Mar 9, 2012; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks left wing Bryan Bickell (29) skates with the puck against the New York Rangers during the second period at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports
You’ll hear all about it, and it is worth mentioning, that tonight’s game between the Chicago Blackhawks and the New York Rangers is in fact an original six matchup. Original Six matchups are a necessary as narratives, especially for the Blackhawks, since they are now the only Original Six team, in the Western Conference. Also, there will be a total of 17 players(10 Blackhawks, 7 Rangers), in tonight’s game, headed to Sochi, for the Olympic games.
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The Blackhawks definitely have the statistical edge, in this matchup. When the Rangers hired Alain Vigneault, as their head coach, in the offseason, he was expected to bring more offensive production, to the Big Apple. That hasn’t totally happened, yet. While the Power Play has vastly improved, they are ranked 24th, in the NHL, in Goals For. That would be survivable, with the Rangers, of the last few years, with their blue-collar like approach, where they allowed very few goals, however, they are ranked 15th in the NHL, in Goals Against, which is only average. The Rangers have been very good at penalty killing, to go along with their very good Power Play, a team can’t solely rely on Special Teams, to be successful. The Blackhawks improving, Penalty Kill will have it’s work cut out for them, tonight, against the Ranger’s Power Play, but their offensive fire power should be more than enough to get 2 points, tonight.
The Rangers are currently in a 5th place log jam, in the Metropolitan Division. While they are in 5th, they are only 3 points out of 2nd place, and 6 points out of 8th place. So far, the Rangers are 21-20-3, good for 45 points, and have gone an okay 5-3-2, in their last 10 games. The Rangers are lead, offensively, by relative newcomer, Mats Zuccarello. Under Vigneault, Brad Richards has returned to a semblance of his former point producing self. The injury and low amount of points produced, from Rick Nash might be the biggest reason for the Rangers 5-on-5 offensive struggles, but he’s back now and most certainly slowly getting up to his usual speed. The Ranger’s strength is their grinding center depth. While Richards puts up points, Derek Stepan, Chris Kreider and Derick Brassard put solid points and play sound defensively. On the blueline, Ryan McDonagh is offensively sound, and Dan Girardi is a soundly responsible defenseman.
In net, the Rangers have arguably the best in the game today. Even though 2013-2014 has been far from his best season, Henrik Lundqvist is never easy to score against. This season, however, Ludqvist has put up a very modest .906 Save Percentage, in 32 games played.
The Blackhawks haven’t played their best hockey lately, but they have played well enough to make it to overtime, to steal at least one point, from recent games. While the Blackhawks haven’t played their best hockey, lately, it has been good enough for a 6-0-4 record, in their last 10 games, not too shabby. Patrick Kane will be looking to keep Ludnqvist’s save percentage considerably low, and there really isn’t many players, in the league, who are more able to do so. The other Patrick, Patrick Sharp is also having a career year, and will be looking to stay hot, on the heels of his first Olympic selection, of his career. Jonathan Toews might be the quietest super star, in the NHL. He puts up lots of points, and plays an almost perfect defensive and possession game, and yet you don’t hear a ton about it, because he always stays his course and rarely goes into slumps. Duncan Keith continues to have his best season, yet, which is saying a lot, considering he won a Norris Trophy, in 2010.
In net, figures to be Corey Crawford, who has been tested heavily and performed great, since his return from injury. He deserves most of the credit, for the Hawks stealing a point, in their last 2 overtime or shootout losses.
Original six and Olympics combine to make story line galore. One team is trying to keep their hold on the Central Division and improve some of their recent inconsistencies while the other team is trying to climb out of the crowded middle depths of the Metro Division, into a more comfortable playoff position. It should be a good game!