he usually delivers.
– There’s not anything Corey Crawford can do about giving up three redirected goals. The only one you can probably even be mad about would be the first goal, and you wouldn’t be mad at Crawford. You’d be mad at the Hawks’s inability to clear the puck and allowing sustained pressure. But you’ve heard that song too many times before now.
Tonight was a perfect representation of what the Hawks are. They’re a high-end talent team that needs every puck bounce to go right to win games. They had three bad bounces and lost. But the fact that they’re benching their D-man of the future for performance shows that they really think this is a playoff team with a tweak here and a healthy scratch there.
It’s a different story if the Hawks go into this game with six points instead of two. But they didn’t, and so now we’re stuck watching a team that both thinks it’s truly in a playoff run and that putting Nick Seeler in over Adam Boqvist is a solution to a problem.
This is our concern, dude.
Beer du Jour: Yeti Imperial Stout
Line of the Night: “Rides up Carpenter’s SHAFT.” –Burish on Carp’s goal