Quick And To The Pointless: Blackhawks @ Avalanche: Preview/Pre-Game Thread/Circle Pit
Game Time: 8:00 PM
Riding High: Mile High Hockey
Last year's season opener began on a slightly sour note (first of many) as the then defending Champion Blackhawks dropped the opener when Paul Stastny scored a game winning goal in overtime. Things didn't get much better against the Lanche as the Hawks lost the next two matchups as well, allowing the Avs to score a combined 11 times. It wasn't until the final match up in mid-January that the Hawks were able to put together a win and shut out the Avs for a 4-0 victory.
It's surprising that the Hawks struggled against a team like the Avs. They don't posses the big hulking forwards that the Hawks generally struggle with. They do have a couple big bodies on their blue line, now including familiar foes like Erik Johnson and resident doofus Shane O'Brien but even their defense enjoys pinching in to join the uptempo offense that Colorado has used with great results in their past 5 games, all wins. This style isn't going to be anything new to Blackhawk fans - it's the same model the Hawks have been using the last few years (ideally). Use speed, quick passes, move the puck up the ice and wear the defense down. We've seen enough of Matt Duchene in the last few years to realize he's the real deal and now he's joined on the team by the Avalanche's own Swedish-solution in Gabriel Landeskog. Drafted second overall in this past summer's draft, Landeskog (who needs a nickname immediately) is fitting in well nicely in Colorado so far with 2 goals in their 6 games and an impressive 23 shots (4th most in the league so far). He's more than just an offensive threat though and has helped round out the Avs' third line with a complete game. So yeah... Avs fans like him.
Behind the quick and exciting game Colorado likes to play, they're also getting great results from Washington castoff Semyon Varlamov. He's got a 3-1-0 record and an impressive .937 Sv%. They'll need Varlamov to continue to play well because the Avs are giving up over 31 shots a game so far.
As for Chicago - staying out of the box will be one of the main goals. As mentioned in the links this morning, the Avs currently have the best power play in the league, clocking in at a 31.8% success rate. Milan Hejduk is the main scoring threat with 2 goals and 2 assists already but Erik Johnson is really the man to watch out for when he holds the puck. The former Blue has 5 assists already with the man advantage this season. These battles should be exciting to watch though as the Hawks killers have stood their ground so far this year and currently have the 4th best PK in the league... of course the Avs are right behind them at 90.5%. As mentioned above, Colorado's style plays right into the Hawks hands as speed and smart passes will go a long way towards two points. The Hawks need to put last year's struggles behind them.
This will be the first home game for Colorado since the shutout against Scum. After a long and successful road trip the Avs could be a little jittery in front of the home crowd again. If that's the case the Hawks need to jump out early and take advantage often.
Lets Go Hawks