Part of the appeal to hockey is its irregularity; the “puck luck” of it. Even when two teams face one another and one team convincingly out-performs the other, there’s always an element of randomness to the final outcome.
On paper, Colorado dominated Friday night’s game against Chicago. According to Natural Stat Trick, the Avalanche had a 74-41 edge in shot attempts, a 40-20 advantage in scoring chances, and led 18-14 in chances deemed to be high-danger.
But in the end, as is sometimes the case, it didn’t even matter.
The Blackhawks left Pepsi Center boasting a 2-1 victory, snagging the win on the back of Artem Anisimov game-winning goal early in the third period. For Colorado, it was a bad loss against a bad team in a weird game. Colorado hit three posts — from Gabriel Landeskog, Erik Johnson, and J.T. Compher — but all was for naught. With some stunning saves from top Chicago prospect Collin Delia, up for the concussed Corey Crawford, Colorado’s divisional rivals finally picked up their first three-game win streak of the year.
So much has been made of the Avs’ top line — but against the Blackhawks, despite a statistical dominance, the line wasn’t spectacular.
Mikko Rantanen didn’t have a great night, boasting his second pointless outing in three games. And although Nathan MacKinnon led both teams in shots with a whopping eight, perhaps he tried to dazzle a bit too much and didn’t get the dirty work done.
Colorado didn’t play poorly, though, and lost more because of fluky bounces than lackluster play. If there were any complaints to be made, the Avalanche power play was horrific — and has been worsening in recent games, which may be cause for concern.
The Avalanche second-line (ranked 30th best in the NHL, according to Daily Faceoff) was the strongest tonight and Compher in particular was outstanding. Here’s his second-period goal, which tied the game:
With a nice pass from Alex Kerfoot and a J.T. Compher finish, Colorado seemed poised for victory, but a leaky goal surrendered by Philipp Grubauer and strong netminding by Delia proved otherwise.
We poked fun at Chicago in our game preview, in which we called them “really really bad”. Although they’ve certainly taken up that mantle this year, though, the Blackhawks weren’t really really bad enough tonight to lose to Colorado.
Chicago is now on a three-game winning streak, all of which came against Central Division teams likely to make the playoffs. This is your reminder that the NHL is a league of high parity and even really, really bad teams are competitive.
The Avalanche power play — the third-best in the league (but steadily dropping) — was abysmal in the outing against the Blackhawks’ last-ranked, 72.6 percent penalty kill. MacKinnon was working his dangles, per usual, but the man-advantage unit struggled to get high-quality chances. Ty Barrie was really bad at keeping pucks in the offensive zone, and Rantanen just seemed off all night.
According to HockeyViz founder Micah Blake McCurdy in a recent post regarding time-on-ice charts, which showed the deployment of various teams’ players on both the power play and penalty kill, the Avalanche only give their top power-play unit about 60 percent of their total man advantage time.
For some teams, most notably the Washington Capitals, the top-unit stays on the ice for over 80 percent of all power play time. So although Colorado’s second-unit has done a solid job on the power play for much of the year, it’s a bit surprising to see such a top-heavy forward corps deployed for just 60 seconds at the start of a power play, and not the 90 seconds that many teams’ first PP units do.
Clearly, it worked for a while. But it’s weird seeing Carl Soderberg on the ice with 55 seconds left in a crucial third-period power play — especially when the collective unit has been dropping in efficiency as of late.
Wilson crashed hard onto the ice after tripping over a Blackhawks skater. He got up immediately clutching his left shoulder, left the game, and did not return.
When the initial prognosis is “week-to-week,” it’s not usually good.
Colin Wilson will be “week to week” but he is still being evaluated, per Jared Bednar. #Avs #GoAvsGo— Ryan S. Clark (@ryan_s_clark) December 22, 2018
Here are some other observations from the game:
- This was only the second time all season Colorado’s power play has gone 0-for-5 or worse (Oct. 27 @ Minnesota).
- Much was made about Anton Lindholm’s first return to the lineup this season after a lot of lackluster performances last year. Despite that, Lindholm only had 7:18 of ice-time tonight.
- Samuel Girard hit the end-boards hard after a questionably uncalled tripping or boarding on the Blackhawks’ Duncan Keith. Luckily, the young blueliner seemed alright, and stayed in the game.
- The Blackhawks should probably play Collin Delia more than Cam Ward as long as Corey Crawford is out.
- Chicago’s first goal of the night came from Alex DeBrincat on a two-on-one feed from Dominik Kahun. It’s a young team and turnovers are to be expected, but Colorado has allowed a lot of goals off the rush this season.
The Avalanche will try to regroup before heading to Glendale for a visit with the upstart Coyotes on the second game of a back-to-back on Saturday night.