There’s just something about games between the Colorado Avalanche and Chicago Blackhawks. They’re always exciting, and they’re always games that the Avs look forward to playing.
“These matches are always fun. We always play well against these guys, so it will be a fun one tonight,” Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog said of tonight’s tilt. “We have nothing to lose. We're just going to keep the foot on the pedal here, and at the end of the day we’ll see where we’re at.”
Colorado enters tonight’s game at United Center in Chicago playing some of the best hockey of the season. The club out-shot and out-chanced the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday night, but stellar goaltending from Jonathan Quick played a part in not coming away with a win.
That kind of effort, solid at both ends and heavy on the scoring opportunities, is something that should bring the Avs success moving forward.
“We played well offensively, obviously, with the amount of shots and scoring chances that we had, zone time, things like that. If we continue to do that, good things should happen,” said center John Mitchell. “In the case of last game, I think it was just that we ran into a hot goalie and he made some great saves and inevitably got his team a victory. But I think if we keep playing the way we did against L.A. good things should happen, and we should come out with ‘W’s’ for sure.”
A hot keeper can be enough to take a team to victory, as evidenced the last time the Avalanche was in the Windy City. Semyon Varlamov withstood a 54-shot barrage to bring home a 2-0 win over Chicago, setting an NHL record for saves in a road shutout in the process.
“That’s just the way it goes. You run into those goalies every once in awhile. You get shots from the point, you get shots from the side, you get shots right in tight, you’ve got traffic. You do everything that you think you should be doing right in order to score goals and they just don’t find their way into the back of the net,” said Mitchell. “In the case of last time we were here, Varly played great with the shutout, so hopefully we can emulate that again.”
Tonight’s contest is a big one for Colorado, which is currently nine points out of a wild card spot in the ever-changing Western Conference playoff picture. While Wednesday’s loss to the Kings wasn’t ideal, the Avs are still fighting to extend the season.
“We feel like we still have a shot. There’s still a lot of games left, and we’re going to make the most of it,” said Landeskog. “You don’t want to use any games as a kind of write off and just kind of let them go to waste because we’re not going to get these games back.”
“You still have to build, no matter what the standings are [or] where you are. Obviously, our goal is still to get into the playoffs. We have a tough road ahead of us, but we still want to go into every game thinking ‘we’re going to win this game,’” added Mitchell. “Whether or not we’re in the playoffs with 10 games left or 15 games left, whatever the case may be, we still have to have an identity for our team. We’re not going to quit no matter what the situation is, and we want every team to know that.”
That competitive spirit, coupled with Colorado figuring things out offensively down the stretch, is something that the Avs can learn from and build upon, not just in the immediate future but throughout their NHL careers as well.
“Our goal is still to make the playoffs, but say at the end of the day we don’t. Then this will have to be our playoffs,” said Landeskog. “We want to play as hard as we can and as well as we can and then we’ll see where we’re at.”
Maxime Talbot—Matt Duchene—Jarome Iginla
Gabriel Landeskog—Ryan O'Reilly—Nathan MacKinnon
Alex Tanguay—John Mitchell—Dennis Everberg
Cody McLeod—Marc-Andre Cliche—Paul Carey
Nick Holden—Brad Stuart
Nate Guenin—Tyson Barrie
Jan Hejda—Zach Redmond
Scratches: Daniel Briere and Stefan Elliott.