The Vancouver Canucks lost in overtime by a score of 4-3 at the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks. The loss marks the Canucks’ third straight loss.
The Vancouver Canucks may have lost 4-3 in overtime to the Chicago Blackhawks, but last night’s game in the windy city was one of the more entertaining games we have seen this season. Overtime was fast-paced and featured an Elias Pettersson breakaway, but in the end, the Canucks picked up only one point.
Here are my three takeaways from last night’s game.
Special teams play a huge role
Coming into Thursday, it was no secret that Chicago Blackhawks’ superstar Patrick Kane was on an absolute tear. With 27 points in his last ten games prior to last night’s game, the Canucks knew they would have their hands full.
At even strength, the Canucks effectively shut down the Hawks top line, as head coach Travis Green played the matchup game, as he usually does. However, Thursday evening’s game saw a total of ten power-plays, three of which were two-man advantages.
The Canucks went shorthanded late in the first period after Jay Beagle took a hooking penalty- leaving Brandon Sutter as the Canucks only regular penalty-killing center. Then he took a slashing penalty out of frustration and put the Hawks on the two-man advantage.
Without both of their two top penalty killers, the Canucks had to try to defend one of the league’s top power-play units. The Blackhawks’ power-play unit went to work and scored with four seconds remaining on the Beagle penalty. Then less than a minute later, they netted another goal on the man advantage.
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The Canucks power-play also got a two-man advantage but was ultimately unable to get anything going. As TSN’s Jeff Paterson points out, the Canucks power-play has had six two-man advantage opportunities this season, and have only scored once.
It looked as though the Canucks couldn’t buy a goal on the power-play. That was until Pettersson did something about it, potting this beauty of a one-timer with the man-advantage and the goalie pulled- sending the Canucks to overtime on his 25th goal of the year.
The special teams were extremely important in last night’s game, and the Canucks will need their power-play to be even better if they want to stick around in the playoff conversation.
On top of that, last night also served to show everyone how important Beagle and Sutter are to the penalty killing units.
Ben Hutton and Troy Stecher step up big again
I mentioned in a previous post-game report that the Canucks’ defense needed to step up in a big way in the absence of top blueliner Alex Edler. Ben Hutton and Troy Stecher, for the second game in a row, did exactly that.
Hutton logged 31:18 of ice time last night. If you told me a year ago that Hutton would log minutes like these, I likely would have called you crazy- especially since he saw a lot of time in the press box just a season ago.
On top of playing more minutes, Hutton has also quarterbacked the Canucks’ first power-play unit effectively in the absence of Edler. Hutton also registered three shots on goal last night, the most of any Canucks’ defenseman. Stecher logged 22:49, second to only Hutton among Vancouver rearguards. He moved the puck well as always and played some key minutes up against the Blackhawks top line.
Stecher and Hutton enjoy playing with one another and have been an effective first pairing for the Canucks for the time being. They will continue to play big minutes while the Canucks await the return of Edler.
Michael DiPietro might have to play
There was a moment in last evening’s game where Canucks fans held their breath. Jacob Markstrom stopped a shot up high that seemed to hit him underneath the bottom of his mask, but just over the top of his chest protector.
Markstrom went down and as the Canucks moved the puck up the ice, the referee came over to talk to Markstrom to make sure he was okay. You could see him grimacing in pain through the bars of his mask, but Markstrom elected to stay in the game.
But for that brief moment with just over five minutes left to play in the first period, everyone thought there was a chance we could see Michael DiPietro get into the game and make his NHL debut. It would be quite the jump for DiPietro who was facing shots in the OHL just a week ago, but it could happen.
For those wondering, DiPietro was measured for an NHL size chest protector in the summer, and his new, NHL approved model was waiting for DiPietro when the Canucks arrived in Chicago.
Markstrom has played six straight games in a packed month of February. With Thatcher Demko being placed on the IR early Thursday morning, you have to wonder if the Canucks will have to ask DiPietro to make his debut earlier than anyone could have expected.
After the loss in Chicago, and the St. Louis Blues picking up two points, the Canucks fall out of a playoff spot. They’ll face the Calgary Flames this Saturday when they return to home ice and try to avoid falling further in the standings.