DENVER – There was no doubt that new-look Blackhawks teams was going to be tested right out of the gate in the 2020-2021 National Hockey League season.
They’re opening the campaign with three consecutive road games, two of those coming against division champions from last season. Their season opener was in Denver against the Colorado Avalanche, who are a common pick to win the Stanley Cup when the season concludes early in the summer.
So Jeremy Colliton’s club was going to have their hands full to start off their 82-game season on Wednesday night, and they weren’t lying.
The Avalanche came right at the Blackhawks in the opening ten minutes of the game, scoring a trio of goals that would end up being the difference in a 4-2 victory to start of the season at the Ball Center on Wednesday night.
While they were able to stabilize after the rough start, the Blackhawks were never able to make up the deficit as they lose their season opener for a third-straight season.
“When they scored the first one, I felt like the game got out of control for most of that first period, and then we’re in a big hole,” said Colliton of the start. “It’s hard to come back against good teams, which they are. I think it boils down to we didn’t do a very good job with their rush offense.
“We didn’t have enough guys back and the guys we did have back I didn’t think we sorted out the rush well enough and they were able to get way too high of quality of chances in those situations which they scored on.”
Jack Johnson started it off for Colorado as he got the puck around center ice and skated in free at Marc-Andre Fleury, scoring the first goal of the game uncontested. The Avalanche added to the lead 1:22 later when Gabriel Landeskog tipped a long shot into the back of the net to make it 2-0.
Under four minutes later, Bowen Byram’s shot towards the top of the net beat Fleury for the third goal in the first half of the first period.
The Blackhawks would get one back in later in the period as Dominik Kubalik tallied his first goal of the season to make it 3-1.
In the second, the Blackhawks had a shot to narrow the lead on two great chances by Kirby Dach. He had a breakaway that was denied by Darcy Keumper then had a clean shot on net on the left side that was also stopped by the goalie.
Shortly after, Nazem Kadri added the fourth goal of the night for Colorado.
“It sucks,” said Dach of the misses. “Score those and it might be a different game. That’s on me. It’s been a problem of mine for the past couple of years. You guys are asking about it quite a lot, so I’ve got to figure something out and start scoring goals.”
Connor Murphy would get a second goal late in the third period, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the Blackhawks’ bad start and get them points on opening night.
“I thought we got better as the game went on, but again, it was hard to dig yourself out of a hole,” said Colliton.