Chicago Blackhawks: Takeaways from Marc-André Fleury’s 40-save shutout – Chicago Tribune

0
8
chicago-blackhawks:-takeaways-from-marc-andre-fleury’s-40-save-shutout-–-chicago-tribune

Thank you for supporting our journalism. This article is available exclusively for our subscribers, who help fund our work at the Chicago Tribune.

Brandon Hagel didn’t outright say it, the Chicago Blackhawks probably deserved to win a game like Sunday’s 1-0 win over the Vancouver Canucks, even though they did enough to lose it.

“That’s the game of hockey,” he said. “That’s happened to us early in the season a little bit where we may have deserved to win and I think that was tonight.”

The Hawks have had games where they competed well enough to pull out a close one, but the goaltending failed. And, of course, there have been games where both the skating and the netminding were miserable.

But the 1-0 win was a game where they turned the puck over and allowed sustain pressure in the zone, but goalie Marc-André Fleury bailed the Hawks out with 40 saves.

“We had our spurts,” coach Derek King said. “First period, I thought we were decent. Second period, I did not like our second period at all. But our goalie kept us in it.”

Erik Gustafsson celebrates Brandon Hagel's goal against the Canucks during the third period on Nov. 21, 2021.

Erik Gustafsson celebrates Brandon Hagel’s goal against the Canucks during the third period on Nov. 21, 2021. (DARRYL DYCK/AP)

The Canucks' Tyler Motte checks Seth Jones into the bench during the second period on Nov. 21, 2021.

The Canucks’ Tyler Motte checks Seth Jones into the bench during the second period on Nov. 21, 2021. (DARRYL DYCK/AP)

The Hawks collected themselves in the third period, controlled the puck and got a score from Hagel, who was rewarded for harassing the Canucks.

“Third period was our best third period we’ve played since I’ve been here,” King said.

He couldn’t answer out why it took two periods to figure it out, but joked “maybe we were saving our energy.”

Here are four takeaways from the 1-0 win in Vancouver.

1. The question for Marc-André Fleury is, what do goal posts like to eat?

Fleury had a magnificent night, for sure — 40 saves — but a couple of shots hit the post and one hit the crossbar.

“Definitely some help from my posts, will buy them dinner. Maybe a fresh (coat of) paint on it. … Maybe just treat them a bit for doing good to me.” Fleury said jokingly after the game, deflecting some praise of his performance to the red iron behind him. “It’s a challenge, right? If I can keep the game close, always believe we can get some goals and we take a huge one there in the third.”

Fleury notched his first shutout of the season and 68th of his career, and had his fourth straight start with at least a .939 save percentage.

That’s quite a recovery from the first eight games of the season, where he had three that qualified as “really bad starts” (below 85%).

The puck deflects off the post behind Blackhawks goalie Marc-André Fleury and stays out of the net during the second period on Nov. 21, 2021.

The puck deflects off the post behind Blackhawks goalie Marc-André Fleury and stays out of the net during the second period on Nov. 21, 2021. (DARRYL DYCK/AP)

Blackhawks goalie Marc-André Fleury makes a save as the puck bounces back past the Canucks' Bo Horvat and Blackhawks' Seth Jones during first-period action on Nov. 21, 2021.

Blackhawks goalie Marc-André Fleury makes a save as the puck bounces back past the Canucks’ Bo Horvat and Blackhawks’ Seth Jones during first-period action on Nov. 21, 2021. (DARRYL DYCK/AP)

“I just take it one shot at a time, try to keep the game close,” Fleury said.

He added that Hawks skaters in front of him have “been trying their best every night to defend better, maybe, not give up as many breakaways, 2-on-1s and odd-man rushes. I think that shows in the amount of goals we give up.”

Still, when a team gives up 40 shots on goal, it’s an issue.

“It’s a game of mistakes,” Seth Jones said. “We didn’t do a lot of things good at all. We were on our heels. We didn’t manage the puck in the neutral zone very well.

“We gave them free opportunities, free chances at our net. … But Fleury stood tall.”

King added, “We’ve got to clean up some areas to help him out a little better, so he doesn’t have to play light out every night. But it’s always nice when he’s on.”

2. Are the Blackhawks over their ‘fragile’ period?

Let’s play devil’s advocate.

While the Hawks have won five of their last six games, the Arizona Coyotes, Seattle Kraken and Canucks are below .400 in points percentage — and wins against the Nashville Predators and Pittsburgh Penguins came immediately after Jeremy Colliton’s departure “lit a fire.”

The 5-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers exposed the Hawks’ troubling tendency to compound mistakes and press after adversity, and King admitted things “snowballed.”

However, it wasn’t the kind of dismantling they suffered from the Winnipeg Jets or on their first road trip of the season. And they eventually self-correct against the Oilers.

Some regression — a push and pull — is to be expected, and the Hawks aren’t going to fix their issues overnight.

Regardless of whether the Hawks can match up with the better teams, King thinks the team is developing the mental makeup to compete against the elites.

“They’re feeling good about themselves, they’re getting their confidence back,” he said. “They’re not as fragile as when I got here. It’s nice, but it’s still a journey and we’re going to keep picking away day by day.”

3. Rob Cookson spells out how he can help the Blackhawks coaching staff.

Cookson, who was hired as assistant coach Wednesday, said it’s going to take him a few weeks to get fully acclimated, but he laid out his immediate role on King’s staff.

“I’ll work with the forwards … and work with power play a little bit, along with Matt Meacham.”

Cookson said he helped King with pre-scouts “and also on the player accountability issues in terms of our systems.”

Cookson said some of the greatest value he brings is his 11 seasons as an NHL assistant coach — three with the Ottawa Senators (2016-19) and eight with the Calgary Flames (2001-11), who the Hawks play Tuesday.

“Experience is so critical in this league,” he said. “It sometimes gets undervalued to a degree but it’s really important to have experience people around you.”

Blackhawks goalie Marc-André Fleury and his teammates celebrate the 1-0 win over the Canucks on Nov. 21, 2021.

Blackhawks goalie Marc-André Fleury and his teammates celebrate the 1-0 win over the Canucks on Nov. 21, 2021. (DARRYL DYCK/AP)

4. Reintroducing Brandon Hagel, quote machine.

Hagel has always been quick with the quips, and the more unintentional they are, the better.

Remember, this is what he said about Andrew Shaw retiring: “I don’t know if I’ll miss him flexing in the mirror as much.”

“Just kind of a dead arm,” Hagel said. “Duncs got me on the perfect spot. I shouldn’t have talked to him before the game, I guess.”

Here is more game coverage.

Brandon Hagel’s goal in the third period gave the Chicago Blackhawks enough offense for a 1-0 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday at Rogers Arena, but it was Marc-André Fleury who stole the show, giving the Hawks their first shutout of the season.

Fleury made 40 saves and battled through a late penalty kill, stopping four shots on goal during the Canucks’ furious last-ditch effort. It was Fleury’s 68th career shutout.

Hagel redirected Erik Gustafsson’s blast past Thatcher Demko for his fifth goal of the season.

The Hawks improved to 6-10-2 overall and 5-1-0 under interim coach Derek King. He said a solid third period was key.

“Guys were sacrificing, guys were blocking shots, we held on to pucks down in the offensive zone a lot longer,” King said. The Canucks “played quick and they tilted the ice a few times, but we weathered the storm and Marc-André was on his game.”

The Hawks certainly needed his help against the Canucks. His line with Jonathan Toews and Dylan Strome had the best puck possession numbers, and Hagel drew a third-period hooking penalty shortly after recovering a Canucks giveaway.

Blackhawks goalie Marc-André Fleury stretches before the start of the second period against the Canucks on Nov. 21, 2021.

Blackhawks goalie Marc-André Fleury stretches before the start of the second period against the Canucks on Nov. 21, 2021. (DARRYL DYCK/AP)

Jonathan Toews takes the puck away from the Canucks' Travis Hamonic during first-period action on Nov. 21, 2021.

Jonathan Toews takes the puck away from the Canucks’ Travis Hamonic during first-period action on Nov. 21, 2021. (DARRYL DYCK/AP)

The Hawks had a second straight game with some potentially costly giveaways, but they didn’t pay for their mistakes this time.

“Obviously that’s not the way you want to play every single night,” Hagel said, but “Fleury battled for us. He definitely won us that game.

“Two points is two points at this point. We’re trying to get back in it. So we’ll take it, move on and obviously we know we can get better next game.”

Offense was hard to come by for both teams during the first two periods.

The Canucks came in with the worst penalty kill in the league, but the Hawks couldn’t capitalize on three man-advantage opportunities.

Chicago Tribune Sports Newsletter

Weekdays

A daily sports newsletter delivered to your inbox for your morning commute.

The Canucks came up empty on two power plays too.

Fleury stopped seven shots on the Canucks’ first power play. Then in the second period, Fleury weathered sustained offensive pressure, including back-to-back close-range shots by Vasily Podkolzin and Elias Pettersson.

He faced 15 shots in each of the first two periods and 10 in the third, though at least three other attempts on Fleury drew iron.

Demko stopped 23, including a rebound try by Strome on the power play.

“Probably one of the uglier wins I’ve been a part of in my career,” Hawks defenseman Seth Jones said. “We turned a lot of pucks over, we weren’t clean or sharp — myself included.

“Fleury made big saves for our team in the first two periods, kept us in it, gave us a chance. The third period, we get one and we locked it down pretty well.”