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Canucks 3, Blackhawks 1: Message delivered, message received in rebound victory

The much-maligned penalty kill had another perfect night and the Canucks were also credited with 30 hits, including 12 by Luke Schenn

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It was like being called to the principal’s office.

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You knew you had done something wrong to draw the ire and the transgression wasn’t going to be ignored or dealt with in a polite manner.

Bruce Boudreau delivered the vocal discipline and vowed that the Vancouver Canucks would make amends for a no-show Saturday in Calgary.

That listless 1-0 overtime loss in which the Canucks managed but one shot in the first 27 minutes — and finished with J.T. Miller complaining of a non-penalty call and not backchecking on the winning goal — turned Boudreau red and he probably spat a blue streak.


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The Canucks responded with 11 first-period shots, finished with a 31-21 advantage, and got goals from Alex Chiasson, Brock Boeser and an empty-netter from Luke Schenn. Connor Murphy replied for the Blackhawks in the third period in what would be a 3-1 Vancouver victory.

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“For the most part, we really kept them (Blackhawks) at bay and played pretty well — a really good road game for us,” said Boudreau, of his club that outshot Chicago at even strength in the third period. “The message was simple. Don’t sit back.

“We want to learn how to shut it down. We’re getting better at it all the time and we wanted the guys to go get that next goal and play responsibly without the puck.”

The much-maligned penalty kill had another perfect night and the Canucks were also credited with 30 hits, including 12 by Schenn.

Here’s what we learned as the Canucks got back above the .500 mark at 20-19-6:


Vancouver Canucks centre Tyler Motte (64) skates away from Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane (88) during the first period at the United Center.
Vancouver Canucks centre Tyler Motte (64) skates away from Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane (88) during the first period at the United Center. Photo by Dennis Wierzbicki /USA TODAY Sports

STRONG START, SHARP GOALS

Chiasson scored his first even-strength goal of the season in the first period, which speaks to the scrutiny he often draws as a net-front, power play presence who doesn’t have great wheels and relies on screens and tips to get the job done.

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However, when he took a feed from Justin Dowling and quickly released a wrist shot that beat Marc-Andre Fleury high to the glove side, it showed a skilled side to the fourth-liner.

“I like to find those areas and it was a spot where I feel pretty confident with my shot,” said Chiasson, who turned another professional tryout into a one-year contract. “It’s hard to win with one or two players and this is my 10th year and a pretty special night with 600 games in moving around quite a bit.

“I’ve stuck with it and there’s something to be said about that. Today, I had a moment just to realize a lot that I’ve been through and I’ve had a lot of people supporting me through the process. That keeps you open-minded on thing when you play with some of best players in the game.”

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Quinn Hughes started the scoring sequence in the second period that would lead to a two-goal cushion. He looked short side with a sharp-angle release as Boeser gained position and deftly deflected the puck under Fleury’s blocker for his second goal in the last three games.

“Good goal scorers know where to go,” said Boudreau. “Brock knew the angle he needed and what kind of tip was needed at that point. And he did it to get off a bit of a slide. If we can get some other guys going, we’ll do pretty well.”

Miller nearly made it 3-0 early in the their period when he went backhand-to-forehand while cutting to the net on a speed move before Conor Garland was denied on a Grade A slapper chance.


Vancouver Canucks goaltender Jaroslav Halak (41) makes a save on a tip in attempt from Chicago Blackhawks left wing Dominik Kubalik (8) during the second period at the United Center.
Vancouver Canucks goaltender Jaroslav Halak (41) makes a save on a tip in attempt from Chicago Blackhawks left wing Dominik Kubalik (8) during the second period at the United Center. Photo by Dennis Wierzbicki /USA TODAY Sports

HALAK BY THE NUMBERS

Jaroslav Halak took a credible 2.59 goals-against average and .915 saves percentage into Monday’s meeting, his first start since Dec. 30 in Los Angeles.

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A 2-1 shootout loss to the Kings was a snapshot of what has hampered the veteran backup stopper from having more than a 1-4-2 mark. The Canucks had managed just nine goals in run support and four of six losses were by one goal.

Halak missed a scheduled Jan. 15 start in Carolina after testing positive for COVID-19 but wasn’t showing any rust Monday.

He started strong Monday and caught a break when the Blackhawks nearly scored a short-handed goal when Sam Lafferty whiffed on a two-foot, tap-in. Halak rebounded to stop a point shot tip through traffic and hold his ground to reject a rebound.

The Hawks finally got to him with 7:59 remaining in regulation when Murphy’s shot got between his arm and body.

“It’s always hard, even if you don’t play in a couple of weeks or a month,” said Halak. “Especially being out 10 days (COVID-19 protocol) and trying to get in the groove right away. The guys played great in front of me tonight and we didn’t give them a lot, especially in the third.”

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Halak saw how well Demko performed and how emergency recall Spencer Martin excelled in his absence to raise the performance bar in Vancouver.  Talk about pressure.

“I don’t put pressure on myself anymore,” responded Halak. “I just try to go out there and enjoy it because you never know when it’s your last game. I go day by day and game by game and when I get a chance, I just try to do my best.

“The standard has always been high for me, and I’m sure for any goalie in the league, and I just want to prove that I can still play.”

Boudreau tossed bouquets to his envious depth between the pipes and what it means to the rest of the players.

“We’ve got great goaltending since I’ve been here,” he said. “The players believe in the goalies, and when that happens, they take a couple of more chances because they know their guy is back there to defend them. And it was there again tonight.”

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Vancouver Canucks goaltender Jaroslav Halak (41) makes a save on a shot from Chicago Blackhawks center Kirby Dach (77) during the first period at the United Center.
Vancouver Canucks goaltender Jaroslav Halak (41) makes a save on a shot from Chicago Blackhawks center Kirby Dach (77) during the first period at the United Center. Photo by Dennis Wierzbicki /USA TODAY Sports

HALAK BY THE BONUSES

The biggest test for the 36-year-old Slovakian since his COVID-19 setback has been more mental than physical.

The Canucks have five goaltenders signed to NHL contracts and Halak would be a good trade-deadline acquisition for any contender concerned about its goaltenders or lack of depth.  

Halak signed a one-year deal here, but when he hits the 10-game mark, a US$1.25 million bonus kicks in. He’ll pocket an additional $250,000 for a save percentage better than .905. If the Canucks remain in a salary cap crunch, that $1.5 million would be applied to next year’s cap.

The escape plan would be to deal Halak before his next start, but he has a no-movement clause. If the Canucks believe they can remain in the chase for a long-shot playoff spot, they need two proven veterans. Of course, that could change before the March 21 trade deadline if they fade in the next month.

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Marc-Andre Fleury #29 of the Chicago Blackhawks defends a shot by Elias Pettersson #40 of the Vancouver Canucks during the first period at United Center on January 31, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois.
Marc-Andre Fleury #29 of the Chicago Blackhawks defends a shot by Elias Pettersson #40 of the Vancouver Canucks during the first period at United Center on January 31, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois. Photo by Stacy Revere /Getty Images

PODKOLZIN TAKES A SEAT

It speaks to the significance of the tough road ahead when a promising rookie was scratched Monday in favour of Dowling, who has now played 97 career NHL games.

Vasily Podkolzin, 20, was a healthy scratch for just the third time this season. You could argue that 10 games without a goal and just one in 14 had something to do with sitting out. Podkolzin has seven goals and 10 points in 42 games and there’s a big upside to the big and speedy Russian. But right now, defending is as important as scoring as the Canucks keep taking their long-shot pursuit of a playoff position.

“Sometimes, it’s just better to take a step back and watch a game and see it,” said Boudreau. “We’ve been working with him and this isn’t a punishment or anything that he did wrong. We just wanted him to watch and get ready for tomorrow (Wednesday) night.

“Maybe he’ll see some things that have been missing in his game recently. He hasn’t played a lot and he’s just trying to do too much out there.”

bkuzma@postmedia.com
twitter.com/benkuzma

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