If you’re waking up in Chicago this morning, your head is probably sore from last night’s drubbing the Chicago Blackhawks took at the hands Colorado Avalanche. Sore because if you watched even one period of last night’s game, you were smacking you forehead in disbelief or pulling out your hair in frustration. I’ll save the full recap for other sports outlets, because frankly, I don’t think I could get through it while keeping down my breakfast. So instead, this fellow Hawks faithful will break down the game into three categories:
- The Hockey Gods were not smiling on the Hawks last night, plain and simple. It became apparent in the 1st Period with that awkward bounce the puck took off the back boards from Brent Seabrook’s attempted clearing pass that put it right out in front of the Blackhawks goal and into the waiting stick of Paul Stastny for an easy wrister that beat a surprised Corey Crawford. These kinds of bad bounces would continue to hurt the Hawks all game long.
- The Blackhawks had bursts of play-off mode momentum, absolutely swarming the puck in the offensive zone
- The Hawks-Avs game was a classic story in hockey: one team has lots of chances and isn’t able to capitalize, and the other takes full advantage of the few chances they’re given.
- Hawks goalie Antii Raanta played as expected in his NHL debut: okay, not great.
- Fitting in midst of such a humiliating defeat, Brandon Saad continues his career season by netting the lone Hawks goal.
- Bryan Bickell looked lost on the third line, and getting injured last night from that goal post collision is only going to throw salt on the proverbial open wound that his confidence. You can’t blame Bick for feeling like the rug was yanked out from under him; the numbers he put up last season were good, multiyear-contract-extension good. But with Brandon Saad and Brandon Pirri humming and the acquisition of Kris Versteeg, Bickell’s seemingly guaranteed cherry gig on the top lines is out the window. Bick’s practically back at square one, but needs to find a new spot on the Hawks offense in which to make his presence felt, and soon, because he’s taking up too much salary cap space now to just be another Brandon Bollig (one’s enough).
- Semyon Varlamov got under the Hawks skin, period. It’s rare to see Patrick Kane take a frustration-fueled whack at the glass like he did after Varlamov stoned him on a one-on-one in the 3rd.
- In the same vein, the Hawks got so offensively obsessed with cracking Varlamov’s impenetrability their defensemen got caught with their pants down when they pinched in too deep in the offensive zone more than a few times.
- The Avalanche capitalized on Varlamov getting into the Hawks’ collective head by proceeding to knock them around, out hitting them 28-12 and compounding the frustration. This had to be an intentional game plan instituted by Patrick Roy, because it’s always a calculated move to deny a dangerous team like the Hawks any chance to come back from behind. Most teams sitting on 3 then 4 goal lead in the 2nd would merely play to defend the lead.
- I know it was his first NHL game, but Antii Raanta should have started. Yes it would have been trial by fire, but even with a loss, the Hawks are still #1 in the league by a slim margin. Yes the Avalanche are the hot team in the Western Conference right now, and barring a free-fall, the Hawks will likely run into them in the post season so it was important they came out in top form in Denver, but with Nikolai Khabibulin on the IR, it’s important Antii Raanta gets his feet under him ASAP, because barring a waiver-wire grab the Hawks are SOL when it comes to a back-up goalies.
- In the name of all that is sacred, can Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford get a break?! Crawford may have helped the Hawks win the Stanley Cup last year, but anyone that’s been watching the Hawks since at least the 2010-2011 season knows how much potential there is for Crawford to get inside his own head and implode. Stretching the Crow to the limit mentally and physically this season is already taking its toll; last night’s game is just the latest example.
- The Sheldon Brookbank at forward experiment has got to end. He’s a seat-filler-of-a-defenseman to begin with, so it’s hard to understand why Hawks Head Coach Joel Quenneville has him on offense twice now when he’s got the likes of Jeremy Morin and Joakim Norstrom waiting in the wings in Rockford. Yes, they haven’t been lights out thus far this season when they’ve been in the Hawks line-up, but at least they’re forwards!
- Obviously not the ideal start to the circus trip the Blackhawks were looking for, but they’ll have a couple more cracks at the Avalanche this season. Let’s hope the team bonding that comes with long road trips can ameliorate last night’s damage and the Hawks can rebound against the Winnipeg Jets this Thursday.
FOR THE DAGGER!