As I said in last game's recap - if the Hawks were waiting for a truly dramatic and surprising way to break their losing streak... tonight's the night. I'm not really sure how or why it happened... but the Rangers are one of the best teams in the NHL this year. They haven't finished higher than third in the Atlantic since the lock out and have only had a few glimpses at the the second round but they are now near the top of the league in points (one behind Scum) despite having played the fewest games of anyone in the league. Though Detroit actually leads the league, they've also played 3 more games than the Blueshirts.
So what has pushed the Rangers to the top? The easy answer (and probably the correct one) is Henrik Lundqvist. King Henrik has always been one of the league's best netminders but hasn't been one that has had much real success. He's found another level this year though. He leads the league in Sv%, .941, and is second in GAA, 1.77. Only Brian Elliott is challenging his numbers but Henrik has played almost twice as many games this year. Making things even worse, Lundqvist is possibly playing his best stretch of hockey lately. In his last 10 games he's got 8 wins and a ridiculous 4 shutouts. And just in case you're wondering, yes, the Blackhawks are still looking for their first shutout of the year. Lundqvist isn't taking down easy opponents either - his last shutout came against the Bruins who don't lack firepower. However, the Hawks finally may have caught a break in facing their string of hot goaltenders, as Martin Biron is getting the nod tonight. Though that's been no picnic either, as Biron is boasting a 10-2-1 record with a 2.02 GAA, and a .919 save percentage when spelling the King.
It's not all goaltending that's brought the Rangers up to the top though. They've got 5 players with 30 points or more and 15 with at least 10. They're led by Marian Gaborik whose next point will be his 50th but it's probably captain Ryan Callahan that is the fan favorite. He was a fourth-round pick but showed a lot of scoring ability in the OHL and AHL. He's a smaller player 5'11 and 190 but he plays a much bigger man's game. We know that hits are a flawed stat but it's still impressive when you lead the team with 198 while also being second on the team in points. So the Rangers have a smaller sparkplug of a player who throws his body at any and everyone, blocks shots, and scores slightly under a point per game. He would be a goddamn hero in this town. The Rangers do have some slight flaws though - their power play is pretty tame, scoring only 14.8% of the time (worse than Chicago's!). Of course their PK is in the top 5 in the league... but then again, they've got Lundqvist.
In the middle of this stretch of suck, we didn't really have to go into full on panic because the Blackhawks had been sitting near the top of the league in points and could coast a bit and not lose much standing. They had such a lead on everyone that losing 5 in a row only dropped them a few spots and they still sat comfortably in a playoff spot. That's gone now though. The Hawks are now tied for 6th with LA and are only two points ahead of Phoenix. Scarier still, they're only three points ahead of 9th place Calgary. Both the Yotes and Flames are playing solid hockey right now with matching 6-2-2 records in their last 10 games. The Yotes also play the Kings tonight so it's possible that if things don't go well for the Hawks, they could be in a three-way tie for 6th. They'll still hold the six spot due to more wins in regulation though. But they are 100% out of time.
Somewhat surprising news from Q as he's going to start Crawford tonight despite a passable game from Razor last night. Your guess is as good as mine as to why. I'm writing this too soon to hear much about what lines the Blackhawks will be starting with but after a solid game last time out I would hope they stay the same. The Hawks aren't going to get any easy goals tonight so they're going to need to work even harder than they did in Nashville. As sad as it may be though, we can always hope for a letdown game from the Rangers.
Let's Go Hawks!