Colorado Avalanche Must Not Play Down to the Blackhawks

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 23: Nathan MacKinnon
CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 23: Nathan MacKinnon /

The Colorado Avalanche and Chicago Blackhawks face off in a Central Division match that’s only important to the Avs. They can’t take the game lightly.

The Colorado Avalanche begin their two-game roadie in the United Center against the Chicago Blackhawks. This is the Avalanche’s first trip to Chicago this season. Colorado took the only game so far between the two teams 6-3 at home on October 28, 2017.

The Avalanche are coming off a disappointing but not wholly unexpected overtime loss to the Nashville Predators. The Blackhawks are annoyingly coming off a 6-3 loss to the Anaheim Ducks, which leapfrogged the latter up the playoff standings.

For those of you keeping track at home, we’re now three down of the 20 games I analyzed for the playoff race. The Avs have five out of a possible six points in those three games. At that 20-game mark, I surmised Colorado needed 26 more points. I also think the Avs need two points at bare minimum from this two-game roadie.

In other words, it would be awful nice if the Avalanche won tonight’s game.

How to Enjoy the Game

Game time: March 6, 6:30pm MT
TV Networks: Altitude TV (Avs feed), WGN (Hawks feed)
Radio: Altitude Radio (AM 950)

Slide of the Chicago Blackhawks

Colorado Avalanche
Colorado Avalanche /

Colorado Avalanche

The Chicago Blackhawks are not making the playoffs this season. At the time of writing, they were 13 points out and trending downward. Blackhawks fans, so long spoiled, are crying to the high heavens and declaring it’s time for a rebuild.

You’d think these fans weren’t around from 1997 to 2008 when the Hawks only qualified for the playoffs once in 10 seasons. Oh, ha ha, bandwagon fans decidedly were not around for the hard days.

Anyway, in recent years the Hawks have spoiled their fans by winning the Stanley Cup three times in the last decade. Now, they’ve started sliding backward. I asked Aaron Goldschmidt of sister site Blackhawk Up what was going on considering the team has such a stacked roster. Here’s his reply:

First I don’t know if I would call the Hawks roster stacked. Yes we do have some players who have had a lot of success, but age has caught up with them. We lost significant contributors in Niklas Hjalmarsson, Marian Hossa, and Artemi Panarin further revealing that hockey isn’t just about points.”

He elaborated on what’s causing the current slide”

The biggest problems have been lack of production from vets, depth, and defense. Yes we miss Corey Crawford [who’s spent a large part of the season on injured reserve] but he would get lit up a lot in some of these games too. The team is built around stars carrying the team and this year some of them have let things slide.”

Goldschmidt went on to talk about how the Blackhawks can improve, but naturally we don’t really want them to do that any time soon. Here’s to a long and painful rebuild that separates the chaff from the wheat in their fandom.

Keys for the Colorado Avalanche

Well, if the Blackhawks continue to rely primarily on their stars, the key is to shut them down. Now, that’s a little awkward with Erik Johnson still out, but I’m sure Duncan Siemens and Nikita Zadorov can find a way.

What’s more, Colorado has a fresh, young core and group of young ancillary players. Perhaps our stars — we’re all looking at you, Nathan MacKinnon — can show the aging Chicago stars what has apparently passed them by.

When the Avs and Hawks last met, Colorado chased Hawks goalie Anton Forsberg by scoring five goals on 20 shots, which was a load of fun from our perspective. (MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen had an exciting goal-scoring tandem that must have been nightmarish for Forsberg.) Crawford replaced Forsberg in the third… just in time to get Rocco Grimaldi his first goal of the season.

Crawford has been out for the Hawks since December 23 with an upper-body injury. It’s a good bet Chicago will play Forsberg again, though the Ducks also chased him out of goal in their last game. Their backup is JH Berube who’s gone 2-1-1 in his four games this season.

I’m looking at you again, MacKinnon. Have fun.

I’m being playful and dismissive of the Blackhawks, which is fine from my computer. However, it would be an utter disaster for Colorado to go all Avalanche and play down to their competition as is their wont. They have beaten some very good teams just to go on to lose to some very bad teams. The Avs need to show some killer instincts — Chicago still has some big talent on its roster.

Next: Strategies for the Road Trip

The Colorado Avalanche and Chicago Blackhawks will meet two more times this season, Colorado will be back in Chicago on March 20 then host the Hawks on March 30.