The Colorado Avalanche took on the Chicago Blackhawks in the first game of a home-and-home series at Pepsi Center. Coming off the Avs' first 5-0 road trip in franchise history, the team was looking to get off to a fast start.
During the first few minutes of the game, that's exactly what they did. Gabriel Landeskog broke in for a good scoring chance; then Milan Hejduk followed that up with another couple of great chances. Then the Avs earned their first power play of the night as Chicago was called for too many men on the ice. While the Avs created a lot of great scoring chances and got a couple of shots on net, they were not able to capitalize.
One of the things I've been noticing over the course of this young season is that Ryan O'Reilly is going to be a very special player. He plays such a responsible game that I sometimes forget he is just 20 years old. He added to his takeaway numbers tonight on a couple of very "veteran" moves. I don't want to jinx him, and I can't believe I'm actually comparing him to this player...but he has a lot of the same qualities of a Pavel Datsyuk. Standing by for name calling and ridicule now. I also noticed that we have an absolutely archaic jumbotron.
With just under 4 minutes to go in the first period, the namesake of my MHH fantasy hockey team took a pass from behind the net and sent a perfect backhand over the right shoulder of Seymon Varlamov.
The Avs penalty kill came up big at the end of the first period as they had to kill off a boarding call to Cody McLeod. For those that weren't watching the Altitude broadcast, I learned about a new rule I hadn't heard of this season. Since Brendan Shanahan took over as the NHL's disciplinarian, every boarding call, among other questionable hits, is reviewed by the NHL. So just because he only received the minor penalty in the game, there's still the possibility of supplementary disciplinary action.
The first really great scoring chance came just over 3 minutes into the 2nd period. With the O'Reilly-Landeskog-Winnik line out on the ice, the puck was sent into the slot where Landy sent a hard backhander toward the net, but Corey Crawford held the fort and kept the Blackhawks ahead 1-0. As a side note, how awesome is this line playing right now? I really do think that it's one of, if not our most, dangerous/consistent lines on the team right now. I haven't had a chance to look at the stats, but I'd be willing to bet they have the most steals/takeaways on the team by a large margin.
Leading up to the Avs first goal of the game, the team really started to step up its game. The defensemen were making smart choices with the puck and their ability to get shots on net. They also were very smart in picking their times to join the rush.
The decision making I was just talking about is what lead to the Avs' first goal at home this season. With Matt Duchene making a hard cut to the middle of the ice, he sent a hard shot on Crawford. The rebound went high off of Crawford's left pad and into the chest of Ryan O'Byrne and into the back of the net. It took the boys in the War Room in Toronto a few minutes to look at it, but it would count. It's almost hard to believe that it was O'Byrne's first goal in an Avalanche unipron. Speaking of firsts, with the secondary assist on the goal, Joakim Lindstrom got his first NHL assist.
The second period however would not end so easily for the Avalanche as Varly was called on to make a couple of saves including his best in an Avs uniform. As Brent Seabrook was cutting hard to the net from his point position, he caught a pass from behind the net and sent a low hard shot that Varlamov had to flash his right pad out to make the save and preserve the 1-1 tie heading into the intermission.
Varlamov continued his stellar play as the third period got underway. WIth just over 7 minutes gone in the third period, Patrick Sharp walked into the zone got a great shot on net that caused a big rebound which Andrew Brunette fired right on net. He made the save on that as well. The one he didn't stop though was the a nearly perfect shot off the stick of Sharp which beat him over his right shoulder. It was nearly the same spot that Toews beat him for the first Hawks first goal of the evening.
The Avs didn't sit back, however, and resign the victory to the Blackhawks as they may have done at the end of last year. If anything, they ramped up the pressure and even forced the Blackhawks to use their timeout after forcing the play.
The nail in the coffin on this night was driven home however when the Blackhawks cashed in shorthanded with one of their best penalty killers in the box as Brent Seabrook was whistled for tripping a hard-working Ryan O'Reilly. With Varlamov pulled, Marian Hossa deposited the puck into the empty net.
The Avs will no doubt be looking to get some payback as they travel to Chicago this Saturday for the back end of the home and home series.
Derek'S Three Stars of the Game
3rd Star: Semyon Varlamov (27 saves)
2nd Star: Corey Crawford (31 Saves)
1st Star: Patrick Sharp (GWG)
Part two of the Avs - Hawks home-and-home is on Saturday at 6:30 pm in Chicago.