Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 5-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday night at Rogers Arena:
1. Power play strikes early ... then reverts to old habits.
Going into the Christmas break, the Blackhawks were ranked 29th on the power play with a 13.9 percent success rate and had been 1-for-32 (3.1 percent) in the month of December, including 0-for-17 in their past six games.
They were handed two early power plays in this one and took full advantage of them, registering a combined eight shot attempts (five on goal) and cashing in on the second one just 20 seconds into it when Nick Schmaltz buried a one-time pass from Patrick Kane in the slot to even up the score at 1-1.
The Blackhawks had three more opportunities in the next two periods, however, and recorded a combined two shots on goal on them. So after it looked like they were trending in the right direction, they couldn't build off of the first-period momentum and it proved to be a factor in the loss.
2. Another injured Blackhawk.
Joel Quenneville was forced to line juggle early, but not for the reasons you may think.
Artem Anisimov played only six shifts in the first period before exiting with an upper-body injury according to Quenneville, who told reporters after the game that he could miss "some time."
It's another tough injury pill to swallow for a Blackhawks team that already lost Corey Crawford to an upper-body injury earlier this week, and remains on the outside of the playoff bubble as we approach the new calendar year. And to make matters worse, the Blackhawks are among the bottom teams in faceoff percentage, so they really can't afford to take an even bigger hit in that department.
Schmaltz slid over to center on the second line with Kane and Alex DeBrincat, the latter of whom moved up from the third line to fill the void at left wing. That trio was on the ice together when the Blackhawks scored their first goal of the game on the power play.
3. Dominant effort from Canucks second line.
Back on Feb. 2, 2012 when he was with the Edmonton Oilers, Gagner put himself in the history books when he became the the 11th player ever to record at least eight points in a game, which happened to be against the Blackhawks. He had four goals and four assists in the 8-4 victory.
Well, his success against Chicago continued and his entire line accounted for all five goals: Brock Boeser had one goal and three assists, Gagner scored two goals and added one assist, and Vanek had two goals and three assists.
With a four-point night, Boeser surpassed Mathew Barzal atop the rookie scoring race with 38 points. He also became the fastest Canucks player ever to score 25 goals, doing it in 44 games, 11 fewer than Pavel Bure who held the previous record.
Gagner increased his career point total to 28 (13 goals, 15 assists) in 33 games against the Blackhawks, which is the second-most points he has against one team; he has 40 points in 44 games against the Colorado Avalanche.
4. Blackhawks fail to provide Anton Forsberg with meaningful run support.
It's been a challenging NHL career so far for Forsberg, who had only two wins in 21 appearances going into the game, including just one win in eight starts with the Blackhawks. Make that two wins in 22 games.
While he allowed five goals in the end, Forsberg made several big-time saves on some Grade A scoring chances for the Canucks in the first two periods when the game was still within one goal. The Blackhawks never returned the favor, and once the Canucks made it 3-1 1:27 into the third period, the game felt like it was out of reach.
Forsberg finished with 26 saves, but took another loss and hasn't picked up a win since Nov. 11, a 4-3 overtime victory over the Carolina Hurricanes. He deserves better than that.
5. David Kampf's debut ordinary.
Depending on how long Anisimov is out for, the Blackhawks are hoping they can count on Kampf to step up in a larger role with their center depth starting to thin out. He had a terrific first shift, recording a shot on goal and his line with Patrick Sharp and DeBrincat generating a few scoring chances but that would be Kampf's only shot attempt of the night.
Kampf went 6-for-11 at the faceoff circle and saw some time on the penalty kill, logging 1:47 of shorthanded ice time and 13:45 total. Those are certainly two areas the Blackhawks will need extra assistance in as they look to replace what Anisimov brings to the table in different ways.
Vinnie Hinostroza is another that can play up the middle, and it'd be surprising to not see him back in the lineup when the Blackhawks take on a speedy Oilers team Friday night.