This is certainly not the start the Blackhawks wanted to their annual circus trip. Early on, it looked like the Hawks were going to put the upstart Avs in their place. An absolutely dominant powerplay for the Hawks had Colorado chasing them around their zone, but an odd bounce off the boards changed the game completely.
Brent Seabrook's attempt to bank the puck off the boards behind Corey Crawford bounced right to Paul Stastny, who made no mistake and got the Avalanche on the board. Then things got ugly. When the smoke cleared, the Avalanche prevailed 5-1, and took 2 points from their new divisional rival.
A couple of random thoughts from the game...
- Corey Crawford, who allowed 3 goals on 7 shots, was hardly to blame for the loss. Crawford supporters like me will say that he never had a chance on any of them. Crawford detractors will say that a star goalie needs to bail out his teammates now and again. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. While none of the goals were bad, he didn't make a big save when the Hawks needed it. Fatigue may certainly be the issue for Crawford, who's been in goal for at least parts of 20 of the Hawks' 24 games.
- Bryan Bickell suffered what looked to be a knee or ankle injury in the 1st period. After the game, Joel Quenneville said he could be out "a bit." When Quenneville uses, "a bit," it's almost always a longer term injury. We'll know more tomorrow, but I'm not optimistic that we'll see Bickell in the next few games. It remains to be seen who will be called up to replace Bickell. Quenneville alluded to potential cap issues that could prevent an ideal call up. If it's up to me, I get Jeremy Morin right back up with the big club. Hopefully, Marian Hossa can return to the lineup soon...which will obviously help.
- While the final score was ugly, I didn't feel the game was as lopsided as the score. The Hawks could easily have scored 5-6 goals of their own. Semyon Varlamov was outstanding, and got a little help from the goalpost. Hawks that stood out were Patrick Kane, Kris Versteeg and Ben Smith. Smith, especially, generated a couple of great chances that didn't find the back of the net. He's been very good since rejoining the lineup.
- If the Hawks are going to give Antti Raanta a start or two on this trip, I think Thursday in Winnipeg could be the perfect opportunity. The Hawks have certainly had their number this season, combining for a 9-2 score in their two matchups this season.
- Speaking a Raanta, I liked what I saw from him tonight. It's a tough situation to come off the bench cold and stop the bleeding, but he played well. Very calm and collected in the net, which is a very good sign, especially considering the less than ideal conditions of his first game.
Thanks for reading as always.