Heading into tonight, the Colorado Avalanche and Chicago Blackhawks were tied on points, just one point away from the coveted second Wild Card position in the Western Conference. The two teams fought viciously, and the game was tight up until the very end when J.T. Compher jumped the Hawks and scored on a breakaway to give the Avalanche an eventual 5-3 victory. Both Compher and Big Ol’ Carl Soderberg scored twice on the night, leading the way on offense. Semyon Varlamov stopped 41 of 44 for a .932 save percentage on the night in what can only be described as a statement win for the vet.
Once the final buzzer sounded, Varly was jumping around on skates and congratulating his teammates. It was really great to see and hopefully is also a sign of the team climbing out of abyss that was the winter months. Varly made a ton of big saves in this game. He left it all out on the ice and helped his team get, not only the win, but a win against a team that was right on their heels in the playoff race.
Semyon Varlamov woke up last Thursday and was five years younger. #GoAvsGo pic.twitter.com/pC2SPPvfel— Matt L. Stephens (@MattStephens) February 23, 2019
Unfortunately, the Minnesota Wild beat the Detroit Red Wings 3-2, meaning they stay one point ahead of the Avalanche for the final wild card spot. On the bright side, there’s a two-point gap between the Avalanche and the Arizona Coyotes and Chicago Blackhawks behind them. Had the Blackhawks won this game, things would have looked a lot more stark.
Colorado play again Saturday night against the Nashville Predators. Had the Avs lost this game and then proceed to lose to the Preds, who knows, maybe the team sells. If they win tomorrow, maybe they buy?
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Onto the recap.
The Avalanche opened the scoring near the end of a first period where they were getting destroyed. The Hawks were in the Avalanche zone for much of the period, getting lots of chances, but then the second line of Soderberg, Alexander Kerfoot, and Sven Andrighetto, were able to get away on an odd-man rush. Soderberg drove up the middle, took a pass from Kerfoot as the line entered the offensive zone, and promptly sniped on Collin Delia.
The Avs didn’t exactly deserve the lead they left the first period with. They were getting out-shot massively in shot attempts (9-22), shots (6-25), and scoring chances (4-12). The Avalanche had two power plays in the period, but nothing was turning the tide of the play at even-strength.
Earlier in the game, Dylan Strome rang a puck off the corner of the post and crossbar after grabbing a rebound with a wide open net in front of him. He made up for his unbelievable miss when Erik Gustafsson’s shot bounced off the end boards and right to him in front of the net. Erik Johnson was in the neighborhood, but wasn’t quick enough to react and tie up the stick.
Later in the period, the Avalanche got their fourth power play of the night. They were unsuccessful on their previous three chances, but made good on the fourth. After some great puck movement by the group, Mikko Rantanen was allowed to stand just behind the net with lots of passing options available to him. He quickly spotted Compher, who one-timed the puck past Delia for his fourth power play goal of the season. No one ever thinks about Compher on that power play.
Chicago got that goal right back in the most annoying fashion. After Jonathan Toews did all the work to get his line a scoring chance and get the Avalanche defenders scrambling, one of his passes got deflected and ended up on Patrick Kane’s stick, who shot it into the empty net. Kane then proceeded to jump around and lose his mind as if his overpaid ass was cosplaying a playoff series from a decade ago.
Despite the score, the second period was much better for the Avalanche. They out-shot the Blackhawks in attempts (19-17), tied in shots (10-10), and scoring chances (9-7).
Gabriel Landeskog used all his strength and skill to make this goal possible. Kicked out of the cycle down low, Landeskog protected the puck and carried it up to the top of the offensive zone with Toews sharp on his tail. Landeskog was quicker than Toews and was able to get a step on him before taking a wicked shot up and over Delia for the Avs’ third lead of the game.
Later in the period, Kane and Tyson Jost got tangled in the corner. Kane slammed Jost into the boards, shoving and punching the play 10 years his junior. It was straight bullying away from the play. It was unnecessary and I’m sick thinking Kane looked like he enjoyed it. Eventually Jost was able to get away, giving Kane a slash as the only retaliation. All of a sudden, Kane went whining to the referees, hands up and everything. That’s when the referee called a penalty. Not on Kane, but Jost. In the third period of a game with major playoff implications. Someone who knows how hockey works please explain that one to me. Kane is such a ducking fick.
Thankfully, the Avs were able to kill off that Jost “penalty” but Rantanen took another of his own less than a minute later. That’s when Alex DeBrincat found his own rebound from a point shot by Gustafsson and scored to tie the game for the third time.
With five minutes left, Compher got his second goal of the game. Compher saw a Blackhawks turnover in the Avalanche’s end, caused by Patrik Nemeth, so he blew the zone for a breakaway. Slater Koekkoek tried really hard to catch up, but could only get his stick on Comphers toes as he went bar down on Delia. A beautiful goal.
Toews was battling Johnson in front of the net before deciding he was completely outmatched and threw himself into the net. From his ass, Toews huffed and puffed at the referee for a penalty to be called and got it. The Blackhawks went on the power play for the final 1:43 of the game, trying to tie the game, but it would all be for nought as Big Ol’ Carl Soderberg scored the empty netter, sealing the deal.