Regardless of the outcome of this contest the story would continue to be the Chicago Blackhawks' historic streak of being unbeaten in regulation this season. It was all they talked about in the pre-game and it was all they talked about during the last 10 minutes of regulation, but for two very different reasons. The streak is now in the history books after a spectacular offensive showing by Colorado, led by burgeoning star Matt Duchene who has one of the most complete games in his young career.
The first period started with some good shifts for the Avs as fans were treated to some new line combos, especially the McLeod - Stastny - Landeskog line. However, it was fan-favorite Chuck Kobasew who drove the net on a quick offensive zone turnover and and got hooked down. One familiar thing for the fans was the All Forward Power Play Unit with Banker Favorite Ryan O`Reilly on the point with Matt Duchene, Paul Stastny, P.A. Parenteau, and Gabriel Landeskog filling out the squad. They managed a couple of shots, including one that I would call "good" but couldn't cash in. Shortly thereafter a series of WTF moments from Ryan O`Byrne gave the Toews line a chance to show off some sick passing before Jonathan Toews buried his 11th goal of the season to put the Hawks up 1-0. Despite the goal the Avs were doing a good job of keeping the 'Hawks players to the outside during most of their possessions.
With just over four minutes left in the period, a scrambly play in behind Semyon Varlamov resulted in John Mitchell DRAWING a hooking penalty!!! I'm pretty sure that's the first defensive zone penalty in Colorado's favor all season. The No Sizzle, All Fizzle PP unit came over the board and gave haters pause as some slick puck-handling and passing by Parenteau saw a puck zipped far-side to Duchene (of all people) on the left point who showed his own passing skills with a nice dish to Paul Stastny in the slot. Stastny redirected the pass up over Corey Crawford for the first Avs PP goal since the Truman Administration. The period ended with a couple of flurries at each end, but the Colorado ended up out-shooting Chicago 10-6 for the frame.
The 2nd period started with some confident shooting and passing in the offensive zone bythe newly-returned Erik Johnson and then this game just went OFF. THE. HOOK. After killing off Aaron Palushaj's high sticking penalty, Varlamov did a full split on a save attempt, but it's so spectacular that Viktor Stalberg got hurt (he may have been hit by a puck and just had a delayed reaction). While he limped to the bench Johnson made a great zone entry and fed a sneaking Duchene who backhanded his shot past Crawford to give the Avs their first lead of the game. While they were still announcing the goal in the Pepsi Center, $6 million Man O'Reilly put some sweet, sweet sauce on Mitchell's twig in the slot and Evgeni buried the third goal of the game just 33 seconds since the last one. We weren't even five minutes into the period yet, you guys. Fans were treated to another blown call in Chicago's favor after Johnny Oduya clearly flipped a puck over the glass (and not off of Jan Hejda's stick that was AT LEAST 10 feet away). Soon thereafter Stastny had a great chance on a breakaway after a spectacular pass from Jones. Maybe it's something they've been working on on practice? This period had been sooooooooooo good that I forgot to fix my dinner. Popcorn chicken. Good stuff.
Anyway, Palushaj drew a tripping penalty from Crawford in front of the net while trying to tip in Johnson's point shot. Stastny won the faceoff back to Duchene, who fed it to O'Reilly for a one timer that beat Crawford low glove at just over 9 minutes in. That's two power play goals by the All Forward line. Mind blown. Mrs. (who went to take a shower after the first) wants to come out of the bedroom, but I won't let her. Speaking of blown, you know what else is blown? Crawford's stat line, especially after Duchene out-hustles an icing call and feeds Jamie McGinn in front for the FIFTH GOAL of the game and fourth of the period!! The end of the period sees this crazy goalie tryout reality show in front of the Colorado crease as both Zanon and Johnson take turns sitting on the puck. It finally gets worked loose and a shot is taken on Varlamov who makes a good square-to-the-shooter save. Toews gives him a whack in the head as he skates by so Landeskog gives him a love shove right back. Shots are actually tied after two, 19 apiece. For those of you that can add, the Avs scored 4 goals on 9 shots.
The third period sees Chicago come out with some jump and a new goalie in Ray Emery. The Avs look like the same team from the 2nd period though as Landeskog and Stastny generate a great opportunity followed later by McGinn and Duchene nearly scoring on a rush. Mitchell tries to get in on the action and Palushaj is playing like his pants are on fire. There's a slight hiccup in the program at the 6 minute mark after Stastny gets called for a hook in front of his own net. Now I might be called an apologist, but it looked like the rare "good" penalty to prevent a good opportunity in front of Varlamov. The penalty kill continues its home dominance and kill it off but a questionable decision by McGinn to "eat" the puck along the wall eventually found its way over to Bryan Bickell who absolutely HAMMERED a one-timer short side on Varlamov to tighten up the score, 5-2. 11 minutes left in the game at this point.
The Avs barely noticed as Palushaj nearly buried a shot on a Hail Mary pass from his own end. He still fell down afterward though. Lots of chances back and forth, usually stemming from possession by Chicago and a mix of possession and rushes for Colorado. Landeskog tried to get in on the score-a-palooze late in the period when Niklas Hjalmarsson hooked him on a near breakaway. It generates a great chance for Duchene but Emery makes a big save in close. Landeskog continues being Landeskog and after getting tagged for a cross-check penalty declines Bickell's offer to re-injure himself. Half of the Hawks jump into the fray to try and get some cheap shots in on Landy who is helmetless and recently concussed. The result is Landeskog in the box for 2 minutes and an early shower for Bickell (2 + 10 min). 4-on-4 hockey for the home crowd resulted in some vintage work by O'Reilly on the boards but the cherry on top was a spectacular backhand pass from Stastny on the end boards to Parenteau in the slot. He went high glove and put the Avs back up by 4. Popcorn chicken is gone and the Mrs. is in a coma in the bedroom (I let her out at intermission so don't send me angry emails).
Plenty of back and forth action occurred in the closing minutes, but the quality favored Colorado. With just over one minute remaining, Varlamov put his stamp on the game with a couple of great saves. The crowd was chanting "End the Streak" and counting down the seconds to the end of Chicago's historic run. Now we can stop talking about it right? The full house enjoyed the show and the Avs players were super psyched to get two points for a change. It was a great, complete, exciting, and satisfying end to this home-and-home series.
Mike's Avalanche 3
Stick Taps Absolute Bosses of the Night
- Matt Duchene - G, 3 A (2 on the PP!) and 62% in the faceoff circle.
- P.A. Parenteau - 2 A and stick-handled in a phone booth all night
- Paul Stastny & Ryan O'Reilly - Nearly identical lines of G, 2 A for Stastny; G, A for O'Reilly; both 62%+ in the dot including a combined 11-of-12 in the O-zone!!
- Jamie McGinn - Matt Duchene - P.A. Parenteau
- Gabriel Landeskog - Paul Stastny - David Jones (though McLeod started up here)
- John Mitchell - Ryan O`Reilly - Aaron Pulashaj
- Cody McLeod - Patrick Bordeleau - Chuck Kobasew
- Erik Johnson - Greg Zanon
- Shane O`Brein - Jan Hejda
- Matt Hunwick Ryan O`Byrne
Olver, Barrie (seriously!), and Hejduk scratched.
- Speaking of hits, Matt Hunwick absolutely blew up Brandon Bollig. I giggled like a schoolgirl.
- Shane O'Brien had a pretty good night, as did the entire blueline.
- Even Bordeleau had a good night with 4 hits. I feel like I'm living a weird Twilight Zone episode.
- Admit it, you totally thought I was gonna go somewhere else with the "You know what else is blown?" line.
- Next up is what I'm sure will be the
truimphantreturn of Ryan Wilson and Tyson Barrie against the big, bad Sharks on Sunday.