Game Preview: Chicago Blackhawks Face Real Test with New York Rangers


Sep 26, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford (50) makes a save on New York Rangers left wing Rick Nash (61) during the third period at the United Center. The New York Rangers defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 4-1. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

The minus Patrick Kane/new-look Chicago Blackhawks have achieved won 3 of their last 4 games.  Sounds good, yes, but Friday’s shootout victory over the Edmonton Oilers was not a much-deserved victory.  They will need a much better and more inspired performance tonight as they welcome the New York Rangers to the United Center.

This will be the first meeting of the 2-game season series between the Hawks and Rangers.  Puck drop is set for 6:30 PM Central Time.  Tonight’s game can be seen on NBCSN and can be heard on WGN-720 AM.

Here’s a statistical breakdown of the Hawks and Rangers.

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Offensively, the Hawks have fallen to an overall average team and tonight they will have to solve a Rangers defensive unit that can be considered elite.

Defensively, the Hawks are slightly more elite than the Rangers and tonight the Hawks will be tasked with shutting down a Rangers offense which is also elite.

On the Power Play, the Hawks have been below average and tonight they will face a very good New York Penalty Kill.

For the Hawks, the Penalty Kill has been elite and tonight they must shut down a very good Blue Shirts’ Power Play.

In the faceoff circle, the Hawks have been great and they will be taking draws against a Rangers squad that has been weirdly awful.

In terms of puck-possession, the Hawks are in the elite class and they will be fighting for the puck against a Rangers team that has been sub-par at possessing the puck.

On paper, the Rangers have the advantage.  However, the Rangers have flaws too.  It’s strange how they are so bad at faceoffs, which is also probably why they are very “meh” at possessing the puck.  Quite simply as with any night, the Hawks need to hog the puck and never cough it up.  This is much easier said than done, but the Hawks cannot give up the sloppy turnovers that they’ve been giving up lately.  The Oilers were able to make things scary when they took advantage of the Hawks’ turnovers.  The Rangers will make things painfully embarrassing if the Hawks keep turning the puck over.

The Rangers are 39-17-7 with 85 points, which is good for 2nd place in the Metropolitan Division.  They are 3 points behind the New York Islanders(who have played 4 more games than the Rangers) and are technically tied for 2nd place with the Pittsburgh Penguins, but Pittsburgh has played 2 more games than the Rangers.  Things are looking good on Broadway.

The Rangers boast a scarily good top-line which is centered by Derick Brassard with Rick Nash and Mats Zuccarello as his wings.  It’s Nash that makes that line go as he’s finally living up to his hype and expectations after being traded to New York from the Columbus Blue Jackets.  Nash’s 38 goals are 2nd best in the NHL.  The top defensive pairing of Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi is one of the best shutdown pairings in the league.  The Rangers also have newly-acquired Keith Yandle as a weapon on the blueline.  This will be the Hawks’ first look at their wayward 2010 1st round pick, Kevin Hayes, who decided to sign with the Rangers as a free agent.

Starting in net for the Rangers will be Cam Talbot.  Talbot has filled in admirably for injured star goaltender, Henrik Lundqvist.  In 25 starts, Talbot has a solid Save Percentage of .917.  In one previous start against the Hawks, Talbot earned the victory as he recorded 31 saves on 32 shots.

The Hawks are 39-21-5 with 83 points, which is good for 3rd place in the Central Division.  They are 4 points behind the 2nd place St. Louis Blues, 6 points behind the struggling 1st place Nashville Predators(who have played 2 more games than the Hawks) and 4 points ahead of the surging 4th place Minnesota Wild.  Every game from here on out is very important.

There were some interesting lines at Saturday morning’s practice.  The biggest news is that Bryan Bickell will be a healthy scratch for tonight’s game in a bit of message sending from Coach Q.  Bickell is being replaced by Dan Carcillo and he will skate on the 3rd line with   Brad Richards and Patrick Sharp.  In the good news category, Teuvo Tervainen is back in the lineup and will get great opportunity to make some noise as he’s playing right wing on the 2nd line, which is centered by Friday’s shootout hero, Antoine Vermette and also has Brandon Saad on the left wing.  Kris Versteeg remains on the top line with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa.

 Starting in net for the Hawks will be Corey Crawford.  Crawford has been spectacular lately and is coming off of a career-high 46 save performance on Friday night.  In 3 career starts against the Rangers, Crawford is 1-2 with a very pedestrian .913 Save Percentage.

One has to think Friday’s drama and tonight’s opponent will bring out a good performance from the Hawks.  The Rangers are well-rested, which it’s unclear if that’s an advantage or disadvantage, as the Hawks were well-rested as well as sloppy and sluggish on Friday night.  If the Hawks play a tight and responsibly game, they will have a shot to win.  Responsibility is the key.

Go Hawks!