Avalanche blowout Blackhawks, rewrite ending to “The Streak”
Having played two of their best games – yet come away with losses – in the last week, the Colorado Avalanche finally exploded Friday night in Denver as the home team destroyed the undefeated-in-regulation Chicago Blackhawks 6-2 in front of a packed house at Pepsi Center.
Colorado went down early in the game, giving away a tic-tac-toe goal to Chicago Captain Jonathan Toews nearly six minutes in. The home team held on though, not letting some early momentum back them off of the puck. They responded 11 minutes later with a tally of their own.
“That was a tough one. I just put it between the two ‘d’,” said forward P.A. Parenteau of the turnover. “We showed a lot of character staying with it, coming back, scoring two big power play goals. That’s how you win games in this league. You can’t put your head down when you’re trailing and we didn’t do that tonight.”
“It certainly was good energy in the building. I thought our team responded well with the energy in the building and, even though we got down one, I thought that we stuck with it in the first period,” said Head Coach Joe Sacco. “We battled, we played hard, and we got the next goal to keep it a 1-1 game.”
Colorado came out in the third period and put up four goals, including another power play point, to take a 4-1 lead. Duchene (1g, 3 a), John Mitchell, Ryan O’Reilly (1g, 1a), and Jamie McGinn all found some delicious twine, blackening it with puck as the scoreboard rumbled with the fury on the ice.
“Some nights they go in, sometimes they don’t,” said Duchene, who finished the evening with a goal and three helpers.
“I’m feeling extremely well on the ice. I think we’re getting better as a line every game. Dutchy was flying tonight, Ginner played a strong game on the wall too,” said Parenteau, who scooped up a goal for three points himself. “That’s how you end a streak like that. You need everyone and we had everyone tonight.”
“Especially when we have everyone going like that, we’re a dangerous team I think. We have so much depth up front.”
They dominated Chicago. They made Chicago look silly, tired, worn down, sick of winning. They made Chicago want to give up and go home.
The ‘let’s go Blackhawks’ chants that resounded throughout the building early were easily drowned out by the citizens of Denver and beyond who turned out, carrying hope in their hearts that their little team from Colorado could be the one to put an end to the madness.
The sea of red slowly begun to dissipate towards the end of the third as all hope for history faded into the wintery mountain night. Despite a late game tally by each team, fate sealed her beautiful lips, the point-streak from the Windy City blowing away into nothingness with her final exhale.
Special teams played a big role in the win, as the Avs held Chicago to silence on three man advantage opportunities. Colorado also put two home while up a skater against the third best penalty killing unit in North America, which is no easy feat.
“That’s an area that we’ve been weak, our power play. It’s nice to get that on the board and we got to just keep going now,” said Duchene. “Power plays are streaky and hopefully we can ride this away for a little while here.”
“Our power play certainly needed that tonight. It’s been a struggle for us lately, there’s no secret to that. We’ve been working at it and practicing and video and all the good stuff that you try to do to help improve it,” said Sacco. “What I liked about it is that we weren’t one and done on the power play. We sustained some pressure on the first goal and the second goal, obviously, was the face off play. It was bang-bang right off the face off.”
“That’s a big part of our game and I’m glad to see that we responded well on the power play.”
For those that didn’t know, Sacco has tested using a first power play unit consisting of five forwards and no defensemen in the hopes that there will be an overwhelming amount of offense. While it may have backfired once, Wednesday night in Chicago, it certainly worked out at home.
“I just feel that it gives us the best chance on the power play. Those five guys, I feel, are our best guys to play on the power play and that’s why I’m doing it,” said Sacco. “Sometimes you may have to risk giving up an odd man rush or a goal once and a while but certainly, I think that the reward is worth the risk there. We’ll stick with it until I see anything different.”
The win was certainly an exciting moment for the Avalanche, who were alive and jovial in the locker room following the match. Even so, there was humility throughout as various players recognized the historical effort put forth by Chicago so far this year.
“Congratulations to that team. Wow, what a run they had. I don’t think they’re going to slow down because of this but it’s pretty special, for sure,” said Duchene. “It was pretty special to do it in our hometown, in our city and in front of our fans. It was special.”
“I think it’s something special that they did. Half the season, 24 games, that’s just mind-boggling. That’s two full months without losing. Hats off to them,” said Stastny.
For Chicago, the trick now is to keep a level head. The team has very nearly secured a playoff spot already, sitting atop 45 points to lead the entire NHL. Still, that’s a consolation prize that doesn’t make the loss sting any less.
“They were determined to be the spoilers tonight and we obviously didn’t match the effort. But I still feel we had our moments where, if we would have been smarter and limited some of our defensive mistakes and won a few more battles, we could have kept it a tight game,” said Toews. “We gave them too many open shots in the slot and made it too difficult on our goaltenders to make stops when they have such great quality chances. We had our chances to stay close but again, we just didn’t play smart enough in our zone and it came down to that.”
Semyon Varlamov turned aside all but two of the 22 chances he saw, prowling the crease and attacking the puck like voracious predator looking to dine.
Stastny finished with one goal and two assists.
What do you think of the effort? Proud of the Avalanche? Surprised they could do it?