The Chicago Blackhawks’ offensive dominance has been unmatched
this season. A recent stretch of defensive consistency adds to the
puzzle for opponents as the Central Division leaders look for their
seventh win in nine games.
The Blackhawks return from the NHL’s holiday break to host the
Colorado Avalanche on Friday night in the first of back-to-back
weekend matchups against the two teams chasing them in the
Chicago (26-7-6) is 6-1-1 since Dec. 8, and it has allowed more
than two regulation goals once in that time. A 5-2 home win Monday
over New Jersey was the Blackhawks’ 15th game with at least five
goals, and they outshot the Devils 37-12.
“I thought it was one of our better games all year as far as
puck possession, directing plays,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “I
thought we did everything we were looking to do in the game. I
liked their energy, I liked their thought process, our
Patrick Kane scored for a third straight game to extend his
point streak to 12 games. He has four points in his last two games
The Avalanche (23-10-3) are completing a difficult three-game
road stretch that has started with a pair shootout losses against
Los Angeles and San Jose. They led three times in Monday’s 5-4
defeat to the Sharks and settled for a point.
“It’s too bad, but at the same time we showed a lot of
character,” coach Patrick Roy said. “We played well in the third
period. We scored two big goals and then they made a great play to
In their only meeting so far this season, the Avalanche beat the
Blackhawks 5-1 on Nov. 19 in Colorado – the only time this season
Chicago has failed to score at least twice.
Against the Sharks, the Avalanche scored for the fourth straight
game on the power play after going 11 games without doing so.
They’ve gotten it together with a 5-for-15 mark in their last
It has some considerable ground to cover to reach Chicago’s
level. The Blackhawks have 15 power-play goals in their last 12
games, a league high since Nov. 30 while converting at a 30.6
While the Blackhawks’ offensive consistency has them scoring a
league-best 3.62 goals per game, their recent stretch of solid play
in the defensive zone has come without No. 1 goaltender Corey
Crawford has been out since suffering a lower-body injury on
Dec. 8 and was scheduled to resume practicing this week.
Antti Raanta has filled in for Crawford and fellow injured
goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin, who entered the season as Chicago’s
backup, with an 8-1-2 season record and 1.47 goals-against average
in the team’s current 3-0-1 stretch.
The blue-liners in front of Raanta have been doing more than
providing him with comfortable shot totals. Led by Duncan Keith’s
33 points, Chicago defensemen lead the NHL with 2.87 points a
“I love our defense. They’ve been huge for us the past two
seasons,” forward Patrick Sharp said. “They all skate well. They
all move the puck and with the forwards that we have in our locker
room, we like to get it with speed and they do a good job of
getting it to us. Our defense (has) been the key to our team this
The Blackhawks visit St. Louis, the team between Chicago and
Colorado in the standings, on Saturday.