It all comes down to one game for the Blackhawks. A win at Madison Square Garden earns them a playoff bid as the second Wild Card team and a first round showdown with the St. Louis Blues. A loss, and it’ll be a third consecutive season watching the Stanley Cup Playoffs from home.
The Rangers come into this game having been eliminated from playoff contention, but with plenty to play for. This could very well be Henrik Lundqvist’s last start in a Ranger uniform and there’s no doubt he and his teammates will be motivated to send the legend out on a high note. In addition, you can bet Artemi Panarin would love nothing more than to play spoiler against his former club. Will the Blueshirts bring the Blackhawks down to earth, or will Chicago punch their return ticket to the postseason?
Blackhawks at Rangers (4/4)
Result: Blackhawks win 4-2
First Star: Kirby Dach (1 G, 1 A, 3 SOG)
Second Star: Alex Nylander (1 G, 1 A)
Third Star: Alex DeBrincat (1 G, 1 A)
The youth movement came into full form in Saturday’s win in Manhattan. While the Hawks young players stepped up vs. the Islanders, they doubled down on Saturday. All three Blackhawks goals were scored by players aged 22 and younger and the game’s first star was the 19-year-old Dach. Secondary scoring and role players are vital come playoff time, so the youth contributions for Chicago down the stretch bodes well for their chances in the playoffs.
4:48: Jesper Fast (R. Strome, T. DeAngelo) 1-0
9:35 PP: Alex DeBrincat (A. Boqvist, K. Dach) 1-1
5:30: PP Alex Nylander (D. Kubalik, B. Saad) 2-1
12:34: Phil Di Guiseppe (K. Kakko, F. Chytil) 2-2
9:37 PP: Kirby Dach (A. DeBrincat, D. Keith) 3-2
19:22 EN: Slater Koekkoek (A. Nylander, P. Kane) 4-2
Shots on Goal:
New York: 25
The Blackhawks picked up two points at MSG using a similar formula from their win in Brooklyn: special teams success and a sound defensive effort. For the second straight game, Chicago limited their opponent to under 30 shots on goal after allowing 35.1 shots on goal per game during the regular season.
Corey Crawford: 23/25 (.920 SV%)
Henrik Lundqvist: 24/27 (.889 SV%)
Corey Crawford stepping up in big situations is something Hawks fans have grown accustomed to over the past decade, and the win over New York was no different. Neither goal was really his fault. He was screened by his own teammate on the first and a defensive breakdown resulted in the second. The Blackhawks will need Crawford at his best to have any chance in the first round against the Blues.
New York: 0-1
After a pair of power play goals against the Islanders, the Hawks were even better against the Rangers, cashing in on three of four chances. The penalty kill stepped up as well, shutting down the Rangers in their lone power play chance. Both special teams units seem to be clicking at the right time for Jeremy Colliton’s crew.
Notable Blackhawks performances:
Adam Boqvist (Assist)
Duncan Keith (Assist)
Brandon Saad (Assist)
The pairing of Keith and Boqvist has led the way for the Blackhawks blue line in their defensive renaissance. Both factored in on the scoring in Saturday’s win, but they’ve been the top pairing for a unit that’s playing their best hockey of the season. Duncan Keith is showing flashes of his Norris Trophy-winning self from years past, and Boqvist is proving doubters of his defensive abilities wrong while also showing off his offensive skill. No doubt the 19-year-old Boqvist is benefitting from playing alongside a legend.
Noticeable absences from the score sheet the last two games are Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. Toews registered just one assist, while Kane got only two secondary assists on empty-net goals. The defense stepping up, power play clicking, and youth movement showing promise are important to a playoff run. That said, you can surely expect Kane and Toews to step up in the playoffs. If not, it will be hard to see the Hawks having much of a chance against the defending Stanley Cup champion Blues.