Hawks can’t keep pace; lose 5-1 in Colorado to open Circus trip.
By Brad Vandenberk
It was time to kick off the Blackhawks annual circus road trip on Tuesday. This happens every year around the same time in November when the lions, tigers and bears, OH MY, invade the United Center for two weeks. As we have witnessed in the past, this trip provides an accurate measuring stick as to how well the Hawks play on the road. The players look forward to a little team bonding during this time away from home. Although there aren’t a lot of new faces, it gives young guys like Brandon Pirri and Ben Smith a chance to live life on the road. The next seven games will be played over twelve days. The first game sees the Hawks land in Colorado to face the Avalanche. This is the first meeting between these two clubs this season. Last year these pesky Avs broke the Hawks historic streak. Matt Duchene did not take part in this affair after straining his oblique muscle on the weekend. He will be out for a week with the injury. Duchene is arguably the Avs best player thus far. After the Avs hot start, they have finally come down to earth and have lost three straight coming into tonight’s game, most recent, getting beat by the Florida Panthers on the weekend.
Corey Crawford continues to man the crease for the visiting team, while Colorado countered with Semyon Varlamov. Although he did take the morning skate, Marian Hossa was not in the line up missing his third straight game with a lower body injury.
The Avs opened the game like a team possessed. They were looking to break out of this losing streak they have fallen into. Brent Seabrook makes a great defensive effort sliding along his belly to break up an Avs 2 on 1. The Hawks get their first power play attempt when Brad Malone hits Shaw awkwardly getting called for boarding. Shaw was slow to get back to his feet and remained in the game. Kris Versteeg and Brandon Saad get some great opportunities to open the scoring but Varlamov shuts the door during the man advantage. Minutes after the penalty expires, Seabrook tries to send a pass to partner Duncan Keith around the net, the puck takes an unlucky bounce and heads in front of the net where Peter Stastny rips it passed Crawford bringing the Pepsi Center to their feet 1-0. Scary moment, Bryan Bickell seems to loose and edge and slides into the net hitting his left leg on the post. This was the same leg that troubled him during the playoffs last year. He makes his way to the dressing room and would not return for the rest of the game. The Avs begin to clog up the neutral zone and it pays off. Andre Benoit takes a shot from the point and Gabriel Landeskog tips it past Crawford 2-0. Less than a minute later Maxime Talbot finds a wide open John Mitchell and he roofs it past Crawford 3-0. Antti Raanta gets the nod from coach Q so stick a fork in Crawford, he’s done! Brandon Bollig finds himself wide open in front of the net and is robbed by Varlamov. The period ends with the Hawks leading in shots 17-8, but not on the scoreboard.
As the Hawks spill on the ice to start the second period, it becomes official that Bickell was not returning. Seabrook and Kane try to get to Varlamov early, but the Russian makes the save. Raanta is tested early when the Avs break in on a 3 on 1, he casually makes a save. Hawks begin to work down low behind the goal line causing problems for the Avs defense. Kane, Pirri and Versteeg work it around like a power play. Toews also tries to break the goose egg, but the Hawks just can’t catch a break. Marcus Kruger breaks in on a 2 on 1 with Ben Smith and the youngster sends a backhand over the net. The Hawks begin to work on their speed when Toews splits the Avs D and tries to put the puck across the crease to a wide open Saad. Again the back end of the Avalanche tonight were unbeatable. Right after Toews chance P.A Parenteau keeps the puck on a 2 on 1 and scores on Raanta adding to the Avs lead 4-0. The period ends with the Hawks still leading in shot 27-15 with plenty of chances.
Not even 2 minutes retired off the clock in the third and Cody Mcleod gets a rebound and beats Raanta making it 5-0 and the altitude has kicked in. Toews still leads his team and tries to break the home team’s goaltender. Versteeg gives Keith a nice pass in the slot and even he can’t seem to find the twine. Jan Hejda levels Smith as he tries to get to the net. The Avs got their first power play of the game when Niklas Hjalmarsson heads to the box for tripping. Parenteau gets the best chance, but Seabrook blocks the shot and the Hawks save some dignity killing the penalty. The Avs D becomes physical standing Brookbank up at the blue line. Finally the Hawks solve Varlamov. Keith sends a shot from the point on net. Kane gets a stick on it redirecting it over to Saad who swats it over the goal line 5-1. Smith was very noticeable this evening with another chance in front. Brookbank thinks he scores with bodies all over the crease, it hits the post and like they did last season, the Colorado Avalanche destroy the Hawks with a 5-1 final.
Sharp Toews Saad Keith Seabrook
Versteeg Pirri Kane Hjalmarsson Oduya
Bickell Shaw Brookbank Rozsival Leddy
Bollig Kruger Smith
-Hawks out shoot the Avalanche 37-23
-Both Hawks and Avs go 0/1 on the power play
-Kane extended his point streak to 7 games picking up an assist.
-Keith led all Hawks with 22:57 TOI and Kane was right behind him with 21:22.
-Toews went 10/15 in the circle. Shaw 6/10, Pirri 6/11 and Kruger 6/11
-Next up the Hawks play, what’s seems to be their favourite team this season when they travel to Winnipeg on Thursday to take on the Jets. The Hawks have owned their central division opponents beating them 5-1 and 4-1.