Three Stars (Blackhawks vs. Predators; Canucks vs. Senators)
Looking only at the scoreboard, you might believe that the Canucks and Senators stuck to the script on Wednesday. For all of the steps the Senators have taken (and believe they’ve taken), the Canucks are still the more established team.
But Thatcher Demko stands as the main reason why the Canucks didn’t face an upset, or didn’t need to rally from a big deficit.
During the first period, the Senators stunningly fired 23 shots on goal, versus just seven for the Canucks. Despite that disparity in play, that opening frame ended with the Senators and Canucks tied 1-1.
A Josh Norris goal ended being the only one Demko allowed. While the other story of Wednesday’s game might be Elias Pettersson and his linemates gaining some confidence, Demko was the true star of it. He made 42 out of 43 saves.
Last season, Vancouver leaned heavily upon Jacob Markstrom. It’s unclear if Demko can bail them out as often as Markstrom did, but nights like these provide some hope.
#Canucks have outscored the Senators 12-2 through two games, but that margin doesn't remotely reflect the run of play.
Huge key has been Thatcher Demko, who has saved over 5 goals beyond what's expected in two starts this week, according to @NatStatTrick's xG model.
— Thomas Drance (@ThomasDrance) January 28, 2021
2. J.T. Miller
With a goal and an assist, this had to be a heartening night for Elias Pettersson. That said, J.T. Miller was the standout forward, alongside the likes of a red-hot Tyler Motte (two goals).
Miller scored two goals and one assist to help the Canucks run away with their game against the Senators. Coming into Wednesday’s game, Miller had five points — all assists — in his first five games of the season.
He’ll have his work cut out for him to try to match his 2019-20 breakthrough, but maybe Miller can pull it off?
(Side note: if I were Jim Benning, I’d try to sign Pettersson to a contract extension while he’s in a slump that’s unlikely to continue. Just throwing it out there.)
If you weigh winning especially heavy, then Saros is a good choice. He made 29 out of 30 saves, and the Blackhawks couldn’t beat him in the shootout, so the Predators only needed one goal.
You could also choose Matt Duchene, he scored that shootout goal, and also collected an assist.
But, aside from the optics of the Nick Cousins goal, Lankinen was stellar on Wednesday. He wasn’t that far behind Thatcher Demko, as Lankinen collected 41 saves. You’d be pretty cruel if you beat up Lankinen for Duchene’s shootout goal, too.
Chances are, the Blackhawks will need their goalies to play at a high level to stay in games with teams like the Predators. In a game with a slim margin for error, Lankinen was close to perfect.
Connecticut Whale 4, Boston Pride 1
The Pride took a 1-0 lead in this one, but Emma Vlasic had a big game, scoring a goal and three assists for the Whale. Both Vlasic and Alyssa Wohlfeiler (one goal, two assists) generated +3 ratings to help Connecticut win.
Toronto Six 4, Buffalo Beauts 2
The Toronto Six carried much of the play, especially early on, generating a 40-19 shots on goal advantage through the first 40 minutes (Toronto ended with 49 SOG to Buffalo’s 26). While Buffalo managed a 2-1 lead, the Six kept them off the board for the last two periods thanks to steady play from Elaine Chuli (24 saves).
NWHL SCHEDULE FOR THURSDAY
Thursday’s NWHL schedule begins with the Buffalo Beauts vs. the Metropolitan Riveters (5:30 p.m. ET), followed by the Minnesota Whitecaps against the Connecticut Whale (8 p.m. ET). All games can be streamed on the league’s Twitch channel.
1. Whitecaps – 6 points (3-0-0; +3 goal differential)
2. Six– 5 points (2-1-1; even goal differential)
3. Riveters – 4 points (2-1-0; +3 goal differential)
4. Whale – 4 points (2-1-0; +3 goal differential)
5. Pride – 2 point (1-3-0; -2 goal differential)
6. Beauts – 1 point (0-2-1; -6 goal differential)
The single-elimination Isobel Cup Semifinals will be shown live on Thursday, Feb. 4 at 5:30 p.m. ET and 8:30 p.m. ET. The winners of the semifinals will advance to the Isobel Cup Final on Friday, Feb. 5 at 7 p.m. ET. In addition to coverage on NBCSN, live coverage will stream exclusively on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.
Blackhawks – Predators, Canucks – Senators highlights
Saros and Lankinen put on a clinic, while Duchene made the difference for the Predators over the Blackhawks:
Plenty of highlights from Senators – Canucks, including Pettersson and Miller looking slick in transition on a nice goal.
NHL scores: Blackhawks – Predators, Canucks – Senators
Predators 2, Blackhawks 1 (SO)
Canucks 5, Senators 1