What to even say after that? One word comes to mind, and it’s disappointing. The Colorado Avalanche continues to fall in winnable games. They needed that win in the worst kind of way but it just didn't appear they agreed as they lost 3-2 to the current leaders of the Connor Bedard sweepstakes, the Chicago Blackhawks.
Right off the bat things started well for the Avs. They had a few good chances and sustained good offensive zone pressure. That was until a botched change allowed Sam Lafferty to walk in on Pavel Francouz, who made his first start in almost a month and pick his spot to give the Blackhawks the early one-goal lead.
The Avalanche responded about eight minutes later when the big line stepped up to even the game. Nathan MacKinnon walked out from the corner uncontested and put a shot on Petr Mrazek, which the Czech goaltender could not control. Evan Rodrigues crashed the net hard and buried the backhander to level the game.
Momentum had swung in the Avs's favor. It went even more to Colorado’s side when Andrew Cogliano drew a tripping penalty. However, the Avalanche’s woes on the power play continued as they failed to convert on the ensuing man advantage. They got another crack when Jacob MacDonald drew another penalty just a minute after the previous penalty expired. Blood was drawn and the Avalanche received a four-minute power play. Nothing came of it and the score remained tied at 1-1 going into the second period.
It didn’t take long into the second for the Blackhawks to regain their lead. Andreas Athanasiou blew past the Avalanche and cut to the middle for a backhand shot. One that Francouz got his glove un. Unfortunately for Frankie, he only got a piece of it and the puck floated up and over him into the back of the net. The Avalanche fell behind again.
The penalty parade began for the Avalanche as they were forced to kill three straight penalties of their own. They did so, but had some brutal turnovers and missed coverages that would’ve led to goals if it weren’t for Pavel Francouz.
Colorado was struggling in the second as they went eleven minutes without a shot on goal. Fortunately, they only needed two. Cale Makar evened the game with a shot from the point that went through everybody, including Mrazek, to tie the game.
The Avalanche found their groove a bit and got seven more shots in the remaining eight minutes of the second frame. None of them found twine so the two division rivals stayed knotted at two a piece.
Colorado’s play had felt a bit lethargic in the first 40 minutes of the game and they finally seemed to show some fire to start the third period. The second line in particular was doing a good job cycling and creating chances. It didn’t amount to much and they ended up being on the wrong end of Chicago’s third goal.
The goal started with a Jake McCabe reverse hit Mikko Rantanen in the Chicago zone. The hit looked a lot like an elbow, but that really doesn't matter. The Blackhawks got the puck and brought it to the Avalanche zone where they cycled it around and eventually Tyler Johnson found Tayler Raddysh cutting to the net after J.T. Compher lost him in coverage. Yet again, the Avs had a good start that was diminished by one critical error.
After the tie-breaking goal, it felt like the Avalanche lost a bit of energy. That was until they got a puck on net and Alex Newhook put on his work boots and outmuscled his defender to pound the puck home past Mrazek. Newhook was pumped and the Avalanche were back even. That was until the goal was overturned for goaltender interference when the review showed that Mikko Rantanen pushed Mrazek’s pad into the net with his stick.
The game remained 3-2 and it would until the final buzzer as the Avalanche’s attempt to tie the game with an empty net again fell short.
This team needs to figure it out. They continue to drop games to inferior teams that, even with their decreased level of play, have no reason to lose. Good teams find a way to win these close games, as we saw with the Avalanche last season, and even earlier this year. Currently, it feels like the Avalanche is finding a way to lose them. This could be the loss that breaks the camel’s back and ignites the team to get their play in gear, but we can’t say for sure.
Nathan MacKinnon needs to play better. Both of the previous two games have been incredibly frustrating to watch from him. It looks like he’s watching too much without the puck and is making baffling decisions when he does have the puck. I don’t know if he doesn't want to get hurt or what, but this team needs more than one play a night from him.
The powerplay continues to struggle. It’s not all on MacKinnon, but he has not been nearly the boon that he should be. Feels like there's just no crispness in the puck movement. Not only that but when they get chances, as is the case with most chances this team has been getting, they aren’t finishing on them nearly well enough.
To end things on a lighter note, Newhook continues to impress on the second line. He’s moving the puck well and clearly benefits from playing with a skilled player like Rantanen. Unfortunately for him, it appears like he’s hit a floor when it comes to his confidence levels. There was a play in the first where he had space, time, and speed coming through the neutral zone, and rather than taking it, he defaulted back to Compher. That goal would have been massive from him but instead, it was taken away on a 50/50 call.
This team needs to get back on the horse. They cannot continue to lose games, especially to teams like this. A winning streak needs to begin soon and the team's big names need to start stepping up. The Avalanche are in a rut and the only cure is wins (and maybe more cowbells.)
The Avs return home for two games, the first against the Ottawa Senators Saturday night. Puck drop is at 5:00 p.m. MT.