The Return of the Hawks! Chicago Blackhawks are Back to NHL Action, Tonight, Against the New York Rangers


Jan 8, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews (19) is pursued by New York Rangers defenseman John Moore (17) in the first period at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Blackhawks kick-off their post-Olympics portion of the NHL regualar season, tonight, at Madison Square Garden, against the New York Rangers.  With just 22 games, remaining, in the regular season, the Blackhawks will be looking to come(back) out of the gate strong, to try and secure the top seed, in the Central Division.

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Statistically, this is a very good matchup.  The Blackhawks explosive offense is 2nd to none, while at the same time, the Rangers can play a defensive shutdown game, and also add a solid amount of offense, to go with it.  Overall, the Rangers of one of the best all-around Special teams squads, in the NHL.  A top-10 Power Play to go along with an 11th ranked Penalty Kill, make the Rangers a very difficult team to play against, but the right amount of discipline, from the Hawks should do the trick.

The Rangers a country mile, out of 1st place, in the Metropolitan Division, but they are currently holding down 2nd place, in a very tight playoff race, and hold a record of 32-24-3, good for 67 points.

New York will be feeling nearly as many post-Olympic effects, as the Hawks, as they had 7 players, in Sochi.  There will be no bigger Olympic side-effect than the loss of leading scorer, Mats Zuccarellois likely to be out, for tonight’s game, after injuring his hand, in Sochi.  The Rangers will still have plenty of scoring, with  Rich Nash, Brad Richards, Derek Stepanand Derick Brassard all good to go.  It will be interesting to see how captain, Ryan Callahan plays, trade rumors swirl around him, and the deadline approaching.

Usually, with the Rangers, you would expect to see all-world goaltender, Henrik Lundqvistbut he is being given an extra day of rest, after playing in Sochi.  Tonight, in net, will be rookie extraordinaire, Cameron Talbot.  Talbot’s emergence, this season, has been a blessing, for the Rangers, as he is able to give “King Henrik” a break, without the team missing a beat, in net.  So far, this season, Talbot has been phenomenal, with a .935 save percentage, in 17 games played.

The Blackhawks jump right back into the race, for the Central Division, in 2nd place.  While they and the St. Louis Blues each have 84 points, the Blues accumulated those points, in 2 fewer games, than the Hawks.  So far, this season, the Hawks are 35-11-14.

It will be interesting to see how both the Blackhawks’ Olympians and non-Olympians adjust back to NHL regular season.  It will be most interesting to see how the newly acquired, Peter Reginfits in, as the 2nd line center, and how well he works with Patrick Kane.  It likely won’t take long for the Hawks to adjust back, to the NHL, and the rest of the team, as most of this team has played together, for the last few seasons, which should be a big advantage, for the Hawks.  Players like Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith have now gone deep, in the Olympic tournament, and won gold for Canada, twice, so they know what to expect of the return, to the regular season.

In net, will be Corey Crawfordfor the Hawks.  Crawford is well-rested and more than good to go, after vacationing, during the Olympic break.  It was a much deserved vacation, as he was clearly over-worked, and dealt with injuries, before the Olympic break.  So far, this season, Crawford has put up a very good, .916 save percentage, in 42 games played, this season.

Both teams jump right back into the season, in the midst of standings battles, within their respective divisions, so there is no time to waste, dealing with readjusting to the regular season.  It should be a good game.