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Full Analysis: ‘The Perfect Road Game,’ Canucks Crush Chicago 4-1

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Tanner Pearson tips home the game winner against the Blackhawks in Chicago.

The Vancouver Canucks iced the following line-up against Original-Six opponent, the Chicago Blackhawks.

Tanner Pearson, Bo Horvat, Conor Garland

JT Miller, Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser

Matthew Highmore, Jason Dickinson, Nils Höglander

Justin Dowling, Juho Lammikko, Alex Chiasson

Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Tyler Myers

Quinn Hughes, Tucker Poolman

Jack Rathbone, Kyle Burroughs

Thatcher Demko

Big Picture: Entering the game 1-2-1 after four games of their season opening six-game roadie, the Vancouver Canucks are mildly desperate. Not as desperate as the Blackhawks, who heard plenty of moans and groans from the faithful at the tail-end of their most recent loss, 4-1 to the New York Islanders on Thursday. Pride and desperation for a roster that still holds the two key pieces of three Stanley Cup titles, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. Toews probably isn’t completely back up to speed after missing all of last season with an immune disorder following Covid. But then again, it doesn’t appear all of the Canucks are up to speed either. After joining the preseason late, Quinn Hughes has already missed a game due to a lower body injury and was a game day addition to this one, while Elias Pettersson had his worst game Thursday in Buffalo after taking an early first-period hit.

The “Lotto Line” was back together to start this one. Boeser (#6), Pettersson (40), and Miller (9). Alex Chiasson was also brought back in after being scratched last game. On D, Kyle Burroughs is back, Luke Schenn is out. Hughes replaces Brad Hunt.

How it went: The Canucks played a disciplined, patient game where they twice took leads, the second time holding it for the duration. Playing with a lead is always a bonus, along with the ability to execute that comes with confidence.

1st Period:

No sustained pressure either way for the first four minutes. One chance tipped wide off the skate of Hawk Dylan Strome. Apparently on the trading block, Strome was playing in his first game of the season after being a healthy scratch in the first four. Nothing for the Vancouver Canucks until Chicago’s Jonathan Toews went off for tripping JT Miller at 4:01.  The power play remains anemic. The Canucks had their first shot on goal of the game at 5:38 with :23-seconds remaining in the PP.

After the first TV time-out the Canucks came out with vigor. A good forecheck led to the Canucks taking a 1-0 lead on Jason Dickinson’s one-timer from the slot. Unfortunately, after the ensuing draw, Kyle Burroughs took an oopsy tripping call just :11-seconds later.

Special teams remain problematic for Vancouver. Alex Debrincat tallied from the bottom of the left wing circle on a cross-ice feed from Kane to tie things up. A wrister, glove-side shelf. PP: Vancouver 0-1, Chicago 1-1.

Right on cue, Matthew Highmore goes next for tripping at 10:09. At one point, Tyler Myers blocked a slapper in tight from the left circle, took it off his knee, and was down in anguish. After a whistle, he limped to the bench and recovered. The Canucks killed the penalty.

At 16:14 we had our first fight of the Canucks season. Taking exception to two Riley Stillman hits against teammate Nils Höglander, Burroughs stepped up and dropped the mitts with Stillman and had a decent scrap in the neutral zone along the near boards. Call it a draw.

The big crowd in the massive United Center was relatively quiet in the first period. Good for the road team. It was a workmanlike 1st period. The hard work made up for a handful of sloppy D-zone turnovers.

Vancouver – Jason Dickinson (1), Highmore, Höglander – 6:36 ES

Chicago – Alex Debrincat (2), Kane, Seth Jones – 8:26 PP

Vancouver Canucks 1, Chicago Blackhawks 1

2nd Period:

Again, more of the same. The crowd was sitting on its hands for the most part, a great situation for a road team in Chicago. On what was somewhat of a make-up call for earlier near-infractions by the Canucks, Jason Dickinson went off for hitting Debrincat, who embellished along the corner boards just enough to get a call. Boarding at 2:10. Vancouver killed it.

A mildly unattractive period for the paying customers. Just six shots between the two teams nearing the mid-point of the period when the Canucks had an effective forechecking effort that led to the go ahead goal. What a difference a Hughes makes. He backpedalled along the blueline and sent a wrist shot towards Tanner Pearson in front who tipped it home. Hughes picked up his 100th career point, the fastest Canucks D-man in history to reach that mark.

The Blackhawks cycled effectively for a two-minute stretch with five minutes left but only generated one Grade-A scoring chance. Dylan Strome took a hooking penalty with 2:23 left in the 2nd to put the Canucks on their second power play. Twelve seconds into the man advantage, Hawks D-man Connor Murphy chopped the stick out of Alex Chiasson’s hands in front, giving Vancouver a two-man advantage for 1:48.

Brock Boeser roofed his own rebound to give the Canucks a 3-1 lead with a-minute-and-a-half remaining on the second penalty. Alex Chiasson hit the post on a partial two-on-oh and that’s as close as Vancouver came to stretching the lead.

Vancouver – Tanner Pearson (1), Hughes, Garland, 9:55 ES

Vancouver – Brock Boeser (2), Pettersson, Miller18:21 PP (5 on 3)

Vancouver Canucks 3, Chicago Blackhawks 1.

3rd Period:

Boring. Clogged neutral zone. Good sticks. Let’s see how long we can keep this theme going. Through the first TV time-out, yes. In fact, as play continued, the Canucks actually had the better chances. Chicago didn’t seem desperate. Vancouver, Hughes actually, earned a power play at 11:51 of the period as Dominik Kubalik dumped him as Hughes rushed along the left wing boards.

Hughes rang one off the post, and that was the closest the Canucks came on the man advantage. Two things: confidence, and a lead, contributed to good decision making and measured play in all three zones holding the lead.

The Blackhawks finally put a little surge together with under eight-minutes to play. Demko and the Canucks withstood it, no damage until Conor Garland went off for upending Seth Jones as he tried to cruise into the slot with the puck. The call came with 3:10 remaining. The Blackhawks, down two goals, pulled the goalie to start the power play 6-on-4 with the O-zone draw.

Hang on Canucks fans …

Tucker Poolman blocked a shot, helped win a puck battle in the corner, and found Garland coming out of the penalty box for an empty netter.

This was close to what coach’s refer to as “the perfect road game.”

Vancouver – Garland (2), Poolman, Myers – 18:58 EN

Final Score: Vancouver Canucks 4, Chicago Blackhawks 1

Simmer’s Canucks 3 Stars:

3) Oliver Ekman-Larsson – Five shots on goal, two hits and 4:11 time-on-ice short-handed among his team leading 23:19.

2) JT Miller – Played the most minutes among the forwards (22:49) and second most on the team behind only Ekman-Larsson. An assist, 3 shots-on-goal, 4 hits, and won 60% of his draws, a problem area for the team this year.

1) Quinn Hughes – Did everything. Created chances, got pucks to the net, made plays defensively. A pleasure to watch for the most part at both ends.

Notable Notes:

Patrick Kane played his 1,000th NHL game way back in March of 2020, just before Covid shut-down the league for the fans. He delayed the celebration until tonight. Before the game, his sisters, girlfriend and baby daughter joined him on the ice for a speech and for his pal and captain Toews to present him the silver stick.

Kyle Burroughs gets an honourable mention for the stars. His first period fight showed support for his teammate and rallied some camaraderie in a 1-1 hockey game.

Hockey Gods: Play the game the right way = win.

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Robert

Obviously we watched a different game. How many dumb plays by the Canucks, bad passes, giveaways, unable to get out of their own endzone, static powerplay, weak play by the most expensive players… if it wasn’t for Demko could have been another very sad night.

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