Hey so remember how Dave said the only good thing about Saturday’s 6-1 scrubbing by the Predators was that the Blackhawks could redeem themselves against the Flames on Sunday? Was I alone in remembering that this team is bad and that they should feel bad about being bad?
Anyway, after two incredibly rough games to start the new year, including that Predators beatdown in Nashville and the 5-1 Flames’ victory in Chicago, the Blackhawks remained at home and will now face the Avalanche, who ... well, they’re first in the Central Division by points percentage, and that’s after a rough start to the season (by Colorado standards).
The Blackhawks returned to get their ass handed to them — twice — after not having played since Dec. 18. The Avalanche returned from their break, which lasted from Dec. 16 until Sunday, when they beat the Ducks 4-2. That’s how you’re supposed to return from a long break.
In that game, Nathan MacKinnon collected three points — all assists — while Mikko Rantanen got a goal and two assists and three other players scored a goal, including Gabriel Landeskog and defenseman Devon Toews.
The Avalanche are now 18-8-2 and won seven of their ten games in December, including a three-game set where they scored seven goals against three different teams: the Rangers, Flyers and Red Wings. The crazy thing is, the game before, they gave up six in a regulation loss to the ... Senators?
The Blackhawks have not seen the Avalanche since Oct. 13, when Colorado won 4-2 — which, considering the last two games? Not bad for Chicago — and three players for Colorado (Byram, Landeskog, Nazem Kadri) collected two points each, all a goal and an assist.
With MacKinnon missing seven games so far this season, Kadri leads the team with 39 points, putting on a potential dark horse Hart season. Still, even Kadri has missed three games for the Avalanche, who are seeing a repeat of their last season when they were missing a critical piece seemingly at all times.
One of the healthiest Avalanche players, playing all 28 games for the Avalanche, is 35-year-old Darren Helm. Yeah. Here’s a list of all the Avalanche who have played all 28 games so far this season: Helm, Logan O’Connor, Tyson Jost, Erik Johnson. End of list. Sampo Ranta, who has scored zero points, has played 10 games with the Avalanche this year, likely out of necessity, and this team is still the best in the Central.
The Avalanche are a top 10 team at 5-on-5 in both shot share and expected goal share and have a 53.83 percent share of high-danger chances. The Avalanche do have a definitive weak spot in net, as Darcy Kuemper has a .909 save percentage and every backup for Colorado is at .882 (Pavel Francouz) or below.
Still, the Blackhawks have to be able to generate consistent pressure to test netminders and that’s been ... a problem this year. I’d say play a game that makes fans forget about the weekend but look at the last time somebody said that on this website. Instead I’ll say: try to play like The Weeknd. Crazy and fun and dangerous.
I’m team “Sure glad Bowman lottery-protected that draft pick” but... Let’s Go Hawks?
Blackhawks — Statistic — Avalanche
46.99% (26th) — 5-on-5 Corsi For — 52.66% (6th)
45.53% (30th) — 5-on-5 Expected goals for — 52.67% (8th)
2.22 (30th) — Goals per game — 4.21 (1st)
3.38 (24th) — Goals against per game — 3.32 (23rd)
48.7% (21st) — Faceoffs — 46.8% (28th)
17.5% (21st) — Power play — 24.1% (8th)
75% (27th) — Penalty kill — 75% (28th)
Projected lineups (subject to change)
DeBrincat — Borgstrom — Kane
Hagel — Toews — Strome
Kubalik — Dach — Kurashev
Carpenter — Slavin — Khaira
de Haan — Jones
Stillman — Murphy
McCabe — Gustafsson
Landeskog — MacKinnon — Rantanen
Compher — Kadri — Burakovsky
Aube-Kubel — Newhook — O’Connor
MacDermid — Jost — Helm
Toews — Makar
Byram — Girard
E. Johnson — J. Johnson
How to watch
When: 7:30 p.m. CT
Where: United Center, Chicago
Webstream: ESPN+ / Hulu