PUCK DROP: 6pm Central
TV/RADIO: CSN Locally, NHL-N Nationally, Sportsnet Canadian Nationally, WGN Radio
FUCK THE POOR!: Silver Seven Sens
The Hawks kick off the 2016 portion of the schedule at home facing a team that kind of like looking in a mirror. If it were a funhouse type mirror that made whoever is looking in it appear poorer, uglier, and smellier. You’ll see one dangerous line and a half of another one, one generationally talented d-man, and a goalie playing pretty well. But the Hawks have a couple other d-men who are really good, a couple more forwards, and that’s why they’re not the Senators.
The Sens will also be playing their first game of 2016, and their 2015 ended in pretty sour fashion, giving up a touchdown and PAT to the Bruins in Boston. They sit just outside the playoff picture in the East, with only a point keeping them out.
And they’re only there because Erik Karlsson’s cells are saturated by the Earth’s yellow sun, or something to that effect. The Senators are one team with Karlsson on the ice, and a completely different one when he’s not. When he’s out there, this is a highly dangerous, fast, explosive team that you can’t take your eyes off of. The other half of the game looks something like those photos from Manchester on NYE (TOPICAL!). They’re a simply rotten possession team without Karlsson, and overall not a very good one with him. They are where they are by shooting a very high 8.9% at even-strength.
The Sens also have the second worst penalty kill in the league, which should have the Hawks pretty excited considering how hot their power play has been and how badly they need power play goals to win.
Outside Karlsson, the Sens have a dynamic top line of Hoffman-Turris-Stone, though Hoffman will also see time with Zibanejad and Bobby Ryan on the second line as well. Stone and Hoffman are some of the more underrated forwards in the league, plying their trade in a Canadian outpost of Kanata and all. But beyond that top six there’s a whole lotta trash on the bottom six, where Chris Neil still slimes and slithers his way out for a regular shift. I have now just guaranteed a Curtis Lazar goal tonight.
The rest of the defense behind Karlsson is turning odd colors in the sun as well. Jared Cowen has been so bad he’s earned himself the pressbox popcorn. Cody Ceci is hurt, so’s Chris Phillips (if that’s a bad thing) and Patrick Weircioch is a human trade rumor.
For the Hawks, Corey Crawford will return to the cage after Scott Darling did his best to cough up a point or two to the Avs but couldn’t. The rest of the lineup should stay the same, giving us more time to watch Teuvo and Danault together which I have an inkling could turn into a little something. There’s been signs of life from Toews of late, with 14 shots in the past three games and the OT winner against the Avs, yet another layer of cover to obscure the masses from seeing he’s been “meh” at even strength.
The Senators certainly won’t slow anything down, and wouldn’t be able too anyway if they wanted to. With Karlsson and the top two lines out there this is a team that can run and gun with the Hawks and will try to do just that. When the rest of the crew is out there is when the Hawks should be making them pay, and that’s even with the Hawks’ shakier than usual depth. That’s how the last game went, but the Hawks couldn’t keep Karlsson and Hoffman and Stone quiet and lost in overtime. Play the top even, win the game at the bottom of the roster. Start 2016 off right.
If you’re heading to tonight’s game, pick up a copy of our program sold outside. If you’re not, you can get the digital version right here.