Canucks come out flat, lose Chris Tanev in loss to Chicago; on to Winnipeg
Thursday November 7 - Chicago Blackhawks 5 - Vancouver Canucks 2
It's just one game. It's just one game. It's just one game...
The Vancouver Canucks' eight-game point streak was snapped on Thursday night when a close game blew open late, turning into a 5-2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.
Here are your highlights:
Back home after a 10-day road trip, the Blackhawks looked energized to start the game, jumping out to a 15-3 shot advantage through the first 12 minutes or so of the opening frame. That stretch included the game's opening goal, where Alex DeBrincat beat Jacob Markstrom from the slot while he was falling to the ice.
The Canucks pushed back late in the frame but didn't test Corey Crawford with anything that seemed especially challenging. By the end of the first, the shots were 17-17 but the score was 2-0 after Andrew Shaw quickly converted on the Blackhawks' second power play of the game toward the end of the period, with J.T. Miller in the box for hooking.
It was a very tightly-called game, with the smallest slashes getting penalized on both sides. When all was said and done, the Canucks had been shorthanded six times — and given up two power-play goals for just the second time this season.
Meanwhile, they went 1-for-4 on their own power plays. Miller drew the Canucks back within one with his seventh of the year, at the 1:02 mark of the second period.
That's how the score stayed until late in the third. Patrick Kane stretched the lead to two with that second Chicago power-play goal — once again with Miller in the penalty box. When the Canucks got one more late power play of their own, Travis Green pulled Jacob Markstrom early, but that led to the first of two empty-net goals for Chicago. In between, Jake Virtanen picked up his fifth of the year in garbage time.
With eight points in 16 games, though, Jake's producing at the best rate of his career to date. He's playing an average of three minutes less per game than he did last season (11:33 vs. 14:49) but is already a third of the way to the 15 goals and 25 points that he contributed last year.
The other significant note of the game: Chris Tanev left with an upper-body injury after Chicago's second goal was scored, late in the first period.
Do you see anything worrisome here?
There was no update on Tanev after the game. The Canucks did have an open roster spot — and aren't all that far from Utica — so Jalen Chatfield was recalled by the club on Friday. He also had a five-day recall by Vancouver at this time last year, from November 1-6, but didn't see any game action. Tanev was injured then, too. That was in the midst of his five-game absence with a hip issue between October 25 and November 5, 2018.
Friday November 8 - Vancouver Canucks vs. Winnipeg Jets - 5 p.m. - Sportsnet Pacific, Sportsnet 650
Vancouver Canucks: 16 GP, 9-4-3, 21 pts, third in Pacific Division
Winnipeg Jets: 16 GP, 8-7-1, 17 pts, fourth in Central Division
Now it's on to Winnipeg to close out what has essentially been a six-game road trip. I remember the Canucks laying an egg in their only visit to Winnipeg last season, a flat 4-1 loss in mid-October that followed wins in Tampa, Florida and Pittsburgh at the end of a true six-game stint.
In fact, the Canucks' record at Bell MTS Centre over the last few years is pretty grim.
That was a 3-2 shootout win on March 12, 2014 — near the end of the Torts era. Alex Burrows had both regulation goals for the Canucks and Chris Higgins scored the shootout winner, while Andrew Ladd and Michael Frolik replied for the Jets.
Five years is a lifetime now in the NHL, isn't it?
The Jets were a popular pick to regress this season, after their defense got blown up over the summer and then Dustin Byfuglien chose not to report to training camp. That saga sounds like it's a long way from resolution after we learned last week that Byfuglien has gone ahead and had ankle surgery, which means he's at least a few months from being game-ready even if he does decide to return to action.
When I was at the Heritage Classic, I asked some Jets reporters if fans would forgive and forget if Buff returned to the lineup this season. They said yes, but that was before the news of the surgery came out, with all the accompanying layers of drama.
For tonight, he's one less thing for the Canucks to worry about. And as Tyler Myers faces his old team for the first time on Friday, the Canucks will also likely see one of their old teammates. Luca Sbisa has been a regular on the Jets' third pairing since his was picked up on waivers just before the Heritage Classic.
So here's what to expect on Winnipeg's defense:
Josh Morrissey - Tucker Poolman
Dmitry Kulikov - Neal Pionk
Nathan Beaulieu - Luca Sbisa
Up front, changes have been made after Bryan Little was knocked out of action for the second time this season when he was hit in the head by the puck in a scary scene on Tuesday. Winnipeg's big line has been dismantled, with Blake Wheeler dropping down to a second-line centre role.
Little's injury is just the latest in a long line of issues the Jets have dealt with this season. They're among the top five teams in the league in terms of man games lost and have dealt with some crazy stuff. Mason Appleton broke his foot in Regina while throwing a football around with his teammates during their warmup before practice, for crying out loud!
If you're having trouble finding the Canucks — look way over to the left from their usual spot on this graph, for a tiny blue circle. Crazy!
After a bumpy start to the season, Connor Hellebuyck has found his groove in recent games. Dating back to the Heritage Classic, he has played in four of Winnipeg's five games and has given up more than two goals just once. He also put in a heroic 51-save effort to give the Jets the win in San Jose last Friday, the night before the Canucks played the Sharks.
Hellebuyck's record for the season is now 6-5-1, with a 2.41 goals-against average and .930 save percentage — right in the same ballpark as when he finished as Vezina Trophy runner-up in 2017.
With the Canucks on a back-to-back, he's expected to go up against Thatcher Demko, who's now 4-1-0 this season with a 1.78 GAA and .938 save percentage.
As for other Vancouver lineup notes, we'll have to wait until closer to game time for definite answers, but Iain MacIntyre has scoops from a Friday morning optional skate:
Sounds like it could be Baertschi time!
Enjoy the game!