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Hawks Hits: Comeback efforts not enough as Blackhawks lose to Canucks

Mario Tirabassi Avatar
December 17, 2023

In a game that could’ve easily been a blow-out, the Chicago Blackhawks played the red-hot Vancouver Canucks down to the wire. The spirited comeback effort fell short though in a 4-3 loss.

The Blackhawks came out of the gate today ready to play for a change. The 2:00 p.m. start time, and facing one of the best team’s in the NHL, and being down the depth chart defensively would have all been excuses for the Blackhawks to come out flat and have a bad result.

Instead, they recorded the first ten shots on goal and got out to a 1-0 lead early with a Nick Foligno goal. It was another instance in which the Blackhawks have scored first in a game, but many times those leads have been wasted. Unfortunately, that would be the case again today.

Following taking the 1-0 lead mid-way through the first period with an 11-1 shots on goal advantage, Chicago began a parade to the penalty box and allowed a power-play goal late in the period to make it a 1-1 game heading into the first intermission. But even then, starting the second period with a power-play, the Blackhawks got back into the lead with a goal from Nick Foligno again, making it a 2-1 game.

Then the wheels came off.

The Canucks took total control of the game from there in the second period, scoring three unanswered goals in the middle frame to take a 4-2 lead into the third period. Scoring chances in the second period alone were 13-2 favoring the Canucks, giving them a 21-7 advantage through 40 minutes.

After a third period fight between Nikita Zadorov (remember him?) and Reese Johnson, the Blackhawks scored on the power-play with Cole Guttman getting his second goal of the season to cut it to a 4-3 Vancouver lead. It marked the first time all season Chicago has scored more than one power-play goal in a game.

The comeback effort, while valiant, fell short. Chicago’s second period letdown was their ultimate doom in a game where they played the kind of game that will, most of the time, keep them competitive. Baby steps.

Mario: Blackhawks Squander Fast Start

The recipe for this game we easy: Canucks are good. Blackhawks are bad. Game has an afternoon start time and the Blackhawks have a hard time starting games fast. Should be an easy Canucks win, right?

Well, it didn’t look like it at first.

Getting out to 1-0 and 2-1 leads in the first and second periods was great for the Blackhawks. Big confidence boosts to begin each period provided by defacto-Captain Nick Foligno. But it was the way that Vancouver responded to each time being down that made the difference. Chicago came out hot, then took three penalties in the second-half of the first period. Not a great way to try to build momentum after taking a lead.

After taking the 2-1 lead, Vancouver controlled the puck for what felt like the entire rest of the second period. They had a 13-2 advantage in the middle frame in scoring chances over the Blackhawks and took a 4-2 lead into the third period.

The third period power-play goal from Cole Guttman was a nice snipe and got the crowd back into the game, but it was a comeback effort coming up short.

We’ve harped on the team for not showing heart or giving performances where you don’t question the efforts and commitment levels. Being out-talented is one thing, being out-worked is another.

This was a talent-based loss, in my view. The Blackhawks showed the effort levels you want to see out of a team coached by Luke Richardson. It was an effort that resembled the team last season. But having to overcome numerous powerplays against them on top of Vancouver being a better team, top to bottom, and the Blackhawks playing a defensive group with four IceHogs players, there’s only so far that out-working a team can take you.

Jay: Entire Blackhawks team attends Larry Korchinski’s funeral in Saskatoon

When Kevin Korchinski was put on the non-roster list last week, it was unclear as to why. Friday, the news became public that his father had passed away. 

After the team’s ugly loss in Seattle, instead of heading home to lick their wounds, the team flew to Saskatoon to support their teammate. 

“It was a sad day for everybody involved,” Luke Richardson said after Saturday’s practice. “Hockey’s always great like that. It was great for us to be there. We’re ready to help him out when he gets back here.”

“We’re there for all of our teammates,” Connor Murphy said. “It’s unimaginable what him and his family are going through. We were really fortunate to be there with him yesterday.”

When asked how to support Korchinski when he returns, Murphy said, “Just being around in support everyday…making sure no one is lonely and on their own day-to-day outside the rink. It’s extra special, and needed, in really trying times.”

“There’s no real right words to say in a time like that,” Nick Foligno said. “I feel so sad for a kid that’s feeling on top of the world, then has to deal with that…losing a loved one…a father no less. We’ll be here for him every step of the way.” 

“I lost my mom at 21,” Foligno recalled later. “I know the emotions…you’re already trying to process the league at such a young age then you have that happen to you…it’s life. It puts a lot in perspective. There’s a lot more to this game, and people’s lives behind the scenes. There’s real-life things that go on. That’s why you have to be present and show that family bond.” 

Regardless of how the Blackhawks have performed on the ice this season, they’ve handled off-ice adversity very well. Sometimes, these things can connect a team more than any sort of drills or road trips. With leaders like Foligno and Murphy, the young Blackhawks are in good hands. 

Greg: A Better 5v5 Effort Keeps it Close

Playing at full strength has not been something the Blackhawks have excelled in this season. They entered the game with a 44.44 Corsi for percentage (CF%) at 5v5. This means the Blackhawks get 44.44% of the shot attempts. The only team with a lower 5v5 CF% this season is the San Jose Sharks at 42.93.

With the Blackhawks depleted defensive corps, there weren’t a lot of high hopes for that changing against the Canucks. However, the home team dominated the first period at 5v5 with a 66.67 CF%. They had 14 shot attempts to Vancouver’s seven and didn’t allow a single shot on goal while scoring a goal. The Canucks’ five shots and their goal all came on special teams with one shorthanded shots and four on the power play.

The Canucks didn’t get their first 5v5 shot until 1:32 of the second period. However, they scored a pair of goals in 41 seconds to make up for the bad first period in a hurry. The middle frame was not great, as Vancouver had a 23-10 edge in 5v5 shot attempts, giving the Blackhawks a 30.3 CF%. The visitors had 13 5v5 shots on goal to the Blackhawks’ five while outscoring them 3-0.

Things got better in the third period, with the Blackhawks posting a 43.75 CF%, to finish the afternoon at 55.71%; a much better effort than what we have been used to seeing. The biggest issue with this team all season has been able to string good games in a row. This is what happens with a roster full of young players and guys that should be in the AHL.

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