The Blackhawks face off against Colorado in another nationally broadcast game on Thursday night, fresh off their 4-1 win against the Maple Leafs on Monday.
The big news for the Hawks so far early in the season has been their surprisingly steady play. They’re 2-2 headed into the final game of what was initially seen as a daunting five-game road trip, and a win in Denver would send them back to Chicago with sky-high confidence for their home opener against Vegas on Saturday. It would also give Nick Foligno some early leadership brownie points after he took it upon himself to issue a challenge to the rest of his team:
The Avalanche should be the Hawks’ biggest challenge yet as they’ve started their season firing on all cylinders with a 3-0 record and some stellar play at both ends of the ice. They’re paced in scoring by the three-headed monster of Mikko Rantanen, Nathan MacKinnon and Cale Makar, as to be expected, and both Rantanen and Makar have tallied at least a point in every one of their games so far. Goaltender Alexander Georgiev has also been stopping everything he sees, as he’s currently sporting a white-hot .958 save percentage to go with an equally impressive 1.30 goals-against average.
But move a bit beyond the superstars and that’s where things start to get murky for Colorado. They lost a ton of their depth in free agency after their Cup run in 2022 (which is something we all can remember/relate to) and it seems like they were never really able to get properly calibrated last season before the Kraken bounced them in the first round of the playoffs.
The Avs brought in some interesting players to try and address that need: most notably forwards Ryan Johansen and MacKinnon’s former Halifax Mooseheads teammate Jonathan Drouin (who feels like he’s been a “just needs a change of scenery” guy for at least the last five seasons or so), but there’s still a gigantic, significant hole in their lineup in the shape of captain Gabriel Landeskog, who’ll miss the entire 2023-24 NHL season as he recovers from his third separate knee surgery in the last 15 months. There’s a realistic chance Landeskog may never be able to return in any capacity, as he’s dealing with a similar cartilage issue to the one that looks like it could wind up ending Lonzo Ball’s NBA career.
But Colorado knew all that heading into this year and, so far, they haven’t missed a beat.
As for the Blackhawks, they just need to keep doing more of the same defensively. They currently sit 10th in the league with a 2.25 team GAA, and both Petr Mrazek and Arvid Soderblom have been exceptional in goal.
The scoring does need to pick up, and it feels like Connor Bedard is teetering on the precipice of a goal scoring binge that could end up going nuclear.
The good news is one of Bedard’s line mates in Taylor Hall absolutely loves playing the Avalanche, as he’s got 39 points (17G, 22A) in 31 career games against them — including seven points (2G, 5A) in his last three. The bad news is (and this is a stat that Betsy will no doubt love and cherish) that the Hawks’ current leading scorer is none other than Scorey Perry (I’m so sorry), who has one goal and three assists after notching the game-winner versus the Leafs in Toronto.
But who cares about the old guys anyway? Alex Vlasic had the best game of his young career against the Auston Matthews line on Monday. Kevin Korchinski got his first NHL point. And Lukas Reichel is due to start doing something any minute now (otherwise it might be time to poke him with a stick).
So here’s to a game that should be fast-paced, fun, and yet another opportunity to watch Connor Bedard square off against an elite NHL center he’ll be battling for years to come.
Let’s go Hawks (I mean it this season)!
Colorado’s lines also look unchanged from its most recent game against the Kraken:
How to watch
When: 9:30 p.m. CT
Where: Ball Arena, Colorado
Radio: WGN 720