1) In their 16th game of the season, it finally happened to the Vancouver Canucks. They came up with something far from their best effort and as a result fell 5-2 to the Blackhawks in Chicago. It's a credit to the team -- and says much about the group -- that it took this long to have an off-night. And give the Hawks credit, while you're at it. They were putplayed badly in San Jose in their last game on Tuesday, but were ready from the drop of the puck and raced out to a 15-3 edge on the shot clock. That was perhaps the biggest surprise of the night simply because the Canucks have spent so much time in the attacking zone on so many nights and the tables have rarely been turned on them especially early in hockey games. And for the 11th time in their 16 games -- and sixth in the past eight -- the Canucks surrendered the opening goal. It's just too tough a league to constantly be spotting opponents a 1-0 lead. It's playing with fire and on Thursday the Canucks got burned.
2) While the final shot clock showed the Canucks holding a 38-37 advantage, it's hard to recall more than two or three really good scoring chances for the visitors. The night seemed like a series of one and done forays into the offensive zone with very little sustained pressure. And facing Corey Crawford, who entered the night with just one win on the season and a saver percentage of 89.2%, the Canucks made life far too easy on the veteran netminder. This is a team that has been lauded for getting to the net and staying there on many nights this season, but not on Thursday. Jake Virtanen scored on a deflection in mop up time, but the team needed more of that kind of net front presence earlier in the contest. For the first time this season, Travis Green had harsh words for his hockey club in his post-game address to the media: 'I just don't think we were very good. We didn't look sharp. We didn't handle the puck very well.' He then caught himself as he added 'I thought we had some players that just didn't...we just weren't very good tonight'
3) For the third time in four games, the Canucks were forced to play the final 40 minutes with just five defensemen. Chris Tanev left the game with what the team is calling an upper body injury. His final shift came on the Hawks 2-0 power play goal. He didn't come out for the start of the second period and has to be considered doubtful for Friday in Winnipeg although Travis Green did not offer any substantive update post-game. With Tanev sidelined, Alex Edler was once again forced to log huge minutes -- 27:15 -- which is hardly ideal for the veteran blueliner on the first night of back to back games and with an early start on Sunday looming, too. Tanev was spotted strolling through the Canucks locker room postgame looking no worse for wear and with no visible sign of damage, so his injury remains a mystery. If Tanev can't play, Oscar Fantenberg will almost certainly draw in and make his Canuck and season debut. He'd probably play the left side with Jordie Benn sliding over to the right side. That could quite possibly mean a second pairing of Quinn Hughes and Troy Stecher -- something many Canucks fans have called for.
4) For the first time all season, the Canucks are facing some adversity. Sure they dropped their first two games in Alberta, but had a three-game homestand against beatable opponents and took care of business to get their season headed in the right direction. After falling to the Hawks, they have one win in their past four games (1-1-2) and have struggled to generate offense in three of those four. With their first outright loss since October 19th, they have earned the benefit of the doubt that Thursday's game was an outlier and that they can and will be better in Winnipeg. One of the team's downfalls last season was its inability to get out of funks. It's hard to call a four game stretch in which they've managed to get points in three of those games any kind of slump, but they need more from their top end players to ensure that they can regain their winning ways. Bo Horvat continues to struggle to generate even-strength offense and has just one goal in his past six games and only one 5-on-5 goal on the season. Tanner Pearson, who had one of the Canucks best chances on the night in the first period, has now gone a dozen games without a goal and has just one in 15 games since opening night. Those two combined for eight shots on Thursday, so it's impossible to say they played poorly. But it is a bottom line business and both play significant roles on the hockey club and more is expected and needed in terms of production. It was probably time on Thursday to insert Sven Baertschi on that line to give those other two some offensive support. It's definitely time to give that a shot on Friday in Winnipeg. Adam Gaudette had just three third period shifts in Chicago and only one in the first 14 minutes when the game was still on the line.
5) The Canucks power play delivered one of the team's two goals against the Blackhawks, but to the eye test it just doesn't look as sharp right now as it has in recent weeks. Elias Pettersson showed remarkable poise and patience waiting for a passing lane to feather a pass in front that JT Miller was able to convert to get the Canucks on the board early in the second period. At 2-1 and with nearly two periods remaining, it seemed like the stage was set for yet another Canuck comeback. Obviously that didn't happen. The Hawks were the team that won the special teams battle with a pair of power play goals of their own (plus a short-handed goal into an empty). The Canucks power play has reverted to being too static and with too many players over-handling the puck. The Blackhawks 2-0 goal was a text book example of quick puck movement with Patrick Kane sliding the puck down low to Dylan Strome who immediately found Andrew Shaw in front and he buried the puck past Jacob Markstrom. The Canucks seem to be hesitating with the puck and taking three touches per player before moving it on. Those delays allow defenders to pressure and force the Canucks into mistakes and plays they don't want to make. Over the past four games, the Canucks are 2 for 17 (11.8%) with the man-advantage. They need to regain their mojo with the man advantage and they have to hope it happens in a hurry.