The Chicago Blackhawks played a full 60-minute game the night before in Dallas for a hard-earned victory. The ‘Hawks somehow managed to overcome adversity to eke out a victory against the Avalanche.
The Chicago Blackhawks were working against all odds as they traveled to Denver for a contest with the high flying Colorado Avalanche. The high altitude poses a disadvantage for all visitors unaccustomed to the thinner air. This effect is exacerbated when a team is on the second half of a back-to-back engagement. What happened in Denver defies all logic. Here are my Five Thoughts on the 2-1 victory.
1 – What’s the Delia?
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Colin Delia was having himself a great start to his season with the AHL Rockford IceHogs. In 17 games, he sported a goals-against average of 2.34 and a save percentage of .933 while posting a record of 7 wins, 5 losses, and 4 overtime losses. His solid performance earned him a call-up to the ‘Hawks ahead of Anton Forsberg, who had seen a fair amount of NHL action last season.
So with the ‘Hawks on the second half of a back-to-back, the young goalie found himself tending the net. With so many factors weighing against him, the young goalie turned in a solid effort to stymie the dangerous offensive attack of the Avs. Delia made 35 saves to out-duel Avs goalie Philip Grubauer for an unlikely win. Delia’s numbers for the night? 1 goal allowed with a .972 save percentage. Player. Of. The. Game.
2 – The Avalanche are for real, and the ‘Hawks want it too.
The Colorado Avalanche are no longer the doormat of the NHL. Their top line of Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, and Mikko Rantanen has combined for 60 goals this season and is absolutely scary. They are followed up by J.T. Compher, Alex Kerfoot, and Colin Wilson. This team can come at opponents in waves.
At about the 7-minute mark of the second period, the Chicago Blackhawks were already running out of gas. The Avs’ top lines just started having their way with the exhausted ‘Hawks. The ‘Hawks found themselves scrambling for their lives in their own end. They were outshot 11-7 and many of the Avalanche shots were high-quality scoring chances. You could see the ‘Hawks struggling to get back to the bench after grueling shifts in the rare air. But somehow, the ‘Hawks found their inner strength to persevere and withstand the relentless offensive assault from the Avs. Give the team credit for finding the will to win.
3 – Artem Anisimov had himself a night.
In 17:52 of ice time, Anisimov tallied 1 goal, 4 shots on goal, and 1 blocked shot. What doesn’t show up on the stat sheet is that he had a solid effort on the penalty kill. He was instrumental in holding the potent Avalanche scoreless in 5 power play opportunities. And since we enjoy a good Arty Party show, let’s take another look at his game-winning goal.
It was only fitting that the big center should net the game-winner after his solid performance.
4 – Alex DeBrincat is on a hot streak.
The second-year forward has been on a tear recently. He has scored 5 goals in his last 7 games. He is currently third in scoring on the team with 16 goals and 14 assists.
At 8:07 of the first period,
was temporarily reunited with DeBrincat when he was released from the penalty box. In a 2-on-1 rush, Kahun perfectly sold a fake shot and fed DeBrincat cross-ice for a snipe from the left side. This one also deserves another look for the sheer beauty of it.
This kid can definitely score. He just needs to be smarter with the puck in dangerous areas to not commit costly turnovers. Patrick Kane was often guilty of the same sins early in his career, so this is something that we can attribute to youth. It will be on Jeremy Colliton to be in DeBrincat’s ear to coach him up on that issue.
5 – The physicality is ramping up.
There were noticeable hits delivered by Luke Johnson, Andreas Martinsen, and Connor Murphy. Hits are still significant as they greatly affect the tenor and tempo of any game. Not only did the ‘Hawks out-hit the Avalanche 12-6, but they also blocked more shots with a 22-8 advantage. Twenty-two shots blocked. Perhaps the sharp words last week from goalie Cam Ward to the team hit a nerve and ignited this noticeable, intense play.
The Chicago Blackhawks’ renewed sense of urgency has resulted in a 3-game win streak. The ‘Hawks are learning that by playing the complete game in all three zones of the ice, they can compete with anyone. When you compete, you can win. And winning is fun. As Dr. Seuss’ Cat in the Hat proclaimed, “It’s fun to have fun, but you have to know how!” Yes, these ‘Hawks are learning to have fun again.
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So it’s back to the United Center for a Sunday night tilt with the Florida Panthers. Even with their nice 3-game win streak, the ‘Hawks can’t afford to become complacent. We will see if their rediscovered intensity will carry through to a day otherwise known as a day of rest. Onward.