The Olympic furor is over. And whether you’re a player who was selected or one that wasn’t, the mantra is the same: the focus is back on the team you play for now, not the one you’ll play for in February.
The Chicago Blackhawks are no different. They’ve put Sochi and the Winter Olympics back on the back burner, turning their attention back to the Western Conference race and tonight’s opponent, the New York Rangers.
So while you still debate who should or shouldn’t be on Team USA or Team Canada, we look at the Five Things to watch for in tonight’s Rangers-Blackhawks game:
1. Keep their offense on ice. The Rangers have struggled to score goals this season, their goals 2.39-per-game ranking them 24th in the league. The Blackhawks have been solid on the defensive side of things, allowing just 2.6 goals per game. If the Blackhawks can jump ahead early, the Rangers may not have the firepower to come back on them.
2. Use your motivation. Corey Crawford was the right amount of dejected on Tuesday, when he was informed that he wouldn’t make Team Canada’s roster. It’s not the end of the world for the goaltender, but he nevertheless should have an extra fire in his stomach moving forward, starting tonight. We shall see.
3. Do morning skates translate into good jump in a game? That’s the question we’ll ask in the wake of the Rangers not having a morning skate prior to tonight’s game. It’s a bit interesting. Colorado didn’t have one entering their Dec. 27 game against the Blackhawks although that was understandable, given they couldn’t leave Denver until that morning per the new CBA rules. Do the Rangers get out of the gate slower tonight because they didn’t get the wheels going this morning?
4. Stay out of the box. The Blackhawks only went to the penalty box once in their shootout loss to the San Jose Sharks. They might want to aim for that number again. The Rangers’ power play is ranked eighth in the NHL (20.7 percent) but it’s even better on the road (fourth in the league at 25.0 percent). So just don’t give them the opportunities.
5. Who’s our pick to click this evening? We’ll go with Marian Hossa. The Blackhawks’ right wing has been racking points up lately as it is (21 points in his last 22 games) but he’s also done well against the Rangers. In 43 career games, Hossa has 47 points (19 goals, 28 assists).