DENVER – When the Chicago Blackhawks lost to Nashville last weekend they did a lot of “gifting,” as coach Joel Quenneville termed it. They were pretty generous again on Tuesday night.
Colorado scored three first-period goals off Blackhawks miscues, and Semyon Varlamov did the rest as the Avalanche beat the Blackhawks 5-1 at the Pepsi Center on Tuesday night. It was a dismal start to the Blackhawks’ road trip, and it also came with another injury.
Bryan Bickell left the first period with a lower-body injury and Quenneville said the big forward could be out “more than day-to-day.” Bickell slid into the net, his left ankle hitting the goal post. Bickell was on all fours for a few moments before heading straight to the locker room.
[MORE: Bickell's first-period injury]
Quenneville said the Blackhawks will have a better assessment tomorrow on Bickell. If Bickell is out for some time, the team may have to make another call-up. Capgeek.com shows the Blackhawks having $2.195 plus of space right now; three players (Michal Handzus, Mike Kostka and Nikolai Khabibulin) are all on long-term injured reserve.
“We definitely have business decisions along with economic decisions,” Quenneville said. “That might play in our hands, but we’ll see exactly is available.”
Antti Raanta made his NHL debut in tough fashion, entering late in the third period after Corey Crawford was pulled. Raanta stopped 14-of-16 while Crawford stopped four of seven. Brandon Saad had the Blackhawks’ lone goal.
The Blackhawks actually started Tuesday’s game in good shape. They were coming off a strong power play that, although it didn’t score, showed life, good scoring chances and movement. But about two minutes after that power play ended, the mistakes began.
Brent Seabrook attempted a pass to Duncan Keith but when the puck hit the boards, instead of bouncing left, caromed straight back to the slot. Paul Stastny, speeding down the slot, picked it off and scored to give the Avs a 1-0 lead. More mistakes led to two more Colorado goals; Gabriel Landeskog deflected one, and John Mitchell scored the other.
The Avalanche have now outscored opponents 20-9 in first periods this season.
“We gave them the first couple of goals. We had the puck and it ended up in our net,” Quenneville said. “We couldn’t buy a goal there. I would’ve liked to see the momentum change in the second, when we had extended time in their end with nothing to show for it. Their goalie played well tonight.”
Indeed, Semyon Varlamov was stellar, stopping 36-of-37. The Blackhawks didn’t challenge him a ton in the first but they did in the second and third, and Varlamov was up to the task.
Meanwhile, Raanta was given the unenviable job of making his NHL debut with his team in a 3-0 hole.
“You just have to go there and try to do your best,” he said. “It’s not the greatest situation to go (in during the period). But you have to be ready every time when you’re sitting on the bench. But that’s it: the first game is now done. So you don’t have to ask about pressure.”
Yes, Raanta’s NHL debut is in the books. So is the Blackhawks’ start to the circus trip, and it’s obviously not the start they envisioned.
“No, not the game or the trip,” Quenneville said. “Just the opposite.”