DENVER — Going into Wednesday's season opener, the Blackhawks knew the Colorado Avalanche were going to come out flying. They're the preseason Stanley Cup favorites with as potent of an offense as there is in the NHL.
And they looked like it on Opening Night despite missing superstar Nathan MacKinnon, who did not play because of a positive COVID-19 test.
Through the first 10 minutes of the game, the Blackhawks were being outshot 15-2 and outscored 3-0. Their only two shots on goal came from 58-feet and 96-feet out.
Chicago barely touched the puck and had no answer for Colorado's attack.
"We knew they were going to come out hard," Kirby Dach said following a 4-2 loss at Ball Arena. "They all have speed and talent up front and their D, pretty good. We were behind the eight ball quick and it's hard to beat a team when you're trailing like that, so we've got to find a way to be ready. It's not an excuse, we've just got to be ready for puck drop."
After the third goal, head coach Jeremy Colliton did something he doesn't like to do early in games. He called a timeout, essentially to remind his team that the game started.
"I just said we hadn't started playing yet, in my opinion," Colliton said. "It's hard to measure yourself and see how you stack up when you haven't started playing. We had to start playing. ... When they scored the first one, the game got out of control for most of that first period. And then we're in a big hole, and it's hard to come back against good teams, which they are."
Slow starts were an issue for the Blackhawks in the preseason at times, but you figured you could chalk that up to the fact the game didn't count in the standings. Wednesday's game did, and the Blackhawks are looking for solutions before it becomes a concerning early-season trend.
"I don't know, I think if we had the answer we wouldn't be starting slow," said Dach, who was easily the Blackhawks' best player. "I don't know if it's a group thing or if guys just aren't ready to go individually, but I think as a group we know how good of a team we can be and we didn't show it tonight. We'll watch some video and get ready for the back-to-back in New Jersey and Pittsburgh."
In the final two periods, the Blackhawks outshot the Avalanche 26-18 in all situations and 22-13 at even strength. It was a different game after the first period, although it never felt like the Blackhawks had a chance to win because of the hole they had dug themselves in.
The good news? The power play that has clicked all training camp long converted on their very first opportunity of the game when Dominik Kubalik rifled a slapshot past Darcy Kuemper with 3:13 left to play in the opening frame, which helped stopped the bleeding to a degree.
But in the end, falling behind 3-0 against this Colorado team, at home in front of a packed crowd, was too large for the Blackhawks to overcome.
"We had our chances in the last two periods, and we didn't finish them," Colliton said. "Overall, the start did us in. We need to be better. We will be better. We've got good players and the stuff that happened is very correctable."