Blackhawks-Rangers: The ‘Other Team’ Showed Up


The Blackhawks played well for 40 minutes of last night’s 6-3 win over the Rangers. But they’ve had good stretches this year—do you trust last night’s play?


After 20 minutes of last night’s game, just when you were ready to write off the season, send Nick Schmaltz to the minors, and start the rebuild, the “good” Hawks came out and tantalized yet again.

They’ve done this before—in the first 4-5 periods of the season, where they looked like the ’87 Oilers—and for a few games a couple of weeks ago. Then they slide right back into lackadaisical, mistake prone, Godawful hockey.

Some were calling last night’s game the big “turnaround” that the Hawks needed (and all the “experts” knew was coming).

Well, stick in the mud that I generally am, I’m not going there yet. But I am encouraged.

As I said over the summer, I was a fan of most of the moves Stan Bowman made in terms of altering the team’s cap situation, and adding speed and size to the lineup. But I also said the early part of the season, at minimum, would be rough. it has been.

Here’s what I’m liking:

Scoring balance

When the Hawks score, when, they are getting production fairly evenly across the top two lines. These lines have essentially coalesced as Brandon Saad-Jonathan Toews-Richard Panik (35 points) and Schmaltz-Artem Anisiov-Patrick Kane (39 points).

Granted, it’s been awhile since the Toews line has really lit up the scoresheet, but last night, they were all over the Rangers for long periods and generating a lot of chances.

Add in some recent production from Alex DeBrincat and you have  a team—when it’s taking care of business in its own end and getting up the ice with purpose and speed—that presents matchup problems for opposing teams, moreso than the last couple of Hawk teams, that relied too heavily on one line (Artemi Panarin-Anisimov-Kane) for offense.


A career high 49.5% on faceoffs, making things happen around the net and in front of goalies, and helping provide stability and structure up and down the ice. He’s gone from being the enigmatic and overpaid third line center to being the true second line center—pushing the truly enigmatic Schmaltz back out to wing.

Gustav Forsling

For whatever reason, the Rangers either chose not to or just couldn’t forecheck the Hawks as hard as some teams have—and I suspect some will. So until Forsling passes those tests in terms of his decision-making, I am waiting to join that parade.

Still, last night, his decisions and movement were purposeful, precise and effective—protecting the house and getting the puck up the ice quickly.

As the NBC Sports commentators said last night, and has been said here, the Hawks have a lot of new faces and young players. Absent player moves, likely from outside the organization, the answer then lies in getting more consistency in execution from the players they have. Last night, rolling essentially the same lines as the last few games, they started getting it.

All for now. Gate will post a more detailed recap of the game later this AM.


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