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Instant Reaction: Hughes and Kuzmenko put on a show early as Canucks beat Blackhawks 2-0

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Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
David Quadrelli
4 months ago
Welcome back to Instant Reaction — the series here at CanucksArmy where we give you our instant reaction to the game and ask our readers to do the same in the comments section below! Wyatt Arndt is on Stanchies duty and Mike Liu will have The Statsies — CA’s analytics-based post game report — up tomorrow morning.
This game got started with a bang, as the Canucks’ second line got to work early on. Andrei Kuzmenko, who showed signs of confidence during Saturday night’s 6-4 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs, continued where he left off.
What you won’t see in that replay is Kuzmenko’s strong defensive play in the neutral zone to disrupt the Blackhawks’ attack right before this goal. But don’t worry, we’ve got more Kuzmenko highlights to show you.
The old Kuzmenko gives up on this play immediately. The old Kuzmenko skates back to the bench after this play, only to find out he won’t be leaving it for the next 40 minutes. But not tonight.
Tonight, Kuzmenko was instrumental in giving the Canucks an early 2-0 cushion leaving the first period, and his two assists seemed to not mean nearly as much as his play away from the puck in the opening 20 minutes.
In addition to Kuzmenko’s strong start, Quinn Hughes did as we expected him to and made magic happen on the ice all period long.
Before we finish writing about the first, here’s one more Kuzmenko clip.
In short, the first period was essentially one big power play for the Canucks, with Quinn Hughes and Andrei Kuzmenko shining the brightest.
The second period saw a continuation of a bit of a peculiar trend we’ve seen with the Canucks recently. After starting hot and gaining the lead, the team takes their foot off the gas pedal during the second period. Against teams like the Leafs, that can mean blowing the lead you worked to create in the first. Against teams like Chicago, that means letting them take more shots on goal that almost look like they could go in.
You’ve got to be good to be lucky, and Thatcher Demko is certainly good.
Now, everything in this article needs to be read with the context that this was a game against the Chicago Blackhawks. The Abbotsford Canucks might give this team a serious run for their money. But nonetheless, when the Canucks killed off their fifth penalty of the game, it marked their 15th straight killed-off penalty. That is a stat to pay attention to, for as good as the Canucks have been this season, their PK hasn’t been at the same level.
Thatcher Demko made a number of nice saves tonight, but this was perhaps his best:
After a tough run that saw his save percentage dip in December, Demko has been excellent as of late. It looks like he will go toe-to-toe with Connor Hellebuyck for the Vezina Trophy down the season’s final stretch. A shutout tonight will certainly help Demko to improve his chances of winning that race.
The Canucks may not have won this game in the most convincing fashion, but they count all the same, and they’ve earned the benefit of the doubt at this point, haven’t they?
Some other takeaways from tonight:
-This game went by so fast.
-This was undoubtedly the Mikheyev-Suter-Kuzmenko trio’s best game since being put together as a line.
-It was another tough game for the Lotto Line at 5v5, and they’ll need to turn things around soon. Tocchet spoke about that line’s struggles at morning skate, and mentioned that the line is well aware that they haven’t been good enough the past few games. Wednesday is their next chance to flip that script.
What’s your instant reaction to tonight’s game? Let us know in the comments section below!
PS: I’m joining Jeff Paterson on the Rink Wide Vancouver post game show this evening! You can find it anywhere you get your podcasts!

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