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Colorado Avalanche

Top-Heavy Avalanche Fall To Worst Team In The NHL



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I’m sure everyone remembers the ugly loss the Colorado Avalanche had in Chicago this past January that sent everyone into a panic mode.

Colorado recovered after that loss to go on a run and win the Central Division. Will they be able to do that again? Only time will tell, but a loss like this certainly doesn’t inspire confidence.

Down Cale Makar (again), the Avalanche still should have been able to take care of business against the worst team in the NHL, the Chicago Blackhawks. Emphasis on should, because they didn’t. Chicago scored a powerplay goal in the third period to take the lead, and Colorado couldn’t find the equalizer, falling 3-2 at the United Center.

All the offense for Colorado came on the powerplay, with Valeri Nichushkin scoring both of their goals. They somehow couldn’t find a way to score at even strength, even though the Blackhawks came into the game having given up the fourth most even strength goals in the league.

Alexandar Georgiev stopped just 19 of the 22 shots he faced.

A rough loss all around, and one they’ll need to figure out a way to bounce back from. Right now, this team lacks urgency and consistency on a shift-to-shift basis, and until that changes, they won’t win consistently.

First Period

Colorado came out with a bit more pace than the Blackhawks in the first period, but that didn’t lead to the opening goal. The top line had some sustained pressure in the offensive zone, but couldn’t beat Petr Mrazek. Jonathan Drouin looked like he was going to have a breakaway, but he couldn’t beat Mrazek to a loose puck, as the goaltender came way out of his net to clear it away.

Soon after, the Blackhawks capitalized on a turnover by Bowen Byram, who tried to skate right through Connor Bedard. The young star took the puck away from him, escaped from a defenseman in the corner, and found Nikita Zaitsev at the point. His shot hit the post, but Ryan Donato was left all alone at the post, and beat Georgiev, making it 1-0.

Luckily for Colorado, their powerplay came ready to play.

A few minutes later, after Drouin won a face-off in the offensive zone, he set up a wide open Nichushkin in the high slot, who beat Mrazek with a one-timer. 123 seconds later, Nichushkin added his second of the period with the man advantage. His initial deflection shot was stopped, but he backhanded the rebound right through Mrazek to give Colorado the lead.

At that point, the Avalanche had the 11-2 lead in shots, and looked in command of the game. That didn’t last long.

A stretch pass to Donato was deflected pass Devon Toews, and Bedard found himself on a 2-on-1 with Lukas Reichel. For some reason, the defender back for Colorado was Drouin, and he looked as lost as you could expect a forward to look in that situation. Bedard hit Reichel, who corralled the pass and beat Georgiev on the blocker side, making it 2-2. That was just the Hawks third shot of the game, and they didn’t stop coming.

Second Period

For as many goals as there were in the first period, the second was even more hectic. And yet, nothing got past either goaltender. It wasn’t due to the lack of opportunities, though.

Early in the period, a shot snuck past Georgiev and sat on the goal line. Bowen Byram just barely got to the puck, pushing it off the goal line and keeping the score tied. Later in the second, Avalanche players just colliding with one another led to a clean breakaway for Connor Bedard. Georgiev was able to challenge the young forward and get his glove on it, preventing a goal.

The Avalanche had chances, but the quality of their chances didn’t match the Blackhawks. Colorado was sloppy with the puck and in their own end, making life far too easy on Chicago. The Blackhawks even started to ramp up the physicality, and Colorado didn’t have an answer for that.

Third Period

In a 2-2 game for the first several minutes of the third period, the one thing you have to do is keep your composure and discipline. Very quickly, things came unraveled for the Avalanche.

Some of the penalties were questionable at best, but they were made. It started with an offensive zone penalty from Valeri Nichushkin. Colorado was able to kill that one off, but then Miles Wood got a penalty for slightly holding the stick of Lukas Reichel. Chicago capitalized on that penalty as well.

Off a rush zone entry, it was far too easy for the Blackhawks to get behind the Avalanche defenders. Both Josh Manson and Devon Toews got caught up high, and Tyler Johnson snuck behind them, deflecting home a pass to give the Blackhawks the lead. A furious Wood exited the penalty box, and while we have no clue what he said to the refs, they obviously weren’t fans. They gave him two and a 10, and his night was essentially finished.

Colorado was able to kill that penalty off, but from there, it was desperation mode. The only problem? All the offense being generated was essentially from the big guns. That’s not going to cut it all year long. Colorado’s best opportunity to tie it came when Rantanen was left all alone in the slot, but he sent his one-time shot wide of the net.

With the net empty, the Avalanche didn’t really come super close to getting the game tied. Nathan MacKinnon took what looked to be a boarding penalty, but it went uncalled. After a Rantanen shot was stopped, Drouin took an extra shot at Murphy, and all hell broke loose. Somehow, out of all the madness, Ryan Johansen was given the only penalty, and that essentially ended the game.

There isn’t really any way to sugarcoat a loss like this. Even without a guy like Cale Makar, the Avalanche should still be able to take care of business against a team like the Blackhawks. They didn’t, and they have to live with that.

Colorado returns home for two more games before the Christmas break. They’ll face-off against the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night at Ball Arena. That game starts at 7 PM MST.

Colorado's premier coverage of the Avalanche from professional hockey people. Evan Rawal, Editor-in-Chief. Part of the National Hockey Now family.

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