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The Chicago Blackhawks looked to get out of their recent funk, with just two wins in their last two games, by welcoming “Original 6” rivals, the New York Rangers, to the United Center. The Rangers won the first meeting on Jan. 4 in the Big Apple. Colin Blackwell scored the lone Blackhawks’ goal in a 4-1 loss, the last time Connor Bedard played a complete game. Much like the first outing, the Rangers were able to convert their chances, while the Blackhawks couldn’t in a 3-1 New York victory.
Alex Vlasic got an eventful first period off to a quick start. He got to a loose puck about the right circle and blasted it past Igor Shesterkin for his second goal of the season. The lead didn’t last long as Alexis Lafreniere was left wide open as the Blackhawks were caught puck-watching, and he deposited a one-timer into the net.
Just over a minute later, the Rangers took the lead on a sequence that was the perfect synopsis of the Blackhawks season. Boris Katchouk lost a skateblade by blocking a shot. The team tried to make a line change while he was being pushed to the bench by Isaak Phillips. This led to a 3-on-1 rush, with Chris Kreider tapping in his easiest goal of the season.
The Rangers doubled their lead midway through the second period when Johnny Brodzinski was the first to a rebound and chipped it home for his fourth goal of the season.
Nick Foligno brought life back into a packed house late in the third period by scoring off the rebound from a Philipp Kurashev shot.
It was his 11th goal of the season and second in as many games. The late-period magic wasn’t over, as Jason Dickinson redirected a Seth Jones shot past Shesterkin to tie the game with 1:02 left in regulation. He now leads the team with 16 goals.
In overtime, Mika Zibanejed took advantage of an odd-man rush to bury the game-winning goal and send the Blue Shirts back to the East Coast with the extra point.
Jay: The Play to Summarize the Blackhawks’ Season
If there’s ever been a play that sums up the Blackhawks season so far, it’s this one.
During the first period, Boris Katchouk, who played his ass off again by the way, blocked a shot with his skate. The impact of the shot dislodged his skate blade from his skate. When that happens, a player can’t skate at all. Isaak Phillips had to literally push Katchouk toward the Hawks’ bench so he could get off the ice. As a result, Phillips was caught out of position, and the Rangers scored.
It would be funny if it weren’t so sad.
Speaking of that, has anyone noticed how often players are losing skate blades this season? It happened to the Hawks twice on Friday night alone. First, it was Katchouk, then it was Ryan Donato. While it’s very convenient for players to change their blades quickly, this new technology seems to hurt more than it helps. Can you imagine if Duncan Keith had lost a skate blade in overtime of a playoff game and couldn’t get off the ice, leading to a goal? That sort of thing could change history, let alone a game.
Perhaps the newest technology isn’t always the best.
Greg: Artemi Panarin Continues to Haunt His Former Team
Blackhawks fans are no strangers to how great a player Artemi Panarin is. He spent his first two NHL seasons in Chicago, scoring 61 goals and 151 points and winning the Calder Trophy in 2016. He has been fantastic since leaving the Windy City, but he is putting up Hart Trophy-worthy numbers this season. Through 51 games, he has 31 goals and 67 points. His next goal will tie his career-high set in his first season with the Rangers. He is on pace to break his career high of 96 points set in the 2021-22 season.
“He’s always been a very good player – an elite player in the game, “Rangers head coach Peter Laviolette said this morning. “He and his line have been excellent all season. They are a dangerous line. They see each other well. They feed off each other well. I think his shot is very good. He’s a playmaker. He finds time and space as good as anyone in the league. So, when you put everything I just said together, you have a guy that’s dangerous.”
Blackhawks’ bench boss Luke Richardson knew that his team would need to pay special attention to No. 10, or tonight’s game could get out of hand early.
“He’s a smart player,” said Ricardson. “He’s in the right position all the time. He creates a lot, not just for himself but for the guys around him, too. We’re going to pay attention to him, for sure, tonight. He’s a little bit elusive too. As good as he is, and everybody knows it, he’s somehow sneaky and gets open or behind somebody. So, we need to be on our toes every time he’s out there. We’ve got to make sure we’re playing him tight. Just like any other good player, if we give him space, he’s going to make things happen.”
In 11 career games against his former team, Panarin has eight goals and 19 points, and at least one point in each of the last seven contests. He extended the point streak to eight games with the secondary assist on New York’s first goal. He finished his night with two shots on goal on six shot attempts.
Panarin’s line, with Lafreniere and Vincent Trocheck, played keep away with the puck during the first period. They could do whatever they wanted in the offensive zone with little resistance. The Blackhawks’ defense played the line tighter over the final 40 minutes and limited their chances. In 8:11 of 5v5 ice time, Panarin’s line had eight shot attempts for with six against. Not nearly as bad as it could have been.
Mario: Finally Some Goal Support for Petr Mrazek
There had to be a sigh of relief from Petr Mrazek tonight, even for a brief moment, when Jason Dickinson’s game-tying goal hit the back of the net. The Blackhawks are one of the worst teams, nay the worst team in the NHL when it comes to scoring goals this season. They are on a current pace to score the fewest goals by any Blackhawks team in franchise history that has played a full 82-game season. Petr Mrazek, who has had a tremendous bounce-back season this year, has not been seen the kind of goal-support his play deserves.
Coming into tonight’s game, Mrazek had lost his last four-straight starts and seven of his last nine starts for Chicago. In all but one of those past nine games, he allowed two goals or less and one game he allowed three goals, he won. Over those nine games, Mrazek has posted a .926 save-percentage and his season save-percentage checks in at .910 prior to tonight’s game, ranking him higher than other goaltenders like Alexander Georgiev, Igor Shesterkin, Jake Oettinger, and Andrei Vasilevskiy.
He was owed a couple of goals in support tonight and the Blackhawks did what they could to help him out. They forced overtime and Mrazek gave his team a chance in the extra frame, coming up with a huge save on a rush against Alexis Lafrenière to keep the game tied for the moment. Unfortunately, as I was writing a tweet about how that might have been the save of the game, the Rangers found the game-winner on an odd-man rush a few seconds after that save was made.
As much as we as fans are feeling the frustrations of this team being inept offensively, I’m sure Mrazek is feeling like he needs a few more bones thrown his way this season for how well he has been playing.
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