Game Preview: Chicago Blackhawks Face a Desperate Colorado Avalanche


Jan 6, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks right wing Marian Hossa (81) battles for the puck with Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene (9) during the third period of an NHL game at United Center. The Avalanche won 2-0. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

While the issues facing the Chicago Blackhawks are real, but of the 1st-world variety.  We as Hawks fans have been spoiled for the last 6 years, especially the last 3, as the playoffs have been all but a certainty(with the exception of a close call in 2010-2011) in that span.  This was the case for the Colorado Avalanche for a very long time.  After making the playoffs last season, they have little room for error, from here on out if they are to make it back.

We have it pretty good, Hawks fans.  Don’t take it for granted.

This will be the 4th matchup of the 5-game season series between the Hawks and Avalanche.  The Hawks have won 2 of the first 3 matchups, so far.  In the previous meeting, Semyon Varlamov recorded an absurd 54 save(!) shutout, against the Hawks, in Chicago.  Although, the Hawks weren’t able to muster up a lot of golden chances, 54 saves is 54 saves.  Puck drop for tonight’s game is set for 7:30 PM Central Time.  You can catch tonight’s game on CSN-Chicago.  The game can be heard on WGN 720 AM.

Here’s a statistical breakdown of the Hawks and Avs.

[table id=127 /]

Offensively, the Hawks are one of the better teams in the league and tonight they will face an Avalanche team that is defensively porous.

Defensively, the Hawks are an elite team and tonight they will be up against a Colorado offensive attack that is not so great.

On the Power Play, the Hawks are slightly above league average, even though they have been inconsistent on the current homestand.  Tonight, the man-advantage of the Hawks will have to solve a very solid Avalanche Penalty Kill.

For the Hawks, their Penalty Kill has been the best in the NHL and they will be up against an Avalanche Power Play that is one of the worst in the league.

In the faceoff circle, the Hawks are one of the better teams in the league and tonight they will be taking draws against a Colorado squad that has been a bit above average in the dot.

In terms of puck-possession, the Hawks are an elite team, as evidenced by their Corsi For Percentage.  Tonight, they will be battling for the puck against an Avalanche team that is one of the worst at possessing the puck.

On paper, the Hawks have a huge advantage in tonight’s game.  Last season, the Avs had similar, but slightly better numbers and were able to make it to the post-season.  However, market correction is a cruel monster and it caught up to the Avs as they were quickly eliminated in the 1st round.  This season, they haven’t been so lucky.  However, this is the same team that shutout the Hawks in Chicago, a little over a month ago.

The Avalanche holds a 24-23-11 record which is good for 59 points and last place in the Central Division.  Last place in the Central is a relative ranking, though, as it would be good enough for at least 6th in every other division.  They are currently 9 points out of the 2nd and final Wild Card spot in the Western Conference.  The playoffs are likely out of reach, for the Avs, but this team has previously proven to be an unpredictable anomaly, so let’s not completely count them out just yet.

Jarome Iginla leads the Avs in points(that seems so weird) with 40 in 58 games played.  Right behind Iginla is Alex Tanguay.  This is a big problem for Colorado.  Veterans like Iginla and Tanguay are supposed to be complimentary to the young core of Matt Duchene, Nate MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog.  The veterans were never supposed to be leading the way, but here we are.  Duchene has been hot lately, with 6 points in his last 5 games.  Same with Landeskog, who is on a 4-game point streak.  Same goes for MacKinnon, who has experienced a bit of a sophomore slump this season but now has a 4-game point streak of his own.  It might be too little too late for Colorado.

Starting in net for the Avalanche will be the aforementioned Semyon Varlamov.  Varlamov has not been super human, this season, but he has been very good, especially when considering the poor defensive play in front of him.  This season, Varlamov has a .919 Save Percentage in 38 games played.

The Hawks are currently 35-18-5, which is good for 75 points and 3rd place in the Central Division.  On the homestand, the Hawks are 2-0-3, which is solid, but simply not good enough.  There are 3 games remaining to make it better.  The Hawks currently trail the 2nd place St. Louis Blues by 3 points and the 1st place Nashville Predators by 9 points.  Lots of work to (hopefully) be done.

Patrick Kane’s 63 points lead the entire NHL, as he continues his quest for the Art Ross Trophy.  Brandon Saad has quietly put up 8 points in his last 7 games, as he is on a very nice hot streak.  Saad’s hot streak has likely gone unnoticed due to Marian Hossa’s freakish hot streak with 9 points(7 goals) in his last 6 games.  Saad and Hossa’s centerman on the top line, Jonathan Toews has a “modest” hot streak of 5 points in his last 5 games, but he remains one of the best at taking faceoffs in the league and has been an unsung catalyst to Saad and Hossa’s hot streaks.  With a goal on Wednesday, Kris Versteeg might be up to game speed and ready to produce consistently for the first time since returning from injury.

Starting in net for the Hawks will be Corey Crawford.  Crawford has found his groove again and is overall having a very fine season with a .922 Save Percentage in 39 games played.

While the Hawks have been inconsistent, inconsistent is a very relative term.  After making the playoffs last season, the Avalanche restored excitement and expectations to their proud franchise, but have miserably failed to live up to those expectations.  Can you imagine what it would be like if this happened to the Hawks?  Be thankful for the Hawks being a complete team.  Let’s show that off tonight.

Go Hawks!