After a catastrophic 0-3-1 start to the 2021-22 campaign, the Blackhawks are still in search of their first victory of the season heading into Thursday evening’s contest against the Canucks.
Both teams will be desperate for two points. Vancouver, who finished seventh in the North last season, has brought last year’s struggles into this season. This very banged-up Canucks squad heads into Thursday’s game at 1-2-1.
While Vancouver has missed stars such as Brock Boeser and Quinn Hughes. they are not without top-end talent. Recent offseason acquisitions Conor Garland (1 G, 3 A) and Oliver Ekman-Larsson (1 G, 1 A) have been early standouts for the Canucks. The pair of former Arizona Coyotes are joined by J.T. Miller, who leads the team with five points (1 G, 4 A) in their first four games.
Boeser will return to play against the Blackhawks on Thursday night, while Hughes — along with Brandon Sutter and Tyler Motte — are out of action.
Here’s the good news: the Canucks are allowing plenty of goals. In their first 4 games of the season, they’ve allowed 15 goals against.
Here’s the bad news: the Blackhawks have struggled to find the back of the net —particularly at 5-on-5 — being out-scored 15-3.
Vancouver has been able to cycle and move the puck well. If they present these extended shifts in the neutral zone on Thursday, the Blackhawks must keep pucks to the outside — which they have not done a good job of — or there will be a price to pay.
The Canucks have barely bested the Hawks in shot-share percentage (CF%), expected goals-for (xGF) as well as high-danger chances for (HDCF) in the early stages of this season.
Canucks 49.70 CF%, 6.15 xGF, 29 HDCF
Blackhawks 47.16 CF%, 4.81 xGF, 25 HDCF
The underlying numbers can say a lot, while the eye test has been brutally honest as well: The Hawks have not played good hockey thus far and are in dire need of a victory on Thursday evening if they want to have any chance of getting their season on track.
Dylan Strome and Ryan Carpenter are in the lineup. Philipp Kurashev and Mike Hardman come out. Kevin Lankinen will start.— Scott Powers (@ByScottPowers) October 21, 2021
Mike Hardman missed Wednesday’s practice after suffering a head laceration and will be out of the lineup against Vancouver. Dylan Strome draws in for his first game of the season while Kevin Lankinen gets the call in goal.
Overall, the Blackhawks arguably have a stronger and deeper roster than Vancouver. But even with their offseason additions of Marc-Andre Fleury, Seth Jones and Tyler Johnson — as well as a returning Jonathan Toews — the team has continued to struggle in the exact same ways as it did in 2021.
No matter who or what the blame is cast on, the Hawks have to do a complete 180. It’s not just one problem with one solution, there needs to be a complete overhaul in the way that this team is playing. They can’t continue to lean on special teams exclusively. A single bottle of Round-up is not capable of taming an entire garden of weeds.
Patrick Kane will be honored in a pregame ceremony, celebrating his accomplishment of reaching 1,000 NHL games. This feat was accomplished on March 9 against the Dallas Stars, however, Kane wanted to receive his silver stick in front of the Chicago faithful, thus opting to have the celebration this season. The Hawks need to capitalize on whatever pregame energy this ceremony generates and run with it for 60 minutes.
This is a winnable game for the Blackhawks. In fact, it’s a must-win game. As it’s been said, you can not win the division in October, but you can lose it.
Let’s Go Hawks.
Blackhawks — Statistic — Canucks (numbers from last season)
45.85% (30th) — 5-on-5 Corsi For — 46.25% (28th)
43.96% (31st) — 5-on-5 Expected goals for — 44.93% (30th)
2.84 (16th) — Goals per game — 2.27 (24th)
3.29 (24th) — Goals against per game — 3.33 (26th)
46.9% (27th) — Faceoffs — 52.3% (5th)
21.7% (11th) — Power play — 17.4% (25th)
76.8% (28th) — Penalty kill — 79.8% (17th)
Projected lineups (subject to change)
Kubalik — Toews — Strome
Hagel— Dach — Kane
DeBrincat — Borgstrom — Carpenter
Entwistle— Johnson — Khaira
de Haan — Jones
McCabe — Murphy
Stillman — Gustafsson
Hoglander — Pettersson— Boeser
Pearson — Horvat — Garland
Dowling — Miller — Podkolzin
Lammikko— Dickinson — Highmore
Ekman-Larsson — Poolman
Hunt — Myers
Rathbone — Schenn
How to watch
When: 7:30 p.m. CT
Where: United Center, Chicago
TV: NBC Sports Chicago, NHL Network
Live stream: ESPN+