Dec 27, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks centerAndrew Shaw
(65) is pursued by Colorado Avalanche right wingMarc-Andre Cliche
(24) in the second period at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
The Chicago Blackhawks are in arguably the toughest division in the NHL with their Central Division rivals being their harshest and most frequent competitors. The Colorado Avalanche is a team that most Blackhawks fans would put towards the top of the Western Conference an named as one of the Blackhawks top contenders yet they sit towards the bottom after playing 5 games.
The Avalanche started off slow with two straight shutout losses to the Minnesota Wild and haven’t picked up any speed yet. They recovered briefly with a 2-1 win over the Boston Bruins to kick off a 4 game road trip, but fizzled out with a 3-2 overtime loss against the Toronto Maple Leafs and a 5-3 loss against the Ottawa Senators. They wrap up the road trip tonight in Montreal before finally heading back to Colorado.
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The Avalanche’s somewhat shaky start is surprising since they were one of the better teams in the league at the end of last season and things were looking up for the franchise. They consistently gave the Blackhawks a hard time winning 4 out of 5 games last season but ended up losing in the first round of the playoffs against the Minnesota Wild.
This early in the season, it is still easy to recover from a stumble out of the gate, and the Avalanche have had a few stumbles. They’ve earned 3 out of 10 points and already have goaltending issues. Starting goaltender Semyon Varlamov is on injured reserve after playing 4 games, and backup goaltender Reto Berra was injured in a collision during the first period in Ottawa. Calvin Pickard was called up from the AHL earlier as a backup to Berra but ended up making his NHL debut in the 5-3 loss to Ottawa. There is no word on how long Varlamov will be out, but an extended absence could mean more trouble for Colorado.
The Avalanche do have an added sense of leadership and experience on their roster this season to help them make it through the opening hurtles. Jarome Iginla was named an alternate captain for the young team and it looks like he needs to flex his leadership muscles early without much time for team bonding. How he and the other leaders on the team react to early adversity will determine what kind of team the Avalanche are when the face the Blackhawks for the first time this season in late November.
Do you think the Avalanche will recover by the time they come to Chicago? Let us know in the comments!