After an incredibly emotional (and crazy) game the night previous, the Blackhawks had to travel to the mile high city to face the resurgent Avalanche. Teams generally play pretty poorly on the bottom half of a back-to-back, and this was certainly no exception.
Blackhawks prospect Collin Delia was initially scheduled to make his NHL debut in this game, along with recently signed defenseman Blake Hillman, but Delia was forced into action the previous night. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville gave Delia his second shot, though, to actually finish his first NHL game. The story of “The Great Beer League Accountant” overshadowed Delia’s great performance the night previous, because of some pesky leg cramps, overshadowed Delia’s impressive debut.
Blackhawk TV special on “The Accountant, Scott Foster” coming to a theater near you.
Blake Hillman, on the other hand, was making his NHL debut in the same city where he has been playing college hockey just days previous, and it showed.
This was your Blackhawks starting lineup:
Brandon Saad – Nick Schmaltz – Patrick Kane
Alex DeBrincat – Victor Ejdsell – Dylan Sikura
Patrick Sharp – David Kampf – Vinnie Hinostroza
Tomas Jurco – Artem Anisimov – Andreas Martinsen
Duncan Keith – Brent Seabrook
Erik Gustafsson – Connor Murphy
Blake Hillman – Jordan Oesterle
The game opened with the Blackhawks showing some unexpected jump in their step, but that jump did not last long.
The teams battled back and forth, with scoring chances initially pretty equal, and the Blackhawks even eventually holding a 15-10 overall shot advantage. Goalies on both ends were forced to make some big saves to keep the game scoreless.
With just over a minute left in the first period, it was the Avalanche that struck first. As it turned out, this was the only goal they would need.
On their first power play of the night the Avalanche were able to convert, as Sven Andrighetto beat Collin Delia for a late first period Avs lead. The penalty called was on Collin Delia for tripping Gabriel Landeskog while making a save which was a pretty questionable call in the first place and, of course, the Avs would capitalize.
Andrighetto knifed right through the middle of the Blackhawks penalty kill group, from his own blue line, and surprisingly chipped a shot over Delia’s glove for a highlight reel goal. Defensemen Connor Murphy, Jordan Oesterle and forward David Kampf were grossly taken advantage of, as Andrighetto made them all look pretty silly.
The period ended 1-0 which left the Blackhawks room to come back but, as I mentioned earlier, “one goal” was all Colorado needed.
The Blackhawks came out in the second period with a little gas left in their tanks, testing Avs goalie Semyon Varlamov early on, but the Colorado netminder continued to keep the Blackhawks off the board.
Just past the eight minute mark of the middle frame, the Blackhawks were initially in a 4-on-4 situation thanks to a wierd “fight that was not classified a fight.” Instead of giving Connor Murphy and J.T. Compher fighting majors, even though it was clearly a glove dropping fight, referee Tim Peel gave the players matching roughing calls. Soon after, a David Kampf high sticking infraction put the Hawks down 4-on-3.
This is where the Avalanche would increase their lead to 2-0
Mikko Rantanen held the puck and drew the Blackhawks defenders, then dished to defenseman Tyson Barrie for a one-timer that beat Delia five-hole. One again, a strange penalty situation turned into Blackhawks misfortune.
Similar to the first period, when Patrick Sharp had a prime chance to give the Blackhawks the lead but was stopped by the stick of Nathan MacKinnon, Blackhawks forward Victor Ejdsell had a prime chance to cut the Avs lead to just one goal just a few minutes after the Barrie goal. Ejdsell drove hard to the net from the left wall, and Varlamov made the stop. The puck dropped behind the Avs goaltender and bounced toward the open net, but defenseman Tyson Barrie swooped in at the last second to swat the puck away.
Even though the Blackhawks were down 0-2 going into the third period, they were holding their heads above water. They held a slim 25-22 shot advantage as the teams went to the locker rooms for the second intermission.
The third period is where the visiting Blackhawks finally ran out of emotion and energy. Colorado blew the Blackhawks doors off and showed why they very much in the mix for the playoffs while the Blackhawks clearly are not.
Once again, thanks to a Blackhawks penalty (this time by Andreas Martinsen), the Avs converted on their third power play of the night. Mikko Rantanen was the goal scorer, this time, as he found a soft spot on the back door behind the Blackhawks defense. Avs superstar Nathan MacKinnon found Rantanen on the back door, who easily hit the wide open net.
At this point the Avalanche were 3-for-3 on the powerplay while the Blackhawks still did not have a single powerplay of their own.
Not that it would have mattered, anyway.
Just over two minutes after the Rantanen goal, the Avalanche stuck the dagger into the Blackhawks, working a perfect 3-on-2 and eventually beating Collin Delia for a 4-0 Colorado lead. A Hawks turnover deep in the Colorado zone by Duncan Keith turned into a quick odd-man break that left Brent Seabrook and Collin Delia hung out to dry. This time, Avalanche rookie Tyson Jost was the goal scorer.
This goalie swap did not help the Blackhawks any, though.
With two minutes remaining in the game Collin Delia gave up his first goal that could possibly be qualified as “bad.” The game, though, was basically over already, and the goal was insignificant.
Sven Andrighetto finished what he had started in the first period, going end to end and beating Delia from the right half wall with a surprising snap shot.
The Blackhawks left Denver with a faint whimper and returned home to face the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday.
- I know I will forever be classified as a Collin Delia apologist, but when a team gives up three straight powerplay goals they are not going to win many games. The Blackhawks were in no position to be handing the Avalanche prime opportunities. None of the first four goals were soft. It has to be disappointing for the kid to follow up leaving the game the night before after playing so well with a five-spot hung on him, but he played well.
- I am not a Tomas Jurco fan, but he has played pretty well the past two games. Unfortunately, this will give Stan Bowman enough rope to double down on his initial mistake and re-sign Jurco over the summer. Just watch.
- Blake Hillman’s NHL debut was mostly non-eventful for the young defenseman. He looked, at times, a little over matched and had a terrible turnover in the Blackhawks end. Hillman has some size that the Blackhawks lack but no one has a great game in a shutout loss. He was just a guy out there on the ice.
- The fact that the Blackhawks had no powerplays is astounding. Maybe referee Tim Peel really IS that bad.
- The Blackhawks simply came off an ultra emotional game the night before and ran out of fuel. This is the unfortunate consequence of NHL back-to-back games.