Last night our beloved Chicago Blackhawks turned in arguably their most dominant performance of the 2015-2016 campaign with a 6-3 thrashing of the Colorado Avalanche. This was certainly a great way for the ‘Hawks to pick up two points against a Central Division opponent, but in my opinion, this victory was far more important from a morale standpoint.
Over the past six years, the Blackhawks have come up against a good amount of formidable goaltenders and have figured out ways to beat them. However, despite their high scoring capabilities, once in a while the ‘Hawks come across a hot goalie that gives them outright fits. Mike Smith was one such netminder, but during the past three seasons however, Semyon Varlamov emerged as the lone goaltender the Hawks just couldn’t figure out how to get past.
Varlamov is a decent goalkeeper, but he’s certainly nothing you’re going to write home about. Yet going into last night’s game, Varlamov was 11-3-1 against our boys in red, white, and black. This is a noteworthy record statistically-speaking considering the Blackhawks’ potent offense, but even more significant when you consider in amassing that record, Varlamov ended the Blackhawks 24 game point streak in 2013, Patrick Kane’s recent 26 game point streak, and also tallied a record-breaking 54 saves in one outing against the ‘Hawks.
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Suffice it to say, for the past few years Varlamov has been deeply imbedded under the Blackhawks’ skin. Yes, the Blackhawks have won a few games against the Avalanche with Varlamov in net, but last night’s victory was substantial because Varlamov was not only beaten by the Hawks, but vanquished.
While it’s anyone’s guess as to what degree each individual Blackhawks player saw Varlamov as their proverbial white whale, as a team, there’s no doubt that netting enough goals to get Varlamov pulled last night is a huge feather in the ‘Hawks’ war bonnet.
Perhaps the most important aspect of last night’s defeat of Varlamov is that it will serve as a vital lesson for the ‘Hawks to hang their hat on going forward.
Despite all their talent, one of the Blackhawks’ downfalls is that when their potent offense is hampered by a hot goalie, they become too obsessed with scoring and make sloppy mistakes and turnovers that end up costing them goals and/or games.
Just as the ‘Hawks have learned to come back from the brink of defeat and triumph in both the regular and more importantly, the post-season, so bringing a goalie like Semyon Varlamov, a netminder that has been the bane of their existence for the better part of three years, back down to earth will serve as a vital emotional and mental resource for the Blackhawks the next time they come up against a goalkeeper they can’t seem to figure out how to beat.
Again, Varlamov isn’t an all-star goalie, but he was a personal dragon of the Blackhawks that they needed to slay, and by doing so last night, the ‘Hawks have made themselves a stronger team.
FOR THE DAGGER!