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Three Hawks Hits: Chicago Blackhawks fall to Vancouver Canucks in Rick Tocchet's debut

Jay Zawaski Avatar
January 25, 2023

As sweet as it would have been to spoil Rick Tocchet’s Vancouver debut, the Blackhawks fell short, dropping their second in-a-row, this time a 5-2 loss to the Canucks. Chicago, who only managed 14 shots, got goals from Patrick Kane and Sam Lafferty. Petr Mrazek stopped 43 shots, keeping the contest close for longer than it had any business being.

The blues lines were unkind

Canucks begin Rick Tocchet era vs. Blackhawks

If you haven’t been paying attention to the Vancouver Canucks, first-of-all, good for you. They’ve had an underachieving season this year, and as a result, fired coach Bruce Boudreau on Sunday. The firing comes after jerking him around for weeks. He knew his days were numbered, but stood in there, head held high and acted like a pro.

Canucks fans were unhappy with the move, so Boudreau’s replacement, Rick Tocchet, didn’t exactly get the hero’s welcome most new coaches get. Three minutes into the game, a Canucks fan threw their jersey onto the ice in protest. Tocchet was welcomed with a mix of boos and polite claps.

Regardless of how Canucks fans feel about the hire, they have to be please with how their team played in this game. They completely dominated in all aspects of the game, and Elias Pettersson, who Tocchet challenged in his opening presser, was great. He ended the night with two points and even leveled Blackhawks defenseman Caleb Jones with a big open-ice hit.

Whether or not Tocchet takes Vancouver back to their “glory” days (of the Blackhawks dynasty) remains to be seen, but he’s got his back against the wall, at least in the eyes of the fans, from jump.

Time to give Petr Mrazek some credit

We’ve been really tough on goaltender Petr Mrazek this season, and frankly, it’s been justified. Coming in to Tuesday’s game vs Vancouver, he was 5-11-1 with a 3.87 goals against average and a .886 save percentage with a -9.1 goals saved above expected.

Those are bad by any measure.

However, since his brutal start vs the Kraken, in which he gave up four goals in five shots, he’s been much better, giving up only six goals in the three starts since. He’s also been our Draft Kings ‘King of the Game’ in back-to-back games.

Tuesday, he was under siege in the first period.

Live look at Petr Mrazek in the first period

The Blackhawks spent 6:00 of the first 8:31 of the game shorthanded. When the smoke cleared, the Canucks had peppered Mrazek with 13 shots. He stopped all of them.

When the Canucks scored their third, and game-winning goal in the third period, Max Domi cross-checked Dakota Joshua on top of Mrazek. The goaltender was slow to get up but remained in the game.

Max Domi loses his cool

Max Domi has been the Blackhawks’ best and most consistent forward all year. He leads the team in scoring and has played every game this season. He’s been a positive presence in the room and has even hinted and wanting to return beyond this season, but this was one of his more forgettable games.

In the first period, Vancouver forward Dakota Joshua put a hard, but clean hit on Patrick Kane.

Domi responded by dropping the gloves with Joshua. As a result, he received five minutes for fighting, two minutes for instigating, and a 10-minute misconduct. The Blackhawks were forced to play 17 minutes without their top forward. I thought it was dumb, but I know others might disagree. It’s a star player. Clean or not, you can’t put a hit like that on a star player.

Okay. Fair enough.

Fast-forward to the third period. Vancouver took a 3-2 lead on a goal by Joshua. Domi responded by rushing to the front of the net, and cross-checking Joshua on top of Mrazek, who was slow to get up.

That’s dumb. That’s selfish. It can’t happen, especially considering the fragile nature of the Blackhawks’ goaltenders. Domi has to be better.

BONUS HIT: Why wasn’t Lukas Reichel called up?

It’s the move we all wanted, and all expected, but it didn’t happen. When Tyler Johnson was placed on IR earlier this week, it wasn’t Lukas Reichel who got the call up. It was Luke Philp.

Wait, what? Who?

When Reichel was sent down, general manager Kyle Davidson mentioned wanting to get some other Rockford players an opportunity to play in Chicago, and Philp was certainly among the IceHogs who deserved that chance. He has 30 points in 31 games in Rockford. “It’s a pretty big accomplishment to get here,” Philp said after the morning skate. “I’m excited and ready to go.”

After Reichel’s demotion, Davidson also mentioned how playing in Rockford would give the young forward a chance to develop as a leader. “Moving forward, I think it’s valuable for him to go down, play center, be a go-to guy…a leader…on a team that’s going to play meaningful hockey down the stretch,” Davidson said. It would be hyperbole to say Reichel has failed the assignment, but in his five games since getting sent down, he’s a minus-3, has one assist and has only mustered six shots on goal.

My biggest concern about his demotion wasn’t the wins or losses. It was the mental toll it might take on him. Reichel was the best Blackhawk on the ice in those three games. He belongs in the NHL and he showed it. Davidson acknowledged that element, but emphasized how he’s been clear in communicating his plan to Reichel. That doesn’t change how it feels for the kid who has done everything the organization has asked and more. That said, it’s up to Reichel to return to his form and no sulk over the demotion. That’s how he can show Davidson his maturity.

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