The New York Rangers are arguably playing their best hockey of the season. They have gotten 11 out of a possible 16 points in their last eight games. But tonight is a real test for the Rangers. They are heading out west to face the best team in hockey, the Chicago Blackhawks. In order for the Rangers to win this game they have to play a perfect game.
Against high-powered offensive teams the Rangers used to turn to Henrik Lundqvist to bail them out. With Lundqvist struggling mightily this year, the Rangers have to play much better in front of him. The defensive zone coverage has to be superb when going against a team that has superstars like Patrick Kane and Jonathon Toews.
The best way for the Rangers to play defense is to play in the Blackhawks’ zone. Recently, the Rangers have done a masterful job of getting their forecheck going. They have generated back-to-back games with over 40 shots and this is one of the main ways to beat the Blackhawks. Keep the puck off of the sticks of their superstars.
One of the other ways to beat the Blackhawks is to stay out of the penalty box. The Blackhawks’ power play is deadly. Even though the Rangers penalty kill is very good, they are missing one of their best in Derek Dorsett. They have to play disciplined in order to win.
The Rangers’ defenseman have to play very cautious tonight. They can’t be caught pinching at bad times and if they do they have to get the man or the puck. That is really just about Michael Del Zotto, but all of the other defenseman need to be careful with that. Giving up odd man rushes to a high-scoring team is a recipe for disaster.
This game is a big test for the Rangers. They are officially over the halfway mark of the season and have to see how they matchup with the league’s elite power play.