RECORDS: Hawks 18-17-6 Canucks 21-15-4
PUCK DROP: 9pm
TV: NBCSN Chicago
GARBAGE THROWERS: Canucks Army
The Hawks start 2020 in Vancouver, which in some way was where everything started. Not only was it their biggest rival and site of some of their biggest wins, but it’s where Seabrook, Keith, and Toews won a Gold Medal before they’d won a Cup, which you could argue only set off their appetite for more silverware. Now they’re just barely alive in the playoff race. Tonight they’ll see another one chasing the postseason after an absence, which hasn’t been something that’s gone well for them in the past.
The Vancouver Canucks have won five in a row, which actually has them in the third spot in the Pacific but only one point above the trap door in the West with the Flames, Jets, and Oilers right on their ass. You’d think the Flames will get their act together soon, which probably means the Canucks are still looking at a wildcard spot. The Hawks claim they’re looking at those two. Which would make this something of a four-pointer. But the Hawks have biffed pretty much every one of these when they’ve had the chance. You remember games against the Avs, Stars, or Coyotes last year where they couldn’t even manage a point that they needed. If they’re serious, a regulation win is needed and then to be backed up with a bunch more.
So how did the Canucks get here? Mostly goaltending. Jacob Markstom has been great in December, with a .927 SV%. The Canucks mostly have been getting domed in games of late, but Markstrom has seen them through. They don’t do anything particularly well other than the power play, which is just an extension of their magnificent top line. The trio of J.T. Miller, Elias Pettersson (WHO WANTS TO WALK WITH ELIAS?!), and Brock Boeser has some of the best metrics in the league, and has been murder in both zones. Earlier in the year they were some of the best defensive marks in the league, though that’s slipped of late.
But beyond that, the Canucks have the common problems of not enough depth. Jake Virtanen has done what he does which is score goals you’ll never remember, and Bo Horvat is much more comfortable as a second center behind Pettersson. But beyond that there isn’t much, and that’s something the Canucks will have to improve in the near future.
There is a genuine star on the blue line in Quinn Hughes, who has 25 assists. Tyler Myers sucks, has always sucked, and will always suck, but the Canucks were hard-ons to sign him as a free agent for years so he’ll be polluting their third-pairing for the next five years. Christoper Tanev and Alex Edler are still here, though one might think moving both at the deadline will improve the Canucks long-term. But the long-term has never been their priority, and if they’re in the thick of it–given the nature of the Pacific they probably will be–they’ll never justify stripping their blue line of the two dependable veterans they have.
For the Hawks, nothing much should change. One would think Robin Lehner will continue to ride the roll he’s been on, though they won’t want Corey Crawford to go stale. Sikura has earned another game, there’s not much more he can do honestly. Maybe Koekkoek comes in for again but you’d tend to doubt it.
As stated above, the Hawks have utterly sucked in games against direct competitors at the bottom of the picture. They won’t get anywhere if they can’t change that. As we’ve said, the schedule is a little light right now. They’ve won three in a row, but they’ll need more. They need weeks of this, not days. So keep it going.