Game Time: 7:30PM Central
TV/Radio: CSN, WGN-AM720
Still Waiting For ALL THE FACTS on Mike Ribeiro: On The Forecheck
In between games with the Jets bookending this week, the Hawks get a home-and-home with the typically competent Predators, starting tonight on United Center ice.
As was the case last year, the strength of this outfit comes from the blue line, where the Preds arguably have the deepest group in the league. Shea Weber and Roman Josi form the top pair, and while they usually take the toughest assignments and generally draw even in possession, it’s the bottom two pairings that are borderline absurd. Seth Jones is a puck moving monster as he only barely approaches the 200 pro game threshold of “getting it” for young defensemen, and he’s so good that he’s dragging Barrett Jackman’s troglodytic ass around. Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm slay any and all bums from the third pairing. Among those four, no one has a lower share than Ellis at 55%, with Jackman being the highest at an absurd 63% share. As a group they’re able to do a lot of it with their feet, as all except Jackman and Weber are plus-skaters, and even Weber wouldn’t exactly qualify as being immoble.
The problem for the Preds has been they’ve been the only ones scoring. Of the 8 players on the roster with 10 or more points, 5 of them are defensemen, and Roman Josi leads the team in scoring with 20 points. As a team they’re shooting 6.7% at evens, which is in the bottom half of the league, which is a slight drop-off from their 8.1% last year with basically the same forward group. So they likely won’t get shut out three straight games again as they were in November, but they’re not likely to suddenly turn into the ’85 Oilers overnight either. Filip Forsberg has been particularly cold, who is still getting approximately the same number of looks per game averaging 2.8ish shots on goal this year and last, but only has 5 goals on shooting 6.6% this year, as opposed to an 11% mark last year.
At center the Predators have two of the most despicable human beings in the league in their top two spots, however women’s rights advocate Mike Fisher will not play tonight. The other of course being Mike Ribeiro, who leaves a trail of shit so long it’s really impossible to keep up with. After his most recent playoff no-show, Ribeiro settled out of court with his children’s caregiver for his absolutely disgusting behavior (trigger warning). Making things even more dispicable was GM David Poile’s craven attempts to sign Ribeiro in the off season, going so far as to call him a “family man” on sports talk radio. That Poile could say that with a straight face to actively court a contractless Ribeiro over the summer is yet another glaring example of how this league and sports in general simply do not give a fuck about women.
And in some completely awful and cynical respects, the Mike Ribeiro situation gives some perspective on the behavior entitled, shitbag, white male Blackhawks fans since early August. Had the impossible happened and Garbage Dick had actually been charged (as almost no rape cases with even non-famous people result in formal charges and even fewer in convictions because of the Rape Culture we live in), it might have finally gotten through to these swamp creatures that there are bigger things outside of life that SPORPS. They would have had to confront just what cost on their souls all of these championship celebrations as a result of his on-ice feats has been. Even the threat of that being taken away or even questioned has led to numerous threats and harassment of anyone who would dare believe a woman’s claims of sexual assault. And that has revealed a heinous underbelly that is literally omnipresent in this fanbase. In that same vein the Preds’ pursuit of Mike Ribeiro is just absolutely pathetic, as he’s always been a wilting, shit-terrible player on the ice as well. But even acknowledging the discrepancy between the two is proof that there always has been and always will be a different set of rules for Patrick Kane, and he is allowed to exist in a bubble completely devoid of real consequence because he is good at hockey.
Anyway, with Carter Hutton going last night in Boston and managing to get a road win, Pekka Rinne will get the start tonight here on West Madison. Rinne and his glove had solid as could be predicted, however the Preds’ next-to-last PK is at 74.7% thanks in no small part to Rinne’s .838 when down a man. Of course his rate at evens is a solid .922, as Rinne faces the second least amount of work in the league, with opponents only averaging 26.5 shots in all situations against the Preds. Mostly because they have the puck A LOT (see above).
As for the Men of Four Feathers, the Tanner “Working Class” Kero experience is over for now, with (Doctor) Dennis Rasmussen now taking his place in the center depth chart between Andrew Shaw and Bryan Bickell. This of course comes at the expense of first round picks Marko Dano sitting out tonight and Teuvo not only playing a wing, but on a wrong wing so that an undrafted free agent can center a line. Rasmussen is tall and lean and has produced middling numbers with the Pigs long enough that apparently he’s worthy of some kind of loyalty callup. At least MANSHITTER won’t be wasting anyone’s time tonight.
On the blue line Trevor Daley will miss tonight’s game with an obvious concussion, though Joel Quenneville states that he’s day-to-day, and it’s common knowledge that the Hawks’ handling of concussions in the past can best be described as “cavalier”. As a result David Rundblad, who is notorious for not dealing well with rust, will play his first game since October 29th. He’ll also do so on his off side and partnered with Michal Rozsival. With Trevor Van Riemsdyk visibly drowning nightly with the benefit of picked matchups at home, if the game is at all close this is already looking like a 30 minute night for Duncan Keith.
Corey Crawford gets the net again after a decent performance against the net-crashing Jets. With the amount of offense that the Preds generate from the back end, he’ll need to put his extra-springy (and ugly) new black leg pads to use in directing point shots out of harm’s way. Stringing two consecutive solid performances in a row for the first time since October would also be a welcome sight.
With Fisher still out tonight there’s no true two way center for Peter Laviolette to have try to snuff out either of the Hawks’ top two lines, so with last change that gives Toews and Hossa the opportunity to try to build on their uptick in shot attempts as of late. With last change it don’t be surprised to see Quenneville try to get Anisimov away from Weber if at all possibile, even though the other two pairs are what drive most of the Preds’ play in the other end and those two diminutive wingers aren’t really known for their backchecking. Either way, any power plays the Hawks get (and there wont be many) will need to be made to count if they hope to leapfrog the Preds in the standings. It won’t get any easier to do on Thursday at Bridgest