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Hawks Hits: Canucks stifle Blackhawks in 4-2 loss

Mario Tirabassi Avatar
February 14, 2024

The effort was there for about 30 minutes tonight, but unfortunately for the broken record that is the Chicago Blackhawks this season, 30 minutes of competitive hockey is not good enough in the NHL. After getting just one shot on goal in the opening period, the Blackhawks couldn’t overcome the league-leading Vancouver Canucks, falling 4-2.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the Blackhawks have a problem generating offense. For the second time this season, Chicago was held to just one shot on goal in the opening period of a game as they took 19 and a half minutes of the first period to get a put on net against Vancouver’s Thatcher Demko. The Canucks on the other hand, had no trouble controlling play and generating offense tonight, getting the game’s opening goal and the first 12 shots on net of the contest.

The second period was a better effort from the Blackhawks, even if they yielded the second goal of the game to Vancouver, Conor Garland’s second of the night, to make it a 2-0 game just beyond the mid-way point of the period. Chicago would get on the board thanks to a powerplay tally coming from Tyler Johnson for his tenth goal of the season. Minutes later, it appeared that the Blackhawks had tied the game on a Colin Blackwell backhand shot, but he hit the crossbar. On the same sequence, Nils Hoglander would put the puck five-hole on Petr Mrazek to make it a 3-1 game heading into the third period.

The third period would provide more of the same as Vancouver controlled most of the action in the period, culminating in a 4-1 goal coming from Dakota Joshua, who had a “Gordie Howe hat-trick” in the game, and ultimately putting the game out of reach for the Blackhawks.

On a positive note, Kevin Korchinksi would make the Vancouver lead just a bit smaller, scoring his third goal of the season to make it a 4-2 game late in the third period. With an assist on the Korchinski goal, it would mark the end of an eight-game point-less streak for Lukas Reichel, who tallied a secondary assist on the goal. Reichel has three assists in his last 20 games played, dating back to December 22, 2023.

Chicago drops their seventh in-a-row and have just one regulation win since that same December 22, 2023 game, holding a record of 4-14-2 with three overtime or shootout wins in that timeframe. They are 32nd in the NHL with 31 points in 53 games, a .292 point-percentage.

Greg: Penalty Kill Shines as Offense Continues to Struggle

The Blackhawks have struggled for much of the season at killing penalties. Heading into tonight’s game, they have killed off 77.2% of their penalties, which is 25th in the league. While that doesn’t look great, things have been much better of late. Since Jan. 1, they have killed off 39 of their 47 penalties, giving them an 83.0% success rate, the 12th-best in the NHL. The Blackhawks have killed off their last six penalties since returning from the All-Star break.

“We’ve really a great job baring down in a few areas, like faceoffs,” head coach Luke Richardson said about the recent improvement. “When you have a win, it’s a must clear. When there’s are rebound and we can touch it, it’s got to get out.

“The guys are committed to sticking with the structure and up-ice pressure. We skate well, and we’re trying to use that to our advantage. Not a lot of teams do it, so it throws some teams off a little bit. It creates less D-zone time if we can get them frustrated and turn back again and get them out of sync. Then, when they enter our zone, they’re not in their right spots, and that allows us to pressure the puck even more.”

The Canucks came into the United Center with the eighth-best power play in the NHL, converting 24.4% of their chances. They’ve added another weapon to their man advantage since the last time we’ve seen them with the acquisition of Elias Lindholm from the Calgary Flames. In his four games with Vancouver, Lindholm has two goals, both coming on the power play.

“Their power play’s pretty dominant, very similar to the New York Rangers,” Richardson said. So, we have to be very dedicated to skating tonight and not taking undisciplined penalties, meaning 200 feet from our net for no reason. We have to keep away from those. The hard penalties we’ll kill or do our best to kill, but we have to stay away from that tonight because he (Lindholm) really adds in that area with all of the other tools that they have. It’s just going to make them more potent offensively and another top-end forward on that team that’s already got a good group.”

The penalty kill unit was on the ice six minutes into the game after Joey Anderson took an avoidable tripping penalty in the neutral zone. They were impressive by clearing the zone four times and only allowing one shot, which came as the penalty was expiring.

Early in the second period, Colin Blackwell took the exact type of penalty Richardson said they needed to avoid, tripping minor deep in his own zone. Thankfully, the penalty kill unit was up to the task, clearing the puck three times and giving up two shots on goal.

Later in the middle frame, Nick Foligno was called for tripping in front of the Canucks net. Not an ideal penalty to take. The Canucks had more zone time on this chance as the Blackhawks only had two zone clears, but they only got two shots on goal.

Jason Dickinson was called for a trip right at the offensive goal line, another one of those penalties his coach doesn’t want him to take. The Canucks got three more shots on goal, and Petr Mrazek was up to the task.

The Blackhawks are a perfect 10-for-10 on the penalty kill over their last three games. When you’re on the short end of the stick on the talent gap each night, you need your special teams to show to have a chance. The power play scored tonight, and the penalty kill has been red-hot. Hurry back, No. 98!

Jay: Boris Katchouk Scratched 

Ever since he’s returned from his brief stint in Rockford, Boris Katchouk has been one of the more effective Blackhawks. With that in mind, Tuesday night’s healthy scratch may have come as a bit of a surprise. However, during Monday’s media session, Blackhawks head coach Luke Richardson was critical of Katchouk’s last game. 

“Last game probably wasn’t his best game,” Richardson said. “He’s got a lot of skill. I think sometimes he falls off the game plan a little bit because he gets distracted with himself. I think he gets frustrated when a play doesn’t go so well. You see that in his body language. I’m okay with passion, but you gotta think. You gotta channel it in the right direction. You can’t let it bring you down or bring your teammates down with bad body language and quitting a play because you missed the chance.”

This is about as specifically critical as I can recall Richardson being in his time as head coach. For him to take the moment to specifically identify and detail Katchouk’s error indicates that he was really pissed about what happened. 

Katchouk will get back in the lineup soon enough. Richardson has been fair to his players and has allowed them to regain his trust. 

Richardson’s message has been delivered. Now we’ll see how Katchouk responds. 

Mario: Blackhawks owe Petr Mrazek more offensive help

Coming into tonight’s contest, only one NHL goalie with more than 20 starts this season has had less goal-support in his starts than Petr Mrazek. At 1.95 goals of support per 60-minutes, Mrazek 43rd out of 44 qualified goaltenders in the NHL, yet he takes a .910 save-percentage and a 2.92 GAA into the game. Prior to puck drop tonight, Mrazek held a .921 save-percentage in 12 starts since the beginning of the calendar year, but just a 3-8-1 record in those 12 starts. He also brought a seven-game “quality start” streak into the game tonight against Vancouver, the active goalie leader. (Goalie quality start means fewer goals given-up than the expected goals-against number)

He’s been doing all he can to keep the Blackhawks afloat game after game.

Tonight, while the Blackhawks couldn’t possess the puck or create offense against the Canucks, Mrazek was peppered with 38 shots tonight, making 34 saves in the 4-2 loss. With 23 shots on goal to end the game, the Blackhawks came up short of reaching their average this season, an NHL 31st-ranked 26.4 shots on goal per game marker. Mrazek continues his quality starts streak by allowing four goals against an expected goals-marker of 4.95, although I’m sure he’d rather come away with a win.

You hear it from head coach Luke Richardson, you hear it from all of the defensemen, and all of his teammates that they have to do better to reward Mrazek for how he has been playing. Goal-scoring has been the biggest area lacking for the Blackhawks this season and besides the losses column, Mrazek has been feeling the effects of it.

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