Maybe Things Will Be Better In Chicago: Avalanche @ Blackhawks - Preview/Pre-Game Thread/Blind Taste Test
Game Time: 7:30PM
The Oxygen Deprived: Mile High Hockey
Extended losing streaks aren't going to make things very easy in this league. The Hawks have gone pointless for three games only once this year and they're only a week removed from a stretch where they were 8-2-0 but they still find themselves in danger of losing their position atop the Central Division, after having already given up the top position in the conference. Both Detroit and St. Louis are both right on the Hawks heels (and Scum have a game in hand). While the Hawks are clearly in better shape than they were last year, the packed Western Conference with the 9th place Dallas Stars only 7 points behind the Hawks. Which just goes to show you how fucked the Ducks and Blue Jackets are with only 26 and 25 points respectively.
So this whole 1-3-0 thing isn't really helping the Hawks much, it's not really as bad as it may seem. Sure, it has pointed out and perhaps exaggerated some of the weaknesses we know the Hawks have but the losses aren't quite as bad as they would seem. Quick stood on his head to shutout the Hawks, the wheels fell off against the Oilers after Carbomb's little adventure in idiocy and even with the disaster of the defensive performance last night they almost eeked out at least a point. And that's about as rosey as you'll see us around here for the most part.
What is really the point, is that the Hawks need to turn things back around and they need to do it quick or the second half of this season (which begins after tonight's game) is going to be a lot more of a bother than we were hoping for. Tonight they get to hopefully get things going in the right direction against what has become one of the hottest teams in the league. The Avs have only two loses in their last 10 games. Even with all those points adding up though, they're still on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoffs.
One of the main reasons for the Avs return to relevance has been the stepped up play from their goalies. Semyon Varlamov has taken on the lion's share of play with 27 starts to Jean-Sebastien Giguere's 14 but both goalies have helped the Avs find their way back into the win columns. Jiggy (who started his NHL career back with the Whale) in particular has been quite a surprise out in Colorado. You wouldn't be alone in thinking he was pretty much done a few years ago but he's found another level to his game in the thin air. Varlamov gets the nod tonight though. Varly (do people actually call him that?) has been solid in his last three starts and hasn't given up more than 2 goals. His last game on Monday was the best of the three as he held the Kings to only a single goal, stopping 31 shots.
The penalty kill has been another reason for the Avs sudden surge. While they only rank 19th in the league, they've only allowed three power play goals against in their last 10 games and none in their last three. Meanwhile, the Hawks power play has fallen to 15th in the league, now 6 behind Colorado. Gabriel Landeskog is once again the player to watch for this game as he's been one of the Avs best all-around players despite his mediocre showing on the scorecard. The Avs are without Matt Duchene which is a shame because he's a really fun player to watch but I won't be shedding too many tears. Ryan Wilson has been cleared to play after suffering a concussion but the Avs aren't in a big rush to play him too soon and he may sit out tonight's game... what a concept, eh?
The Blackhawks aren't going to have to deal with the ferocious forecheck like they did last night since the Avs are a team that likes to play with speed.. and they certainly have a lot of it. Theoretically, this should play in the Hawks favor though as they like the style as well and can wilt under a lot of pressure as they try to set up their classic home run pass followed immediately by the drop pass. The Hawks should be looking for a good game from Hossa after his unusually poor showing last night. I haven't seen any word on the lines yet but I wouldn't expect them to be radically different than last night... though with Q, anything's possible. The only question is, are you ready for a Brunette-Shaw-Olsen line? I think you are.
Let's Go Hawks