The Rangers are in the Windy City this evening to take on the Blackhawks, as they look to continue their solid play and extend their winning streak to six games.
Henrik Lundqvist will make his seventh consecutive start and his 16th start in the Blueshirts’ first 19 games of the season. “The King’s” fine play of late is most likely a result of him being better and the team in front of him being better. Not either/or. He has been quicker and more efficient in his movement to get in the best possible position to defend.
There is no doubt the team defense best exemplified by the absence of extended chaotic chasing is a whole a ton better. Everyone seems to be on the same page and needless to say, that is good.
The Rangers’ power play success has been a significant factor in this recent run. They have gone 9-for-23 in their last seven games and are clicking at a 25.8% rate of efficiency. You have puck creativity from Mika Zibanejad and Mats Zuccarello, a legitimate one-time sniper in Pavel Buchnevich, the quarterbacking of Kevin Shattenkirk and Chris Kreider‘s big talented body in front of the net make the Blueshirts’ No. 1 unit the dangerous unit they are.
The Blackhawks, one of this generation’s dominant franchises, sport a very pedestrian 8-8-2 record and find themselves in sixth place in the Central division. They are paying the price for three Stanley Cups. When the top players, such as Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane command top-dollar contracts, the depth of a winning lineup gets severely compromised due to the salary cap.
After getting swept by Nashville in the opening round of last spring’s playoffs, important pieces were moved to shake things up and old familiar faces were brought back. Throw into the mix, a recent inability to score and you have a pedestrian record. As the saying goes, “all good things come to an end” and the really good thing may be ending in Chicago.
The United Center is an intimidating, loud place to play, and, from an opponent’s standpoint, best conquered by limiting the noise. A solid start will do wonders for keeping the building and the Blackhawks quiet.
Due mainly to special teams play, OT winners and empty-net goals, the Rangers have outscored their opponents 26-16 during their six-game unbeaten streak. They have been outscored 14-12 playing 5-on-5. It’s certainly not horrific, but it’s an area of the game that needs a little more attention paid to, especially since most of any game is played 5 versus 5.
3. Patrick Kane
One of the NHL’s most dangerous players, Kane has just one goal in his last eight games, that coming in his most recent game a 7-5 loss to the Devils. Which means he is in a slump or ready to break out of a slump. The Rangers have been good recently by limiting the opponent’s best players from being a significant factor. Enough said.