Beyond the Embarrassing Style: Blackhawks vs. Canucks Preview
By definition, it is a hockey game.
Two teams with just about nothing to play meet at the United Center on Sunday evening when the Chicago Blackhawks host the Vancouver Canucks.
It’s also Pride Night at the United Center, although the Blackhawks will not be participating in the most visible display of public support for the LGBTQIA+ community thanks to an “organizational decision” that remains clear as mud.
These two teams met back on Jan. 24, which was the first game of the Rick Tocchet era, after the Canucks mishandled the midseason firing of coach Bruce Boudreau about as poorly as a professional sports franchise can. Vancouver won that game 5-2 but then were thrashed 6-1 by the Seattle Kraken the next night, offering a quick reality lesson for Tocchet on the situation he was embracing. To Tocchet’s credit, though, the Canucks have been surging of late with a 10-3 record in the last month and enter this game after a 3-1 win over the Dallas Stars on Saturday night.
And Vancouver’s roster does feature two excellent young pieces. Elias Pettersson, who’s 24, leads the team with 91 points (33 G, 58 A) in 70 games while 23-year-old defenseman Quinn Hughes has 68 points in 68 games, and his 63 assists are second to San Jose’s Erik Karlsson among NHL defensemen. Although captain Bo Horvat is no longer here after a trade-deadline move to the New York Islanders, other decent pieces like Brock Boeser (14 G, 33 A) and Conor Garland (13 G, 27 A) provide some depth scoring and 25-year-old Ethan Bear could be a competent blue-line piece for the future, too. The cupboard is not barren here.
Goaltending is a different story, though, as the triumvirate of Thatcher Demko, Spencer Martin and old friend Collin Delia have not been very good this season — and even that may be generous. All three have a save percentage under .900 and a goals-against average over 3.20. Martin was sent down to the AHL about a month ago, meaning it’s been the Demko-Delia Duo — calling dibs on that band name — for the final stretch of the season. Demko made 25 saves on 26 shots in that Saturday win over Dallas, so expect Delia to get the nod for this game.
As for the Blackhawks: their offense is bad as is their defense. While Alex Stalock has been commendable at times, there’s a very strong “Davy Crockett at The Alamo” every time he starts making saves. Also, with Stalock starting on Saturday night in the Twin Cities, Petr Mrazek seems like the choice to man the net in this one.
We’re down to 10 games left, people.
The lineup below was from Saturday’s game against the Wild. Seems like Mrazek in for Stalock and Ian Mitchell in for Wyatt Kaiser are the only two expected moves, but that won’t be known for sure until Luke Richardson speaks a few hours before puck drop.
Blackhawks lines in warmups vs. Wild:— Ben Pope (@BenPopeCST) March 25, 2023
This was the lineup for Vancouver against Dallas. Swap Demko out in net for Delia and that’s probably what it’ll be for this game.
Rathbone slots in against the Stars ⭐️— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) March 25, 2023
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Tale of the Tape (statistics from this season)
Blackhawks — Statistic — Canucks
43.27% (31st) — 5-on-5 Corsi For — 47.84% (24th)
41.57% (31st) — 5-on-5 Expected goals for — 47.45% (24th)
2.43 (32nd) — Goals per game — 3.35 (11th)
3.56 (25th) — Goals against per game — 3.65 (27th)
49.2% (18th) — Faceoffs — 53.0% (5th)
16.0% (31st) — Power play — 22.1% (11th)
76.2% (21st) — Penalty kill — 70.4% (32nd)
How to watch
When: 5 p.m. CT
Where: United Center, Chicago
TV: NBC Sports Chicago
Radio: WGN 720