After a lopsided statement win on Monday night against the lowly Toronto Maple Leafs, the Chicago Blackhawks will be heading out East to face the New York Rangers in a classic Original Six matchup. The last time these two teams faced each other was when the Rangers came into the United Center and ruined banner night, so the ‘Hawks should be looking for some redemption in that respect.
In terms of standings, the Rangers sit in second place in the Metropolitan Division behind the Washington Capitals, who are running away with the division. The Rangers are coming off a 3-1 win over the Flyers on Sunday. In that tilt, Derick Brassard had a goal and Derek Stepan had two. Henrik Lundqvist stopped 21 out of 22 shots en route to victory, bringing them to 32-18-6 on the season. They also have won five of their last six games, in which the Rangers have outscored their opponents 19-11. Let’s get into this one.
In case you have not caught a lot of Eastern Conference hockey with the Rangers, the main thing to know about this team is that it is extremely balanced on the front end, with five players having 30-plus points through 56 games, and extremely deep on the back end. This team is so deep on the back end that its best defenseman in terms of points, Keith Yandle, is on the third pairing. That’s right. Their best defenseman is on the third pairing with 31 points on 27 assists. To make this defensive group even better for the Rags is that their captain, Ryan McDonagh, will likely be back in the lineup after being sidelined with a concussion for a couple weeks.
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On the front end of this team, there is not one player who is running away in terms of scoring on the team, like Patrick Kane for the Blackhawks. Instead, they have seven players with 10-plus goals on the season, with Mats Zuccarello and Derick Brassard leading the team, both at 19 goals this year. With all this together, the team is fifth in the league with 163 goals for this season, which amounts to 2.91 goals per game. So the off day that Corey Crawford got Monday night will definitely help with trying to stop this high-octane offense.
The Rangers play the type of hockey that is pretty much opposite of the Blackhawks’ strategy: they hit. They have five players with more than 100 hits, while the Blackhawks only have one player with over 100 hits on the season. So while the Rangers are not planning on outskating any players, they will go through other teams and wear them down until they light up the scoreboard.
In net, the Rangers have one of the best goalies on the face of the earth in Lundqvist. He sits 10th in the league in save percentage with .924, and is letting up about 2.29 goals per game. While these numbers do not scream Vezina Trophy winner, he is one of the elite goaltenders that can carry his team come playoff time.
As for the Blackhawks, they had some big news Tuesday in that they placed Rob Scuderi on waivers. Since no one has claimed him, he will go to Rockford and the ‘Hawks will have $3.9 million in cap space. Fingers crossed for a big trade to bring in a blueliner.
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The Blackhawks just had a statement win over the Maple Leafs. With offense from all over the team, they broke out of their three-game losing skid, in which they scored four goals in three games. This was exactly the effort and game the ‘Hawks needed. They scored four goals in the third, which really shows that this team played a full 60 minutes against a opponent that could have easily been overlooked.
One player who has been in a slump as of late is Teuvo Teravainen. Other than a goal on Monday night, in his last 10 games he has one goal, no assists and a plus/minus of minus-6. With Marian Hossa out for the next couple weeks “probably“, this type of play will not cut it for the ‘Hawks who need depth scoring. Earlier in the season, Teravainen was up on the top line for an extended period and did pretty well. In fact, his best hockey was when he played along side Hossa and Jonathan Toews. Now that he seems to have hit a rough patch, maybe putting him up on the top line to replace Hossa would be a viable option to get him back to producing. Hopefully this is just the mid-season slump — that the ‘Hawks seem to love — starting to take its toll on Teravainen. He is a much better talent than his numbers have shown as of late.
This will be the last meeting between these two teams, barring a Stanley Cup Final matchup. This is also the final game for the ‘Hawks before they head up to the self-proclaimed “State of Hockey” to participate in this year’s NHL Stadium Series game. Anyway, this game against the Rangers can be seen on NBCSN on television and WGN 720 on the radio. That’s all I have to get you set for this one, Go ‘Hawks!