On Nov. 29 the Colorado Avalanche came into the United Center and slapped the Blackhawks around, winning 5-2. The following night in Denver the Avs dropped a seven-spot on the Hawks, finishing off a two-game sweep that saw the Avs outscore the Hawks 12-5.
The good news for Chicago on Wednesday was that Duncan Keith was healthy enough to return to the lineup. His return meant the Blackhawks now had two bodies too many on the blue line. Slater Koekkoek (who is apparently still on the roster) was a healthy scratch (because he sucks). And for the third time this season, Brent Seabrook was in the press box watching.
Even with Keith back on the top pair, the Hawks got dominated up and down the ice in the first period. Chicago continued to struggle to match the Avs’ speed and size; it’s little consolation, but there aren’t many teams in the NHL that match up well physically against this year’s Avalanche roster.
After Corey Crawford made a series of saves in traffic Ian Cole was able to rifle a shot into the back of the net to give Colorado a 1-0 lead at 8:41.
The flood gates didn’t open (yet). And 67 seconds later Alex DeBrincat turned a turnover into a scoring opportunity for Ryan Carpenter, who put home his second of the year.
That would be the end of the scoring in the first period but the opportunities continued to come for the road team. After 20 minutes the Avs had a 19-6 shot advantage. As was the case in late November, the Blackhawks looked out of their weightclass.
That proved to be too true in the second period.
Nathan MacKinnon sniped in his 21st of the season at 7:49 into the second to give Colorado the lead.
Less than three minutes later Andre Burakovsky flew up the ice and unloaded a shot that beat Crawford for his 13th of the season.
Suddenly Chicago was looking up at a two-goal deficit.
To their credit the Hawks out-shot the Avs 16-10 in the second period but there were few rebounds and fewer second opportunities. Colorado netminder Pavel Francouz was seeing the puck well and his defense was taking the puck the other direction with speed. Chicago’s two second period power plays amounted to absolutely nothing.
The third period offered little drama until just under seven minutes were left in regulation. Samuel Girard absolutely launched Alex DeBrincat well after the puck had been shot and DeBrincat, on his 22nd birthday, was sent flying into the boards. He stayed down for a moment clearly shaken by the hard, dirty play as his teammates went after Girard.
— Here's Your Replay ?? (@HeresYourReplay) December 19, 2019
The only penalty assessed on the play was on Erik Gustafsson for coming to DeBrincat’s defense. The fact that none of the officials saw a shooter in open ice get launched in inexcusable.
Chicago killed the penalty but had only four minutes to work with down two when back at full strength.
DeBrincat was back on the ice three minutes after the hit when the Hawks pulled Crawford for the extra skater with 3:10 left in regulation. Unfortunately the Avs are accurate from long range and Mikko Rantanen found the open cage with 2:56 left in regulation to extend the lead to 4-1.
Chicago got an empty power play with 1:58 left in regulation when Valeri Nichushkin went to the box and Chicago wasted it without anything happening.
Chicago lost to Colorado by a wide margin – again.
Keith skated 23:16 in his return from injury. He was credited with six shots on net – a team high – with two blocked shots, one hit and one takeaway.
Gustafsson led Chicago in ice time (25:10) and hits (five). Connor Murphy was also credited with five hits in 20:56.
Adam Boqvist was limited to 12:50 during which he put two shots on net, blocked one shot and was credited with one hit.
Jonathan Toews won 14 of 24 faceoffs and put three shots on net in 20:03. David Kampf had a nice night at the dot, winning seven of nine draws. Dylan Strome, on the other hand, won only four of his 14 faceoffs opportunities.
Kirby Dach spent most of the nigth with Carpenter and DeBrincat. That line got worked pretty hard in the second period but did come up with Chicago’s only goal. Dach skated 13:43 and won one of his two faceoffs. Carpenter, meanwhile, won four of 10.
Crawford stopped 32 of 35 in the loss.
In the dressing room postgame Keith let his feelings be known.
Duncan Keith: “We’ve got to get a little more emotion. It’s not going to just turn around. It’s not going to just happen, we need to make it happen. We need to get a little pissed off.” #Blackhawks pic.twitter.com/2e3dC1mWmo
— Charlie Roumeliotis (@CRoumeliotis) December 19, 2019
Duncan Keith on Brent Seabrook being scratched: pic.twitter.com/nu4aOFtqNv
— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) December 19, 2019