“Let’s get a win tonight,” said Patrick Kane at the end of a pregame ceremony celebrating his 1000th career game, which was actually played last season when no fans were allowed in the building.
It was clearly a special night for Kane, with not only fans in the building but his whole family in attendance. “As a hockey player, you dream of moments like this,” said Kane, and it was clear that he wanted this to be the team’s first win after starting the season with four straight losses.
Dear reader, I am delighted to report that the Vancouver Canucks ruined Patrick Kane’s night.
Kane did his darnedest to will the Chicago Blackhawks to a win, firing a game-high six shots on goal, but Thatcher Demko stopped each one. The Canucks, meanwhile, got everyone involved, with 11 players recording a point.
Along with the loss, Kane was on the ice for two of the Canucks’ four goals, giving him a lovely minus-2 to go with his silver stick.
The Canucks took control of the game in the second period, taking a two-goal lead after a 1-1 first period. I like to imagine that Kane was incensed with the Blackhawks’ performance in the second period and, outraged, demanded better from his teammates before roaring, like Jimbo the Drag Clown, “It’s my special day!”
The Blackhawks pushed in the third period but to no avail. The end result: a 4-1 win for the Canucks and the Blackhawks getting booed off the ice by their own fans, the ones who had cheered so loudly for Kane’s 1000th career game.
I can’t imagine anything making a Canucks fan happier than a Canucks win that also makes Blackhawks fans angry and Patrick Kane sad.
Not even “Chelsea Dagger” could get me down after I watched this game.
- Quinn Hughes was back after missing one game with a lower-body injury and what a difference he made. It wasn’t a perfect game for Hughes but he significantly helped them in transition, picked up an assist on a tipped point shot, and hit the post on another point shot. Like Shulk, he was really feeling it.
- Just look at this one-man breakout by Hughes in the third period. Well, two-man breakout with the assistance of a pick thrown by referee Gord Dwyer as Hughes cut past him to go behind the net, a move that may well have been intentional on the part of Hughes. He then dashed up the ice and drew a tripping penalty by chipping the puck ahead just as Dominik Kubalik swung his stick.
- Jason Dickinson opened the scoring with his first as a Canuck. It was an all-around great play by his line: Nils Höglander took advantage of some soft defence by Kane to find Matthew Highmore down-low, who fed an open Dickinson with a backhand pass. Dickinson went top corner where Grandma puts the stamps on her Christmas letters.
- The Blackhawks responded on the power play. Matthew Highmore didn’t have his stick in the cross-seam passing lane and Kane took advantage, feeding Alex DeBrincat, who went bardownski because it doesn’t count unless you go bardownski.
- The Canucks simply had too many turnovers in their own zone in the first period. They were giving the puck away like they were a punk band giving away demo CDs at a basement show, except the Blackhawks actually wanted the puck.
- Fortunately, the Canucks were far better in the seccond period, led by the second line of Tanner Pearson, Bo Horvat, and Connor Garland, and Bo Horvat. Garland was a beast on the 2-1 goal, shaking free of three Blackhawks along the boards before sending a pass out front that banked to Hughes at the point. Hughes made like the Man in Black and walked the line before flinging the puck to the net, where Pearson, who kept his eyes wide open all the time, spotted it and tipped it in.
- “He’s a feisty guy,” said head coach Travis Green of Garland. “He’s creative. When he moves his feet, you can see he’s deceptive, especially in the offensive zone.”
- Vasily Podkolzin drew out of the lineup in favour of Alex Chiasson, which drew the ire of some Canucks fans. Here’s the thing: as much as Podkolzin has shown promise and has tremendous potential, he also had the worst corsi percentage among Canucks forwards. In other words, he was struggling in puck possession and with his two-way game. Sitting for a game or two to get a different perspective on the game and reset things isn’t the worst idea.
- A little stranger was Chiasson going straight onto the first power play unit, bumping Brock Boeser to the second unit. There’s a certain logic to it — Chiasson took Boeser’s spot as the net front presence, where Boeser’s greatest asset, his shot, is wasted — but Boeser also has the second-most power play goals on the Canucks over the last two seasons behind only Bo Horvat.
- “I’m really comfortable playing that shooting spot,” said Boeser. “We have good enough players to have two good units. Obviously that's important, if one unit doesn't score, the second unit gets out there, we need to score. Chiasson is really good at net front, he's been with Edmonton’s top powerplay the last couple of years so I'm totally okay with it. We just want to cash in as a whole.”
- Boeser got on the first unit for a 5-on-3 power play in the second period, however, and it’s a good thing: without him, they wouldn’t have cashed in. It was a marvellous pass by Elias Pettersson, who faked a one-timer and instead sent a hard slap-pass to Boeser at the backdoor. Blackhawks goaltender Kevin Lankinen read the pass, however, and robbed him with his pad. Fortunately, it was Boeser — he roofed the rebound like he was trying to send the puck through the net and into the rafters.
- Pettersson’s passing was on point in this game. It was another one-touch backdoor pass to Chiasson that drew the 5-on-3 in the first place, as he forced Connor Murphy to hack Chiasson’s stick in half to save a goal. Shortly after the goal, he stunned the Blackhawks’ penalty kill with an incredible rink-long bank pass to Miller to create a 2-on-0 with Chiasson, but Chiasson hit the post.
- While the Canucks won this game pretty handily, they still gave up a few too many dangerous chances to the Blackhawks. Natural Stat Trick had the high-danger chances at 14-to-3 for the Blackhawks at 5-on-5. There’s no need to complain about a 4-1 win over the Blackhawks but it’s still a bit troubling.
- It’s a play like this one below that causes concern. Myers got caught fishing for the puck, giving Erik Gustafsson a free path to the net with Oliver Ekman-Larsson unable to disrupt the passing lanes and the forwards not providing anywhere near enough back pressure. The passing play didn’t quite connect for the Blackhawks but that’s still a dangerous chance from a seemingly innocuous rush.
- Green dismissed the concern. “They had 21 shots, even-strength,” he said. “I haven’t seen the analytical report yet, but we didn’t have it at 14 high-danger chances, I know that. We just gave up one goal.”
- Incredibly, the highlight of the night was the Canucks’ empty-net goal to seal the victory. Tucker Poolman cleared the puck after a penalty kill and Garland came out of the box for a breakaway with no goaltender. Garland made absolute certain that the puck went in, however, pouring on the jets to skate the puck into the net at high speed. Even with an empty net, Garland couldn’t help but hustle.
- “His hardest three strides of the night, probably,” joked Boeser.
- One last note: until Garland hustled the puck into an empty net, the Canucks had 12 players with one goal this season and none with two goals. Garland's empty-netter means he's the first multi-goal Canuck of the season.