Recap — Chicago Blackhawks Defeat Colorado Avalanche 5-2

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The sight Nathan MacKinnon sprinting through the neutral zone, and adjusting his approach in such a way, that turned Chicago defenseman Jonathan Oduya in circles, gave Avalanche fans a flashback to last season. MacKinnon finished the play off, with a wicked wrist shot, and got the Avs on the board first against the rival Blackhawks.

That’ll hush up those Blackhawk fans for a few seconds. Well, 31 seconds to be exact. MacKinnon’s goal came at 6:51 in the first period, and had the home half of the crowd up and cheering. The play reminded me of MacKinnon’s ankle breaker on Jared Spurgeon in last year’s playoffs. The Blackhawks didn’t let those of us wearing burgundy enjoy the goal for very long though, as Brandon Saad quickly scored the equalizer at 7:27 of the period.

The Avalanche responded, with an Erik Johnson goal at 8:53. EJ has been white hot, and now has 6 goals in his last 6 games. Yowza!

The game seemed destined to be a high scoring affair, but after the initial burst of goals, things actually slowed down a bit. Patrick Kane deflected home a point slap-pass from Duncan Keith at 16:51. All square after one period of play, although the Avalanche were a bit unlucky with their recent trend of pinging posts rearing it’s ugly head again.

The second period saw Chicago slowly start to take control of the game. The Avalanche were able to jump on the Hawks early on, perhaps due to the odd travel schedule of the NHL holiday break forcing the Hawks to arrive in Denver this morning. Chicago seemed to find their game after the first ten minutes though.

Chicago got a power play just over halfway through the period, when Nathan MacKinnon flipped the puck over the glass. This is one of the more frustrating rules in the NHL right now. Players get penalized for missing chips off the boards – a play that can happen when the angle of their stick is off by just a couple of degrees.

Chicago capitalized, on a otherworldly Brent Seabrook shot from the slot to the left of Calvin Pickard. The Avalanche PK unit gave Seabrook too much time and space, and he was able to capitalize.

Onward to the third period, with the Avs trailing 3-2. Chicago got another critical power play, on a questionable Matt Duchene interference call. The Hawks once again were able to capitalize. This time on a flukey bounce. Erik Johnson and Ryan O’Reilly had actually been doing a fantastic job of getting sticks into the passing lanes, but the puck decided it wanted to take some bounces that defied physics, and end up on the stick of Patrick Sharp right on the doorstep. Sharp tapped it in at the 8:14 mark, and the Avs found themselves in a two-goal-hole. Fan-freaking-tastic.

The Avs had a royal opportunity to get back in the game, with 40 seconds of 5-on-3 time shortly after Sharp’s goal. They had a sandwich of 5-on-4, 5-on-3, and 5-on-4, but failed to score (or create a dangerous scoring chance for that matter). The Avalanche power play just isn’t getting enough traffic to the net right now, and doesn’t have enough movement away from the puck. They try to make cute passes around the perimeter, and it’s just too easy to defend.

The Avs didn’t muster much the rest of the way, even after Roy pulled Pickard with a couple of minutes left. Patrick Kane scored an empty netter for his second of the game with just a few seconds on the clock, to salt the wound, and give the large quantity of Blackhawk fans in attendance more reason to be obnoxious.

Kane took offense to a misplaced Duchene poke-check attempt, and got in Dutchy’s face after the goal. Avs’ captain Gabe Landeskog, was quick to send Kane cowering back to where he came.

A few quick thoughts to wrap things up. I thought Calvin Pickard picked a bad night to not have his best game. He didn’t necessarily give up any soft goals, but he gave up 4 goals nonetheless. Varly was always going to be the starter anyways, but tonight may have drastically shortened Pickard’s time-share in the “alternating starts” scheme that Roy had proposed a few days ago.

Just like the previous encounter, where the Blackhawks used 2 power play goals to fuel their 3-2 win, the Hawks used a 2/4 night on the PP to win tonight. The Avs were 0/3 with the man-advantage.

Tonight was just a frustrating game all around. The Avs teased us with a solid first ten minutes, and seemed to fade from there. They still had their chances, but the special teams battle was a clear win for Chicago. Plus, those Blackhawks fans… Ughhh…. The only bright side, is they are all helping to pay the salaries of our Avalanche players! So, thanks for that.