After spending the end of 2017 touring the western half of Canada, the Chicago Blackhawks open the 2018 season on the other side of the continent, heading to the Big Apple to face the New York Rangers.
Three games in western Canada, followed by a one-game trip to the east coast. NHL schedule makers failed geography, didn’t they?
Anyway, the Rangers are coming off of a victory over the Buffalo Sabres in Monday’s Winter Classic. That win has them just six points from the Metropolitan Division-leading Washington Capitals but only seven points from the basement-dwelling Philadelphia Flyers in another tightly-contested NHL divisional race. Playing at home is how the Rangers have beefed up their record, going 15-6-3 in games at Madison Square Garden this season. Overall, the Blueshirts rank seventh in both goals scored (3.10 per game) and goals allowed (2.69). New York has the fifth-best PK in the league at 84%, providing a tough test for the Blackhawks’ struggling power play.
In net, it’s the familiar face of Henrik Lundqvist in net, just a few months away from his 36th birthday while playing in his 13th NHL season. His season numbers of a 2.56 goals-against average and .922 save percentage aren’t far off from his career marks of 2.33 and .920, respectively. But having a goalie well into his 30s already play in 33 of a team’s 39 games seems like a bad idea, especially when Ondrej Pavelec’s numbers aren’t all that different (2.61, .924). And they’ve needed those goalies to play well, because the Rangers are ranked 30th in a 31-team league with just a 46.76% share of Corsi events each game. They do sit right behind the Blackhawks, though, with a 19th-ranked expected GF% of 49.76%.
For the Blackhawks, three points earned in his first two career starts was good enough for Jeff Glass to get a third straight nod. While expecting what is basically Chicago’s fourth-string goalie to play as well as Corey Crawford is a fool’s errand, Glass would benefit from improved rebound control and fewer instances of sliding erratically around his crease. In front of him, Jan Rutta and Michal Kempny appear headed for the press box, with Gustav Forsling and Cody Franson teaming up on the third D pairing. Changes hit the forward lines as well, with Vinnie Hinostroza jumping up to the top line with Brandon Saad and Jonathan Toews. With Toews and Saad each scoring in Chicago’s last outing, the hope is that a hellacious forecheck from the speedy Hinostroza can get the puck to Toews and Saad, who (fingers crossed) can continue their scoring ways.
It’s an Original Six battle, but it’s also two points that would help calm some nerves after the Blackhawks woke up to a spot in the Central Division basement. But with games in hand on all the teams ahead of them, that status can be changed quickly, starting with Wednesday night.
|F1||Brandon Saad - Jonathan Toews - Vinnie Hinostroza|
|F2||Ryan Hartman - Nick Schmaltz - Patrick Kane|
|F3||Patrick Sharp - David Kampf - Alex DeBrincat|
|F4||Lance Bouma - Tommy Wingels - John Hayden|
|D1||Duncan Keith - Jordan Oesterle|
|D2||Connor Murphy - Brent Seabrook|
|D3||Gustav Forsling - Cody Franson|
|F1||Jonathan Marchessault - William Karlsson - Reilly Smith|
|F2||David Perron - Erik Haula - James Neal|
|F3||Brendan Leipsic - Cody Eakin - Alex Tuch|
|F4||Tomas Nosek - Oscar Lindberg - Will Carrier|
|D1||Brayden McNabb - Nate Schmidt|
|D2||Shea Theodore - Deryk Engelland|
|D3||Jon Merrill - Colin Miller|
How to watch Blackhawks at Rangers
Start time: 7 p.m. CT
Location: Madison Square Garden, New York
Live Stream: NBC Sports Live