Game Time: 7:00PM Central
TV/Radio: NBCSN, WGN-AM 720
Travis Hughes Is A Shill For SBN And Welshes On Bets: Broad St. Hockey
The entire state Pennsylvania is basically garbage. Aside from having the worst accents known to mankind at both ends of the state, the entire place, from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh, from Bucks County to Allegheny, from Pottsville to Pottstown, is basically a front end for the con that is Penn State and its football team. When that enterprise came crashing down four years ago with the institutional coverup of Jerry Sandusky’s serial child rape, the only thing anyone in the state wanted to talk about was corrupt dwarf Joe Paterno’s coaching record, and defend it to the hilt in any and every way possible. From impromptu protests by students to formal proposals within state government, it was the only thing that mattered. It was, and continues to be a grotesque spectacle.
And now Hawks fans are no different, and have proven that vociferously over the past two and a half months.
Both groups share an absolute gaping void in their collective personhood that can only be filled by defending abhorrent acts by touting sports achievement as if it’s anything to be given a shit about in the face of real life horror. Just as the Penn State football stadium being colloquially referred to as “Happy Valley” became ironic to the point of being macabre, so too did John McDonough’s invocation of calling these the “Camelot” Blackhawks at the press conference at Notre Dame (who themselves the associated Catholic church have its own issues with women and children), as if the mythological Camelot wasn’t undone by King Arthur being cuckolded by his best friend and killed by his illegitimate son. Or even if McDonough meant the American Camelot, the Kennedy family, that too is an irresponsible parallel to draw even if Patrick Kane has a lot more in common with Teddy than it might seem.
So tonight the Hawks enter the de-facto capital of the state, home to arguably the most willfully shitty sports fans on the planet, and the team that somehow always manages to play up that terrible image.
After the Flyers managed to keep pace with the defending Eastern conference champion Lightning on opening night despite losing in the first ever 3 on 3 overtime frame, they showed up to Sunrise and tripped over the threshold to the front door of and then proceeded to shit their pants while lying there groaning to the tune of a 7-1 dick kicking at the hands of the Panthers. That ass waxing prompted GM Ron Hextall, known for his even-keeled demeanor, to berate his players in a closed door meeting after game 2 of 82. While not exactly a move with the long view in mind, the early results were an improvement, shutting out those very same Panthers 1-0 at home.
The roster newcomer Dave Hakstol (no relation) has been dealt has no cohesion to it whatsoever due to the Flyers irrational spending over the past few years, which includes the deadweight of the corpse of Vincent Lecavalier and the recently waived/demoted Andrew MacDonald for a combined $9.5 million of cap space. On top of that starting next year Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek will account for over $16.5 million of cap space. Both are fantastic players who drive possession and can put up gaudy scoring numbers in a more free-wheeling Eastern Conference, but the responsibility of doing so in a salary cap era when the roster is clogged with crap (hello R.J. Umberger at $4.6 mildo) is certainly up for debate. There are some other decent parts among the forward group, as Sean Coutourier has developed into one of the best defensive centers in the league (if slightly overpaid), and Wayne Simmonds is as true a power forward as likely exists in the league today.
The blue line, however, is an entirely different story. Their #1 defenseman by default is now Mark Streit with all of Nicklas Grossmann, Braydon Coburn, and Kimmo Timonen (sky point) being traded away last year or this offseason. Streit was never the most defensively inclined, and at nearly 38 years old it’s doubtful he’s going to start giving a shit about his own end now. The same can be said for “Norris Trophy Finalist” Michael Del Zotto, who played well enough last year to get a multi-year contract from the Flyers after bouncing around the league is also an adventure defensively, but is now relied upon to push the play from the second pairing. Luke Schenn, who was once thought of here as being a viable replacement for a floundering Niklas Hjalmarsson years ago so far is carrying a 60% share of attempts in the two games he’s played in, but sample sizes and all of that.
In net Steve Mason remains out with a family matter, so it appears that Caps and Sabres castoff Michel Neuvirth will get the nod once again with Jason Labarbera (yeah him) backing up. Neuvirth has allowed 4 goals on 53 shots to the Panthers in about 113 minutes of play after Steve Mason got the quick hook last Friday.
As for the Men of Four Feathers, it appears little will change lineup-wise from the game on Saturday night, which is surprising given the opponent. Ordinarily it would seem that Quenneville would want the energy and grit of a Kyle Baun in the lineup as opposed to Viktor Tikhonov, but things looked good enough against a purported Eastern conference contender for him to not mess with. That includes Ryan Garbutt winning the Left Wing Lottery along side Toews and Hossa, who are still looking for someone competent to fill that spot in the absence of Brandon Saad and Patrick Sharp (sky point). Garbutt has the wheels and isn’t completely bereft of finish, but it seems like an odd choice overall. But again, it’s early in the season and as long as there are no abject turds in the lineup, this kind of tinkering is welcome.
On the back end the lineup also appears to be the same, this time with Corey Crawford in net. Reports surfaced over the weekend that the Hawks are “actively shopping” for another defenseman, whatever that even means. But at least that’s an indication that the front office is watching the same games everyone else is with regard to David Rundblad, Viktor Svedberg, and the Trevor & Trevor experience.
In the Hawks’ first road game the Brooklyn denizens chanted “No Means No”, and now they’re venturing into an environment of the self-proclaimed proud assholes, again, as if that’s something worthy of pride. The Santa-booing, battery-chucking incidents are all well known (and stupid), but even still the orange-clad Moyers from Boyertown and Boyers from Moyertown will surely take it upon themselves to give Garbage Dick an earful every time he touches the puck. And for once in their sorry lives they’ll actually be justified in doing so, even if their collective history leaves them without any moral high ground to stand on.