After the Stanley Cup festivities concluded and the Colorado Avalanche’s championship banner was raised to the rafters, there was a hockey game to be played.
Three takeaways from the Avs’ 5-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday:
Cogliano opens the scoring
Despite playing a significantly weaker Blackhawks squad, it took nearly 14 minutes of game time before the Avalanche opened the scoring.
Naturally, it was Andrew Cogliano‘s re-direction of Nathan MacKinnon‘s blast from the point that got Colorado on the board.
The 35-year-old was the heart and soul of the Avalanche’s championship team. He showed a lot of grit coming back from a broken finger in the Finals and earned a ton of praise from his teammates.
Colorado wasted little time bringing back the veteran on a one-year, and it was good to see him immediately help out the Avalanche in Game 1.
Cogliano and Valeri Nichushkin had the tallies for the Avalanche in the first period before giving way to the Arturri Lehkonen show in the middle frame.
Lehkonen, Powerplay shine
Into the second period, the Blackhawks had a parade of their own, but straight to the penalty box. In all, the Avalanche converted on 4-of-6 powerplay opportunities, with Lehkonen accounting for two of those.
Less than four minutes into the period, the Avs exhibited excellent passing, with MacKinnon skating the puck to the left dot before finding Mikko Rantanen down low, who immediately located Lehkonen in front of the net.
Then with just under 10 minutes left in the period, clinical passing from Cale Makar to Rantanen to Lehkonen, who was once again in front of the net, allowed the Avalanche to extend their lead.
“He makes the right play 99 percent of the time, and he’s always in the right spot. Just a really overall player – he does PK, he plays first powerplay unit, he scores goals, he blocks shots.” Rantanen said of Lehkonen after the game.
In the third period, Nichushkin would add his second powerplay tally, re-directing Makar’s shot from the blue line. Rantanen collected the secondary assist on the play and finished with four points on the night. Not a bad start.
Avs avoid Stanley Cup hangover
Considering Colorado’s short offseason was accompanied by a 41-minute delayed start after warmups for the pregame ceremonies, there’s always the worry of a Stanley Cup hangover.
While it took longer than expected for the Avalanche to open the scoring — longer in terms of their standards — Jared Bednar’s group picked up right where they left off.
Sure, Chicago will likely be one of the worst teams in the National Hockey League this year. Sure, they went long stretches in the first and second periods without registering a shot on net, but a lot of credit has to be handed to Colorado for taking care of business.
“Each individual is different, I think, but we’re already focused on the game. (The pregame ceremony) is just one little portion to put the final rest on last year’s season, I think more for the fans than our players, but they’ll enjoy it, no question. But you have to be able to put it out of your head. We got to turn the page from last year, and that will happen with puck drop,” Bednar said in his pregame media availability on where his team’s mindset is entering the season.
The Avalanche outshot Chicago 34-17, as new netminder Alexandar Georgiev didn’t see much work.
Colorado will turn around and travel to Calgary for a Thursday showdown with Nazem Kadri and the Flames.