When the Blackhawks watched the final seconds of the clock tick away en route to their 3-2 loss to Nashville, Tuesday night, it was all but certain their nine-game losing streak would elongate to a nice round 10 by the time they left the ice Thursday night, in Manhattan.
The Rangers, fresh off a 3-0 dismantling of the defending Stanley Cup champions, welcomed the struggling 'Hawks into Madison Square Garden earlier tonight. Much like Chicago, the Rangers were amidst a streak of their own: a four-game winning streak. With the Rangers winning eight of their previous 10 games--the only hiccups occurred during a couple of controversial games against New Jersey--coupled with Chicago's horrific slump, Thursday's matchup had everything in the making for a massacre.
And then this happened...
Not only was this of great importance because it got the Blackhawks on the board early against a stingy Rangers team, but, it was critical because of the man who scored it: captain Jonathan Toews.
Prior to tonight's penalty-shot goal, you would have had to dig all the way back to Jan. 20 to find the last time Toews' name graced the score column. Which coincidentally came via a breakaway and was the opening goal in the first period of the Blackhawks' 3-1 victory over the Florida Panthers. Oh, that's also marks the date of the last time Chicago won a game. Strange how that happens, no?
The Blackhawks weren't done there, however.
Chicago added three more goals in the first 10 minutes of the game, exploiting a napping Rangers' defense and a Lundqvist-less New York net.
Not to slight backup Marty Biron, as three of Chicago's four goals were scored on a breakaway.
After the 10-minute outburst from the Blackhawks, it was a completely different game, however.
The Rangers out-scored (2-0) and out-played Chicago for the remaining 50 minutes of the game, but, it was the Rangers' power play struggles rearing its ugly head once again that allowed the Blackhawks to hang onto the victory.
The Blackhawks penalty kill was tested early and often, as they thwarted the Rangers at every stop, which included a four-minute power play during the first period. The Rangers failed to convert on eight opportunities, as the Blackhawks gave the Rangers a taste of their own medicine; flooding shooting lanes, being aggresive in the neutral zone and blocking shots.
Before the Chicago's skid from leading the Western Conference to sixth, Toews was on an incredible pace. In his previous three games leading up to the slump, Toews tallied four goals and six points, keeping him on pace with the rest of the League's scoring leaders.
If the Blackhawks are going to ride a possible winning streak back up the Western Conference standings, Toews along with the rest of its offense must remind everyone just why they are so dangerous.
During the nine-game stretch, the Blackhawks only scored 16 goals, averaging under two-goals per game. When normal, their offense is as deadly as anyone in the League, averaging just over three-goals per game, however, that's not their main concern.
Tagging along with their deadly offense, Chicago has a morbid goals-against problem. Only the Hurricanes, Senators, Blue Jackets and Lightning allow more goals per game than Chicago. A far cry from last year, when the Blackhawks rode then rookie, Corey Crawford, and his 2.30 GAA into the playoffs.
With Crawford in the midst of a sophomre slump shall you call it, and Ray Emery not providing much help in the backup role, the Blackhawks are poised to make a run at a veteran netminder between now and the trade deadline on Feb. 27.
With the emergence of the red-hot Ducks and lingering Coyotes, the Blackhawks better get their goals-against woes solidified soon. If not, it's going to be a stormy finish to an already cloudy forecast in the West for the Windy City.