Fleury stopped all 40 shots he faced for the 68th shutout of his career and the Blackhawks’ first of the 2021-22 season.
The first 20 minutes were scoreless and largely uneventful. The only notable moment was the injury to defenseman Riley Stillman, who was the victim of friendly fire and did not return after sustaining this lower-body injury:
The ice was mostly tilted in Vancouver’s favor during the first period and that incline steepened in the second, with Chicago’s only saving grace being Fleury’s heroics in net.
As if Fleury wasn’t frustrating Vancouver enough, the Canucks also hit the post four times, with Fleury taking time in the third period to offer his gratitude:
The only goal of the game arrived at the 4:12 mark of the third period when Brandon Hagel redirected a Erik Gustafsson point shot into the net:
That was it for the scoring. Fleury made a few more key saves in the final 15:48 to preserve the win, including multiple stops during a Vancouver power play in the final minutes of the game.
Marc-Andre Fleury stops 40 to earn his 68th career shutout.— NHL (@NHL) November 22, 2021
Congrats, Flower! pic.twitter.com/OCEg1tb8xy
Chicago is now 5-1 in the Derek King era. Let’s talk about it:
- Fleury certainly had some subpar moments in the first few weeks of the season but he has just been incredible over the last few weeks. In the last four games (which includes this one), Fleury has stopped 135 of the 140 shots against — a sparking save percentage of .964. It’s no surprise that the Blackhawks have also won all four of those games. This is the version of Fleury we were all hoping to see when he arrived via trade in the offseason.
- While we’re tossing out bouquets, let’s send some in the direction of Hagel, who may understands his role and plays it perfectly. That sequence in the third period when he scored a goal and then skated his ass off so much that it drew a penalty from Vancouver was indicative of what he Hagel brings every night. Not bad for a sixth-round draft pick, eh?
- Dylan Strome was also quite noticeable this evening and picked up the secondary assist on Hagel’s goal. Strome also tied with Hagel for the team lead at three shots on goal. That line of Strome, Hagel and Jonathan Toews had a team-best 77.78 share of shot attempts while on the ice and also a 62.67 expected goals share during 9:36 of 5-on-5 ice time. Feels like that line is worth more looks in future games.
- On the other end of the spectrum: the Blackhawks power play. As mentioned on Twitter, Chicago has gone ice cold with the man advantage since a hot start to the season. After 10 games, it was ranked sixth in the league at 26.3 percent. Entering Sunday, it was down to 16th at 18.6 percent and going 0-for-3 against the league’s worst penalty kill does not inspire any confidence.
- While the first two periods were not great, Chicago actually did a decent job of containing Vancouver in the final period. According to Natural Stat Trick, the Blackhawks controlled the 5-on-5 play with a 10-4 advantage in shots on goal, 7-3 advantage in scoring chances and 3-0 advantage in high-danger chances. Vancouver certainly had its looks on that last power play but those are just going to happen. A solid shutdown period but it’d be nice to see longer stretches of that in the future.
- All things considered, though, it’s hard to complain too much. Winning five of six has helped the Blackhawks erase some of the depths they dug during that horrendous start. The degree of difficulty ramps up significantly over the next few weeks, though.
- Marc-Andre Fleury (CHI) — 40 saves, shutout
- Brandon Hagel (CHI) — GWG
- Thatcher Demko (VAN) — 23 saves
The Blackhawks complete this four-game road trip on Tuesday night against the Calgary Flames with a 9 p.m. puck drop.