What was that, the New York Rangers are down and out? Not so fast. The Rangers enter the United Center in Chicago red-hot. They’re on a six-game winning streak and doing it in dominant fashion. Henrik Lundqvist may have one last push in him after all. The window is closing on him to win a Stanley Cup. He’s 35 years old and isn’t getting any younger, but parity reins in the NHL, and Hank might have something left in the tank to carry his team.
Lundqvist has been playing much better hockey of late, and the team as a whole has been helping him out. Maybe it’s the new mask? The Rangers have gone undefeated since Henrik went with a new design. Note that the Rangers started the season winning just one of eight games. Things were going so bad, that a crowd in Toronto mocked Lundqvist for making an easy save in a 8-5 loss.
The Rangers were allowing an average of around 4 goals per game during that stretch. And that 8-5 loss to the Maple Leafs was their best offensive effort, as they scored just 2.5 goals per game in their first eight games. Judging a team over the first two weeks of the season, or even the first two months is a foolish thing to do. The Oilers looked at their best last night, dispatching the Golden Knights by a score of 8-2.
I said the offence would finally explode, and explode it did. That could be a jump starter for what has otherwise been a lifeless Edmonton offence. The Oilers looked way out of Maxime Lagace’s league, and Vegas is really going to want Marc-Andre Fleury back soon. Lagace is not going to be able to hold the fort down for much longer. Malcom Subban is close to coming back, but I don’t trust Subban all too much, either.
Anyway, what I’m trying to get at is that reading early season success and failures is not the best idea. Everyone counted the Rangers out a couple of weeks ago, but here they are going into Chicago with plenty of momentum and six wins in a row. The Blackhawks are coming off a 7-5 loss to the New Jersey Devils. They’re a team who have flipped the switch on and off whenever they want.
In their last four games, the only thing they have to show for it is a 4-3 overtime win over the Hurricanes. The Hawks are 8-8-2 and haven’t instilled much faith in anyone. However, it’s early though, and it wouldn’t shock anyone either if they catch fire eventually. Corey Crawford is coming off not only his worst start of the year, but one of the worst of his career. Let’s get to our free Rangers vs. Blackhawks pick below.
N.Y. Rangers vs. Chicago Blackhawks Pick
The last time Corey Crawford allowed 5 goals was back in 2011 against the Vancouver Canucks. Crawford has been carrying the Blackhawks this season, so as it goes, the offence scores 5 goals but Crawford can’t stop a beachball. The Hawks went with seven defencemen for the first time on Sunday and it didn’t go so swimmingly for them. The experiment was clearly a failure.
Crawford will get thrown right back in the saddle on Wednesday night for this Original 6 matchup at the United Center. That abysmal start skewed his numbers negatively, but he still holds a GAA of 2.21 and 0.932 save percentage. He was around 0.95 before allowing 6 goals to the Devils. Crawford holds a 2.37 GAA and 0.921 save percentage vs the Rangers in his career.
Brandon Saad leads the Blackhawks with 7 goals, but just 1 goal in the last seven games. We’re still waiting for Jonathan Toews to get going. Toews has just 4 goals and 7 assists, but like Aaron Rodgers likes to say, relax. I’d be surprised if he doesn’t get into a groove before long. Usually we’d think an extended layoff is a good thing. The Rangers haven’t played since Saturday, where they defeated the Oilers, 4-2.
If you’re on a good run, three nights off is not what you want to see as a coach. It might be nice for players to have some time to unwind, but it can derail momentum that was previously generated. A break is great when nothing is going a team’s way and they must regroup. Crawford should be in for a bounce back performance tonight at home in Chicago. This looks like a good spot for the Rangers to have their winning streak snapped. The Blackhawks flip the switch to the ON position on Wednesday night.
PICK: BLACKHAWKS (-130)