PUCK DROP: 4pm Central
TV/RADIO: WGN for both
Going to be a little abbreviated today but I didn’t make a 4pm start time and they can’t expect us to be up early enough to be cogent by this time. Jerks.
Anyway, the Hawks will welcome the Jets to the United Center, where they won all three game the two played here last year. The Jets roll in having won three of four and having beaten the Caps at home yesterday afternoon thanks to a Mark Scheifele OT winner. Stud goalie prospect Connor Hellebuyck started that one, so it’ll be the devil inside Michael Hutchinson starting today. He was the winner in all three games at the UC last year, making sure the Hawks weren’t sleeping after those. Hopefully the Hawks will find enough time for all that they want against him today.
The Jets sit one point behind the Hawks in the Central, though having played two more games. It’s kind of the same old song and dance for the Jets as it’s been. While they have forward depth, only Blake Wheeler would be considered a genuine top line scoring threat. There’s a bunch of 2nd and third liners here, meaning they score just enough goals to not be enough. They’re then undone by horrible goaltending as both Hutchinson and paycheck all-star Ondrej Pavelec have been bad this season. They’re hoping Hellebuyck changes that now.
The other problem for the Jets is they remain categorically stupid, leading the league in penalty minutes. They also lead the league in power play goals surrendered, which isn’t a good combination especially in this division.
The reason the Jets end up marching to the bin so often, or one of them, is they’re hellbent on pressing their size advantage over teams, and you can be sure they’ll be doing the same today. That’s how they caught the Hawks last year, keeping the game along the wall and leaning on the Hawks all over the ice. It didn’t hurt that they caught the Hawks on a few nights where they just couldn’t be bothered to counter it. Seeing as the Hawks have lost three in a row, you wouldn’t think that would be the case today.
As for the Hawks, the big story is the recall of Bryan Bickell, who now people expect to somehow rescue the Hawks’ secondary scoring a mere few weeks after everyone wanted him hung in effigy. I have no doubts Bickell will be what Bickell has always been, and that’s a solid, unspectacular third-line winger. If he helps turn possession for that unit, so much the better. Savior he is not. Viktor Tikhonov was claimed on waivers by former employers Arizona to make room, where he’ll likely be effective in some role while we watch Man Shitter.
The plan against the Jets remain the same. Given their size and propensity for collapsing into the middle of the zone to block shots, it’s imperative the Hawks get some looks on the rush and on the power play. The Jets’ D is so aggressive in both joining the rush and chasing hits that you can always find space behind them to either break or force them into hooks and holds. But if you’re not clean and having good puck support, that’s when they get on you and keep things jammed up on the wall before they get to the net. TVR can expect a physical pounding today to be sure, and so can Daley. At least Daley can at least promise to skate away from it.
The Hawks have not been good against their division, and the next five of six are in the Central. They’re also at home where they can better shape the matchups and zone starts their way. They start with a team that played yesterday. Can’t ask for much more to break a three-game losing streak.
If you’re going to today’s game, pick up a copy of our program outside the arena. If you’re not, you can get the digital version here.