Hawks' opening loss to Avs no reason to overreact

  • Colorado right wing Valeri Nichushkin is checked by Blackhawks defenseman Riley Stillman in the third period Wednesday in Denver. The Avalanche prevailed 4-2.

    Colorado right wing Valeri Nichushkin is checked by Blackhawks defenseman Riley Stillman in the third period Wednesday in Denver. The Avalanche prevailed 4-2. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 10/14/2021 6:38 PM

Kirby Dach minced no words and made no attempt to sugarcoat the Blackhawks' season-opening 4-2 loss Wednesday at Colorado.

"Yeah, it sucks," said a clearly disgusted Dach. "We knew they were gonna come out hard with speed (because of their) talent up front and their 'D.' So were behind the eight-ball quick and it's hard to beat a team when you're trailing like that.

 

"We've got to find a way to be ready. I mean there's no other excuses. We've just got to be ready at puck drop."

The Hawks watched a literal avalanche of goals hit the back of the net in the first period and fell behind 3-0 in less than 10 minutes. There were blown coverages, guys falling down, uncontested Avs defensemen jumping into the play and a lack of urgency by everyone not named Brandon Hagel.

Still, it's only one loss against the toughest team in the Western Conference and very similar to what happened to the Bears in their opening 34-14 loss to the Rams.

Since then the Bears are 3-1 and could take the lead in the NFC North with a victory over the Packers on Sunday.

Same thing goes for the Hawks -- this was one of 82 games and it came against the odds-on favorite to win the Stanley Cup.

In the big picture, there were other things to like:

• The Hawks didn't let things get out of control. They buckled down after an awful first period, played a solid second and managed to make a game of it by the end.

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• Hagel's play. Every loose puck is like life or death for this speed-demon forward. He should take another big step this season.

• Defensemen Jake McCabe, Connor Murphy (one goal), Seth Jones and Riley Stillman. McCabe and Stillman combined for 8 hits, a few of which left a mark. Stillman's crunching body check on Darren Helm in the second period sent the Avs forward to the locker room.

• Dach's aggressiveness. Yes, he failed to convert on a breakaway and another prime chance moments later, but the third-year forward has the tools to be a difference maker.

There are some concerns, not the least of which is how Tyler Johnson played with Alex DeBrincat and Patrick Kane. The Hawks love to tout their depth, but it's clear they don't have the overall speed or top-to-bottom talent to consistently hang with elite squads like the Avalanche.

Still, they'll compete and figure to make Wednesday's loss a distant memory by the time November arrives.

Strome, Gaudette sit: Reports surfaced early this week the Hawks are trying to trade forward Dylan Strome, who was a healthy scratch in Colorado. Strome, who carries a $3 million cap hit, has been buried on the depth chart during training camp and was scratched in four of the final nine games last season.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

New addition Adam Gaudette was also scratched against the Avs. Coach Jeremy Colliton said both players had "solid camps" and must be ready if their name is called.

"We had excellent competition throughout camp," Colliton said. "There's guys who got sent down to Rockford who could play for us right now. We'd have no problem putting them in. ...

"We have a deep group up front, so there are the 12 (forwards) that are playing (against the Avs) and we'll reassess Friday. But both those guys could help.

"They (have) great attitudes. ... This league changes quick, so it'll come."

Fantastic perspective: Last season, it was difficult for players to bond on road trips or even at home due to COVID restrictions. Before Wednesday's season opener, defenseman Connor Murphy was asked how nice it will be to resume normal activities.

His response showed why the Hawks made him an alternate captain for a second straight season.

"It changed, but to say it's tough compared to what we're pampered with usually and the life that we get to live (is a bit much)," Murphy said. "We're really blessed to go to nice cities, nice hotels and restaurants and see the world and see different parts of the NHL. ... We (should remember) when the league was shut down, we weren't able to do anything and guys were just with their families and at home and bored and waiting and hoping to play. ...

"Obviously it's tough not being able to socialize with your teammates. But we still got to play and we knew it was gonna pass. Obviously it did and here we are."

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