Not long ago, the Chicago Blackhawks were Vancouver’s very own boogie man. They were the monster under your bed, the ghoul scratching at the window, and the vampire lurking in the shadows.
Nowadays, they still have the potential to scare you, but they've never been quite as frightening since Alex Burrows slayed the dragon.
It helped that the Blackhawks were missing Patrick Kane due to illness. Kane is still a terrifying monster, leading the NHL with 11 goals in 12 games, but with that little gremlin out of the lineup, the Blackhawks looked decidedly friendlier, like the lovable monsters of Hotel Transylvania or Netflix’s Super Monsters.
Figure it out, Blackhawks. These days, people are in the mood for more sophisticated scares, like Get Out and It Follows. Step up your game; the retro monster mash is out. Or don’t, and let the Canucks continue to beat you like they did all last season, and like they did when I watched this game.
- You may as well have called Brandon Saad the Marquis De Saad for the way he tormented Ben Hutton and Erik Gudbranson. The Canucks’ de facto top pairing had no answer for Saad’s speed, as he turnstiled each of them in turn. Frankly, they’re lucky that Saad managed just the one point, opening the scoring by beating Jacob Markstrom five-hole after stepping around a flat-footed Gudbranson at the blue line.
- For only the second time in his career, Elias Pettersson was held off the scoresheet, though not for a lack of effort. He set up Nikolay Goldobin and Loui Eriksson for golden chances on the doorstep that they couldn’t convert. On another occasion, he nearly did it all himself, making the Blackhawks look like fools on one solo dash up the middle. They flailed to the ice like the comically incompetent antagonists in a Mighty Ducks movie.
- When Pettersson couldn’t find the back of the net, a couple of the Canucks’ other first round picks stepped up. Jake “Jason Voorhees” Virtanen tied the game 1-1 after a Nick Schmaltz pass hit Brent Seabrook’s skate and sprung Virtanen on a breakaway. Like the ill-fated teens in the notoriously-unreleased film Polaroid, Virtanen snapped it upstairs.
- Saad may not have gotten an assist, but he was key to the Blackhawks taking a 2-1 lead. Thanks to an impressively opaque body, Saad was able to screen Markstrom, preventing him from seeing Jonathan Toews’ shot on the power play. Damnable opacity strikes again! It’s long been Markstrom’s nemesis.
- Honestly, both Chicago goals were pretty excusable from a goaltending perspective. For the rest of the game, Markstrom shut the door like he wasn’t raised in a barn, finishing with 24 saves on 26 shots. That’s a pretty tidy night’s work.
- It was at this point that the Sportsnet Pacific broadcast was briefly interrupted by what appeared to be a Cantonese news broadcast from Omni TV, with a story seemingly about antibiotics. Honestly, when the game cut out to show a serious-looking news anchor with the word “ANTIBIOTICS” displayed behind him, I thought for sure it was an emergency broadcast signaling an outbreak of an airborne virus or some other apocalyptic scenario. I was 100% prepared to turn my basement suite into a bunker.
- Saad continued his speedy reign of terror by taking advantage of a Derrick Pouliot miscue on the power play to get a clear cut breakaway. Like a prank-calling Bart Simpson, Saad rung the bar, then kicked in the rebound. It was disallowed, mainly for the kicking part, but probably also because the refs were feeling bad about Saad running roughshod all over the Canucks.
- Fortunately for the Canucks, they had their own speedy winger with a newly-rekindled scoring touch. Shotgun Jake Virtanen struck again for his second of the night after a great play by Markus Granlund to fight off a hook to enter the zone. The ref shot up his arm to indicate a penalty and Virtanen shot up the puck to indicate a goal. He put the puck just under the bar, where most Canucks fans were after unexpectedly adding two shotgunned beers to their Halloween imbibing.
- The second power play unit hasn’t looked great this season, but they got some good looks in the third period with Adam Gaudette on the left side. The rookie has mainly been deployed on the right side of the power play this season, contrary to where he was most effective in college hockey. He was only there because a planned Brock Boeser double-shift on the power play was disallowed by the refs due to a late change. While they didn’t score, it was hopefully enough for Gaudette to get a longer look in that role.
- Since we can’t seem to get through a Canucks game without an injury scare, Troy Stecher left the game in the third period after taking a blindside hit away from the puck from Brandon Manning. It looked ugly and Stecher left under the concussion protocol, but on further review it seemed to just be an accidental collision. Still, it’s hard to ignore that three Canucks have left games this season with potential concussions and no penalties have been called.
- With Brandon Sutter on the shelf with a shoulder injury, Brendan Gaunce got the call to suit up at centre between Antoine Roussel and Tyler Motte. The first-round pick made the most of the opportunity with the second two-point night of his career. Oddly enough, his first two-point night was also against the Blackhawks. Just get him in the lineup for all the Chicago games, I guess.
- Gaunce scored the game-winner off a brutal, yet understandable, turnover by Jonathan Toews. How could he know that John Hayden had just passed his stick to defenceman Henri Jokiharju other than by looking with his eyes? Unable to take the pass, Hayden helplessly watched Gaunce take it instead and blast it top cheese like Sam, the Freelance Police Officer, turning cheddar into swiss.
- The referees didn’t see fit to punish Manning for his unfortunate hit on Stecher, but karma did. On the rush, Roussel tried to centre for Gaunce. Manning, clearly terrified of Gaunce’s elite finishing ability after his earlier goal, tipped the pass away. Unfortunately for him, he tipped it into his own net. Gaunce got the primary assist for his nifty zone exit, batting the puck out of midair to Roussel.
- With both Brandon Sutter and Jay Beagle out, Bo Horvat is going to take a ton of faceoffs. He took 30 in this game; the rest of the team combined took 32. Defensive zone faceoffs were even more skewed: Horvat took 16 defensive zone faceoffs, while no other Canuck took more than one. I’m concerned. At this rate, Horvat will soon be more faceoff than man.