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Freakin’ Me Out: Blackhawks vs. Canucks Preview

The Blackhawks hit the road as they start a stint in western Canada against the Canucks

Vancouver Canucks v Chicago Blackhawks
Quinn Hughes of the Vancouver Canucks controls the puck ahead of Sam Lafferty of the Chicago Blackhawks
Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

I don’t want to get all sappy. I’m as sentimental as they come but I’ve learned that some people are uncomfortable with public displays of emotion and have learned to live with that. Maybe when/if I have a serious partner that will change.

Writing for Second City Hockey has been my dream since I started writing about hockey seven years ago (good god). It was my dream when I was at FanSided, it was my dream when I was at Knights on Ice (another site now lost in the wash of the Vox decision). The last few years have made me forget my Blackhawks fandom, but they have not made me forget my SCH fandom.

I don’t know how many more of these previews I’ll get to write. I don’t know if my career will bring me back to hockey or if I’m going into more long-form, reporting-heavy work that’s going to continue to give me anxiety about the world we live in. It’s, unfortunately, probably the latter. I mean, if it leads to the Taylor Swift ghostwrite, I’ll take it.

I’m going to continue to write about hockey while I have the platform, but when this, too, is gone, I will likely take an extended break and go be a young person.

But I liked being old, cranky and yelling at the Blackhawks about winning games during a tanking season. It was fun, and I got to pester the people who wanted the Blackhawks to be better. I told you this team was bad at the start of last year, but not even I really realized how bad it was gonna get.

Anyways, as they say, the show — for however long it continues to run and the spotlight comes up — must go on.

The Chicago Blackhawks have won six of their last eight games, a feat they didn’t even accomplish when they had a winning record back at the end of October. They enter Tuesday’s contest after a 2-1 defeat at the hands of the Los Angeles Kings.

Luckily for the Blackhawks, they come up against a team that might be a bigger mess than they are. The Vancouver Canucks enter this game off three straight losses, with their last regulation win coming Jan. 5. Firing Bruce Boudreau may have been necessary, but oh boy did Vancouver handle the situation poorly.

They also brought in Rick Tocchet, who, in his best season with the Arizona Coyotes, went 33-29-8 and would have missed the playoffs if not for the bubble? At this point, the “Good Ol’ Boys Club” of hockey coaching is a choice. You’re really telling me that Rikard Gronborg or Rocky Thompson can’t outcoach this guy? Okay.

The Canucks are 18-25-3 this season, which is good for 39 points and sixth in the Pacific Division. If the Sharks and Ducks weren’t absolute, runaway trainwrecks, the Canucks would be in even bigger trouble.

Vancouver is down two of its biggest players in Tanner Pearson, out after a second wrist surgery, and goaltender Thatcher Demko, dealing with a lower-body injury. Not that Demko was having a good season, especially by his standards, anyway.

The Canucks are led in scoring by Elias Pettersson, who is back to having a good season after a few down years. Pettersson has 54 points (19 G, 35 A) in 44 games, leading the next-highest scorer, Bo Horvat, by five points. Horvat is attracting a good bit of attention on the trade market and for good reason, as he’s scored 49 points (30 G, 19 A) in 46 games this season while also winning 56 percent of his faceoffs.

The Canucks also see defenseman Quinn Hughes, Andrei Kuzmenko and J.T. Miller above 40 points so far this season, while no other player is even above 30.

Vancouver’s goaltenders have combined for a team .877 save percentage — 0.23 points below league average. Former Blackhawk Collin Delia is leading the team with a .897 mark in seven starts, and it wouldn’t be shocking if Delia is part of the tandem when Demko returns. Vancuover also can’t move the puck very well, with a 47.54 percent shot share — 25th in the NHL — and a 45.65 percent expected goal share, 27th in the NHL.

This could be a game that goes either way. Right now, the Blackhawks are hot, as Jaxson Stauber killed it in his first game and Alex Stalock is turning out to be the goaltender who’s probably too good for the Blackhawks in the long run. A .918 save percentage, more than halfway through the campaign? That’s the kind of thing that can ruin a tank. Stalock should be moved at the deadline — if he’s healthy.

Tale of the Tape (statistics from this season)

Blackhawks — Statistic — Canucks

42.63% (32nd) — 5-on-5 Corsi For — 47.2% (25th)

40.96% (31st) — 5-on-5 Expected goals for — 45.65% (27th)

2.4 (31st) — Goals per game — 3.28 (11th)

3.58 (27th) — Goals against per game — 3.96 (31st)

56.1% (1st) — Faceoffs — 49.4% (20th)

19.7% (24th) — Power play — 23.6% (14th)

74.8% (24th) — Penalty kill — 65.9% (32nd)

How to watch

When: 9 p.m. CT

Where: Rogers Arena, Vancouver, BC

TV: NBC Sports Chicago

Radio: WGN 720