Another week, another New York team on the schedule. The Blackhawks have dropped two of their last three and take on the New York Rangers in what should be a good pick-me-up for the ‘Hawks squad. In their matchup against the New York Islanders, the Blackhawks struggled to keep our three Islanders to watch in check and went on to lose a close one in Long Island.
With the Anaheim Ducks soaring to the top of the Western Conference standings, the Blackhawks can use a victory against the Blue Shirts tonight in Chicago. The defense has been mediocre as of late and will have to limit the shot attempts that Corey Crawford and Antti Raanta have seen over the past few games. Though their seven goal outburst last week was quite impressive, the Rangers offense doesn’t strike fear into their opponents. The talent is there for the Rangers to put goals on the scoreboard so the ‘Hawks must be on their toes tonight in what is sure to be an exciting contest.
Normally, I would put all-world goaltender Henrik Lundqvist on this list, but for the first time as far as I can remember, he is not having a season worthy of being a top goalie in the league. As a hockey fan, I hope this is just a one year hiccup and not a sign of any imminent decline.
Here are three Rangers to look out for tonight:
1. Rick Nash - A healthy Rick Nash is a scary Rick Nash. No one knows that better than the Blackhawks who had to deal with Nash multiple times a season when he was a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Since returning from a concussion, Nash was struggling to find the net, but he scored two goals in the Rangers last contest. He possesses the size, speed, and skill that few players can replicate and he will give Blackhawks defenders a lot of trouble tonight. I would look for a lot of pressure from the forwards on Nash to help make the Blackhawk defender’s task a bit less arduous.
2. Mats Zuccarello - This isn’t a name that many people know yet. Zuccarello leads the Rangers in points and assists in only his third year in the league. He continues to impress with his play-making ability for an offense that hasn’t seen contributions from some of its more high profile players. He has been inconsistent at various points throughout the season, but then again, so has most of his teammates.
3. Chris Kreider – The most intriguing list on this name to me is Kreider. The youngster has shown an innate ability to score in the NHL, a skill that many of his teammates seem to lack. Many of the reports about Kreider have been that since coach Alain Vigneault has taken over, he is playing with an aggressiveness and a “mean streak.” He is starting to use his frame to get in better scoring positions and his intensity can possibly motivate teammates to match the effort he has put on the ice in recent games.
The Blackhawks host the Rangers tonight at the United Center at 7 PM Central time.