You Keep Standing Us Up: Hawks at Penguins Preview/Pregame Thread/Beer Can Bong Circle

Images_medium vs. The_penguin_medium

GAMETIME: 6:30 Central

Y'know Sidney, we keep showing up at this game very excited to show the world how Jonathan Toews compares to you, to watch the two biggest competitors in the league finally get to enact the tables, ladders, and chairs match it would be, to give a tantalizing preview about what a Final bout could look like in June, and you keep getting dizzy. It's not very nice. We just sit here, nurse our drink and wait for you to show. Everyone looks at us, knowing we're getting stood up, but we try not to notice. One day Sid, you will show. And then Tazer will show you what you've missed.

Anyway, the Hawks get to get out the ol' measuring stick tonight. I have to say I haven't looked forward more to a game this year, even if the Pens are beat up beyond belief (aren't they always?). The Hawks are 9-1-1 in their last 11, but does it feel like that? I'm not sure it does. They've won five in a row, but does it feel like that? More so than the previous, but not quite as exciting as it should be. They sit atop the entire league in points, and yet I'm not arrogantly bouncing around the room at the thought of this team yet. Are you?

Not that I think this team is bad. Far from it. I think it's very good. I just have no idea how very good. I'm not sure any of us do. Tonight is one of those nights we may get a clue. Even without Sid, or the host of others, Pittsburgh is not a place you dance into at night and dance out of in the morning with two points and barely open your eyes. There are still a lot of weapons -- looking more than it would have as Jordan Staal is set to return tonight. Malkin, Neal, Staal, Fleury in net, that's enough to win some games right there.

But you can't ignore how much the Penguins are missing. Their best forward (maybe you've heard of him), their best d-man (Letang), another key d-man (Martin), although Martin wasn't having the best of seasons. To me, when this team is healthy it is going to skip and sing out of the Eastern Conference, and I don't care what ridiculous stats the Bruins are churning out these days. The Pens are just more complete, when something isn't falling off of somebody that is.

They also might have the best coach in the league. Yeah, I know, Mike Babcock this and Mike Babcock that. He's great, no question, but look at the yard sale parts that Bylsma has had to deal with the past two years. And whoever comes up just plugs in, and everyone skates with a wild hair on their ass. Does any team combine this amount of talent with this amount of work ethic? I can't think of one quickly. You never hear excuses or lowered expectations. I have serious questions whether Quenneville would handle a similar situation in similar fashion.

The Hawks will trot out the same lineup as Sunday, meaning Morin will skate with DDN and Stalberg on the 4th line, which he apparently doesn't like according to quotes that some of you made up rightly picked up from the Sun Times. I don't think it's a criticism of Vik at all, and more a result of there being nowhere else for Morin to go. No spot on the 2nd line, he can't play a checking or energy role. Vik can. Perhaps his new found flexibility is his curse.

Avert your eyes, John Scott bemoaning ahead: He probably plays tonight, and against the speed and ethic of the Pens, he'll get scorched. And then we can watch the beaters hilariously flap to defend him.

The Hawks have won the last two against the Pens, and last time they were there it was the Steeger Gun Show for the Hulkster. The last four between these two have required bonus hockey. Tonight promises to be just as close and exciting.

Let's do this.