Nov 26, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA;  Los Angeles Kings goalie Peter Budaj (31) defends a shot on goal by Chicago Blackhawks center Nick Schmaltz (8) in the first period of the game at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Birth, School, Work, Death – Kings 2, Blackhawks 1 (OT)

Box Score

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And with that, the Circus Trip has mercifully ended for the final time. The final stop this year saw the Hawks finishing up a stretch of 6 games in 9 days while also missing one of their two most important players for 2 and a half games. They finished 1-1-1 in those games. Not too bad.

Coming into Saturday night’s second of a back-to-back, a nice remedy for the Hawks would be to face an opponent without a ton of team speed. Fortunately for the Hawks, the Kings idea for offense is about as subtle as continuously dropping a stone on your head.

That being said, the Kings were still outshooting the Hawks 2-1 by the end of the second period. Only a very well played (see: boring) third period by the Hawks helped tilt the scales back towards somewhat normalcy.

Let’s move on to other things because this game has already been forgotten by everyone who witnessed it…

–The Hawks time on ice is about as bizarre as I’ve seen but it also likely speaks to how fatigued Joel Quenneville thought his team was. Or perhaps, he’s also learned that regular season games in November aren’t nearly as important as he once thought.

Either way, with a chance to end the Circus Trip above .500 and without Toews, we’re used to seeing Kane, Hossa, Panarin play well above 20 minutes while Keith plays close to 30 minutes. Only Keith played close to that number and he still only played 27 minutes. Every Hawks forward played at least ten minutes and no one played more than 20 except for Anisimov who eclipsed the number by a mere seconds.

There has been a rallying cry from sections of the fan base for years about giving the ‘kids’ a chance to play. It is happening this year. I hope everyone recognizes that.

–As the wise McClure has repeatedly stated, the NHL is a matchup league. With the home team getting the last change and parity at (seemingly) an all-time high, the advantage of the matchup seems to be making a bigger difference than ever before. This was sort of the theme of this year’s Hawks Circus Trip, in general. There always seemed to be one line that got the best of them and they couldn’t counteract that matchup.

On Saturday, it was the 70’s line that had their way with the Hawks. Of course, without Toews on the ice, Kopitar was also running roughshod but you have to figure if Toews played, it wouldn’t have looked so lopsided.

Regardless, this is a theme to keep an eye out for across the league (or when the Hawks start playing home games again). The cushy home matchups will become that much more crucial and it’ll be interesting to see how the Hawks try to solve this mystery later in the season.

–With the Kings blunt attack and preference to play the game in the corners, this is the sort of opponent that favors Dick PanikTochett. No surprise that this was the most noticeable game he played on the trip. Panik is excellent when the game consists of pucks along the wall, board battles and bouncing pucks he can kick with his feet. He was able to create quite a few chances in the offensive zone with this type of game. Should the Hawks find themselves in a 7 game series with the Kings this year, he’d probably play a starring role.

Essentially, he’s John Tortorella’s wet dream of a hockey player if only he had a more North American sounding last name.

–Look, I’ve said for years that face-off percentages are a highly overrated stat to focus on but even I can admit winning face-offs at a 36% clip is less than ideal. It didn’t matter in Anaheim as the Hawks were able to hold on for the win. It bit the Hawks in the ass tonight when the Kings were able to set up their only goal in regulation off a set play early in the second period.

–A 3-3-1, 7 points in 7 games, two-week road trip is hardly something to sneeze at; particularly when the conference-wide trend seems to heavily favor the home team. Did you know the Hawks are only 1 of three Western Conference teams to have a winning road record? Granted, they’re only one game over .500 but there are teams in the playoff hunt with atrocious road records. This is the league they’ve wanted and created.

Just as a point of reference and as a way to set your member berries straight, here’s the Hawks record on this trip during Quenneville’s tenure. It’s also important to keep in mind that the first leg of this trip often included Edmonton and Calgary and for many years that was a cake-walk of 4 points. That’s, of course, not the case anymore.

  • 2015-2016: 3-1-2 (8 points)
  • 2014-2015: 5-1-0 (10 points)
  • 2013-2014: 6-1-0 (12 points)
  • 2011-2012: 3-3-0 (6 points)
  • 2010-2011: 4-2-0 (8 points)
  • 2009-2010: 4-2-0 (8 points)
  • 2008-2009: 3-2-1 (7 points)

Other than the stretch of 2013 to 2015, this final Circus Trip was pretty much right in line with the Hawks average during the Quenneville years. (Side note: ‘member how people lost their minds in 2008-09 when the Hawks pulled off a winning record on the trip for the first time since the dawn of the Industrial Age? Seven years later, a trip with almost the same result is looked at as barely passing.)

So that closes the book on the Circus Trip for the final time. It’s sure going to be weird when the Hawks play a matinee game at the United Center next year around this time.

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