The Chicago Blackhawks are back in Denver Monday night as they look to cool some Colorado egos after last week’s 6 – 2 routing from in the Pepsi Center. That game was Chicago’s first regulation loss this season, ending a historical 24-game point streak.
To the Hawks fans that have bitter feelings toward the Avs: hang on just a second. First of all, it had to happen sometime. In fact, it’s probably best that the loss occurred when it did so some pressure release could benefit the Hawks (perhaps the product of which was seen Saturday night in Dallas). Second, the Avalanche outworked and outmuscled the Hawks consistently enough to frustrate them through two back-to-back games. Sure: Colorado had six straight periods to figure out how to take Chicago down, but any team should be able to make those necessary connections in that situation as well. So let’s put it to rest here: The Colorado Avalanche play hard and have been able to create a season series in which both teams have won at home. Now we move on.
Colorado has dropped it’s last three games to Minnesota (twice) and Edmonton, but not for a lack of trying. After being shutout by Edmonton last Tuesday, the Avs clocked 7 goals in two games against Minnesota. The goaltending of Jean-Sebastien Giguere was lackluster to start the game Saturday night as he allowed four goals in the first period before Semyon Varlamov took over to finish the game. Hawks fans can relate to this failure to produce defensively, as seen in it’s own 4-goal first period from Edmonton just over a week ago.
The key for Colorado in tonight’s game is the response to such a goaltending disaster. Chicago bounced back with a surge of offensive firepower and total blue line shutdown, routing Dallas 8 – 1 on Saturday night. It should be noted that Joel Quenneville gave the Madhouse Gang two nights off between those two games, however, which may have served as an added pressure release as well. If the Avs can refocus in the same way, tonight could be another rough outing for the Hawks in Denver.
The good news for Hawks fans: Saturday’s game looked just like (if not, better) the Chicago team that started this season breaking records right out of the gate. Two-goal nights for both Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews is a great sign, but a 3-point night for Patrick Kane (1G, 2A) is just as promising. Courtesy of Pat Foley during the broadcast Saturday night, “the Chicago Blackhawks are 77 – 9 – 3 all-time when Patrick Kane has a multi-point game!” Make that 78 – 9 – 3. That statistic itself is incredible, but credit must be given to the 3rd/4th liners and the defense as well. Chicago’s roster contains only 3 players with negative +/- numbers, two of which (Carcillo, Brookbank) have played 11 and 16 games, respectively, out of 28.
Tonight’s deciding factor for the Chicago Blackhawks will be puck possession. Lack of possession proved detrimental for the Hawks just days ago in Denver, and Colorado made them pay. Chicago needs to make sure it focuses on crisp, hard passes that are right on the stick both in the neutral zone and the Colorado zone. For the Blackhawks, puck possession is the centerpiece for a winning recipe – they will be able to take care of the scoring and blue line shutdown if they can accomplish this.
Just a special note for all you folks looking for tonight’s broadcast: tonight’s game is on Comcast Sportsnet +, not the primary Comcast Sportsnet. Check out CSN’s broadcast page to find your local channel. And for all of you radio listeners out there, John Wiedeman and Troy Murray will have the call on WGN 720, as per usual.