END THE STREAK! END THE STREAK! END THE STREAK!
That was the cheer roaring throughout the Pepsi Center during the 18th and 19th minute of the third period in tonight’s game. In case you’ve been living under a rock, the Blackhawks have been on a tear. They earned points in 24 games, were on a franchise record 11 game win streak…pretty much, the Hawks were on top of the world.
Last game, the Avs lost in heartbreaking fashion, when Dan Carcillo broke a two all tie with less than a minute to go in the third period. It was a pretty even contest between the two clubs. While the Avs certainly have their flaws, I think even before that game, it was clear that the two teams could have a very strong matchup. Both are fast clubs who enjoy playing a quick transition game. The Hawks are strong in their own end defensively despite the type of game they enjoy playing, and I think that is something that the Avs are trying to emulate with their own defensive systems. It’s a while a way, no where close to perfect, but I think you can see the occasional flashes of the system really working.
Tonight’s game seemed to favor Colorado just slightly. The Avs would be at home (although the Hawks certainly draw plenty of fans on the road, and especially here). The Avs are more used to playing at altitude, even though they just returned from a roadtrip. The Avs were also understandably angry at both themselves and the Hawks for the way the last game went.
Nick Leddy took an early holding penalty, and the Avs powerplay managed a couple of shots, but was still unable to break through. In the sixth minute of the game, Chicago got on the board. A poor pass through the neutral zone, a lazy play, and the Hawks suddenly scored off of a pretty passing play. They looked dominant, and I was worried about how the Avs might respond, especially when the cries from the Hawks fans were loud even on my TV. While the Hawks controlled the play, the Avs worked their way back. A second Hawks penalty allowed the Avs another chance with the man advantage. Matt Duchene made a beautiful play to Paul Stastny, who tipped the puck past Corey Crawford. At the end of the first, the score was even, and the Avs seemed to have a little bit more of the momentum in their favor.
Aaron Palushaj took an early penalty in the second, but the team did a really strong job of killing it off. Just after the play returned to five on five, Erik Johnson and Matt Duchene partnered up to score a pretty goal. 33 seconds later, Ryan O’Reilly made a nice pass to John Mitchell, who the put the puck away for his eighth of the season. O’Reilly would score his own goal (and first of the season) four seconds into a powerplay. Matt Duchene continued his dominant play, beating two Hawks players to negate an icing, and then throwing the puck to Jamie McGinn, who was quick to fire the puck top shelf.
Bryan Bickell started scoring in the third, just after the Hawks powerplay ended. After the game, Paul Stastny said that “we had to get a sixth goal to get our fans back into it, after the Hawks fans got excited with their second goal”. He helped P.A. Parenteau do just that, as he capped off the night with his 10th goal of the season. Varlamov ended the game with 31 saves (some of which were very nice), and the Avs earned their two points.
-Erik Johnson’s return was sort of lost in the midst of all the hoopla with Chicago. I thought that he looked really strong, despite missing 12 games with a concussion. It was nice to see him jump on the scoresheet too, with a nice little +4 rating.
-Matt Duchene’s 22 even strength points lead the Western Conference in ES.
-This was Duchene’s second four point night in the NHL. He was absolutely the best player on the ice.
-P.A. Parenteau and Paul Stastny each had 3 point nights, while Ryan O’Reilly had his first multi-point game since returning to the lineup.
-The Avs won 36 faceoffs to the Hawks 19-see what having three strong centers can do for you.