5 Thoughts: Chicago Blackhawks defeat Colorado Avalanche 2-1 in OT

CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 24: Duncan Keith #2 of the Chicago Blackhawks reacts after scoring the game-winning goal in overtime against the Colorado Avalanche at the United Center on March 24, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Chase Agnello-Dean/NHLI via Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 24: Duncan Keith #2 of the Chicago Blackhawks reacts after scoring the game-winning goal in overtime against the Colorado Avalanche at the United Center on March 24, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Chase Agnello-Dean/NHLI via Getty Images) /

After failing to pick up any points in their last three games, the Chicago Blackhawks earned two of them tonight in a much-deserved overtime win over the Colorado Avalanche. Here are my five thoughts on the game.

1 – Gustafsson with another great game

For the third game in a row, Erik Gustafsson played well all over the ice for the Chicago Blackhawks.

Well, okay. He had a gaff pretty early on the game, then played great for the remainder of the night.

Much like most of the team, he had fantastic possession (72.22 % Corsi-for and 73.91% Fenwick-for at 5-on-5) and was on the ice for only two scoring chances against. Those were both high-danger chances, but he was on the ice for 10 scoring chances and three high-danger chances by the Chicago Blackhawks, so that makes up for all that.

Defensively, I counted at least four great plays that Gustafsson made. One was in the first period to break up a pass the Colorado Avalanche were trying to make and start an offensive rush. He also had 23:33 time on ice, the most out of any Blackhawks player, and looked solid throughout the night.

If Gustafsson can continue playing the way he’s played the last three games, that would be huge for the Blackhawks if they plan on keeping him next season.

2 – Strong defense leads to great offensive opportunities

Much like the last two games, the Chicago Blackhawks played very well defensively tonight outside of the 5-on-3 power play goal they allowed in the second period.

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In the first period, the Avalanche had more scoring chances (9-4) and high-danger chances (4-2) at 5-on-5 than the Blackhawks did. After that, the ‘Hawks only allowed 5 scoring chances and one high-danger chance to the Avs for the rest of the game while accumulating 18 SCF and 4 HDCF.

Additionally, Chicago absolutely dominated Colorado in the third period. Let’s look at the stats from those 20 minutes alone:

  • Shot attempts: 31-5 Chicago
  • Unblocked shot attempts: 20-4 Chicago
  • Shots on goal: 15-3 Chicago
  • 5-on-5 scoring chances: 12-1 Chicago
  • 5-on-5 high-danger chances: 2-0 Chicago

No, your eyes are not deceiving you. The Chicago Blackhawks actually out-chanced a team for once and came away with a win. They deserved this victory after a well-played game.

3 – Feisty Toews

If Patrick Kane wasn’t having an Hart-caliber season, Jonathan Toews would easily be the MVP of this season’s Chicago Blackhawks. Tonight, he took his game to another level with some added feistiness stirred up by the referees.

He didn’t have any points, but he had a million chances. Clearly, that’s exaggeration on my part. Toews did play a fantastic game though: 6 shots on goal, won 55% of his faceoffs, 22:38 TOI. His line was also on the ice for 17 scoring chances for and only three against. They also only allowed one high-danger chance while creating six of their own.

There was one shift Toews had in the third period where he had at least three scoring chances that Philipp Grubauer robbed. You could see how frustrated he was with the Avalanche goaltender all night long.

Needless to say, the captain probably could’ve had at least two goals tonight but instead came away with none. That’s okay, Jonny. We noticed your effort and we’re still proud of how well you’re doing this season.

4 – Terrible officiating

Rarely do I ever complain about the jobs of the referees and linesmen in a hockey game. Tonight is one of those nights where I will say how poorly the refs did their jobs.

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The Chicago Blackhawks should’ve had a 5-on-3 in the first period after Jonathan Toews was blatantly tripped directly in front of the net. Nothing was called. Erik Johnson illegally played with his broken stick at the end of the first period so the Blackhawks didn’t get an odd-man rush. That should’ve been a penalty, and yet nothing was called.

As if the non-calls were bad, Justin St. Pierre – better known as Toews’s enemy tonight – gives the Avs a 5-on-3 power play with a soft hooking call on the Captain in the second period. Alex DeBrincat got bent in half along the boards by Derick Brassard and I was genuinely surprised they even called something. Plays like that one should be an automatic major, though some may disagree with me. Luckily, DeBrincat didn’t get hurt.

I understand their job is difficult. I definitely don’t envy the position they’re in. But the league as a whole needs to get their act together with the officiating. It’s been brutal all season long.

5 – Blackhawks’ strong effort finally gets rewarded

Like I’ve mentioned numerous times throughout this article, the Chicago Blackhawks played an absolutely fabulous game and got rewarded with two points they desperately needed.

Their great play didn’t start tonight, though. The ‘Hawks have gotten their chances the last few chances but came away with just a goal in the outings against the Flyers and Avalanche. While they still only scored two tonight, they definitely could’ve had more than that.

We mentioned in our roundtable that one of the biggest things the Blackhawks need to focus on for the remainder of the season is finding their identity and improve their play. It’s clear to me that they’re starting to find their grove – even though it’s a too little, too late – and Jeremy Colliton is beginning to find a system that works for this team.

Even if they don’t make the playoffs, the Blackhawks should be proud of their effort and the product they’ve been putting on the ice lately. Ending the season on a positive note is the best route for them to take.

It’s cheesy, and I know that. However, this team needs to hold their heads up high. There are a lot of positives they can take away from this season while they also focus on addressing the negative aspects of their game.

Now, Chicago Blackhawks will look to grab another big two points from the Arizona Coyotes in Glendale on Tuesday night. They’re still five points out of the second wildcard spot, but they have a game in hand on almost everyone ahead of them. While it doesn’t seem likely, there’s still a chance they can make it and they know that.

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On another note, the Blackhawks should keep their Winter Classic jerseys as their third jerseys next season. They’re absolutely beautiful.

As always, let’s go Blackhawks. Only seven more of those left this season.