I am very bad at predicting games, apparently. This should surprise no one.
Stupid me figured that without Matt Duchene, riding a three-game losing-streak and facing the defending Stanley Cup Champs, the Avalanche wouldn’t make it out of Tuesday night with a win. No way, no how.
It was over after 20 minutes. The Avalanche blew the doors off almost from the start, chased Corey Crawford from the nets and ran the Champs out of town.
How did this happen? Where did this come from? Let’s see what we learned in Tuesday night’s 5-1 win over the Chicago Blackhawks.
Remember insane, standing-on-his-head Varly? He showed up like gangbusters last night.
Turning aside 36-of-37 shots, he made save after huge save in the third period when the Blackhawks were starting to respond and show life. It would have been easy to let in a goal or two. It would have been easy to let the Champs back in and sweat it out for the remainder of the game, but Varly slammed the door shut on any opportunity they could muster.
He helped shut down a surprisingly bad Blackhawk power play as well; a boost needed for the penalty-killing unit. But more importantly, Varly needed this for Varly. His play has slid a bit over the last few weeks and, combined with his off-ice issues, has clearly had an effect on him. Turning in this kind of performance has to feel great right now for the young Russian.
Bury ‘em Early
You know how you get in the head of an elite team and beat them? Get to them early. The Avalanche did just that on Tuesday night.
Paul Stastny wired a shot past Crawford about six-and-a-half minutes in, Gabe Landeskog followed that up with a tip-in six minutes later and John Mitchell followed that one up less than a minute after.
Teams like the Hawks are good enough to strike at any time and can erase a one or two goal deficit quickly. But if you get to them early, get into the head of their goaltender and let them know that you’re coming non-stop, there’s only so much they can do. They are human and they bleed.
On Tuesday, the Avalanche got the KO punch within 15 minutes. Don’t let them punch back.
Bullying Is Still Okay Somewhere
It’s still okay to bully your opponent on the ice and the Avalanche did exactly that.
The Avalanche came with the heavy hitting early and often, seeing several big hits on the night. Jan Hejda had a few message-delivering hits throughout the game and the Avs just looked physically tougher than the Blackhawks all night.
The team kept things as clear as they could in front for Varlamov, punished the Hawks forwards when they entered the zone or got near the net and generally pushed the Champs around.
You don’t see that kind of thing often and the Avalanche should maybe think about bringing that kind of game to the table more often. That kind of intensity is tough to produce night and night out, but if the Avalanche can muster it, they’re going to run a lot of teams off the ice.
Next up: 11/21 @ Phoenix
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