Blackhawks vs. Avalanche NHL Jan. 24, 2022: Preview, how to watch, lineups

The Blackhawks continue their three-game road trip in Denver Monday night to take on the current No. 1 in the league on points: the Colorado Avalanche. Considering the two teams are separated by 22 points overall, this will arguably be the Blackhawks’ biggest test yet.

Despite a slow start to the season, the Avalanche have developed into the powerhouse everyone has been expecting this season, especially on offense. They lead the NHL with an average of 4.15 goals per game and are the top 10 in every statistical shooting category. Lately, the Avalanche have been on a tear, winning six straight games and earning at least a point in their last 12 games. With a 9-3-1 record, they were particularly dominant over opponents in the Central Division. Even their goalkeeping – their main weakness this season – has been outstanding lately with a .929 save rate. As long as the Avalanche don’t peak too early in the season, they’re definitely a Cup favorite.

Unsurprisingly, Nathan MacKinnon leads the Avalanche at 1.45 points per game, despite shooting to a career-low 6.8 percent. What might surprise is who leads the team in actual points: Nazem Kadri at 51 (15G, 36A). Kadri has always been a good player but this is by far the best season of his career. Mikko Rantanen (21G, 27A), Gabriel Landeskog (15G, 23A) and Andre Burakovsky (13G, 18A) round out the top five of one of the strongest forward groups in the league.

Forward depth isn’t the Avalanche’s only strength: they have one of the deadliest defensive groups in the League. Cale Makar (16G, 22A) is a video game skater and Norris Trophy favorite, Devon Toews (8G, 23A) is one of the most underrated two-way defenders, Samuel Girard (4G, 19A) it’s a diminutive play-driving powerhouse, and Erik Johnson (5G, 10A) is a constant defense-first presence. With a top four group like this, it’s not hard to see why the Avalanche are at the top of the league standings.

The only question marks for the Avalanche are on the net and on penalties, although those facts are related. As mentioned above, goalkeeping has been stellar of late, but their collective .902 save rate for the entire season is only enough for 19th in the league. It’s even worse on penalties – ranked 28th with a save rate of .842 – which is why her PK only succeeds 74.8 percent of the time. The Avalanche need to hope their goaltenders’ recent upward trend continues.

After being embarrassed by the Minnesota Wild on Friday night, the Blackhawks responded well in the next night’s rematch but still had only the loser point to show for it. They are now on a three-game losing streak after having their first five-game points streak of the season. Their attack is still a problem, but it’s been a bit better lately: they’ve averaged 2.6 goals in their last 10 games, up from 2.11 the rest of the season before, but unfortunately averaged 2.9 goals conceded in the same period. Many of those goals conceded came in the Wild’s 6-1 win, but it’s still not a pretty picture – especially given the Avalanche.

In the final game between these two teams, the Blackhawks managed to push the Avalanche into overtime, but that night’s story is similar to many games for the Blackhawks: their inability to hold a lead. As with Saturday’s Wild game, the Blackhawks held a 3-2 lead against the Avalanche for most of the third period, only to fall into overtime after a late regulation-time goal. The Blackhawks taking the lead against two of the league’s record-breaking teams is good, but it also shows they haven’t yet gotten the finishing touches.

Regarding player notes from the last game: Seth Jones took a point and ran 32:05 in his second game back from COVID-19 protocol; Henrik Borgstrom scored twice after suffering a healthy scratch in the previous game; Alex DeBrincat scored for the first time in five games, Patrick Kane had snapped his 9-game, 11-point steak; and Dylan Strome won 14 of 20 faceoffs for the team lead, bringing his season total to 55.9 percent, trailing only Jonathan Toews.

After Kevin Lankinen was placed on injured reserve with a hand injury on Sunday, the Blackhawks recalled goalkeeper Arvid Söderblom to assist Marc-André Fleury at the net. While it would be nice to see Soderblom get another NHL game or two for his development, let’s hope the team ahead of Fleury – unlike Friday night – does its job lest the game ease Fleury’s pace.

Blackhawks – Stats – Avalanche

46.61% (27th) — 5-on-5 Corsi For — 53.16% (6th)

45.47% (28th) – 5v5 Expected goals for – 52.67% (10th)

2.34 (29th) – goals per game – 4.15 (1st)

3.27 (22nd) – Goals conceded per game – 3.03 (19th)

49.4% (20th) — Faceoffs — 47.3% (28th)

18.9% (18th) – Power play – 24.5% (10th)

76.0% (25th) – Penalties – 74.8% (27th)

Planned line-ups (subject to change)

Blackhawks

Hail – Strome – Kane

DeBrincat-Toews-Lafferty

Kubalik – Roof – Kurashev

Borgstrom – Carpenter – Entwistle

McCabe-S.Jones

by Haan-Murphy

C. Jones—Gustafsson

fleury

soderbloom

avalanche

Landeskog-MacKinnon-Rantanen

Nikhushkin-Kadri-Burakovsky

O’Connor-Newhook-Compher

Aube Kubel – Malzew – Jost

Toes – Makar

Johnson-Girard

MacDermid—Johnson

Kümper

Frenchman

like watching

When: 8 p.m. CT

Where: Ball Arena, Denver

TV: NBC Sports Chicago

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