The Chicago Blackhawks actually received offensive contributions from multiple sources in Wednesday’s 5-2 victory over the New York Rangers, a welcome sight
Wednesday’s victory on the road over the New York Rangers was much needed for the Chicago Blackhawks. First, it made sure they took advantage of one of their games in hand on a majority of the Western Conference. And second, it got the Blackhawks back to .500 on the road.
Both of those points are important, though the second one is actually pretty interesting. The Rangers have played a ton at home already and have racked up 15 victories in Madison Square Garden, good for third in the league. So for the Blackhawks to come in and outlast New York — also a playoff team right now — is a good sign.
How the Blackhawks did this was also good to see. They used good puck movement and a willingness to get to the key areas on the ice in order to produce three 5-on-5 tallies. They also dominated the possession ledger before the Rangers had to chase most of the third period.
And it was a combination of different players who got the job done. Vinnie Hinostroza proved he needs to be in the lineup by doing something you may not have seen a lot of in his first NHL stint: getting to the net. Jonathan Toews flipped a nice blind backhander to the crease, and Hinostroza swatted it through Henrik Lundqvist.
Nick Schmaltz continued to show his potential, as he screamed down the center of the ice to challenge Lundqvist 1-on-1. With some help from Rangers defenseman Marc Staal, that bid gave the Blackhawks another lead.
And then Patrick Sharp briefly refound his scoring touch, roofing a nasty wrister over the shoulder of Lundqvist and just under the crossbar. Considering how much Sharp shoots the puck, it’s good to see one of those go in.
Give them a hand
This more so refers to the Blackhawks’ continued games in hand on most everyone, versus celebrating the team. After all, Chicago is still two points out of a playoff spot.
Good news on that front is the Blackhawks have a game in hand on Minnesota and two in hand on both Anaheim and Dallas — the three teams currently ahead of them for any wild-card spot. The bad news is the Ducks are tied with San Jose for third in the Pacific Division, and the Sharks have two games in hand on Chicago (they’re the new Wild).
Of course, it’s just the halfway point of the season, so there are a lot of games to play. However, teams that are in the playoffs around the holidays tend to stay there, more often than not. So the Blackhawks will need to take advantage of more of their games in hand and buck that trend.
It won’t exactly be easy in the immediate future, as the Vegas Golden Knights come to town. To give you an idea of how ridiculous this expansion franchise is right now, the Knights lead the Western Conference and have a game in hand on the Blackhawks.
Oh, they’re also 9-0-1 in their last 10 games. If there’s any saving grace for the Blackhawks, it’s that the Knights must play a rugged game in St. Louis tonight before traveling to Chicago. Also, Vegas is a good-but-not-amazing 10-7-1 on the road versus an insane 17-2-1 at home.
But while we can afford to look at the numbers, the Blackhawks can only look at one: those games in hand. And they can’t afford to blow them, even against one of the league’s current top teams.
Chicago Blackhawks morning links
Let’s see what the internet has in store today after the Blackhawks’ victory Wednesday.
— Full team wins are a good thing. The Athletic
— It’s all Glass, baby. Chicago Sun-Times
— Surviving the penalties. The Rink
— Who’s that goalie? The Athletic
— The best … around. NBC Sports Chicago
Check back in later today as the latest edition of Chicago Blackhawks Hot and Not hits the web, then come back Friday for more coverage ahead of the Vegas game.