Penalties get best of Chicago Blackhawks in loss to Avs

Updated 3/23/2019 6:52 PM
  • Chicago Blackhawks right wing Dylan Sikura (95) slides on the ice to control the puck against Colorado Avalanche defenseman Nikita Zadorov (16) and Philipp Grubauer (31) during the first period Saturday in Denver.

    Chicago Blackhawks right wing Dylan Sikura (95) slides on the ice to control the puck against Colorado Avalanche defenseman Nikita Zadorov (16) and Philipp Grubauer (31) during the first period Saturday in Denver. Associated Press

Playoff-style hockey is all about doing the little things.

Block shots. Backcheck hard. Make clean, crisp passes. Stand in front of the net to score those dirty goals.

Do these things well and you'll succeed. Slack off or be unwilling to pay the price and you're going home early.

Well, we saw two teams heading in opposite directions Saturday as the feisty, banged-up Colorado Avalanche sent the Blackhawks to a demoralizing -- and potentially season-killing -- 4-2 defeat at the Pepsi Center.

The Avs, playing without star forwards Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog, converted on a key 5-on-3 power play in the second period, went up 3-1 early in the third and held on after Erik Gustafsson got the Hawks back in it with 7:56 remaining.

These teams meet again at the United Center on Sunday, with the season likely on the line for the Hawks as they are now 6 points behind Colorado in the wild-card race.

"We played pretty solid for the most part," Crawford told reporters. "It's still not good enough. We've got to bring a little bit more."

In three ways, this game should serve as a blueprint for the younger Hawks in terms of learning how teams are successful in the postseason:

Brain cramps are killers:

Gustafsson's needless holding penalty put Colorado on the power play at 12:29 of the second period. Yes, his stick was broken and behind the net, but there's no reason to clutch and grab Gabriel Borque in front of the net. Twenty-nine seconds later, David Kampf gave the Avs a two-man advantage when he drew blood on a high stick to Tyson Barrie.

Colin Wilson proceeded to snap the 1-1 tie with his 11th goal of the season off a nice feed from Alexander Kerfoot.

Pay the price:

Ever since Jeremy Colliton took over as coach, he's harped on players to establish a net-front presence. Nothing new there, of course, as coaches have been preaching this since the beginning of time.

But this has happened very rarely of late, and it's cost the Hawks dearly.

"It tells me we're not ready to score those goals that are needed at this time of year when it's almost a playoff game, or if you get in the playoffs," Colliton said. "Those are the types of goals that go in. There's not a lot of tic-tac-toe, backdoor one-timer-type things. You've got to find a way to manufacture offense in different ways.

"They did it. We didn't."

Indeed, Colorado's backbreaking third-period score came when Sven Andrighetto deflected a long blast by Erik Johnson. And going back a game, the Flyers got their game-winner when James van Riemsdyk's long shot sailed past a screened Crawford.

Fading stars:

The power play's been a mess for weeks, but at this time of year a playoff-caliber team can't have its stars go MIA.

Yet, that's what's happened with Patrick Kane (1 goal last 10), Alex DeBrincat and Brandon Saad (nothing last four) and Dylan Strome (nothing last eight). Dominik Kahun also has just 1 goal in his last 18 games, and Artem Anisimov hasn't scored in seven straight.

Kane's looked particularly frustrated as he has just 11 shots on goal the last five games. Meanwhile, DeBrincat is getting good looks but is uncharacteristically misfiring.

If these things don't change Sunday, the Hawks' season is all but over.

"From here on in, every game is a must-win," Duncan Keith said. "We have to have our best game of the year going forward."

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