Second place in the Central Division is on the line tonight as the Avs take on the Hawks. Both teams are coming off wins, Chicago 2-1 over Buffalo and Colorado 3-2 over Winnipeg, and both are pretty well assured of playoff berths. This is the final game in the regular season series. Colorado has already won the series collecting 6 points in the first 4 games and giving up only 3 to Chicago, but tonight is something special. The winner tonight controls their destiny to winning home ice advantage in the playoffs. The Blackhawks, in spite of having 4 fewer wins than the Avalanche, have 1 more point (90 vs. 89) due to their ability to get close games to overtime, but then fall in OT or the shootout (6 OT losses and 8 SO losses). A win tonight in regulation or OT gives the Avs possession of 2nd place in the Central Division.
By the way, you will have to put up with the clock counting down in this. I didn't feel like subtracting from 20:00 (gettin' my lazy on, dontcha know).
The Avs step on to the ice in their home burgundy and frost (#nopiping) uniprons. Chicago brings out a surprise in goal. Antti Raanta gets the call from coach Q. Crawford has struggled against the Avs so he's on door duty.
Both teams come out flying. Avs win the opening faceoff, but Chicago gets the first shot, a slapper from the left point by Keith. Save Varlamov. Avs respond seconds later with a great opportunity that ends in a MacKinnon shot. Seabrook decks him and a donnybrook ensues in the crease.
Avs get a 2 minute PP with Seabrook in the box for roughing as a result of the scuffle. 4 shots, several good chances including a post by Johnson that then dribbled across the goal mouth, but nothing on the scoreboard.
Play calmed down a bit around the 12:00 minute mark, but both teams were still moving the puck quickly and well. Chicago probably had possession advantage, but both sides had opportunities.
McLeod checks Brookbank at the blueline from behind and a bit away from the puck. Brookbank and McLeod get to bumping and finally drop the gloves at 10:24. Both guys get in a shot or two, but it ends with a bit of a whimper. Both go off for 5 minutes to cool off and McLeod gets an extra 2 minutes for interference which is served by Malone.
Chicago has a couple of opportunities on the PP, and seem to be spending most of the time with the puck below the dots and only occasionally moving it to the points. The points are getting clear shots with a forward in front of Varlamov. Avs clear the rebounds well and the penalty expires.
Play is very back and forth with the Avs probably getting the more dangerous chances. At 6:55 Varlamov takes a shot from the top of the circles to the chest. He seems to maintain control, but then fumbles the puck making it more exciting than necessary. He covers so no harm.
At the 1:40 mark Brad Malone receives a pass from Barrie below the dots in the Avs end. He takes the puck up the left side, bounces it off the wall at the red line to get past a defender and takes a bad angle shot that goes off Raanta's left leg and in. GOAL! Assists to Varlamov and Barrie.
Chicago gets a close in opportunity in the final minute on a scramble. Varly makes the save and time runs out in the first.
Observation: The Avs seem to be changing up their defensive alignment depending upon which Chicago line is on the ice. Against Handzus it looked like they are playing a passive 2-2-1 with the forechecker on the attacking blueline shading to the puck side. Against Toews they run an aggressive 2-1-2 with both forecheckers getting low in the zone and the centerman settling in between the blue and red lines.
19 seconds into the period Duchene scores a beautiful goal to Rantta's glove side on a one timer from the right circle. McGinn bounces a puck off Hjalmarsson through the slot and Duchene manages to catch it clean and buries the puck. O'Reilly gets the second assist. 2-0 Avs.
The neutral zone is wide open to start the second. Both teams are flying through basically unimpeded. Lots of movement, skating, passing, and little defense. It's beautiful to watch and my notes go to hell.
At 15:23 Guenin gets called for interference. Quenville managed to get a mis-match on the ice where the Avs have Bordy-Malone-Carey with Barrie-Guenin out against the Saad-Handzus-Kane line. The results are predictable.
Talbot manages to get a steal in the neutral zone and converts it into a shorthanded shot. Chicago's first PP unit looks off. Passes are jumping and players are out of position. When the second unit comes on, they settle down and get a point shot off the post with 5 seconds left. Penalty killed.
More back and forth hockey. Chicago seems to be getting the better of the shots at this point although I would not say either team is dominating.
Patrick Kane steals Hejda's lunch and eats it right in front of him at the 11:37 mark. Hejda falls for an inside fake and Kane goes around him to the outside and then roofs a backhand over Varlamov's glove. Varly was square and on the post, but it was a perfect shot. Assists to Sharp and Hjalmarsson. No shame on the goal. Just beauty.
Kane appears to be double shifting with Toewes and Sharp and with Handzus and Saad. It's almost like he doesn't leave the ice for more than a shift. Quenville's 4th line is barely seeing the ice.
MacKinnon has a dominant shift around the 8:30 mark. Shows speed and strength and the puck just seems to be following him around the ice.
So far the officiating has been pretty good, and fairly even. Duchene makes a power move around Oduya one handing it past him on the outside in the right circle. Oduya goes down and hacks at Duchene's feet, but fails to knock Duchene down. He does interfere with the shot, but what should have been tripping ends up a no-call because Duchene is too strong. Looked like Forsberg there.
Kane goes to the box at the 7:00 minute mark for goalie interference. This might be a make-up call because Hejda is riding him like a horse and pushes him through Varlamov. During the power play Johnson performs a pair of single axles while maintaining possession of the puck along the boards behind the Chicago net. Unfortunately this is the highlight of the powerplay. Holden misses out on a wide open net from the right circle when he whiffs on the one timer.
Chicago opens the period with a clinic on possession hockey making the 5v5 look like a powerplay. The Avs seem content at this point to let Chicago move the puck around the perimeter and no real scoring chance results. At the 17:55 mark the 4th line gets stranded on an icing call and ends up facing the Toews line. What could have been a real problem results in a nice zone exit and the Duchene line comes on.
The 4th line seems to be getting a fair amount of ice time in the 3rd period of a 1 goal game, including Carey who gets 3 early shifts and plays well. Colorado has shifted into a 2-1-2 trap and is forcing everything to the boards in the neutral zone.
Coming out of the commercial break, Chicago runs another passing clinic, but even they are starting to look a bit ragged as nothing comes of it. At the 11:02 mark Andrew Shaw gets called for interference after giving Cliche a cheap shot to the head away from the puck.
The first 30 seconds are not too eventful, but then Kruger lifts the puck out of play at 10:32. 2:00 penalty delay of game giving the Avs 1:30 of 5 on 3. The 5 on 3 starts out choppy with little possession and even difficulty getting through the neutral zone. Once they set up, it looks static. With 9:07 on the game clock, Duchene puts a sharp angle shot on net. O'Reilly is camped at the top of the crease and puts a forehand behind Raanta off the rebound. Goal!!!! 35 second of 5 on 4 remain.
Chicago kills of the remaining PP, but the damage has been done.
After a commercial break, the Avs put together a couple of good possession shifts and neither team is getting any dangerous opportunities. The Avs 4th line seems to have been put away for the night and Chicago has been rolling 3 with Kane double shifted for some time. They want this one badly.
With 2:32 to go, Quenville pulls his goalie and 15 seconds later Chicago scores in a scramble. Saad gets credit for the goal with assists to Shaw and Keith
Once Chicago regains possession after the face-off Raanta heads again for the bench for the final 1:30 or so. The Avs play strong in front of the net and mostly keep the puck to the walls. Landeskog makes a great poke check after going down to block and forces Chicago to reset. Time runs out and that's it.
MHH 3 Twiggs:
3rd Twigg: O'Reilly - 1 G, 1 A
2nd Twigg: Varlamov - 37 of 39 shots saved
1st Twigg: Duchene - 1 G, 1 A, head-to-head with Toews and comes out on top