Or, Don’t You Remember? – Canucks vs Hawks Preview, Pregame Thread, Phone Upgrade

Lumberjack_Song vs oldschool

Game Time: 7:30PM Central
TV/Radio: CSN, WGN-AM 720
I Was A Teenage Anarchist: Nucks Misconduct, Canucks Army

The mantra around these parts has been that for the most part the Hawks regular season is largely immaterial until the calendar shifts to April. And now that it has, the Hawks now find themselves still in a highly actionable position within the context of the Western Conference playoff picture all things considered. There are six key games left, five of which are against teams currently situated within the West’s top 8, starting tonight with a familiar acquaintance in Vancouver.

At the risk of putting some kind of pox on the proceedings tonight, there’s just no real objective reason to state why the Canucks are on pace for a 100 point season, albeit in the participation ribbon era of NHL standings. After the disaster that was the Torts Experience last year in Vancouver, the new regime in Trevor Linden, Jim Benning, and Willie Desjardins at least are trying to return to the up-tempo possession brand of hockey that won them two consecutive President’s Trophies (and mercifully not much else). But they might not necessarily have the same firepower to pull it off right now. The Sedins are still highly effective first line players, but no longer dual perennial MVP candidates. Radim Vrbata is at his floaty Radim Vrbata-est on their wing and it’s truly a wonder that he never found his way there sooner having seen the results now. Vrbata leads the team with 31 goals and Shooty leads in scoring with 68 points with Passy fittingly splitting the difference with 66 points. The twins are still north of 53% in possession, but it hasn’t translated to the team overall because their bottom six generally gets their heads caved in. They’re not particularly adept marksmen as a whole either, shooting a middling 7.6% at evens and have a middle of the pack power play at 18.9%, yet are somehow top 10 in scoring at 2.8 goals a game.

The back end of things does’t offer any clarity either. Chris Tanev (he of fresh paper) and the underreported flying elbows of Alex Edler now comprise Vancouver’s top pair, taking the toughest assigments and zone starts and generally do well with them, parlaying it into a 52% share. But past that, both Dan “Got This” Hamhuis and the relentlessly flapping gums of Kevin Bieksa have slowed down a bit over the past couple of years as they have been eroded by age and intermittent injury. Bieksa in particular has been sub standard even in shallower waters. Hawks cast offs Adam Clendening and Ryan Stanton haven’t done much to cause any regret on the part of the braintrust in limited action. And behind all of this has been the completely average duo of Ryan Miller and Eddie Lack who have split time largely due to Miller’s injuries. Lack has a completely fine .919 save percentage this year, and is coming off a March with a .923 rate which concluded with wins on back to back nights in St. Louis and Nashville, not exactly easy places to play. So yeah. 95 points. Go figure.

As for our Men of Four Feathers, the rollercoaster continues and hope is once again renewed after a convincing 40 shot, territorially tilted performance against the most feared 2-games-under-.500 team the sporting world has ever seen in the LA Kings. Given the sputtering going on in West East St. Louis, the Hawks now all of the sudden find themselves a point out of home ice advantage in the first round once again with two games to play against the Blues coming up in this final stretch. Naturally it has occurred with Quenneville using a career center and special teamer in the newly acquired Antoine Vermette exclusively at wing at even strength and Andrew Shaw at center, so there won’t be a lineup that makes sense until Patrick Kane returns, if the Hawks even get that far. And even then it will be a question mark.

There are actual positives to be taken from the recent proceedings however. First, Johnny Oduya is beginning to look as solid and mobile as he did two springs ago post injury. It’s difficult to say whether it’s a result of the rest he received or a realization that he is in fact going into this summer looking to get the last big contract of his career, but either way his return to form helps the Hawks in manifold ways (assuming the voodoo curse on the reanimated undead body of Michal Rozsival eventually wears off). The other is the continued growth of Teuvo Teravainen. While it would be easy to bemoan his misuse for a solid majority of the season and the resultant delay in his growth as a player, that he’s clearly improving game to game while getting the Michael Frolik treatment in the lineup shows just what a talent he is and can be. Eight shots on net against one of the league’s elite shot supression teams is a feat for anyone, let alone a rookie drastically outsized by the Kings.

Corey Crawford gets the cage once again tonight in an obvious choice given tomorrow’s opponent. Despite maintaining a sterling save percentage in all but the Flyers game, Crawford hasn’t allowed less than 3 goals since the acrobatics in Carolina, so getting some help from the squad in front of him would certainly be a welcome change.

In the rivalry era of these two teams, the late season UC game always resulted in a one sided affair with fireworks, whether it was the hair-pulling brawl of ’09 or Ladd v Kesler II in 2010, but neither of these teams can afford to manufacture any bad blood that simply barely exists anymore between them and risk the two points at stake. The Hawks will get their opportunities against the bottom six, and they’ll need to make them count while Toews and the Swedes try to keep a lid on the Twins. In spite of everything, the Hawks still control their own fate to a degree. Now that it’s April, it’s finally time to show everyone they’re capable of doing so once again. Let’s go Hawks.

  • Anon

    Tuevo, I was pissed at him being dumped on the fourth line, but two things came to mind after watching him. 1. It will at least get him a little used to the physicality of the nhl without leaving him too terribly open to cough up a goal.
    2a. If playing other 4th liners, he gets to bum slay, 2b. As a checking line, he gets to work on defense. Either way, just glad he’s getting playing time and not wasting away in the stands.

  • SuperHawk27

    Could Vermette be getting time at wing to get a better understanding of where his wingers are going to be? No better way to understand where someone is supposed to be, than by doing it yourself for a while. And go figure, he’s ‘looked’ a lot better since being put on the wing. Here is hoping he is getting a better understanding of what he needs to do when he gets moved back to center!

    • Harry Longwood

      I’m apparently in the minority of Hawks fans on this issue, but I don’t think Vermette has been very good since coming to Chicago. I haven’t watched enough games lately to determine if it’s adjusting to a new system, adjusting to new linemates, or simply an old horse fading down the stretch (or some combination of the three), but I’d rather have Brad Richards in the 2C spot than Vermette.

      All of that said, it still makes no fucking sense to replace him in the pivot with Andrew fucking Shaw (for whom I have unrequited man-love).

      • WookRN

        As another Shaw fan… leave the man on the wing.
        As for Richards and Vermette, I think they are both playing solid’y OK, neither are blowing my mind, but neither are particularly bad either. I think they are both either a good 3C or a slightly sub-par 2C. Take one or the other, I’m happy with both in either configuration (either leaving Shaw on the damn wing where he belongs.)

    • Jim

      I think Shaw is at center so he can charge the net/camp out at the net and take the beating, and get some ugly goals. He’s uniquely suited for that role.

  • WookRN

    I just made the mistake of reading the comments on NHL.com.
    Reminds me of how great this community is.
    Just like when I’m annoyed with Pat and Eddie… all it takes is listening to a cast from Arizona or Dallas to remember how spoiled we are.

  • TitanTransistor

    For as much as Vancouver’s sustained success this season makes no sense, their immediately recent success makes sense for the simple reason that they’re playing very well lately. They didn’t just scrape by in STL and NSH, they were dominant and persistent, respectively.

    Blackhawks will need the same intensity they brought against the Kings tonight. I hope they don’t have a let down.

    • To Saad be the glory

      While I agree with most of your point,Nashville had a 5 minute pp at the end of regulation with 2 minutes of that being in OT and flat out bricked it and then proceeded to blow it in the shootout after coming back from a goal down in the 3rd. The elbows were flying late in that game. While the rivalry is all but gone,the same dirty participants remain. They did beat down the Blues,although the more I see of St Louis,the goal tending is suspect and the defense is a fire drill in their own end more times than not,especially in the 3rd pd. of games

  • Hawkeytalk

    Also, the Duncan Keith elbow to the head of Shooty got everyone riled up a few years back. I doubt he’s forgotten, so duncs had best pay attention!

    • Sopel the catfish

      The Flying Elbow of Justice? I don’t normally root for injuries, but when I do it’s against D-bags that had it coming.

      • TitanTransistor

        There are a lot of dbags on the Canucks, but I dont really consider the Sedins among them. Theyre just weird and consistently good.

        • rhodes

          They are cheap shot artists and sneaky about it. On top of it, they are serial embellishers. Other than that, yes, they are very good at hockey. Still, pricks, both of them.

        • Sopel the catfish

          I don’t actively wish harm on them the same way I do for Jackman, but Shooty had it coming for the headshot he threw in addition to all the bs he pulled. They seem to play nicer now in the games I watch since they are older and slower.

  • Jim

    Hamhuis and Bieksa were doing a lot of goon stuff against Nashville. Hopefully they will stick to hockey at tonights game.

    • Sopel the catfish

      Burrows was getting in on it too. I don’t hate the Canucks like I used to, I blamed a lot of it on Gillis. What kind of douche calls a press conference to complain about the most penalized team having more penalties than the second least penalized team? His attitude permeated throughout the organization, now they are for the most part a different team with a few individuals that still suck.

  • TitanTransistor

    Heading to the bar to watch this one with some Vancouver transplants among other friends. Go Hawks!

    • rhodes

      Have fun. First game I will miss this year. Flying over the Rockies as I type this.

    • Sopel the catfish

      The only people from Vancouver I’ve actually met are decent folk, enjoy yourself.