Redemption is just a day away for the Chicago Blackhawks as they remain north of the border on Sunday night to face the Vancouver Canucks.
Following Saturday’s 5-2 loss in Edmonton, the Blackhawks have a quick turnaround for Sunday’s game and face a team in the midst of its own organizational dysfunction — purely from an on-ice perspective, though.
Vancouver opened this season with a decent 3-2-1 start — including a 4-1 defeat of the Blackhawks in Chicago on Oct. 21 — before everything fell apart. Over an 11-game stretch, the Canucks went 2-8-1 while plummeting down the Pacific Division standings. Only the expansion Seattle Kraken remain below the Canucks. Calls for the job of general manager Jim Benning have only grown louder and a press conference to address the team’s recent failures did nothing to stem the tide of anger directed at his office. The Canucks’ most recent game was a win, though: a 3-2 home win over the Winnipeg Jets on Friday night.
Veteran J.T. Miller is the team’s scoring leader with 19 points (7 G, 12 A), while Conor Garland (5 G, 9 A) and defenseman Quinn Hughes (2 G, 12 A) aren’t far behind. Vancouver’s top two young-ish stars aren’t thriving as much as the team would like, though, with Bo Horvat and Elias Pettersson each at just 10 points in 18 games. In net, Thatcher Demko’s numbers won’t inspire any confidence (6-7-1, .902 save percentage, 3.22 goals-against average) and backup Jaroslav Halak is only marginally better (0-3-1, .903, 2.79). The team stats aren’t much better with Vancouver having the league’s No. 22 power play at 16.9 percent and the worst penalty kill with a conversation rate of just 60.3 percent.
In players like Horvat, Pettersson and Hughes the Canucks do have some impressive young talent but there’s always been a question of whether or not they have enough of that talent to assemble a contending team in the near future. This season hasn’t done much to alleviate those fears, either.
As for the Hawks, the lineup will be mostly unknown without a morning skate due to Saturday’s late game in Edmonton. It was notable that coach Derek King opted for a top line of Jonathan Toews between Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat in the third period as the Hawks looked to make up a late deficit against Edmonton. Whether or not that line remains intact will be something to watch in the pregame skate. A few other lineup adjustments like, say, joining Dylan Strome and Philipp Kurashev on a line in the bottom six and/or sending Reese Johnson to the press box in favor of, well, anyone else would be a nice development as well — we can hope, right?
Marc-Andre Fleury is in net after Kevin Lankinen handled Saturday’s outing. While Saturday’s outcome was ultimately disappointing, the Blackhawks didn’t completely fold up the tent after falling behind early, which wasn’t always the case during the Jeremy Colliton portion of the season. How this team rebounds after its first loss under a new coach will be worth the watch to get an idea of the team’s mental reserves with King in charge.
Blackhawks — Statistic — Canucks
44.62% (31st) — 5-on-5 Corsi For — 50.36% (17th)
41.74% (32nd) — 5-on-5 Expected goals for — 46.62% (28th)
2.24 (29th) — Goals per game — 2.50 (27th)
3.41 (28th) — Goals against per game — 3.33 (26th)
48.3% (23rd) — Faceoffs — 51.9% (10th)
18.6% (16th) — Power play — 16.9% (22nd)
85.2% (9th) — Penalty kill — 60.3% (32nd)
Projected lineups (subject to change)
DeBrincat — Dach — Kane
Hagel — Toews — Kubalik
Hardman — Strome — Khaira
Kurashev — Carpenter — Johnson
Gustafsson — S. Jones
McCabe — Murphy
Stillman — C. Jones
Pearson — Horvat — Hoglander
Podkolzin — Miller — Garland
Dickinson — Pettersson — Boeser
Motte — Lammikko — Chiasson
Hughes — Hamonic
Ekman-Larsson — Poolman
Burroughs — Myers
How to watch
When: 7 p.m. CT
Where: Rogers Arena, Vancouver
TV: NBC Sports Chicago-Plus