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Call Me Maybe: Blackhawks vs. Canucks Preview

Both teams also have only one win in their last five games.

Vancouver Canucks v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Blackhawks will host the Vancouver Canucks Monday night at the United Center for the last meeting between these two teams this season.

They’ve split the season series so far, with Vancouver winning 4-1 in October and Chicago being victorious 1-0 in November.

After losing 11 of their first 12 games this season, the Canucks have performed better as the season’s progressed but are still a mostly middling team with a .500 record. This matches up pretty well with their shot metrics which are fairly break-even, all hovering around 50 percent. Their biggest weakness is their inability to score: they have the fourth lowest goals per game rate (2.43) in the league thanks primarily to a league worst 5-on-5 shooting percentage (5.90). Recently, they’ve been even worse, averaging just 2.1 goals in their last 10 games and most recently being shutout 1-0 by the Calgary Flames on Saturday.

The Canucks are led offensively by J.T. Miller, who is having one of the best seasons of his career with 44 points (16 G, 29 A), while Quinn Hughes is second and as consistent as ever with 33 points (2 G, 31 A). However, everyone after them is having a down year — some more than others. In comparison to last season, Bo Horvat is off-pace by about 10 points, Elias Pettersson is off pace by about 21 points, and Brock Boeser is off pace by about 24 points. That’s a lot of lost offense from their top, young players.

Luckily for the Canucks, they are getting strong goaltending. Their .941 save-percentage at 5-on-5 easily leads the league, and while their penalty kill drags down their overall save-percentage for the season to .915, that’s still good for top-four in the league. Starter Thatcher Demko and backup Jaroslav Halak are both top 5 in the league in 5-on-5 save-percentage, which is an incredible feat considering no other team has two goalies in the top 20 together. Demko was especially great in the 31-save loss against Calgary Friday, his first game back after missing time while in COVID-19 Protocol.

The Canucks are expected to be missing Tanner Pearson (COVID-19 Protocol), Travis Hamonic (lower-body), and Tucker Poolman (undisclosed). Brandon Sutter is also still out with long-haul COVID-19 symptoms.

The Blackhawks are coming off a handful of games in the last week when they’ve appeared competitive at times, although they were still inconsistent enough that they only secured one win in that span. Most recently, the Blackhawks showed they do have some ability to play up to competition in their 6-4 loss to the Colorado Avalanche Friday night, and their tenacity at the end was impressive. That same game, though — and the other versus the Avalanche as well as the two against the Minnesota Wild — illustrated that the Blackhawks still have a lot of work to do. But it is good to see some positives.

The Blackhawks are also coming off two of their best offensive games of the season: they not only scored 12 goals against the Avalanche and Red Wings, but their expected goals total for both games were top 10 for the season. However, remove the Red Wings game, and the Blackhawks are still averaging about just 2.4 goals a game, one of the worst rates in the league. That’s better than the 15-game span between November and December in which the Blackhawks could barely manage two goals a game, but it’s still an area they need to work on improving in the back half of the season.

In the Blackhawks’ last 10 games, Patrick Kane led the team with 11 points (4 G, 7 A), but Dylan Strome had the best point-per-game rate of 1.29 thanks to his four-point outing against Detroit. Alex DeBrincat also had nine points (5 G, 4 A) in 10 games while Brandon Hagel went a point-per-game with eight points (4 G, 4 A) in eight games. Erik Gustafsson (seven points in eight games) rounded out the top-five producers in that span.

Usually a strength for the Blackhawks as of late, Marc-Andre Fleury is coming off two games of a sub .900 save-percentage, giving up nine goals against on just 58 shots. The team in front has played much looser defensively in those two games, but it’s still a downward trend for the goalie who put up .930 or better in six of his seven games prior. With the Canucks and Blackhawks both similarly offensively challenged this season, the fate of the game could rest on the shoulders of the goalies, so hopefully Fleury can regain form for Monday night.

The Blackhawks will go their second game without Jonathan Toews (concussion protocol), Riley Stillman (knee) is still day-to-day, and Kevin Lankinen (hand) won’t be back for another week or two. Jujhar Khaira, who missed fives games with a back injury, took lines rushes at Sunday practice and could draw back into the lineup Monday night.

Blackhawks — Statistic — Canucks

46.88% (25th) — 5-on-5 Corsi For — 49.91% (16th)

45.99% (25th) — 5-on-5 Expected goals for — 49.45% (20th)

2.45 (28th) — Goals per game — 2.43 (29th)

3.34 (24th) — Goals against per game — 2.68 (8th)

49.4% (17th) — Faceoffs — 51.6% (9th)

19.4% (19th) — Power play — 19.7% (17th)

74.4% (27th) — Penalty kill — 69.5% (31st)

Projected lineups (subject to change)

Blackhawks

Hagel — Strome — Kane

DeBrincat — Dach — Lafferty

Kubalik — Borgström — Kurashev

Khaira — Carpenter — Entwistle

McCabe — S. Jones

de Haan — Murphy

C. Jones — Gustafsson

Fleury

Delia

Canucks

Miller — Pettersson — Boeser

Hoglander — Horvat — Garland

Motte — Lammikko — Highmore

Podkolzin — Dickinson — Chiasson

Ekman-Larsson — Myers

Hughes — Schenn

Juulsen — Hunt

Demko

Halak

How to watch

When: 6:30 p.m. CT

Where: United Center, Chicago

TV: NBC Sports Chicago

Webstream: ESPN+