After three months of waiting, the Chicago Blackhawks’ season opener was finally upon us. The revamped Hawks took on the Stanley Cup favorite Colorado Avalanche in Denver. Despite being without Nathan MacKinnon, the Avalanche still boasted a lot of offensive weapons.
All the good feelings of the offseason were erased very early in this contest.
In the first period, the Blackhawks came out flatter than pop left outside for a week, while the Avs entered the contest ready to play. After being outplayed for the first several minutes of the period, Connor Murphy pinched up into the offensive zone when he clearly should not have. This left old, wily vet Jack Johnson on a breakaway from the blue line in against Marc-Andre Fleury.
Jack Johnson with quite the goal to open the scoring for the Avalanche.. pic.twitter.com/1SW558WNSG
— Shayna (@hayyyshayyy) October 14, 2021
After the Johnson goal, Colorado continued to press the attack against the Hawks. Erik Johnson fed Gabriel Landeskog for the second goal of the period.
— Hockey Daily 365 (@HockeyDaily365) October 14, 2021
The Blackhawks were then feeling the effects of the Johnson and Johnson scoring plays, as Jeremy Colliton decided to make his first coaching blunder of the season. With an opportunity to make a change for his gassed fourth line, Colliton decided to leave the line on the ice. The Blackhawks then committed a costly turnover that sprang Colorado’s Bowen Bryam into the open ice. Bryam buried his chance past a helpless Fluery, putting the Avalanche up three goals before the midway point of the opening frame.
Jonathan Toews playing his first regular season game in over a year and tried to rally the troops on the bench with some inspiring words, but sadly, it was more of the same for the Blackhawks. That was until J.T. Compher took a hooking penalty for the Avalanche. Dominik Kubalik got the Hawks on the board with his first power play goal of the season.
Despite cutting the lead to only two goals, the Blackhawks were outclassed in the first period of the season opener.
In the second period, the Blackhawks played a more competitive style of hockey, but every chance they did yield to Colorado was a scoring chance.
The Blackhawks have been more competitive this period, but the problem is everything the Avalanche are getting are scoring chances. They lead 9-1 in 5v5 scoring chances this period and 23-3 for the game, according to NaturalStatTrick.
— Scott Powers (@ByScottPowers) October 14, 2021
The best chances of the second period came from Kirby Dach. Dach, who was noticeable all night, stole the puck on the penalty kill, which gave him a breakaway against Darcy Kuemper. Dach shot low on Kuemper, who was able to fend off the chance.
Later in the period, Dach had another golden opportunity with a 1-on-1 versus Kuemper. This time, Dach decided to shoot high on Kuemper, who was once again up to the task. This opportunity proved to be more costly, as on the continuation of the shift, Colorado’s Nazem Kadri tapped in the fourth goal of the game for the Avalanche. The second period ended with the Blackhawks trailing by three goals.
In the third period, the Blackhawks got a goal from Connor Murphy to cut the lead in half. Despite cutting the lead to two goals, the game was not actually that close. Colorado dominated the third period even when the Blackhawks pulled their goalie to have a two-skater advantage, still not able to yield much offensive production. The Blackhawks fell to Colorado 4–2.
The Jeremy Colliton defensive system got off to another rocky start. Despite playing newly acquired defenseman Seth Jones for much of the game, the new Blackhawks defense was no match for the Avalanche. The Blackhawks continue to yield too many shots on the net.
It is only one game, and nobody wants to jump to conclusions, but the coaching decisions of Colliton are going to be scrutinized much more this season. General Manager Stan Bowman revamped this team to make the playoffs, and after one night, this team looks nowhere close to a playoff team.
The lone player that showed a lot of promise was Kirby Dach. He was great in his own zone, he generated scoring chances and played great on the penalty kill. The only knock on Dach for the night was his inability to finish. Dach also took a questionable hit from Landeskog in the game, but was able to return.
Fleury played hard after giving up three early goals. It will be a different experience for Fleury after playing behind a defensively responsible team in Vegas.
The Blackhawks have to shore up a lot of issues before their next contest, which comes Friday at New Jersey. Puck drop is scheduled for 6 p.m. CDT.