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When Not Bad Is Good Enough

Just because a coach says "No excuses" doesn't mean there actually aren't any excuses. I'll get back to that shortly.

When I settled in to watch the 'Hawks open a two-day, two-game series in Nashville on Tuesday night, I did so with a mindset that anything less than a terrible loss would be promising. And sure enough, the Hawks earned a point with a regulation tie before losing 3-2 in overtime. In so doing, they ran their early season record to 2-3-2, which is not great but not bad considering they opened the season with three lopsided losses.

Coach Jeremy Colliton had a different perspective, and he let it rip after the game.

The gist of the coach's message was that the Hawks hadn't fought nearly hard enough. They hadn't established a consistent forecheck and their puck possession numbers were very disappointing. All the stats seriously favored the Preds.

I am happy to stipulate all of that and then some. But the coach was wrong.

In the bigger picture - the picture in which we take into account the fact that the day before the Hawks announced two of their three remaining most skilled offensive weapons had been sidelined - it was borderline remarkable the Hawks posted that point. Winger Alex DeBrincat and defenseman Adam Boqvist (who has been the primary point man on the 'Hawks' so far highly successful power play) have gone on the COVID-19 list. And in the pregame press conference, Colliton said the two would be out for at least two weeks.

I say "remaining" because the Hawks are still trying to overcome the absence of two of their five most skilled offensive players who have been absent all season - Jonathan Toews (illness) and Kirby Dach (broken wrist). By the way, we still don't know anything about Toews' illness and I would urge the Hawks' captain to be more forthcoming about his health. Of course you have privacy rights and of course no one is going to force anything, but tens of thousands of 'Hawks fans care intensely about this and a little more info about your status would be much appreciated, even if the info is "We just don't know what it is."

Back to the game and back to the fact that of course we hope the 'Hawks will do better going forward than they did in their seventh game of the season. But when you lose critically important cogs for at least a half-dozen games, that is going to have a negative impact in the short term. And that negative impact should be taken into account as far as expectations go.

The bright side was that goalie Malcolm Subban, a surprise starter, made 36 saves, a few of which qualified as well above average. But this was not a goalie game. Subban was good but the Predators' offense was worse. In other words, for all of that puck possession, the Preds didn't generate many dangerous chances. Their shooters shot two off a post during the game. The 'Hawks' shot one.

Subban was solid, but so far this season 25-year-old rookie Kevin Lankinen has been the 'Hawks' best netminder, and he should be back between the pipes Wednesday night. The latest talented hockey import from Finland was a big part of the 'Hawks bouncing back with a couple victories over the Red Wings over the weekend. And while a bigger factor is the fact that the Red Wings are terrible, Lankinen is the guy who has inspired at least some optimism about the 'Hawks' goaltending in general in the season's initial phase.

I'll be going into tonight's game expecting a better performance from the team as it puts a little distance between itself and the highly disappointing news about DeBrincat and Boqvist. I'll expect hard work and at least a little excitement (great goals on Tuesday by Mattias Janmark and Dylan Strome off a great pass from Andrew Shaw provided that last night). But I won't expect greatness from this squad - not for a long time.

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Comments welcome.

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Posted on Oct 22, 2021