Blackhawks’ points streak ends at 24 with loss to Avalanche
BY MARK LAZERUS firstname.lastname@example.org March 8, 2013 10:00PM
As members of the Colorado Avalanche, back, celebrate a goal by Ryan O'Reilly, Chicago Blackhawks right wing Michael Frolik (67), of the Czech Republic, skates back to the bench in the second period of an NHL hockey game in Denver, Friday, March 8, 2013. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Updated: March 12, 2013 2:17PM
DENVER — The national media will abandon the United Center now — for a couple of months, at least. The LeBron James tweets and the inane nationally televised debates will disappear. The relentless and repetitive locker room questions about how “fun” it is to just keep winning will mercifully end.
The circus is closed.
Getting thoroughly trounced 6-2 by a thoroughly mediocre Colorado Avalanche team to end an NHL-record season-opening 24-game point streak — and an 11-game win streak — will have that effect, no matter how staggeringly brilliant the seven weeks that preceded it were. And maybe that’s not the worst thing that could have happened to the Blackhawks — to get away from the hype, the chatter and the spotlight for a bit.
Maybe now it’ll be easier to look ahead and not back. After all, Friday’s loss marked the first game of the second half of the season. Maybe the silly season — magical and memorable and remarkable as it was — is done.
The streak is over. The stretch run begins.
“Maybe the last handful of games, I think the talk about it kind of got out of control,” Hawks captain Jonathan Toews said, before adding that the team was never distracted by it. “If anything, maybe it does take a little pressure off of us, and we can sit back and look at the good things we’ve done, but also remind us of the things we’ve done that made us successful as a team, and try to bring that back.”
It had to happen sometime. That zero in the regulation-loss column wasn’t going to stay there forever. And that 17-point lead on the second-place Detroit Red Wings certainly allows for a bad night — a brief show of human vulnerability — here or there, even if it seemed one never would come. As coach Joel Quenneville pointed out, the streak not only brought hype, it brought every team’s best effort, night in and night out.
“It’s gained a lot of momentum over the last little while, and our opponents, they treated it like it was an extremely important game,” he said. ‘‘Seemed like there was added incentive as we’ve gone along here.’’
But the way the Hawks’ streak ended — buried under an avalanche of Avalanche goals in the second period at the Pepsi Center — was as dramatic and surprising as any of the 24 games that preceded it.
This wasn’t a case of the Hawks just being unable to find that miracle last-minute goal in the third period, or not being able to kill off that one last third-period penalty. This was a dismantling of a Hawks team missing star winger Patrick Sharp and looking listless and uninspired in its sixth game in nine days.
The Avalanche dominated physically, outhitting the Hawks 21-12. The Avalanche dominated in the face-off circle, winning 36 of 55 (including 18 of the first 23), leading directly to two goals. And the Avalanche dominated on the scoreboard, firing four pucks past Corey Crawford in the second period alone. In short, the Hawks were outworked, outmuscled and out-hustled — flat-out outplayed.
“I just didn’t have it tonight,” said Crawford, who was replaced by Ray Emery for the third period. “I didn’t give our guys a chance. I’ve got to be better than that.”
It started off well enough for the Hawks, who got a beautiful goal by Toews just 5:54 into the game. Brandon Saad set it up with a backhanded pass to Toews, who executed a perfect give-and-go with Marian Hossa to make it 1-0 early on.
But that was the end of the Hawks’ highlight reel for the night. Paul Stastny tied it on the power play at 16:36 of the first, and things quickly got out of hand in the second period.
Matt Duchene and John Mitchell scored 33 seconds apart to give the Avalanche a 3-1 lead less than five minutes into the second period. Quenneville called his timeout as his team faced a two-goal deficit for just the third time all season and the first since Feb. 5 at San Jose.
But the Avalanche kept coming. Ryan O’Reilly ripped a shot from the point past Crawford for a power-play goal just four seconds after Crawford was whistled for tripping O’Reilly. It was the Hawks’ first three-goal deficit of the year. A little more than three minutes later, Jamie McGinn made it 5-1.
Bryan Bickell and P.A. Parenteau traded third-period goals, and there was no magic left for the Hawks. Not on this night.
By the time the third period began, Emery was in net, the life had been sucked out of the Pepsi Center, the streak was all but over.
And the second half of the season had officially begun.
Now it’s time to stop looking back on what has been, and start looking forward to what could be.
“It’s a pretty cool thing,” Toews said of the streak. “So we’ll take the confidence that we gained from all that and keep going forward. Everyone knows you can’t win them all. It’s pretty amazing to make it this far, halfway through the shortened season. But we’ve always known whenever this thing was going to end — if it ever did — that we still have a lot of work left for the rest of the season and beyond that.”