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Canucks look to take out tired Blackhawks after bumping slump vs. the Jets

November 21, 2021, 1:30 PM ET [514 Comments]
Carol Schram
Vancouver Canucks Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Sunday November 21 - Chicago Blackhawks at Vancouver Canucks - 5 p.m.

On Friday night, the Vancouver Canucks exploited their schedule advantage to eke out a win over the Winnipeg Jets, ending their five-game losing streak.

Can they repeat the trick on Sunday, when the Chicago Blackhawks come to town off a 5-2 loss in Edmonton on Saturday night?

The Canucks' schedule advantage is even a little bit greater in this case, because the game is an early 5 p.m. start. And the Blackhawks may have lost whatever magic mojo they had conjured up since Derek King replaced Jeremy Colliton behind the bench. Saturday's loss was King's first as an NHL head coach, snapping a four-game winning streak for the Hawks.

However — Marc-Andre Fleury was in net for three of those four games, and gave up just five goals in total in wins over Pittsburgh, Arizona and Seattle. I assume the Blackhawks identified Sunday's game against Vancouver as more winnable when they decided to give Kevin Lankinen the start in Edmonton.

Despite his terrible start to the season, Fleury has now nudged his save percentage for this season back over the .900 mark. And his career numbers against Vancouver are pretty ridiculous — 12-2-2. Lankinen took the loss when the Canucks beat the Blackhawks 4-1 at United Center exactly one month ago.

As for Friday's win over Winnipeg, it was built off a change of fate with special teams. For the first time in 11 games, Vancouver didn't give up a goal while shorthanded — because the Jets didn't get any power-play time. The Canucks' only penalty of the game was a roughing minor to Tanner Pearson that was offset by a call on Pierre-Luc Dubois — where Dubois did most of the actual roughing, as far as I could see.

If the Canucks' takeaway after Quinn Hughes' undisciplined penalty may have cost them a point or two against Colorado on Wednesday was to make a more concerted effort to stay out of the box, maybe it was worth it. Don't give up power-play chances and the other guys can't score, right?

Also, Travis Green re-worked his power-play units, spreading out the talent — and ice time — into two 1A groups, instead of distinct first and second groups. Early proof of concept is positive. Oliver Ekman-Larsson threaded a shot through from the blue line to give the Canucks a first-period lead as Jansen Harkins took the extra penalty out of the Dubois/Pearson scrum situation. Elias Pettersson and Vasily Podkolzin drew the assists, with Nils Hoglander and Brock Boeser also on the ice.

In the second period, Conor Garland connected on the man advantage for his fifth of the year while Blake Wheeler was off for high-sticking. Alex Chiasson and J.T. Miller drew the assists, with Bo Horvat and Quinn Hughes rounding out the power-play unit.

The goal gave the Canucks a 3-1 lead at the 6:54 mark of the second period and proved to be the game winner, as the Jets made a good late push despite their fatigue and did connect once in the third. It was Garland's second game-winning goal of the season, following his memorable marker in Seattle that extended his season-opening point streak to six games. He went cold after that, recording only two points during the ensuing homestand, but now has points in three of the last four games, including goals in back-to-back contests.

Vancouver's only even-strength marker on Friday was the first career NHL goal for 26-year-old Kyle Burroughs. Originally drafted by the New York Islanders in the seventh round in 2013, Burroughs had one assist in his five NHL games with Colorado last season. The goal was his first point for his hometown team, the Canucks.

Burroughs has dressed for 14 of the Canucks' 18 games so far this season. For the last two games, he has been playing over on the left side — beating out Brad Hunt for that roster spot now that Jack Rathbone has been re-assigned to Abbotsford. Hunt has played in just four games this season — all losses. The Canucks allowed fewer than four goals in only one of those games.

With the early start time, the Canucks are not taking a morning skate on Sunday. Here's how the lines shook out at Saturday's practice.

Here's how the Blackhawks rolled on Saturday in Edmonton:

Three things jump out at me here:

• Calvin De Haan missed Saturday's game with a sore wrist. No word on whether that will sideline him against Vancouver but if it does, that top pairing of Seth Jones and Erik Gustafsson seems...potentially porous.

• For all the team's issues this season, the Blackhawks' top line is now clicking nicely. Alex DeBrincat has seven goals in his last seven games and 11 on the season. Patrick Kane is leading the team in scoring with 17 points but had a four-game point streak snapped in Edmonton. And after a slow start to the season, Kirby Dach has three assists in his last two games and looks to be starting to round back into form.

• Seth Jones may be having a bit of a rough time, defensively, but he is chipping in offensively. With two goals and 15 points, including six points on the power play, Jones is one point ahead of Quinn Hughes in the defensemen scoring race. Roman Josi of Nashville now leads with 17 points, followed by Adam Fox, John Carlson and Victor Hedman with 16. It's crowded up near point-a-game territory so far this year!

Though the road wasn't kind to them last week, the Canucks might be looking forward to escaping the scrutiny they've been under when they head out for five after Sunday's contest. Everyone will get to breathe a little easier if they do it on a winning note, too.

Enjoy the game!
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