For the Chicago Blackhawks, it was simply one of those nights. Despite a monstrous offensive output including 48 shots, the team yet again lost in overtime. This time the victor was the Colorado Avalanche, a Western Conference foe that will appear twice more this season.
Avs goaltender Semyon Varlamov outplayed Corey Crawford, ending the night with a .958 save percentage. The top line led by Jonathan Toews was once again strong despite a Toews penalty leading to Tyson Barrie’s overtime game winner.
The second-line led by Brandon Saad and Patrick Kane seems to be working well with Andrew Shaw at center, and it was on the ice for both Blackhawks goals. The fourth-line also did its job with everyone performing their jobs.
The same positivity in spite of loss, however, cannot be shared for the Blackhawks’ third-line. In what was an overall anomaly of a game, the same dismal performance expected from the same underachieving players occurred.
Kris Versteeg is playing relatively well and finds minutes thanks to his competence on the power play, but he was the only third-line forward to see over ten minutes of ice time. Versteeg is not able to work miracles despite leading the line in shots and doing a majority of the puck possession.
Michal Handzus, meanwhile, was the only Blackhawks center to be less than 50 percent from the faceoff circle against the Avalanche. A dismal 2-for-6 performance meant despite 1:51 of shorthanded ice time, Handzus only saw 8:04 for the game, and his line was unable to find possession.
Then there’s Bryan Bickell. Bickell has been a massive disappointment not only due to his shaky play, but his massive four-year, $16 million contract. Bickell registered one shot in his nine shifts, a team-low.
Despite yesterday’s game being a strong Blackhawks performance, the rigors of a long season may be wearing down the team. 11 overtime losses are adding up to lost points, and the third-line continues to drag behind a puck possession offense as if it were dead weight. Not much is needed during the regular season from the team’s third-line, but a sign of life may be necessary before drastic measures are taken.
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