Game Time: 6:30PM CDT
TV/Radio: CSN, WGN-AM 720
Justin Trudeau Is A Fucking Con Man: Silver Seven
Given that the Hawks have been hockey monarchy for going on a decade now, with President/Cardinal John McDonough fancying himself its emperor, it’s probably best that they missed being on the Senate Floor in Kanata on the Ides of March by a day. Either way, the Hawks make their way further due southwest along the St. Lawrence seaway to the “capital” of the “nation” of Canada to take on a Sens squad that shockingly still has plenty to play for.
At present the Senators sit a mere point behind the Habs for first place in the Atlantic Division with two games in hand, which is more damning of the Habs and Lightning than it is a compliment to the Senators. Not that the Senators are bad per se, they’re just kind of there. Their forward corps is nondescript, and their Bond Villain coach Guy Boucher was last seen in Tampa trapping so hard Chris Pronger and Peter Laviolette publicly mocked it during game play. But again, there is plenty of speed and talent there. Both Kyle Turris and Derick Brassard decent #2 centers in the scheme of things, but in Ottawa Turris centers the defacto top line, so while he’s tied for the team lead with 22 goals with Mark Stone, it’s Brassard who carries a much stronger share of the play, 53.3% to Turris’ 46.2%. Stone is out week to week at this point with a lower body injury, but Bobby “Ryan” Stevenson is returning to the lineup after a hand injury, which makes it all the more impressive that he was able to delete his twitter account during his time on the shelf after he once again got into it with fans by being a generally intolerant fuckhead for about the umpteenth time in the platform’s existence. But given that Stevenson is the son of a man (a trained boxer) who beat his wife nearly to death, fled the country, and changed his name, it shouldn’t be a surprise that being a piece of shit runs in the family. Further down the lineup, the Senators acquired a lesser-grade piece of shit in Alex Burrows, who has a grand total of 41 goals in the last four full before being traded to Ottawa from Vancouver, which obviously required that the give the 36 year a brand new two year contract. Burrows has repayed them so far with 4 goals and 2 assists in the seven games since he came over. The Sens also added more speed by acquiring old friend Viktor Stalberg at the deadline, who’s had two goals of his own in that time frame, and will surely be pleased when he doesn’t get power play time.
On the blue line, obviously everything begins and ends with Erik Karlsson and the offensive push he provides. His possession numbers are down this year simply out of necessity, if he’s not taking offensive risks he’s not effective. Karlsson has 62 points this year and is somehow still 8 points behind Brent Burns for the lead among defensemen, and while the Norris is likely Burns’ to lose, Karlsson should deservedly find himself among the finalists for the fourth time in his career. He’s partnered with Marc Methot, who is on strict centerfield detail to cover for Karlsson’s walkabouts. Dion Phaneuf and Cody Ceci make up the second pairing and take most of the more difficult assignments, and Fredrick Claesson and Chris Wideman get the scraps and generally do alright with them, playing above the team possession rate by a good 3-4%.
In net, LOCAL GUY Craig Anderson gets his cage tonight, and he’s played flatly excellent this year when he has not been on personal leave to assist his wife in her battle with cancer. In only 30 starts this year, Anderson has sported a .941 save percentage at evens and .930 overall which would have him in the conversation for the Vezina had he played enough. The Senators give up nearly 32 shots a game when he’s been in net, so he certainly gets plenty of work, and Anderson is as positionally sound a butterfly netminder as there is in the league.
As for the Men of Four Feathers, life without Wide Dick Arty begins tonight with Nick Schmaltz centering the The Racist and The Alleged Sex Criminal for a full game for the first time. With Schmaltz’s excellent vision being on full display since his last call up, in their limited time together as a trio this unit has produced three highlight reel goals with Schmaltz setting all of them up on the primary assists. There’s no lack of creativity here, but there is a distinct lack of size and defensive awareness, and no real puck-winner among them. In order for this line to succeed they’ll likely need exclusively offensive zone starts, leaving the other lines to do more of the heavy lifting. John Hayden will get make his NHL debut on Toews’ left side tonight with Dick Bossy on the other side, so look for any and all pucks to go to the net among that unit, as it’s as large and unidirectionally North-South of a line as the Hawks have tossed out in the Top 6 under Quenneville.
The Hawk defensive pairings will remain the same as they did in Montreal, despite them utterly defeating the purpose of why Johnny Oduya was reacquired in the first place. And while the Senator forward sub-committe lack big names, they don’t lack wheels top to bottom, and can test the aging Oduya’s mobility regardless of the matchups he gets on whatever pairing he’s on. And with no skate this morning it’s unclear whether Corey Crawford will start tonight after getting blasted in the face by a Shea Weber slapper late on Tuesday, but Scott Darling appears to be healthy and ready to go if need be.
Despite trapping being in Guy Boucher’s DNA, the Senators surrender the 3rd most attempts against per 60 minutes of 5v5 play, with only the Isles and Yotes being more porous defensively, so the Hawks will definitely get their looks. But Anderson has made it all stand up when he’s been available, and their forward group has the speed to turn it the other way in a hurry, so the Hawk defensemen had best be judicious with their pinching (looking at you Trevor van Niedermayer) lest there be odd man breaks headed the other way. The Hawks never, ever win in Kanata, and the Wild have a matchup in Carolina tonight that can go either way with how the Canes netminding has been, so it’s more than likely back into 2nd in the central by the end of the night. But it would be nice to walk into the ACC on Saturday night for a measuring stick game against the only team that matters at least having kept pace. Let’s go Hawks.