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5 Chicago Blackhawks’ Thoughts From 5-2 Defeat Against Vancouver

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VANCOUVER, BC - DECEMBER 28: Brent Seabrook
VANCOUVER, BC - DECEMBER 28: Brent Seabrook /
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The Chicago Blackhawks are back on a losing streak, as the season took another ugly turn in a 5-2 loss at Vancouver on Thursday

You could be forgiven for believing the Chicago Blackhawks would come off a four-day break looking energized and ready to roll against the lowly Vancouver Canucks. Actually, perhaps not, since it seems like the Blackhawks frequently lose after extended time off.

That situation occurred again Thursday, as the Blackhawks duffed a 5-2 game against the Canucks when they badly needed two points. Thankfully, the Blackhawks don’t have time to wallow in this defeat, with a game against Edmonton on the docket tonight. Of course, the Oilers were red-hot before losing to Winnipeg on Wednesday, so …

Let’s dive into some thoughts from this defeat, the Blackhawks’ third in a row.

Artem Anisimov, Connor Murphy down

Anisimov played all of 3:05 Thursday and was done with an undisclosed injury. Coach Joel Quenneville later called it an upper-body issue unrelated to slash taken earlier in the game and said Anisimov could miss time.

That is among the last thing the Blackhawks need at this point. Anisimov is the team’s No. 2 center, and even with David Kampf and Vinnie Hinostroza around, it’s not helpful to lose someone who had been centering Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane.

Later in the game, Connor Murphy took a nasty hit into the boards from Alex Biega, jarring the helmet from Murphy’s head as he crumpled to the ice. Murphy appeared to take a shot right to the dome, which would stoke fears of a concussion.

So the Blackhawks could be heading into the second half of a back-to-back missing a top-six center and a top-four defenseman. That’s not a promising outlook. On the positive side, at least Hinostroza and Michal Kempny could both draw in.

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Anton Forsberg receives little help

You’d hope the Blackhawks might try to play solidly in front of Anton Forsberg, given the goaltender had competed very little since Corey Crawford‘s return from the first injured reserve stint.

While the Blackhawks controlled possession at evens (more on that later), they pretty much hung Forsberg out to dry in some key spots. After the deflected first goal, the Blackhawks were caught sightseeing on four consecutive Vancouver tallies.

The trio of Brock Boeser, Thomas Vanek and Sam Gagner blew up the Blackhawks all night, and the likes of Gustav Forsling and Brent Seabrook were especially burned in spots. Forsberg is going to wind up with an ugly statline, but considering the walkabouts some of his teammates performed, I’m willing to give him a pass.

Forsberg may not start tonight against Edmonton, but it’s positive to see he made eight saves in non-even-strength situations — four on the powerplay, and four shorthanded.

About that possession

At 5-on-5 in this game, the Blackhawks booted around the Canucks to the tune of a 58.67 Corsi-for rate. That’s obviously a good thing. What’s far less nice is getting two goals out of that, with the only even-strength tally coming in the final 10 seconds of regulation.

If you look at the Blackhawks’ shot heat chart on Natural Stat Trick, you can see a big part of why possession didn’t lead to results here. The Blackhawks took a large number of shots from above the circle to Jacob Markstrom‘s left. Not sure that’s the best way to score on any goalie.

Suspect shot selection has plagued the Blackhawks all season, and it was noticeable again Thursday. You can’t dominate possession that way at even strength and utterly fail to score. At least get to the front and try to do something. Ryan Hartman was the only one really eyeing that option.

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Powerplay still a disaster

So on the Blackhawks’ one powerplay strike Thursday, Kane hit Schmaltz right between the circles for a one-timer Markstrom could do nothing about. Good thing that was the last we saw of that.

A 1-of-5 success rate on the powerplay just isn’t going to cut it. The Blackhawks fired a whopping seven shots on those five man advantages, and a majority of them were again from above the circles. Why are the Blackhawks obsessed with trying to channel the spirit of Andrew Shaw‘s shinpads?

At this point, it’s pretty clear it’s the “playcalling” at fault. The personnel of Kane, Schmaltz and Alex DeBrincat has tons of passing and scoring skill. Jonathan Toews can win draws. Hartman can stand in front of the net. I have no idea why Patrick Sharp received over two minutes on the powerplay, but the rest of the forwards should be able to do something.

No consistent zone entries, no consistent effort to shoot from prime scoring areas and not enough meaningful puck movement. Same story, different night.

Calling all first-liners

Toews and Brandon Saad must’ve gotten invisibility cloaks for Christmas, because they were hard to find despite spending a good chunk of time on the ice.

Of course, Thursday wasn’t the first time in recent memory these two have gone missing. But it’s just becoming brutal at this point, with the Blackhawks needing point production and not getting it from anywhere except the second line.

Yes, the Blackhawks need to settle on a right wing for these two. But it’s not like they’re useless without a pristine third forward. At least they shouldn’t be.

Toews and Saad have not stood out in an overwhelmingly positive way in some time. Coach Q has to have noticed this and may consider something drastic now that Anisimov’s injury tosses out the whole idea of keeping lines together.

Next: Coach Q Must Settle On Lineup With Crow Hurt

The Blackhawks cannot continue to throw away games in hand, but they’re facing a tough foe tonight in Edmonton. The Oilers bring speed, something the Blackhawks struggle with. The visitors may also have to turn to Jeff Glass in net. It could be another ugly affair, or the Blackhawks could surprise us and turn in a heartful performance in a tough spot. It’s happened this month.

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