By Jay Zawaski-
(CBS) Once again, the Blackhawks dominated the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday night. Once again, the Avalanche won the game.
The Hawks fell to 1-3-1 against their new Central Division rivals after Wednesday’s 3-2 loss. To the naked eye, it may appear that Colorado has Chicago’s number, but let’s look a little deeper.
The numbers show complete domination from the Hawks in all five games, but clearly something has gone wrong.
There’s no question that the biggest factor in the season series has been the play of Avalanche goalie Patrick Ro — err, I mean, Semyon Varlamov. In his five games against Chicago, Varlamov has stopped 168 of 175 Blackhawks shots. He’s been absolutely spectacular and the primary reason for the Avs’ success.
Can he maintain those numbers in a playoff series? Probably not, but his performances have brought me back to the 2012 playoff series against the Phoenix Coyotes, when Mike Smith slammed the door on the Hawks in the first round.
A couple of specific factors led to last night’s loss for Chicago. From start to finish, the Hawks took dumb penalites — none dumber than Andrew Shaw’s interference penalty in the third period. At the time, the Hawks were all over the Avalanche, peppering Varlamov with shots and prime scoring opportunities.
Shaw’s penalty killed that mojo. During Shaw’s penalty, Marcus Kruger shot the puck over the glass for a delay of game penalty, putting the Hawks at a 5-on-3 disadvantage. Colorado scored, and the rest was history.
Joel Quenneville’s bizarre lineup can’t be ignore either. The fourth line of Sheldon Brookbank, Kris Versteeg and Bryan Bickell was an absolute joke. Peter Regin is an inferior forward to Brookbank? Ok, sure. There is no logic that can be found in Quenneville’s decision.
Perhaps Quenneville is trying to let Stan Bowman know what he thinks of the center depth on the roster. Maybe he’s really pushing hard for Teuvo Teravainen to join the team when his season in Finland ends. Or perhaps Quenneville went insane. It could be all of the above.
Speaking of odd coaching decisions, why, pray tell, was it the right idea to start Antti Raanta, who hadn’t played in a game of any kind in six weeks, against the Avalanche? Last night’s game was the biggest Colorado has played since the Joe Sakic/Peter Forsberg era. Raanta played well, despite a soft first goal, but a coach’s responsibility is to put his team in the best situation to win the game.
Jay Zawaski covers the Blackhawks for CBSChicago.com and 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @JayZawaski670.
For all the best on advanced hockey metrics, follow Jen LC on Twitter @bhawksfanjen. She provided the handy-dandy Corsi link above.