For starters, the Rangers lead the season series, having won the lone matchup between the two teams 3-2 on a Carl Hagelin game winning goal. Despite having a day off after today’s contest, there is also a sense that this game could be a trap game. The NHL certainly has created a hype machine for each Stadium Series contest, and the Blackhawks will also be battling through a possible Olympic hangover.
Six of the team’s ten Olympians ended up advancing to the gold medal game, and Captain Jonathan Toews will likely return to the ice during the team’s morning skate, having not practiced with the team since returning. First line defenseman Duncan Keith ranked second in ice time for Team Canada and played incredibly in the Olympics with a +6 rating, per NHL.com.
It’s certainly not worth assuming anything, as we’re talking about superstars here, but the Blackhawks rely on their top line to do so much. Recall, after the 2010 Olympics, Toews returned to the NHL and began a streak of three two-point games. However, if any chemistry issues or fatigue are affecting the Blackhawks, the repercussions are likely to spread from the top down.
Another thing the Blackhawks do have going is the injury of Rangers leading scorer Mats Zuccarello, who will miss three to four weeks. New York is consistent in their team defense, and ranks within the top ten in just about every major team category except scoring, where they rank 18th in the NHL with 2.56 goals per game. The fact that they rank third in the NHL with 32.9 shots per game indicates, at least on paper, that the quantity is greater than the quality. Without Zuccarello this problem is only exacerbated, and may give the Blackhawks an opportunity to return to NHL action with a rather big win.
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