Colorado Avalanche Should Pick Up 2 Points in Chicago

CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 06: Patrick Kane
CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 06: Patrick Kane /

The Colorado Avalanche need to collect points against teams that aren’t making the playoffs, such as tonight’s Chicago Blackhawks.

The Colorado Avalanche aren’t going to get any help in the playoff race from the right opponents winning or losing. Indeed, even the (hated) Minnesota Wild couldn’t keep a lead with under a minute to go in the third period against the LA Kings. The game went to overtime, which the Kings won…

Anyway, the Avalanche are going to have to take care of their own business to secure a playoff position. Colorado goes into tonight’s game in the first wild card berth and a game in hand over their nearby opponents — the LA Kings, Anaheim Ducks, and Dallas Stars. A win tonight won’t change their playoff position, but it will solidify that first wild card berth.

The Avalanche are coming off a glorious win over the Detroit Red Wings in Pepsi Center. The Avs have points in 10 of their last 11 games — they’re 6-1-3 in their last 10 with their only regulation loss coming against the NHL-best Nashville Predators.

Chicago is well out of the playoff race. They’re coming off of a 5-4 overtime loss at home against the St. Louis Blues. Chicago ice is always tough for Colorado — the Avs have gone 16-21-1-6 in Blackhawks barns. Last time out, the Avs lost to the Blackhawks in overtime. They beat Chicago at home 6-3 back on October.

Tonight the Avalanche are playing again in the United Center in Chicago. A point tonight is good, but two are better.

All games are a must-win situation right now. But the Avalanche need to win on the road, and they need to collect points against non-playoff teams.

How to Enjoy the Game

Game time: March 20, 6:30 pm MT
TV Networks: Altitude TV (Avs feed), NBCSCH (Hawks feed)
Radio: Altitude Radio (AM 950)

Keys to the Game

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The Colorado Avalanche seemed to have developed some sort of road identity during their last roadie. It looked like relying on Semyon Varlamov to keep them in the game in the first, killing off a penalty or two, then finally capitalizing on all the chances.

This isn’t the most sustainable of win methods. The problem is their slow starts. Well, alternate captain Erik Johnson has returned to the action. He’s not one to pull punches. Hopefully he goes out there hungry and ready to show the team how to start out hot.

The Blackhawks just lost to the St. Louis Blues, and that’s not an arena that likes to see its team lose. The United Center is known for being one of the, if not the, loudest buildings in the NHL. And that gives the Hawks players a little jump in their step. The Avalanche are going to have to come out hungry.

Finally, I’ll keep saying it until it comes true — the Avs need their secondary scorers, especially their rookies, to get some more points on the scoreboard. In the game against the Wings, all but one of the five goals was scored by the first line/Tyson Barrie, and that goal came from Blake Comeau.

Alexander Kerfoot is having quite the dry spell right now. He hasn’t earned a point in 12 games. Dominic Toninato hasn’t scored his first NHL goal yet. And we’d all love to see Tyson Jost and J.T. Compher get in their scoring touch again.

MacKinnon for Hart

colorado avalanche
ST. LOUIS, MO – MARCH 15: Nathan MacKinnon /

Let’s just start agitating for this in every game preview until the end of the season. Nathan MacKinnon needs to win the Hart Trophy as team MVP. You can make a case for other players such as Nikita Kucherov, Evgeni Malkin and Taylor Hall. But none of them have been quite as impressive for his team as MacKinnon.

He has 89 points on the season. This is his first 30-goal season, and he’s at 38 with 10 games left, meaning he will likely pass the 40-goal mark as well. He has the best points-per-game in the NHL at 1.39. He’s four times been named in the NHL’s weekly honors and was the first star of the month for November.

But more to the point of MVP for the team — it’s no secret that the Colorado Avalanche are in a playoff position because of MacKinnon. This is a team that earned just 48 points last season. A 75-ish point season was going to be a remarkable improvement. Instead, MacKinnon put the entire team on his back so that now they have 86 points and a playoff berth.

There is no question that Hall has done remarkable things for his New Jersey Devils. But that’s a team that finished with 70 points last season, making this year’s current 82 points far less impressive. Plus, they won the draft lottery and got the services of first-overall draft pick Nico Hischier all year!

And Hall only has 77 points.

As for Malkin and Kucherov, the former is on the current Stanley Cup champion team and a linemate of future Hall of Famer Sidney Crosby. Kucherov’s Lightning look good to win the Stanley Cup this year.

So, Nathan MacKinnon for Hart. There can be no better choice.

Next: Avs Celebrate the Return of Johnson

Back to the Blackhawks game. The Colorado Avalanche will face Chicago one more time after tonight, at Pepsi Center on March 30.