Andrew Shaw wasnt part of the last three games, all overtime, of course. But considering his anxiety level, he might as well have been.I think I was more nervous than anyone on the ice, watching every game go to overtime, Shaw said. I was in the locker room, sweating.Well, Shaw doesnt have to sweat the sitting-on-the-sidelines feeling anymore. The Blackhawks forced another game, and Shaw is ready to get another chance.Andrew Shaw is back in the lineup tonight as the Chicago Blackhawks host the Phoenix Coyotes in Game 6 of their Western Conference quarterfinal series. The Blackhawks are looking to stave off elimination again and force a Game 7 back in Glendale. And Shaws return should definitely provide a spark.The nice thing is, whoevers come into our lineup from watching has done a nice job, said coach Joel Quenneville, referring to Michael Frolik and Brenden Morrisons impact in their returns. Now its Shaw. You get a little energy, appetite from watching, you just cant wait to be a part of it.Shaw served a three-game suspension for his hit on Phoenix goaltender Mike Smith, and the rookie said he knows he has to be careful moving forward. But, that doesnt mean eliminating his style completely.Obviously Im going to play the same way, maybe stay out of it after the whistles. I have to play between the whistles, Shaw said. But still have that gritty play.His teammates and coach dont want him to lose his edge, either.We want him to keep playing hard, and obviously as a team we have to be smart, Jonathan Toews said. But the physical play and the energy he brings, dont want him to temper that at all.As far as possible retribution from the Coyotes, Shaw isnt focused on that.Im just thinking about how Im going to play, he said. Ill stay focused on my game and how Ive been doing.Where Shaw fits in the lineup isnt known at the moment. The Blackhawks, not wanting to show their hand, ran their same lines from Game 5 this morning. And the checking line has altered a bit, with Morrison and Frolik skating with Bolland the last game. No matter where he is, however, theres no doubt Shaws energy will fit in just fine.Hes going to bring a lot of energy to the game, said Bryan Bickell. I know he wasnt too happy being out. But now hes back and hell get the spark and play his game. Hell be huge.
Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 5-3 loss to the Colorado Avalanche at the United Center on Friday:
1. Blackhawks fight back three times, but fall short
The Blackhawks trailed four different times, and didn't hold a lead at any point in the game. They responded to Colorado's first three goals, going back-and-forth with their division foe. But they couldn't answer the fourth time as the Avalanche scored with 5:22 left and sealed the deal with an empty-netter in the final seconds.
The Blackhawks were encouraged with the way they played, but were disappointed with the outcome because they thought they deserved better against a team they needed two points from. And they did.
"It is what it is," Jonathan Toews said. "The points are important whether it’s the end of the regular season or near the end of the regular season or even playoffs. We wanted two points. Winning’s all that matters, so I think you do what you have to do to stay in games and find ways to win. We’re right there with them. They played a good game, but I think it was probably one of our best efforts collectively in the last little bit. So a lot of good things, and I think if we have that energy, we’re gonna get better results in the next few games here.”
2. Special teams plays big factor
The Blackhawks and Avalanche each committed four minor penalties. For 12:49 of the 60 minutes, there was some sort of man advantage. And it proved to be a huge part of the game.
The Blackhawks killed off the first three penalties and allowed only four shots on goal during those six minutes, but the Avalanche converted on their fourth opportunity (the lone shot on goal on that power play).
Meanwhile, the Blackhawks went 2-for-4 on with the man advantage, and nearly added a third goal in the final minute of the game but fell short. It was one the more well-rounded special teams performances by the Blackhawks this season.
"We had to rely on our power play a couple times, so it was nice that we came through there," said Patrick Kane, who extended his point streak to 20 games and goal streak to five, and also tied a franchise record with 13 shots on goal. "But that’s the thing I like about this group and our team. No matter what the score, no matter how we start or what’s happening in the middle of the game anything like that, we’re always in the game, there’s always a chance to turn the thing around. I like that about our group."
3. A complete effort but no reward
The Blackhawks have had some rocky starts as of late. Friday was not one of them. And it continued throughout the entire game
At even strength, the Blackhawks led in shot attempts (56-40), shots on goal (31-25), scoring chances (29-20) and high-danger chances (12-11), according to naturalstattrick.com. They were ahead in all four categories, except the one that mattered the most and that's the final score.
That's the hard part to swallow. The Blackhawks elevated their game in a playoff-type atmosphere and turned in one of their most complete efforts in a while, but it was one of those nights where the result doesn't reflect it. And it's unfortunate because it was a big four-point swing in Colorado's direction.
"Of course we would have liked to win," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "It's important points, it was an important game, head-to-head against a team we're battling with. We were really good I thought. It's one of our better efforts of the year and certainly recently. Sometimes the results don't go your way, but the challenge is to reproduce [at] that level and I think if we do, we'll get our fair share of points."
4. Standings impact
For a brief moment on Wednesday, the Blackhawks saw their name above the playoff line. It made for an exciting build-up to Friday's game against Colorado, which later took over that second spot from Chicago.
But after Friday's regulation loss, the Blackhawks fell two points behind the Avalanche, who have a game in hand, and three points behind the Minnesota Wild, who have won back-to-back games. Even the Arizona Coyotes are above the Blackhawks because of points percentage, tied at 61 points but hold a game in hand.
That's why this game was so important. But good news for the Blackhawks? They have two more meetings against the Avalanche this season, and one more against the Coyotes. But more importantly, they have to get right back to work for a divisional showdown against the Dallas Stars on Sunday afternoon.
"It’s only gonna get tougher and tougher as we go along here," Toews said. "We’ve got some tough road games coming up, so obviously we want to take it one game at a time. There’s nowhere to run or hide now. I think every team’s gonna be at their best and it’s a fun time of year to be right in the mix and be playing this type of hockey. I think the guys raised their play tonight, and we know there’s always room for improvement.”Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.
Every game is crucial at this time of year. But there's no downplaying the importance of this weekend for the Blackhawks.
It starts Friday night at the United Center, where the Blackhawks will take on the Colorado Avalanche. And the winner will move into the second wild card spot in the Western Conference. No biggie.
"Absolutely," Jonathan Toews said on whether there's extra motivation. "I think we knew earlier in the season that games are important start to finish throughout the regular season because you're going to find yourself in a tight spot at some point. And here we are with 20 games or so left and we're going head-to-head with division teams that are basically in the same place trying to make the playoffs. So we know it's definitely a big one."
It's even more important for the Blackhawks because the Avalanche have a game in hand. So if the Blackhawks are on the losing end of a potential four-point swing, it changes the landscape in a fairly significant way and they're back to being a couple games back.
"Oh yeah, they’re big,' coach Jeremy Colliton said. "It’s fun. Been working for a couple of months here to be in games like this. Going to enjoy it, enjoy the battle, should be a fun atmosphere."
After Friday, the Blackhawks have to get right back to work and prepare for the Dallas Stars on Sunday because there's added meaning in that game, too.
The Stars currently own the first spot in the West, and the Blackhawks could pull within two points of them by Sunday — although the Stars have two games in hand, and host the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday. That's a pair of consecutive four-point games on the line, which could help propel the Blackhawks above the playoff line.
"Every game is big," Patrick Kane said. "When you get a chance to play a team that you're chasing and make sure they're not putting up anything as far as points-wise in the standings, that's a big opportunity for us. We know how big these games are this weekend but I think that's just going to be the way it is down the stretch. Pretty much every game is going to be huge for us. Be nice to have a big weekend here and see where we're at."Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.