Vancouver Canucks: 3 takeaways from crushing of Blackhawks

VANCOUVER, BC - DECEMBER 28: Thomas Vanek /

In what was arguably their best performance of the season, the Vancouver Canucks dominated the Chicago Blackhawks all over, and cruised to a 5-1 victory. Here’s what we learned from the big win.

The Vancouver Canucks may have been without Bo Horvat, Sven Baertschi, Brandon Sutter and Chris Tanev on Thursday night, but it didn’t matter. The duo of Thomas Vanek and Brock Boeser were more than enough in taking down the team of the 21st century, pacing the Canucks to an easy 5-1 win over the Chicago Blackhawks.

This win may not do enough to help the Canucks re-enter the playoff picture, but it was sure entertaining to see this short-handed team find a way to take down the most dominant team of the past decade.

The Canucks were able too neutralize the Blackhawks, who have not been their normal selves this season. Patrick Kane was a handful for the blue line, but Jonathan Toews and other key Blackhawks players had little to zero impact in this one.

Though this rivalry has been one-sided as of late, the Canucks have now taken the last two meetings against Chicago. With that all said, let’s examine three takeaways from the 5-1 victory.

Boeser for the Calder

Oh, it was just another day at the office for Brock Boeser. He had one goal and three assists on the night, moving two points up on Mathew Barzal for the rookie lead.

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Boeser scored his 21st goal of the season — which already surpasses the team-leading 20 tallies that Horvat posted last year.

Boeser is now eight goals up on Barzal, and seven points clear of Clayton Keller — who’s third among rookie scorers.

Only four players have more goals than Boeser right now. He trails Nikita Kucherov (24) by three goals for the league lead. It’s amazing to believe that a rookie could win the ‘Rocket Richard’ Trophy.

The 20-year-old is simply playing at an impressive level that no other Canucks rookie has put up since Pavel Bure in 1991-92. At this point, the Calder Trophy is Boeser’s to lose.

Thomas Vanek continues to dazzle

Is Vanek sure he’s okay with making $2 million in 2017-18? The man had a five-point night, scoring twice while registering three assists. The 33-year-old has turned back the clock and is up to 12 goals and 28 points on the season.

At this point, Vanek is on to hit the 20-goal mark for the first time in three years. He’s been an excellent fit with the Canucks, providing them with a sniper who can win the loose buck battles and finish off nice plays.

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General manager Jim Benning is going to have a tough choice in two months from now. Does he try to extend Vanek, or trade him for assets at the trade deadline?

If Vanek keeps up this pace, other teams may give Benning some offers he can’t refuse. But right now, it’d be ideal if the Canucks could work out an extension with Vanek, who’s been an excellent fit on the west coast.

Sam Gagner is surging

Sam Gagner is finally coming into his own after a brutal first two months with the Canucks. He had a goal and two assists on the night, using his blazing speed to burn a vulnerable Blackhawks’ defence that we’re not used to seeing struggle so much.

Gagner is now on a four-game point streak, with a pair of goals and four assists during that span. With so many injuries to the top-six, head coach Travis Green has given Gagner extended playing time, and it’s leading to results.

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There’s no reason to pull him out of the top-six any time soon. Gagner got rolling on a line with Vanek and Boeser, so expect him to stay there for now. We’ll see if Gagner can maintain this hot streak, but it’s at least nice to see him finally cashing in long minutes and some points.