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Hawks Hits: Chicago Blackhawks Clowned 5-0 by Colorado Avalanche

Mario Tirabassi Avatar
March 1, 2024

The beauty of the NHL is that you never really know how a game is going to go from night to night. Hockey is a game where a random bounce one way or another could completely alter the outcome of a game.

But tonight was not that kind of night for the Chicago Blackhawks and Colorado Avalanche. You knew exactly how this game was going to go, and it followed the script. After out-shooting the Avalanche 12-5 through the first three-quarters of the first period, the wheels fell off of the Blackhawks when Zack Parise scored the game’s opening goal en route to a 5-0 win for Colorado.

The only fight back we saw from the Blackhawks was when Reese Johnson beat up Chris Wagner in the second period, but that kind of “fight” looks different from the Blackhawks than it would from a team like Colorado. Connor Bedard was playing like a man possessed, trying to do everything he could to single-handedly pull his team back into the game.

But no one else was helping him. No one else really can help him on this team. The refs also did him no favors, missing at least three calls against him in this game.

Following Parise’s opening goal, the Avalanche extended their lead with two goals 40 seconds apart from Ross Colton and Parise again, and then added a fourth goal with just one second to play in the second period coming from Devon Toews. The lesser Toews.

For good measure, Nathan MacKinnon made it 5-0 in the final minutes of the third period to put a bow on one of the more frustrating games this Blackhawks team has played this season. In the loss, Petr Mrazek made 29 saves on 34 shots and the Blackhawks fall to 15-40-5 on the season, tied for last-place in the league with the San Jose Sharks but the Sharks have played two fewer games than Chicago.

Jay: Why Isn’t Connor Bedard Getting Calls?

It’s a trend Chicago sports fans have been getting used to. It started with Justin Fields not getting the calls he’s supposed to, and it’s continuing with Connor Bedard. There were 3-4 instances in Friday’s loss that should have been called…all on Bedard…including Josh Manson’s blatant slash on Bedard’s wrist.

We asked Nick Foligno why he thought Bedard wasn’t getting calls, and his answer was, as always, insightful.

“I remember [Sidney Crosby] when he broke in…he was complaining about slashes,” Foligno said. “Eventually you just learn to fight through it and the calls start to come your way. It’s kind of amazing how that works. Instead of you looking for it, and the refs seeing it…I don’t think it’s on purpose…but it’s maybe human nature…they want to see how you respond to things. You do have to earn your stripes a little bit in still this league.”

Foligno continued. “He’s a guy that’s got the puck and can make things happen so teams are going to play him hard. You’d like to see the right calls made on him, because it helps us and it helps him. He’s going to have to fight through that and learn that. It’s [something] that great players have all had to play through. You can’t feel like you’re going to get every call. If you focus on that, I think it actually takes away from your game. It’s something that Connor’s going to have to fight through…that our team is going to have to fight through. We’re going to have to earn respect in this league from where we’re sitting. No one is giving us the benefit of the doubt. We have to earn and grind and tooth and nail to get that respect.” 

Foligno is right. Unfortunately.

Hockey is stuck in the Stone Age on a great many things, “Earning It” included. A penalty is a penalty. The rules should not change based on how long you’ve played or what you’ve accomplished. Manson’s slash to Bedard’s wrist served no purpose but to injure one of the league’s brightest stars and biggest television draws. When things like this don’t get called, it could potentially lead to Bedard missing more time. It’s one thing to get hurt on a hockey play…it’s another to get hurt on a cheap shot that doesn’t even result in a penalty.

When we informed Foligno about the slash, he revealed he didn’t see it happen and was unaware of the incident until we told him about it.

“I don’t even know when he slashed him. Not even kidding. I didn’t know that happened,” Foligno said. “We get them again Monday. We’ll see where it goes.”

Greg: You Can’t Stop Nathan MacKinnon, You Can Only Hope to Contain Him

It is hard to argue that nobody is playing better hockey right now than Nathan MacKinnon. He entered tonight’s game with three goals and 13 points in his last seven games. He is third in the NHL with 63 assists and second in overall scoring with 98 points.

“He’s so fast, so powerful, and thinks the game so well,” Bedard said of Colorado’s superstar. “There’s only so many guys that can move that fast but also think at that pace and at that speed and his hands move along with him. He’s one of my favorite players to watch, just every shift I feel like there’s something going on. It’s exciting hockey. And he’s one of the top candidates for MVP.”

MacKinnon has a seven-game point streak against the Blackhawks, but they neutralized him pretty well back on Dec. 19. He picked up an assist on one of Valeri Nichuskin’s two power-play goals but was limited to just three shots on goal. That’s impressive when you see he’s second in the NHL with 288 shots on goal this season.

If you remember, Colin Blackwell made his return the last time the Avalanche were in town, and that led to a more physical game for the entire team. Head coach Luke Richardson said the Blackhawks need more of that to get a repeat victory.

“We have to be above them and it’s not that we don’t want to be aggressive,” he said this morning. “Our first two guys have to be aggressive. But you have to watch guys like Makar and Toews jumping up in the play. Our F3 has to be above their guys, especially when MacKinnon’s line is out there.

“We’re not really giving them opportunities. We have to make them earn them. That’s what we did last time. We played physical. We bumped their good players. That just slows them down a little bit and takes their time and space away. That’s the best way to play the best players in the league.

In case you aren’t keen on coach lingo, the F3 is the third forward entering the zone in your typical 2-1-2 forecheck. He usually stays higher in the zone while the first two forwards work low to retrieve the puck. If he gets caught below a player like MacKinnon and there is a turnover, it will likely end badly for the Blackhawks.

Obviously, the line of Colin Blackwell, Jason Dickinson, and Joey Anderson was out there as much as possible against the MacKinnon line. For the most part, the line did its job. Yes, they allowed 13 shot attempts against to just three for, but for much of the game, many of those chances were not too dangerous. MacKinnon got his goal to the second line late in the game, but his assist on the Toews goal came against the third line of Nick Foligno, Tyler Johnson, and Taylor Raddysh.

Mario: Anthony Beauvillier Still Trying to Find His Place with Blackhawks

There have been nights this season where I forget that Anthony Beauvillier is on the Blackhawks. He has two goals and six points in 19 games with Chicago since joining the club back in late-November. Shortly after returning to the lineup from injury a few games ago, Beauvillier was swapped with Nick Foligno on the top line to play with Philipp Kurashev and Connor Bedard. He’s provided a bit more speed with that pair, but has yet to make a bigger impact playing in that role.

Prior to tonight’s game, I asked Luke Richardson what he has seen from Beauvillier in that role. “He’s still kind of new here, looking to make too many plays to other players. But that’s everybody when we’re not scoring, we’re overthinking. We want to see a little less thinking and more direct play.”

Tonight started well for Beauvillier, forechecking with purpose and creating a few chances early in the first period. But the game’s opening goal for Colorado came from Jack Johnson (remember him?), stripping Beauvillier of the puck and setting up Zach Praise.

It would go downhill from there for Beauvillier and the team.

He finished with 12:43 of ice-time with a 37.04 Corsi-For percentage with him on the ice in all situations and had two shots on goal, both were high-danger scoring chances.

I don’t know what Beauvillier’s outlook is with the Blackhawks and 22 games remaining this season. He turns 27 this summer and has eclipsed the 20-goal marker once in his career in 2017-18 and reached the 40-point marker once last season. His $4.15M cap hit isn’t horrible, but you’d imagine his trade value to a team would be higher if the Blackhawks were to retain any percentage of that money. At the same time, much like most of these players who are on expiring contracts, I don’t see many NHL teams clamoring for a Beauvillier, Tyler Johnson, or Colin Blackwell, so trading him may not be an option.

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