Just nine short days after finally putting an end to the Hawks’ history season-starting streak in emphatic fashion, the Hawks return to the scene of the crime in Denver tonight to take on a somehow worse-off Avalanche team that now finds itself in the Western Conference basement.
Since the Hawks’ last visit to the Pop Can, the Avs have gone 1-3, with those three losses coming in a row, the most recent of which was a 6-4 defeat at the hands of the Wild that wasn’t nearly as close as it looked. Semyon Varlamov took the loss in that game, however, he was cleaning up a mess made by J-S Giguere, who allowed four goals in the first. But even still, Varly took the collar in the previous two against the Oil and in Minny, allowing four and five by him respectively. This slide along with the Jackets’ cute little “streak” has put the the Avs at the bottom of the conference, and still searching for any kind of consistency from any phase of their game.
As for our Men of Four Feathers, one hopes they didn’t completely empty the chamber Saturday night in Dallas after dropping eight on the Stars, impressive as it was. Yeah, watching that kind of display is fun for pretty much everyone except the recipient of that caliber of beat down, but there can be a tendency afterward to get a little too cute trying to put on a show. Fortunately the bulk of the goals scored in Dallas came as a result of executing fundamentals such as getting to the net and getting point shots through.
Tonight’s lineup of skaters is the same as it’s been the previous two, with Gorilla Salad sitting in favor of a suddenly not-useless Brandon Bollig. Jimmy Hayes’ lumber-along-and-fall-down routine will get put to a serious test tonight against a swift Avs group, particularly on Bolland’s line that gets hemmed in even against teams slower and less proficient at the dot than Colorado. Ray Emery gets the call in net, and his bionic hips figure to be put to the test once again tonight with an Avs team that has had the Hawks’ number.
The same things that have been problematic for the Hawks the last two or three years against the Avs aren’t going to change tonight because of how the standings are still looking. O’Reilly, Stastny, and cheshire-cat-look-alike Matt Duchene win an exceptional amount of draws, forcing the Hawks to chase a team just as fast as they are. Closing quickly on puck carriers with support in passing lanes will be key tonight to avoid a similar result to last Friday should the Hawks once again suck eggs at the dot. Having the forwards front point men more aggressively while shorthanded (as we have so often harped upon) will help a suddenly sputtering PK that can’t seem to win a key draw either.
More than likely the narrative during the broadcast tonight will be that of “revenge” against the Avalanche for ending the Hawks’ streak, as stupid as that sounds. More importantly, however, will be the Hawks’ need to take away two points tonight to keep Wednesday night from being a battle for the top spot in the conference with Anaheim. Let’s go Hawks.