I believe Han Solo said it best: “Don’t get cocky.”
The Canucks’ point streak had to end sometime. They went into Chicago with points in eight-straight games and the best goal differential in the Western Conference. They left with their fourth loss in regulation of the season and, well, still the best goal differential in the Western Conference, because man, they really built up a lead in that department.
Perhaps the Canucks were taking the challenge presented by the Chicago Blackhawks a little lightly. The Blackhawks came into the game with a 4-7-3 record, with two of their four wins coming in overtime. They’re one of the lowest-scoring teams in the NHL.
It seemed like the Canucks, like Gia Gunn, were feeling their oats after their hard-fought game against the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues. Maybe they were a little overconfident against a perceived lesser light.
Then the Blackhawks put them on their heels early in the first period and the Canucks never quite recovered. That’s what happens when, like Soju, you never learn to walk in heels.
Or maybe it wasn’t overconfidence at all. This is just what happens sometimes: the puck rolls off sticks on great scoring chances; the penalty kill is a few inches out of position; a long shot from the point goes through four people without hitting a single one. Bad bounces and a strong push from the Blackhawks, who still have plenty of talent no matter their record, and you get a game like this.
Despite three references to Drag Race in this intro, I did not watch Drag Race today; instead, I watched this game.
- Honestly, the Canucks weren’t that bad in this game, particularly after the Blackhawks and they created some great scoring chances that Corey Crawford turned aside, with rebounds bouncing over sticks or going just wide. Apart from the two empty-net goals, this was a one-goal game. No one should get too worried.
- A few Canucks stood out. I thought Brock Boeser was the best player on the Lotto Line, which isn’t something I’ve thought at any other point this season. He was all over the place, delivering delicious dishes to his linemates, like a taller, less-hairy Remy the Rat.
- Any other game, this play by Boeser to drive into the slot would have resulted in the puck going top corner instead of hitting J.T. Miller, or Miller would have tucked the puck in instead of Corey Crawford kicking it aside, or Boeser would have elevated the rebound instead of shooting it into Crawford’s pad. It just wasn’t the Canucks’ night.
- Troy Stecher, meanwhile, had his best game of the season, but he always seems to rise to the occasion against Chicago, as John Garrett pointed out on the broadcast. He had seven points in eight career games against the Blackhawks and was notable all night in how he jumped into the attack. He had five shots on goal and created a couple great chances on rebounds.
- Stecher’s best play, however, was on defence. After joining the rush, Stecher had to hustle back on defence when Miller whiffed on the puck at the point. It turned into a 4-on-2 for the Blackhawks, but Stecher saved a sure goal with a desperation shot block at the back door.
- That shot block could have even turned into an assist for Stecher, as the puck ricocheted out to Boeser, who burst the other way for a 2-on-1 with Tanner Pearson. Unfortunately, Pearson went needlessly offside, negating the chance. It was a lapse in concentration: all he had to do was make like Milk and drag the skate.
- Okay, that’s the last Drag Race reference, I promise.
- Alex Debrincat opened the scoring for the Blackhawks with a ridiculous shot that caught Jacob Markstrom off-guard. Debrincat cut inside on Quinn Hughes, but it looked like Hughes had his stick tied up. Instead, Debrincat showed tremendous strength to not only fight off the stick lift, but rip a shot over Markstrom’s blocker. Clearly, Debrincat is a Short King.
- The Canucks went down by two late in the first period after a hooking penalty by Miller, who, like Maru the cat, couldn’t stay out of the box. He took three minor penalties and two of them turned into Chicago goals, while the other took the Canucks off the power play. The 2-0 goal came off some sweet passing by the Blackhawks power play, with the Canucks just not quite in the right position to take away the passing lanes.
- That power play goal came on Chris Tanev’s last shift of the game, as he left with an upper body injury and didn’t return. Try as I might, I couldn’t find any moment where he might have sustained an injury and the Canucks haven’t been forthcoming with details. For now, we don’t know what happened, how Tanev is injured, or when he might return.
- The Canucks responded with a power play goal of their own, thanks to a cheeky little play by Elias Pettersson. After Miller pushed off his man in front to create some space, Pettersson lofted a pass two feet up in the air and banked the puck in off Miller’s leg. The big grin on Pettersson’s face afterwards suggested he 100% meant to do it too. We used to joke about the Sedins banking pucks in off their linemates, but Pettersson just literally did it.
- Here’s a little moment where Josh Leivo spun his stick behind his back for basically no reason whatsoever. Neat!
- Miller may have had three penalties in this game, but the real penalty hog this season has been Edler, who added another minor penalty against the Blackhawks, giving him a league-leading 13 on the season. Frankly, he should have had another, as he tripped a player immediately after coming out of the penalty box. He’s getting into foul trouble like Pascal Siakam; maybe Travis Green needs to take a page from Nick Nurse’s book and tell Edler to “knock it off.”
- Tim Schaller didn’t look great on the Blackhawks’ first power play goal, getting beat to a puck after the Canucks won the faceoff, but he looked a lot worse on the second one. Jay Beagle tied up the puck at the point and Schaller looked to create a rush the other way. Unfortunately, he didn’t even get the puck out of the zone, as Dylan Strome got his stick on it. A moment later, Patrick Kane sent a long shot through traffic that Markstrom got neither his eyes nor his glove on.
- With the score 3-1 with about four minutes left in the third period, Stecher drew a penalty to give the Canucks their fourth power play of the game. Travis Green made the bold choice to pull Markstrom for the extra attacker to go 6-on-4, but he waited until the penalty was half over to do it, and sent Alex Edler on as the extra skater. I would have liked to see him be a little bolder and go 6-on-4 immediately with a forward like Pearson or Virtanen, possibly even Sutter as a net-front presence.
- The Blackhawks got a little lucky and a clearance hit David Kampf in the neutral zone and deflected into the empty net at the other end to give them a three-goal lead.
- Jake Virtanen kept the Canucks’ hopes alive with a minute left, tipping in an Edler point shot with a downwards chop, but all that led to was another chance for the Blackhawks to make the score look worse, as they added another empty net goal with six seconds left.
- If Sven Baertschi can’t get in the lineup after this game, I’m not sure he ever will. There are a few candidates: Adam Gaudette was bumped from Horvat’s line in the third period, so that would be a natural fit. Loui Eriksson played just 7:31, lowest among Canucks forwards, and he doesn’t play on special teams, so why hasn’t he been scratched for Baertschi already?
- Then there’s Pearson, who hasn’t scored a goal in a dozen games; Green has used a healthy scratch as a tool to wake up a struggling player before — heck, he’s done it with Baertschi — and it wouldn’t be surprising if he did it again. In any case, with the Canucks playing again on Friday, getting some fresh legs in the lineup would make all kinds of sense.