In a game the Chicago Blackhawks needed to win, a former rival played the role of spoiler. Facing a team well out of a playoff spot, the Blackhawks couldn’t get two points, dropping a 4-2 decision on the road to the Vancouver Canucks.
So long to all the goodwill that the Blackhawks built up after knocking off Western Conference power Nashville Predators on Tuesday night.
It all started so well, too! Late in the first period, Brandon Saad made a smooth pass to spring Nick Schmaltz on a mini-breakaway, and he buried the puck between the legs of Vancouver goalie Jacob Markstrom for a 1-0 Chicago lead.
The Hawks had a chance to extend their lead on a pair of power plays, but as has been the case for too many games this season, it didn’t happen. And at the end of that second power play, Chicago was caught with four forwards on the ice. An Alex DeBrincat turnover helped spring a Vancouver 2-on-1, and Brendan Gaunce scored the first of his two goals to tie the game at one. Later in the second, Bo Horvat redirected a point shot through the legs of Anton Forsberg, and the Canucks went into the third with a 2-1 lead.
Daniel Sedin made it 3-1 with a redirect of his own about three minutes into the third (more on that goal below). DeBrincat gave the Hawks some hope near the middle of the third, uncorking a rocket of a wrist shot that temporarily made it 3-2.
But those hopes were dashed when Gaunce got inside positioning on Brent Seabrook and Erik Gustafsson couldn’t stop a pass from Loui Eriksson, allowing Gaunce to score his second of the night to salt away yet another frustrating Chicago loss.
And here’s Calgary Flames goalie Mike Smith to sum up the feelings of this (and every other) Hawks fan right now. Take it away, Mike:
Mike Smith is maddddddddd pic.twitter.com/nDtnv2LMQj— The Artist Formerly Known as Scoot Mattle (@scottmatla) February 2, 2018
Thanks Mike! On to the thoughts:
CHI: Schmaltz (14), DeBrincat (18)
VAN: Gaunce 2 (4), Horvat (12), D. Sedin (13)
A game the Hawks couldn’t really afford to lose
And, yet, here we are again. The Hawks next two games are against the Calgary Flames, who are ahead of the Hawks in the standings. Since Chicago apparently plays down to every lesser opponent, perhaps they’ll play up to a team they’re chasing? We’re grasping for any signs of hope here, folks.
Vancouver’s third goal about sums up everything
Jordan Oesterle has the puck behind the net, but he and Duncan Keith each contribute to coughing up the puck. Vancouver then tried to throw it away, but Tommy Wingels only slowed the puck down enough for Jake Virtanen to corral it, spin and shoot. Oesterle then failed to block the shot, and Keith watched as Daniel Sedin tipped it through the legs of Forsberg. A couple of defensive breakdowns and the puck ends up in the Hawks’ net: the 2017-18 Blackhawks, summarized.
Chicago’s fourth line keeps turning heads
In an effort to find something positive about this game, let’s look at the fourth line of Tomas Jurco, David Kampf and Vinnie Hinostroza. This trio has been a forechecking nightmare since being put together, and they were at it again on Thursday night. Their collective speed has haunted opposing D-men in the last few weeks. Kampf had a team-high CF% of 78.95, with Jurco not too far behind at 75% and Hinostroza at 60%. Other lines need to produce, obviously, but this group is doing what it needs to do.
- Brendan Gaunce (VAN) — 2 goals
- Jacob Markstrom (VAN) — 26 saves
- Alex DeBrincat (CHI) — 1 goal, 7 shots, 53.3 CF%