Mar 4, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Andrew Shaw (65) and Colorado Avalanche defenseman Andre Benoit (61) go for the puck during the first period at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
What a difference a year makes. Last season, the Chicago Blackhawks struggled to the tune of a 1-1-3 record against the Central Division Champions, the Colorado Avalanche. This season, however, the Hawks have already won more against the Avalanche than they did all last season, as they hold a 2-0 record against the defending Central champs. With a win tonight, the Hawks can clinch the season-series, for whatever its worth.
This will be the 3rd matchup of the 5-game season series. Tonight’s game can be seen on CSN-Chicago and can be heard on WGN 720 AM.
Here’s a statistical breakdown of the Hawks and Avalanche.
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Offensively, the Hawks are in an elite class and will be facing a porous Colorado defensive game. Defensively, the Hawks have been the best in the league, overall, and will face a not-regularly potent, but dangerous Avalanche offense.
On the Power Play, the Hawks have been average, but improving but will be up against a very good Avs Penalty Kill. The Hawks still have the best Penalty Kill in the league, even though it has shown that it is human lately, but they will be facing a near-the-bottom of the league Colorado Power Play.
In the faceoff dot, the Hawks have been nearly elite and will be facing a below-average in the dot Avs squad. In terms of puck-possession, it’s night and day. The Hawks are the best in the league at puck-possession, as evidenced by their Corsi For Percentage, and the Avs are the 2nd-to-worst in the league in puck-possession, according to the same metric.
On paper, the Hawks have a big advantage. However, the Avalanche have been improving lately, and they are a fast, quick-strike team that produces offense not by hogging the puck, like the Hawks do, but by capitalizing on opponents mistakes. Lately, the Hawks have gotten behind early and goaltender Corey Crawford hasn’t been there to bail out his teammates mistakes. So, the Hawks will need to be better than they have been lately to win this one.
The Avalanche are currently in last place in the Central Division with a record of 15-16-8 which is good for 38 points. However, last place in the Central is extremely relative, as those 38 points would have the Avs in 5th place, in the Metropolitan Division, and within shouting distance of a playoff berth. The Avs are in last due to a very slow start to the season in which they have improved mightily since.
Veterans Alex Tanguay and Jarome Iginla lead Colorado in points with 25 apiece. The aforementioned veterans skate on the same line as Ryan O’Reilly who may or may not be on the verge of turning his slow season around. For Colorado to be successful, they need production from young core stars Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Duchene, and Nathan MacKinnon, who all have had stretches of inconsistency, this season. One who hasn’t been inconsistent is defenseman, Tyson Barrie, who leads the team in assists and has recorded one in each of the last 3 games.
In net for the Avs will be Semyon Varlamov, who will be making his first start against the Hawks, this season. After a fantastic season, last season, Varlamov has been very underwhelming this season, with a .911 Save Percentage in 20 games played this season.
The Hawks are technically sharing 1st place in the Central with the Nashville Predators, but the Predators have played in one less game than the Hawks and therefore hold a better point percentage than the Hawks. While the Hawks as a whole have had some sloppiness and lackadaisical moments lately, the same can’t be said for Patrick Sharp, who has 5 points in his last 4 games. Not to be outdone, Patrick Kane has 6 points in his last 4 games, but that’s hardly even note-worthy anymore. Steady as usual, Jonathan Toews has been producing at a point-per-game pace, during the same 4-game stretch. Rookie Teuvo Teravainen is still looking for that 1st career NHL point, but do not worry, it will happen, as early as tonight.
In net for the Hawks will be Corey Crawford. Crawford has struggled to find consistency since returning from his ankle injury as he has given up 14 goals in the last 5 games.
This will be a dangerous one for the Hawks, if they are not careful. As long as they focus, and limit mistakes and turnovers they should be able to get a win in front of the United Center faithful that braved the elements to make it to tonight’s game.