Blackhawks feeling urgency, sensing opportunity vs. Avalanche
The Colorado Avalanche are rolling, winning six straight and 15 in a row at home, but it hasn’t been a dominating stretch.
In Colorado’s last three home wins, two have gone to a shootout and the most recent was an overtime win over Montreal, 3-2, on Saturday night. The Canadiens came into Saturday with just eight wins on the season and nearly stole one until Gabriel Landeskog scored in overtime.
“It is a strength to be able to find a way to win those hockey games no matter where you are in the standings and where the other team is in in the standings,” Landeskog said. “There are no easy games.”
The Avalanche have what appears to be a winnable game and a chance to extend their home winning streak to 16 when they host the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday night.
It will be Colorado’s seventh game in the last 11 days, with three of those going beyond regulation. The heavy workload may be impacting the team, coach Jared Bednar said.
“Over the last little bit we’ve played a lot of hockey and fatigue is a little bit of a factor,” he said after Saturday’s game.
The Avalanche have been outplayed in stretches over the last week, and the goaltending has rescued them a couple of times. Pavel Francouz and Darcy Kuemper were the best players in games at Anaheim and Los Angeles, respectively, and Kuemper came up big again against the Canadiens.
“If we don’t get the goalie performances we did the last three games then we don’t win all three,” Bednar said. “We might come up with one. Two might be a reach.”
Monday will be the third of four meetings between the Central Division rivals and the second one in three weeks. Colorado won at home in October and then rallied to win in overtime in Chicago on Jan. 4.
The Blackhawks are coming off back-to-back losses against Minnesota, the second of which they lost in overtime after giving away a lead on Saturday night. Saturday’s loss was a tough blow for a team trying to stay in the postseason hunt.
“We’re pretty well aware where we are in the standings,” Jonathan Toews said Friday. “Every game has been pretty tough this year and I think it’s only going to get harder. We’ve got to keep raising our game.”
Chicago is dealing with some injuries — defenseman Seth Jones is on injured reserve — and the possibility some players could be on the move before the trade deadline. One of the bigger names rumored to be available is goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who is in his first season with the Blackhawks.
Fleury, who won the Vezina Trophy last season with Vegas, is focusing on Chicago and not any speculation.
“All I want is to have this team make the playoffs,” he said. “Honestly, that’s what’s in my head right now. To me, it’s not worth looking too far ahead. I just want to put this team in a good position to make the playoffs, and that’s my goal.”
–Field Level Media