Oct 3, 2014; New York, NY, USA; New York Rangers right wing Kevin Hayes (59) keeps the puck from Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson (4) during the second period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
During the post-Patrick Kane injury era, the Chicago Blackhawks have gone a very impressive 7-1-1. Meanwhile, the post-Henrik Lundqvist injury era New York Rangers have gone an absurd 15-2-3. These two resilient teams are finding ways to win when others would have crumbled, so does that make this matchup a potential Stanley Cup Finals preview? Quite certainly, but let’s not get too ahead of ourselves.
This will be the 2nd and final meeting of the 2014-2015 season between the Hawks and Rangers. The only other matchup between the Hawks and Rangers was just a little over a week ago, in Chicago, and the Rangers came away with a 1-0 overtime victory. Puck drop for tonight’s game is set for 7:00 PM Central Time. The 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 are improving and are overall a good in this area. Tonight, they will be up against an elite Rangers defense.
Defensively, the Hawks are an elite team and will be up against an elite New York offense.
On the Power Play, the Hawks have improved and are overall average on the season. Tonight, they will be up against a the Blue Shirts’ Penalty Kill that has been great this season.
For the Hawks, their Penalty Kill has been elite and they will be facing a sub-par Rangers Power Play.
In the faceoff circle, the Hawks have been great and tonight they will be taking draws against a Blue Shirts squad that has been one of the worst in the league in the dot.
In terms of puck-possession, the Hawks have overall been great and they will be fighting for the puck against a Rangers team that has been average at possessing the puck.
On paper, this one is roughly even. A slight advantage could be argued for either team. However, tonight’s game is in New York and the Rangers haven’t played since Sunday. The Hawks just played the New York Islanders last night in Chicago and had to travel to the Big Apple for tonight’s game. The slight edge would have to be with the Blue Shirts.
The Rangers are 44-17-4 with 95 points, which is good for the top spot in the Metropolitan Division and a tie in the race for the President’s Trophy. They hold a 5-point lead over the 2nd place New York Islanders, who have even played in 4 more games than the Rangers. Coming into tonight, the Rangers have won 5 in a row and have not lost in regulation since February 28th.
Rick Nash is having his first Rick Nash-like season for New York as he leads them in points. His 39 goals are 2nd best in the league and he should easily top his career-high of 41 goals that he put up in 2003-2004 season with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Derrick Brassard is having a career year as he has mostly played alongside Nash. However, with the injury to Martin St. Louis, the lines have been mixed up a bit. Brassard will be skating with Mats Zuccarello and the Hawks’ former 1st round draft pick, Kevin Hayes. The top defense pairing of Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi is one of the most effective shutdown pairings in the league and it also boasts a bit of offensive punch as well.
Starting in net for the Rangers will be Cam Talbot. Talbot has filled in fantastically for the injured Lundqvist with a .926 Save Percentage in 29 games played. Including the shutout from a little over a week ago, Talbot has 2 career starts against the Hawks and holds an outstanding .984 Save Percentage.
The Hawks are 42-21-6 with 90 points, which is good for 3rd place in the Central Division. They are currently 5 points behind the 1st place St. Louis Blues(who have played one more game than the Hawks) and 4 points behind the 2nd place Nashville Predators(who have played 3 more games than the Hawks). The race in the Central has tightened up and gotten very interesting here in the stretch run. The Hawks are very much in the race and hopefully they can at least get into 2nd place, which will give them home-ice advantage in the 1st round of the playoffs.
Last night, the reuniting of one of the old top lines paid off beautifully for Coach Q. Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa each recorded 2 goals and Patrick Sharp recorded 2 assists. Duncan Keith has a 3-game point streak going in which he has put up a goal and 2 assists. Brad Richards has 2 points in his last 3 games and maybe he’ll put up some more in front of his former home crowd. Since returning from injury, Johnny Oduya has returned to form. In 3 games since returning, he has played over 20 minutes each night, he has 1 assist and was a +3 last night.
Starting in net tonight for the Hawks will either be Corey Crawford or Scott Darling. Coach Q hinted that he could go with Crawford again tonight, but we’ll see. Crawford has been on fire and has an excellent .926 Save Percentage on the season. Darling has been great in his 9 games played and has a .930 Save Percentage.
This will be a tough one. A great opponent, on the road and the 2nd half of a back-to-back. It’s certainly not impossible for the Hawks, but it won’t be easy. A win would go a long ways.