Lightning vs. Blackhawks: With reinforcements from Syracuse, the team marches on
Can the Lightning take advantage of a Chicago team beset by their own troubles?
Tampa Bay Lightning at Chicago Blackhawks: GAME# 47
Time: 8:30 pm Eastern Time
Location: United Center
Broadcast/Streaming: WGN, NBCS
Opponent SBNation Site: Second City Hockey
Despite what NBC most desperately wishes, the Chicago Blackhawks are no longer among the elite of the NHL. With a 22-18-6 records they are currently sitting in last place in the Central Division and are five points out of the second wild card spot, and their best player is out indefinitely with a head injury.
Other than that I don’t know much about the Blackhawks, which is a little sad since I live in Chicago. I do, however, have friends in the area that follow the team so I reached out to them to solicit some information. What follows is a transcription of our text message (corrected for grammar and omitting the occasional swear word...Chicago fans are salty).
Raw Charge: Please give me your best one-paragraph rundown of the current Blackhawks.
Sean L.: This is easy. Patrick Kane is good. The rest of the team is not.
Scott S: They hate dealing with head injuries and it finally bit them in the [rear]. Also, I’ve never seen a GM and coach so much not on the same page.
Quick, without looking it up - who is the Blackhawks second-leading scorer? If you had Nick Schmaltz, you might be spending too much time watching hockey. Go outside and enjoy life. Kane is having his typical decent season. He has 48 points in 46 games despite not getting much help from the rest of his teammates.
It’s a long standing belief among Chicago fans that their General Manager, Stan Bowman and their head coach Joel Quenneville have held different philosophies for how the team should be built. The GM wants younger players and the coach wants veterans he can trust, hence the deals that brought back Patrick Sharp and Brandon Saad.
Raw Charge: What about Alex DeBrincat? He is good, right?
Scott S.: When he’s not playing in the bottom six with dusters.
Lightning fans might be familiar with DeBrincat. The rookie, who has 14 goals and 28 points this season, played his junior hockey with the Erie Otters and was a linemate with Lightning prospect Taylor Raddysh. Both players posted over 100 points last season as the Otters ran roughshod over their OHL opponents.
This goes hand in hand with the belief that Quenneville doesn’t trust young players. He would rather run veterans like Sharp and Jonathan Toews 20 minutes a game then DeBrincat or second year forward Ryan Hartman.
Raw Charge: Has the average Blackhawks fan realized Toews is not good?
Scott S: Yes we have. He hasn’t been for a while. Which makes those stupid “Toews over Crosby” debates people had after 2015 look more ridiculous.
It might be a bit of an overstatement to say that the Blackhawks captain is “not good”, but it’s not a stretch to say he isn’t as good as he was or as good as his contract needs him to be. While his scoring numbers continue to erode, he has bounced back to post decent possession numbers. His shots just aren’t going in the net anymore. Whereas his career shooting percentage is at 14.6%, over the last two seasons he has averaged around 10.5%, which matches his $10.5 million cap hit.
Raw Charge: Who do the Blackhawks miss more? Teuvo Teravainen, Artemi Panarin, Scott Darling or Kris Versteeg?
Scott S: Right now? Probably Darling. If Crow [Corey Crawford] was healthy, probably Teuvo.
One of the issues that the Blackhawks are running into this season is that the way they’ve managed the cap has affected their depth. In order to get under the cap, they’ve had to entice other teams into taking big contracts by throwing in talented young players such as Teravainen (traded to Carolina) and Panarin (traded to Columbus).
Having signed their core players to such long-term, high-dollar deals keeps the Blackhawks locked into a yearly struggle of cutting salaries. So even if they do hit on a young player who can contribute, they end up having to deal him to another team. It doesn’t help that they also take on veteran contracts at the deadline as they push for the playoffs.
Their lack of depth really exploded once Crawford left the line-up. They had no room to re-sign Darling last year so they traded his rights. They had hoped that the duo of Anton Forsberg and J.F. Berube could tread water while Crawford played as many games as possible. For the first month or so, it worked. Now with their number one netminder out with “vertigo-like symptoms” that plan has to be scrapped and they are relying on a tandem of Forsberg and feel-good story Jeff Glass. Not exactly a recipe for a Stanley Cup.
Raw Charge: Who gets the first compliance buyout after the next lockout, Toews or Brent Seabrook?
Scott S: Seabrook easily.
This is just your reminder that Brent Seabrook is 32-years-old and signed through 2024 at a $6.875 million cap hit.
Raw Charge: What’s one last thing Lightning fans should know about the Chicago Blackhawks?
Scott S.: The [Stanley Cup] window shut after losing Game 7 to St. Louis in 2016 and they’ve been trying to crowbar it open the last two years instead of replacing it. Also, the failure to develop young players [helped] shut that window. Look at how Pittsburgh reloaded around Crosby and Evgeni Malkin with speed and youth. The Hawks traded all of theirs to get rid of bad contracts or deadline additions.
So that’s your 2017-18 NBC Chicago Blackhawks. Don’t you feel a little better about the Lightning?
Comparison chart: JustinG.’s Somewhat relevant video clip.
[Thanks for re-traumatizing me there, Justin. - Acha]
Due to the ebbs and flows of a best-of-seven series It’s odd when you can pinpoint the exact moment a team loses that series. The exception to the rule would be Game 5 of the Lightning/Blackhawks 2015 Stanley Cup Final.
Despite being beat-up (Ben Bishop and Tyler Johnson were both nursing major injuries) and wildly inexperienced, the Lightning had deadlocked the series at two games a piece through the first four. On home ice with a chance to take a 3-2 series lead, Bishop and Victor Hedman both chased after a loose puck, collided and left an empty net for Patrick Sharp to put the puck into.
The Lightning kept fighting and lost a close game, but at that moment it seemed the hockey gods just weren’t going to let them win. Unfortunately it’s one of those gaffes that will live on highlight reels forever.
Tampa Bay Lightning
#Bolts morning skate lines:— Bryan Burns (@BBurnsNHL) January 22, 2018
Ondrej Palat is sidelined indefinitely with a lower body injury per Joe Smith. In response the Lightning recalled Matthew Peca and Michael Bournival. Chances are Point gets moved up to the top line and everything under that is swizzled around. Losing Palat is a tremendous blow to the team. He might not score a lot of goals, but he may just be their best defensive forward.
#Bolts morning skate D-pairings:— Bryan Burns (@BBurnsNHL) January 22, 2018
Koekkoek rotating in
Brandon Saad - Jonathan Toews - Anthony Duclair
Ryan Hartman - Nick Schmaltz - Patrick Kane
Alexander deBrincat - David Kampf - Vinny Hinostroza
Lance Bouma - Tommy Wingels - Patrick Sharp
Duncan Keith - Jordan Oestrele
Gustav Forsling - Jan Rutta
Erik Gustafsson - Brent Seabrook
Lines courtesy of LeftWingLock.com Gustav Forsling was reassigned to the AHL and Artem Anisimov was activated from injured reserve. Look for the lines to be juggled up a bit.