PUCK DROP: 7:30 Central
TV/RADIO: NBCSN, WGN Radio
GOIN’ CRAZY OUT BY DA LAKE DERE: Hockey Wilderness
The Hawks get to round out their tour of Central Division jobbers tonight with a home date against the Green and Red from the Twin Cities. Even though the Wild are going to have scrape and claw to just get the last playoff spot over the Avalanche, that doesn’t mean they haven’t been a total headache for the Hawks this season. It’s something you’d think the Hawks want to set straight, but at this time of year we’re never certain where the Hawks focus is.
The Wild have been pretty bipolar since hiring John Torchetti to replace the human volcano Mike Yeo. They won four in a row after the firing in the very definition of a dead cat bounce. They then lost four in a row. Then they won three in a row. Then lost four of the next five. It’s almost like they’re just a middling team in a rough division. Not much a coach can do about that.
And really, that’s all the Wild are. It’s hard to pinpoint what it is the Wild do well. They’re a pretty poor possession team. Their power play hasn’t been anything you’d remember for years. They don’t kill penalties well. They suppress shots and chances pretty well, but they don’t create a lot of their own. Wild games just kind of happen and then we all move on. Kinda like the organization as a whole.
The reason for that is the Wild’s lineup is rife with guys you’d describe as “fine.” There’s one bonafide top line player in Zach Parise, but he’s starting to show the miles that his way-bigger-than-he-is game has racked up on his legs. The rest? Granlund, Zucker, Coyle, Vanek? Again, if they were on your team behind real stars you’d say, “fine.” When they consist the actual roster, it’s not fine.
Same on defense. There’s one prime player in Ryan Suter, who also is just starting to show the miles a bit. Scandell and Spurgeon and Brodin… all fine. Just not enough.
The Hawks will probably see Darcy Kuemper for the first time this year, as Devan Dubnyk started yesterday in their shootout win over Carolina. But considering the Wild need every point they can get, maybe they press the pedal to the metal and double up on Dubie. See what I did there?
While the Wild might be just making up the numbers overall in the division and the league, they’ve fairly well clocked the Hawks three times this year. Corey Crawford has been able to keep the scoreboard from reflecting that in two of the three games, but there was nothing he could do about the outdoor drubbing in February. He won’t even get the chance tonight, as he remains out with an upper body injury that we’re sure this time had nothing to do with 12 oz. curls, unlike last time.
The Wild have driven the Hawks nuts with the speed among their forwards, who have harassed the Hawks d-men on the fore- and backcheck. They’ve shrunk the amount of time that slowish unit has had to make plays, and in particular have attacked Teflon van Riemsdyk and Porkins. Those two were heavily exposed in the outdoor game, and you’d expect the plan to be the same tonight. Bringing Ehrhoff back would be a good idea, as he can skate away from the Wild more than alternatives and they aren’t the most physical bunch anyway.
With the Blues and Stars winning yesterday the Hawks will need to keep up if 1st in the division is something they still want. A five-point gap with nine games to go, even with a game with the Stars on Tuesday and Seguin out, is a pretty big one to overhaul. It’s hard to fathom the Hawks could lose to the Wild four times in a row in a season… but then it was hard to fathom that they’d lose every home game to the Jets last year. Weird shit happens.
There is no hard copy of our gameday program due to printing issues, so you can only get the digital copy right here.