If you’re gonna lose, why not do it in style?!?! That’s what the Rangers decided on in a 6-3 loss to the Blackhawks at United Center. So went the win streak which ended at six.
No. They didn’t party like it’s 1999. But there was a Arty Party. Yes. Old friend Artem Anisimov doomed his former team by scoring a hat trick to help the mediocre Hawks get back on the winning track. He scored all three the same way. By finishing in front of the net. He’s always been a good player. So, I’m not too upset.
One thing should be perfectly clear. You can’t win every game. The winning streak was nice because it got them back in the division. It was gonna end. The bottom line is they wasted opportunities with a waste of a four minute power play that really came back to haunt them.
Henrik Lundqvist was sensational during a whirlwind second period when Chicago picked it up dramatically. They created all sorts of chances by pinning the Rangers defense in for long stretches. That included some tough shifts for Marc Staal and Steven Kampfer along with the fourth line. Somehow, they didn’t give up a goal with Patrick Kane ringing a backhand off the crossbar and Lundqvist balling them out.
Honestly, the goaltending from Lundqvist and Corey Crawford was splendid for two periods. They both made gigantic saves. If Lundqvist doesn’t allow a late goal to emerging rookie Alex DeBrincat which eluded him, do the Rangers fall apart in the third? It definitely swung the momentum despite Lundqvist playing his best period this season.
Sometimes, that’s hockey. Your goalie is playing lights out and lets in a clunker and it changes the game. The way they defended that second, it was a ominous sign.
They really should’ve had more than a one goal lead by that point. The Blackhawks hideous defense couldn’t handle the forecheck of the KZB line. Pavel Buchnevich and Chris Kreider combined to set up Mika Zibanejad for the game’s first goal. A brilliant feed by Kreider for a sweet Zibanejad finish in front. He’s over a point-per-game so far and is proving himself as a number one center.
If there’s a weak spot, it’s the lack of center depth. After Kevin Hayes, who is developing into a shutdown second line pivot who has improved defensively, it gets really thin. David Desharnais is a nice player but is miscast as a third line center. Imagine if J.T. Miller and Jimmy Vesey had a real center. That would go a long way to strengthening a weakness.
Nothing against Desharnais, who works diligently and is crafty. But he should be on the fourth line. You can’t tell me he’s better than Boo Nieves, who is a great fit with Michael Grabner and Jesper Fast in line four. Maybe Alain Vigneault should consider shifting Miller back to center and moving up Grabner into the top nine to play with J.T. and Vesey. Desharnais could work with Nieves and Fast.
Until the organization either deems someone ready (Chytil, Lettieri) or swings a deal, center will remain a question mark. Fans will have to remain patient.
As for the D, it was a rough night. They self destructed in the third getting outscored 5-2. Lundqvist allowed three straight goals to Anisimov, John Hayden and Anisimov. There were total breakdowns from top defensemen who had performed better during the streak.
FRyan McDonagh gave away the puck leading to Anisimov’s first. He took a Kane feed and beat Lundqvist with Zibanejad and Buchnevich out of the picture. Kevin Shattenkirk had a bad shift afterwards which allowed Hayden to score 46 seconds later for a 3-1 lead.
Anisimov then made quick work of a Mats Zuccarello tripping minor by finishing in front 12 seconds in for a power play goal that made it four straight Chicago goals. It happened that quickly.
At that point, Vigneault gave Lundqvist the rest of the night off by inserting Ondrej Pavelec. Yes. He’s actually still part of the team. You wouldn’t know it with the King getting all these starts due to no back to backs. It was the right move.
The move sparked the Rangers. Hayes was able to beat Crawford from Zuccarello and Rick Nash a couple of minutes later. He deserved it. He was the best Ranger skater. A few minutes later, Nash was able to sneak a backhand through Crawford to suddenly make it 4-3 with over eight minutes left. It’s nice to see Nash finishing again. He’s up to seven goals.
The Rangers applied pressure on the fragile Hawks defense. They came close a couple of times but were unable to tie it.
It was a great Hawks counter started by Richard Panik that resulted in Anisimov’s hat trick. Nick Schmaltz made a perfect pass in front for a nice Anisimov deflection past Pavelec to make it 5-3 with 3:48 remaining. McDonagh got beat badly on the Arty Party as hats rained down. It was a stunning turn considering how well the captain had played.
Jonathan Toews added a empty netter to wrap it up.
There really isn’t a whole lot else to add. The Rangers were due for a stinker. It didn’t happen until the ugly third that saw Lundqvist get chased.
Even though they were outplayed in the second, they were far too reluctant to shoot the puck. The Hayes unit had a few great opportunities and didn’t get a shot on odd man rushes. They made one too many passes. The Hawks countered by simplifying their game and getting shots through. Eventually, they got to Lundqvist.
Sometimes, the Rangers are their own worst enemy. That was the case tonight.