Artturi Lehkonen had two goals and an assist, Valeri Nichushkin also scored two goals and the Colorado Avalanche began their title defense with a 5-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday night in Denver.
Here are 10 observations from the loss:
1. The Blackhawks have now lost four consecutive season openers in regulation. They have a -10 goal differential in those four games.
2. Jack Johnson returned to his old stomping ground, where he won his first career Stanley Cup. He watched the pregame ceremony in his Blackhawks gear on the bench, and then joined the Avalanche on the ice for the banner-raising ceremony. Awesome move. He got a loud ovation when he stepped onto the ice too.
3. This game went exactly how you imagined it would go and it’s probably a microcosm of what the season will look like, although Colorado is such an unfair opponent out of the gates for a roster that just got torn down and has a new head coach in Luke Richardson. The Avalanche picked up where they left off in June.
4. The Blackhawks committed three penalties in the first period and six total, which wasn’t ideal. But the talent disparity is so significant between these two teams that it was probably not surprising. It’s impossible not to take penalties against a team that skates circles around everyone. The Avalanche went 4-for-6 on the power play and that was the difference.
5. When Colorado’s top line of Artturi Lehkonen, Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantana was on the ice at even strength, the Avalanche led in shot attempts (15-4, shots on goal (9-3), scoring chances (6-3) and high-danger chances (4-1), per Natural Stat Trick. The three of them combined for two goals and six assists. They were dynamite.
6. If you strictly look at the 5-on-5 numbers, it was actually fairly even. The scoring chances were 19-18 Colorado. It still felt like the Avalanche were in total control of the game, but something to build off.
7. Petr Mrazek had a solid game, all things considered. He made some high-quality saves and didn’t let up any softies. That’s all you could really ask for.
8. Jonathan Toews didn’t score his first goal of the season until Dec. 9 last season, which was his 26th game. Well, he scored his first goal this season in the very first period and it was a gift on the power play. I thought he was really good in this game overall, too.
9. Cale Makar is incredible. I think he’s going to win the Norris Trophy for the second straight season, which would be crazy. He turns 24 on Oct. 30.
10. The Blackhawks and Avalanche are two franchises that are going in complete opposite directions right now. The Blackhawks are in the beginning stages of a full-scale rebuild and the Avalanche just raised a Stanley Cup banner and are the favorites to do so again this year. It doesn’t feel like long ago that it was the other way around.
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