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Recap: Avalanche blank Blackhawks in home-opener

Colorado never looked back against Chicago.

Chicago Blackhawks v Colorado Avalanche Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images

This was the Colorado Avalanche’s third straight home opener against the Chicago Blackhawks, but despite the Blackhawks’ addition of Connor Bedard, this was by far the most dominant from the Avs.

Recap

Teams coming home after an extended road trip often have a bit of a lull when they return to home ice. Combine that with the absurdly late 8:40 local puck drop time it’s no surprise the Avalanche were a bit disjointed to start the game.

The team fed off of the energy from the friendly crowd and it was evident early, but the team was a bit shaky with the puck and about halfway through the first period, they found themselves behind the Blackhawks in shots on goal. The team’s sloppy play got them on the penalty kill, but for the second straight game, it proved as a spark plug for the Avalanche.

Josh Manson and Andrew Cogliano kicked off the Avs first goal of the game when they executed a perfect shutdown on the Blackhawk’s zone entry. The two veteran penalty killers pinched off Ryan Donato was on the boards and Josh Manson was able to escape the scrum with possession relatively easily. He put the puck into open ice behind the aforementioned Connor Bedard for who else but Logan O’Connor. O’Connor had no one to beat to the puck but himself and then it was just him and Petr Mrazek. The shorthanded savant scored his second goal while down a man in a row with a perfectly placed shot over the Blackhawks goaltender and the Avs were off and running.

From this point in the game on it was utter domination from the Colorado Avalanche. Every line Jared Bednar rolled over the Ball Arena boards controlled their shifts and it wasn’t long until the Avs got a powerplay from it. Before tonight the Avalanche were a disappointing one for ten with the man advantage, a ratio they completely deserved. They were eager to buck that trend.

They did just that with a dominant first minute of power play time. Colorado was working the puck around effectively and methodically. Eventually, Artturi Lehkonen found time in the slot to release a slot which caused chaos in front of Mrazek. Ryan Johansen was there to take a few shots at the ensuing rebound, which Mrazek was able to fend off until the former Predator hit a final rebound attempt out of midair and into the net for his first goal as an Av.

Colorado ended the period with 23 shots on net, opposed by Chicago’s eight. The Avs had found their groove and they weren’t going to stop in the second.

Despite the team's strong end to the first period, Jared Bednar made some adjustments to the first and third lines. He swapped Tomas Tatar for Jonathan Drouin. The move almost paid off in spades as the new third line of Drouin, Ross Colton, and Miles Wood executed a spectacular zone entry for a goal, but it was deemed offsides after the Blackhawks challenged it for offsides.

The Avs' second line of Johansen, Lehkonen, and Valeri Nichushkin had found a rhythm, which was a big reason they stayed untouched by Bednar. It was a good thing they did because shortly after the overturned goal the second line had a dominant shift in the Blackhawks zone.

They were hounding pucks and suffocating Chicago, thanks in large part to the work of Nichushkin. After creating another turnover on the forecheck Nichushkin and Devon Toews made a great scissor play along the sideboards, putting Toews down in the corner where Nichushkin typically resides. This allowed Nichushkin to creep down from Toews’ typical point, pick up a loose puck in the slot, and make a beautiful pass directly to Toews, who had a wide-open net.

As the third period came around the Avs’ main goal was to keep their foot on the gas, but not ruin the shutout Alexandar Georgiev was pitching. They succeeded in that goal.

It was Colorado’s fourth straight dominant third period. Despite their lead, they stayed engaged and kept pushing the Blackhawks. They had to kill a few penalties along the way, but they were able to pack it in a little over halfway into the third, all thanks to Jared Bednar’s masterful line swap between Drouin and Tatar.

After being held off the scoresheet entirely against Seattle on Tuesday it was clear Nathan MacKinnon was hungry. That hunger was satiated thanks to a nifty behind-the-back pass from his new linemate Tomas Tatar found MacKinnon on the backdoor where he was able to easily put the puck in and officially put the game away.

Takeaways

In games like this, there are few takeaways other than the Avalanche are simply good. It's much better than the rebuilding Blackhawks squad they faced. As they should be. But there were still some notable performances worth highlighting.

Tomas Tatar had his best game in an Avalanche sweater. He and Jonathan Drouin both thrived after being swapped for one another in the lineup. Tatar fit in much better with Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen than he did with the third line. He filled a much-needed hole in that first line that was more of an abundance on the third line. His puck skills and creativity shined. Tatar’s two assists were a solid showcase of that.

As previously mentioned Colorado’s second line really found their groove in this game. A big reason why was a much better performance from Ryan Johansen. He still looks a bit blue, but that’s to be expected. He clearly understands and his filling his role on that line much better now than he was in games prior.

Hopefully, he can start to be a bit more dynamic offensively as he becomes comfortable. All the other Avs were good and it showed. This team has much more to give too, which is crazy given the performance they just put on.

Upcoming

The Avs are back at home against the Carolina Hurricanes this Saturday, with puck drop at a more reasonable 7:00 p.m. MT. Mile High Hockey will have you covered again then.