Ten days ago, the Chicago Blackhawks and New York Rangers played to a 0-0 regulation score, with the only goal coming off the stick of Mats Zuccarello in the overtime period. Thursday night's tilt at Madison Square Garden featured no shortage of parallels to that game.
After their top line ran circles around the New York Islanders on Wednesday, the Hawks were unable to generate much offensively against a Rangers club that has been on a tear for the last couple of months. Yes, months. It wasn't that the Blackhawks looked like they were dragging after the effort, the pace was there. They just weren't able to get the opportunities, but neither was New York.
Early in the third period of the broadcast, Pierre McGuire said something rather intriguing, which was a nice deviation from the norm. He referred to the tilt as playoff hockey, a fitting description for what we saw out on the ice on Wednesday night. Neither team had a lot of room to move around, while shots were limited on both ends. This is the type of game we often see in a postseason setting, with many on social media discussing how great a Stanley Cup Final between the two clubs would be.
The two sides played to a scoreless couple of frames, as neither side was able to find their way past either of Scott Darling, getting the start in the second half of the back-to-back, or Cam Talbot. Chances were in short supply, as the Rangers held a slim 8-7 lead in shots after one, followed by seven a side in the second. Corsi came in at 29-28 in favor of the Hawks, just to give an indication of how close this one was.
The Rangers went almost the first five minutes of the third period without a shot, but nearly took the lead after a Dan Boyle shot hit the crossbar behind Darling. In the ensuing counter-attack, Brad Richards, left uncovered by said Boyle, was alone in the slot to flip the puck over Talbot for the first goal of the game. After a couple of strong chances earlier in the game, you could definitely tell Richards was on a mission to make his former team feel it on their home ice.
That third period saw the Blackhawks increase their offensive opportunities, as they launched more shots at Talbot than they had in the first two periods combined. The Rangers were able to get a late push thanks to a Niklas Hjalmarsson penalty in the last five minutes, but the Hawks were able to kill it off. With the net empty, the Hawks couldn't add to their edge, but escaped with the 1-0 win.
The outcome notwithstanding, this was a fun one to watch. The third period, in particular after the Blackhawks scored, saw an uptick in the intensity level and pace. Chances went each way, and it was an atmosphere that you could definitely appreciate. What a series this would make.
- Johnny Oduya fumbled the puck around several times in alarmingly Michal Rozsival-type fashion.
- Andrew Shaw is still not very good and still shouldn't be on the power play.
- Andrew Desjardins is really slow.
- At one point, Brandon Saad took a Rangers defenseman to task as he tried to slow him, and was able to complete a shot on the wraparound. He didn't score, but he'll get one of those soon.
- Hey, Scott Darling might be a guy as the backup. Solid effort from the LEMONT NATIVE
- Patrick Sharp's got some pace to him lately, eh? Created a few nice chances off of his quick feet alone.
Three Stars of the Game
3. Brandon Saad
Saad didn't record a point on the evening, but he was a force throughout. He had five shots and was third on the team in CF%. He brings so much speed and size to the equation that he has the potential to be the most dangerous player on the ice each time out. Man, he's going to cost a ton. But he's worth every penny.
2. Brad Richards
Against his former team, Richards was the lone goal scorer. Love that. He also led the Hawks in CF%, at 69 percent for the evening, leading the team in shots with six on the night. He was feeling it against his former team. Maybe he shows up at this pace every night?
1. Scott Darling
Really strong game for Darling. He lucked out a couple of times, as the Rangers had a goal waved off, with another hitting the crossbar. Nonetheless, he came up with a few enormous stops at the end, particularly on that late penalty kill. Solid performance for his first NHL shutout.
Randy Holt is a staff writer for Second City Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter @RandallPnkFloyd.