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Game Day Preview & Game Thread #73: Mar 26, 2023- Canucks @ Chicago

March 26, 2023
- Kent Basky

With a win in the Windy City, the Canucks can return to .500 for the first time since Dec. 31st. Wait, what???

VANCOUVER CANUCKS (33-34-5) vs CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS (24-42-6)

3:00 PM PST

UNITED CENTER, CHICAGO, IL

TV: SN PACIFIC. RADIO: SN650

It's getting awkward, honestly.

This whole "I'm Charlie Brown, and the Canucks are Lucy" thing that encapsulates my relationship with this team has been going on for 49 years now, and even though I know Lucy is gonna pull that damn football away, I am gonna sail through the air like an idiot, and land with a resounding thud, I still know in my heart of hearts: This time. This time it's gonna be different. This time, I will put that damn ball right through the uprights.

Ugh.

Even though elimination from the postseason is just being delayed, because it's mathematically impossible for the Canucks to somehow overtake the teams ahead of them, the glimmer of hope that we're seeing from the inspired, and (believe me when I tell you this is not easy for me to write) defensively sound hockey the Canucks have been playing since Rick Tocchet assumed the head coaching reins has me questioning what I know to be true thanks to a lifetime of disappointment and heartbreak.

What if maybe they actually can turn this dumpster fire into a competitive team? Yes I know that they've got an easy schedule the rest of the way, and they've been feasting on some bottom feeders along the way, but something's changed. The way this team stares down any opponent and refuses to blink right now is downright inspiring, and Tocchet's managed to get some of the most maligned Canucks this season to play their best hockey. Think about the way J.T. Miller, Brock Boeser and Tyler Myers have been performing of late. That's more than just a bump. That's guys buying in. The question is: Are they doomed to repeat what happened with Bruce Boudreau, or is this the honest to god beginning of a team finally starting to dig up?

Another thing that gives me hope: Filip Hronek, small sample size and all, sure as hell is looking like the defensive piece the Canucks have literally been dying for. It's been a difficult year for the Canucks back end, between just awful execution, Riley Stillman, near-catastrophic injuries and a career worst performance from Oliver Ekman-Larsson, even if Spencer Martin wasn't the second worst goaltender all season in the NHL, they wouldn't have stood a chance. Now? They're harder to play against. The defensive gaffes, while still present are nowhere near as bountiful, and with Thatcher Demko returning with a vengeance from his injury, it leaves one wanting to see what a full season of this team could accomplish.

And along with being so much fun to watch, and a hard team to dislike, it really needs to be said. The Canucks are kinda weird. And I mean that with absolute respect. I mean, how can you not love a team with the worst penalty kill in the last 40 NHL seasons, while simultaneously leading the league in short handed goals? It's frickin' weird, man. And I love it. I still stand by what I said all along: the best thing for this team would have been to just blow shit up and get their Bedard on. But maybe, just maybe, in spite of the Aquilinis, Jim Rutherford, Patrik Allvin and the Canucks might actually fix this. If not, well... we'll just pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and wait for Lucy to spot the ball, because next time, I know she'll let us kick it.

Today's game is Chicago's "Pride Night", and rather than go off on how the Blackhawks organization make the Canucks look like role models, I would like you to read this piece by our old pal Sam Fels, who absolutely nails everything that's wrong with the Hawks from a fans point of view. A lot of this hits close to home as a Canucks fan, but it's an outstanding read.

LINEUPS

Courtesy of nhl.com, this is maybe what we'll see this afternoon:

Canucks projected lineup

Andrei Kuzmenko -- Elias Pettersson -- Anthony Beauvillier

Phillip Di Giuseppe -- J.T. Miller -- Brock Boeser

Dakota Joshua -- Nils Aman -- Conor Garland

Vitali Kravtsov -- Sheldon Dries -- Vasily Podkolzin

Quinn Hughes -- Tyler Myers

Ethan Bear -- Kyle Burroughs

Jack Rathbone -- Filip Hronek

Collin Delia

Thatcher Demko

Scratched: Jack Studnicka, Aidan McDonough, Guillaume Brisebois

Injured: Christian Wolanin (lower body), Noah Juulsen (lower body), Oliver Ekman-Larsson (ankle), Travis Dermott (undisclosed), Ilya Mikheyev (torn ACL), Tanner Pearson (hand), Tucker Poolman (upper body)

Blackhawks projected lineup

Lukas Reichel -- Reese Johnson -- Andreas Athanasiou

Tyler Johnson -- Jason Dickinson -- Taylor Raddysh

Boris Katchouk -- Jujhar Khaira -- Joey Anderson

Mike Hardman -- MacKenzie Entwistle -- Buddy Robinson

Caleb Jones -- Seth Jones

Jarred Tinordi -- Connor Murphy

Ian Mitchell -- Nikita Zaitsev

Petr Mrazek

Alex Stalock

Scratched: Wyatt Kaiser

Injured: Jonathan Toews (illness), Andreas Englund (lower body), Colin Blackwell (groin), Anders Bjork (lower body), Cole Guttman (shoulder), Austin Wagner (undisclosed) Philipp Kurashev (upper body)

You have to feel bad for Aidan McDonough. The prized rookie, inked by the team and brought in to get some experience before embarking on his full-fledged NHL career, but how do you crack the lineup of a team that's won nine of their last twelve? According to JPat, though, the kid will play tonight.

Also, it's going to be good to see former Blackhawk Collin Delia get a win over his former team, right?

GAME DAY CHATTER

GAME DAY BATTLE HYMN

A little British thrash for you today, with an apt title to say the least. From 'History Of A Time To Come', this is 'A Cautionary Tale' from SABBAT.

Enjoy the game, folks. Go Canucks Go!

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