The Chicago Blackhawks walked into Colorado with their 24-game “streak” in hand last season, and got thumped 6-2. This time around, the Blackhawks’ knew what they had in store for them, as a clash of two playoff teams in the Western Conference kicked off Chicago’s annual Circus road trip.
It was only 12:21 into the first period when Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog scored what ended up as the game-winning goal, but Colorado would not stop there. What followed was a dismantling of the league’s best team.
Chicago got the ball rolling early on in the game, with four shots on a single power-play (their only one of the night). Shots midway through the first frame were 7-1 for the Blackhawks. Things were looking good.
How wrong that turned out to be.
Brent Seabrook started the landslide (no pun intended) when his bounce pass off the back-boards took an odd bounce, and ended up right in the slot. Paul Stasny was there, with all the time in the world, and he made no mistake, giving the home team the 1-0 lead just over 6 minutes into the game. All momentum that Chicago had until that point was killed, and the Avalanche poured the offense on. Landeskog’s goal was the second deflection on a point shot by Andre Benoit, and in Andrew Shaw-like fashion, the Avalanche grabbed the 2-0 lead.
56 seconds later, Jon Mitchell took a pass from behind the net, and scored the third Avalanche goal on 7 shots. Corey Crawford‘s night in net came to an abrupt halt, even though he had no help from his defensemen. Chicago third-string Antti Raanta relieved #50, and thus played his first minutes in the NHL. The rest of the team didn’t get the memo, as they responded with two defensive zone turnovers in the following shift, but Raanta held his ground, as the Avalanche walked into the dressing room with a 3-0 lead. Chicago led in shots by a wide margin (18-7) after 20 minutes, but didn’t have many quality looks aside from their lone man-advantage.
The Blackhawks came out just as flat in the second period, not using their speed as well as they could. The Avalanche took advantage, and the quick-moving feet of their own players forced another batch of Chicago turnovers.
After a T.V. timeout where Blackhawks’ coach Joel Quenneville most certainly ripped into his team, Chicago picked up the pace, dominating play for the following 6 minutes. Rowdy chants of “Let’s Go Hawks” broke out, and the hearts of ‘Hawks fans were filled with hope. Jonathan Toews almost ended the skid with a single-handed effort, but the puck wouldn’t go. The Avalanche turned the puck the other way, and P.A. Parenteau scored on a 2-on-1, extending the team’s lead to 4. The second ended in a flurry of action, but Chicago once again came out on top, with the lead in shots, 27-15.
The third period began, and the Blackhawks continued their desperate play to start the frame. Patrick Sharp got into a scrum with Jamie McGinn early on, showing how both teams’ speedy games took away from the physicality of the affair. Only two penalties were called all evening.
The Avalanche began the passive game, dumping the puck in and continually knocking pucks loose once the Blackhawks got to the neutral zone. After stifling nearly 10 Chicago possessions this way, they finally entered the offensive zone, and made no mistake, with Cody McLeod getting his first goal of the season.
The Blackhawks finally had enough with Semyon Varlamov‘s shutout hopes, and Brandon Saad scored on his own rebound to get the Blackhawks on the board. Patrick Kane attained an assist on the play, keeping his now 8-game point streak alive, on his 25th birthday. Comeback hopes were quashed when Sheldon Brookbank hit the post with 4 minutes remaining, and the Avalanche mailed in the final moments of the contest, cruising to a 5-1 win.
The game wasn’t the only thing the Blackhawks lost: forward Bryan Bickell went down with a left leg injury after hitting the opposing goalpost reminiscent of the play that broke Steven Stamkos‘ leg earlier in the week. The play, which happened early in the first period, cut the Blackhawks’ forwards down to 10, and ended Bickell’s night. There is no further word on his condition as of now.
The Blackhawks look to rebound in Winnipeg on Thursday night, when they take on the Jets for the third time this month. Puck drop from the MTS Centre is at 7 PM Central Time, and you can view it on CSN-Chicago, or listen live on WGN Radio 720.
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