Blackhawks drop 3-2 loss to Avs in final season match-up

In their last meeting of the regular season, both the Blackhawks and Avalanche came out flying.

Duncan Keith had the first penalty of the game, a roughing call in front of the Blackhawks' net. The Avalanche put plenty of pressure in Chicago's end, but despite a handful of shots, the closest they got was a goalpost.

Brad Malone put the Avalanche on the board first with 1:36 left in the first, with a sharp-angle shot. Matt Duchene would stretch the lead to 2-0 just 19 seconds into the second period.

Patrick Kane would get the Blackhawks on the board after dancing through the Colorado zone and flipping the puck over Varlamov's shoulder to make it 2-1.

The Blackhawks started the third with plenty of momentum, but Andrew Shaw stabbed a fork in it with an unnecessary interference penalty 8:58 into the period. Marcus Krüger joined him in the box just 30 seconds later on a delay of game call (puck over glass).

Antti Raanta made some good saves on the 5-on-3 PK, but a rebound directly in front of the net found Ryan O'Reilly waiting on the doorstep unchallenged, and O'Reilly's quick reflexes gave Colorado a 3-1 lead with a PPG.

The Blackhawks made a similar play at the other end of the ice at the end of the third. With their goalie pulled, the Blackhawks swarmed the net, and Brandon Saad took advantage of a rolling puck to make it 3-2.

Although Chicago sustained good pressure to end the game, they couldn't tie things up, and the Avalanche won 3-2. Colorado's Semyon Varlamov continues his solid work versus the Blackhawks; he has a .960 sv% versus Chicago.

One of the most puzzling lineup choices of the night wasn't Antti Raanta getting the start over Corey Crawford - it was Sheldon Brookbank drawing into the lineup as a forward/7th D. His stats for the night totaled just 8 shifts, only 4:33 TOI, -1, and a penalty: 5 for fighting. Newly-acquired center Peter Regin was a scratch in favor of Brookbank.

Another interesting question is: teams know that going to Colorado, they will have to deal with the effect of altitude on their bodies. There's not much they can do under the restraints of the normal schedule except hydrate, load up on potassium, and get as much rest as they can. However, an extra 24 or 48 hours spent at altitude can help the body adjust considerably better. With two days off between the Sabres game on Sunday and tonight, you have to wonder why the team didn't head out to Colorado either direct from Buffalo or on Monday.

One would have to imagine that if Chicago ends up facing Colorado in the first rounds, and if there's any extra time in the schedule, that the team might choose to do things a little differently.

After the game, team captain Jonathan Toews was quoted as saying, "Maybe we can learn our lesson now that games aren’t going to get any easier. It’s time to play hard. We don't want to think of ourselves as a team that just turns on the switch come playoff time."

Three stars:
1. Matt Duchene
2. Ryan O'Reilly
3. Brad Malone

The Blackhawks host the Predators on Friday at the United Center, which will be the first of three games remaining versus Nashville in the nxt month. On Sunday, the Red Wings come to town for their second and final game versus the Blackhawks this season.

#TEUVOWATCH

Blackhawks prospect Teuvo Teräväinen is expected to come to Chicago when his Liiga season is finished in Finland. The Liiga begins its playoffs starting this Satruday.

Teräväinen has been named one of the finalists for the Liiga's Lasse Oksanen Award, which is the Finnish league's equivalent to the NHL's Hart Trophy. The Lasse Oksanen Award is awarded to the best player in regular season play. The winner will be announced on Friday, March 14th. Current Blackhawks goaltender Antti Raanta won it last year playing for Ässät.

Teräväinen is currently 6th in Liiga scoring (9G/35A/44 pts), and second overall in assists, with one game left in Jokerit's schedule. He previously won the Jarmo Wasama Memorial Trophy, the Liiga's version of the Calder, in 2012.

Depending on how Jokerit's final game goes, the team will either finish 6th overall and secure a bye to the quarterfinals, or, if they finish 7th, will need to play a best-of-three wild card game. Jokerit plays their final regular-season game on Thursday at 6:30pm Helsinki time (11:30am CDT).