Ken Hitchcock sounds like he’d rather go skydiving with a boa constrictor wrapped around his neck than face the Blackhawks with Patrick Kane playing center. However, that’s exactly what Hitch will experience tonight in St. Louis. (Kane at center, not skydiving with a snake.)
“It’s the worst nightmare for all of us; it’s not good,” the new Blues head coach said today, as reported by the Chicago Tribune. “A player who’s that’s strong and that competitive and that patient with the puck, we’ve all kind of dreaded that day when he was going to move into the middle of the ice. It’s not fun.”
Kane (15 points in 14 games) has been playing the middle with Marian Hossa on one wing and either Patrick Sharp or Dan Carcillo on the other.
While Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville has no reason to be unhappy with the Kane-Hossa combo, he’s shaking almost everything else up after Sunday’s 6-2 loss to the Canucks. Tonight’s game in St. Louis will feature new forward trios and defense pairings, the most notable change being Michael Frolik moving up to the top line to play with Jonathan Toews and Sharp.
The Blackhawks also hope to improve their surprisingly bad power play, currently ranked 28th with a 9.4-percent success rate. For starters, Quenneville wants to see more traffic in front of the net with the man advantage, just like the good old days when the ‘Hawks still had Dustin Byfuglien and Troy Brouwer.
“A couple guys that made our power play successful are guys who just stood in front of the net and everything else evolves around that,” Quenneville said, as reported by the Daily Herald. “Otherwise you’re looking for the perfect play, and perfect plays just aren’t going to exist. If you have traffic and our thought process is pucks, off of that a lot of things can happen.”
Raanta rewards Rangers for starts over Lundqvist by blanking Blackhawks
If someone told you that the New York Rangers started a goalie on back-to-back nights, and that goalie wasn’t Henrik Lundqvist, you’d probably wonder if he was hurt or retired.
Nope. It just so happens that Antti Raanta is playing at an incredibly high level, Alain Vigneault noticed, and that decision paid dividends on Friday night. Raanta won both nights of a back-to-back, allowing a single goal (with the Rangers protecting him, being that he only needed to stop 43 of 44 shots during that span).
Raanta and the Rangers blanked the Chicago Blackhawks with a 1-0 overtime win, at least briefly climbing to first place in the massively competitive Metro Division:
1. Rangers – 39 points in 29 games played
2. Penguins- 37 points in 27 GP
3. Blue Jackets – 36 points in 25 GP
4. Capitals – 35 points in 26 GP
5. Flyers – 35 points in 29 GP
Nick Holden ended up scoring the only goal of the game:
Meanwhile, the Blackhawks lost but at least salvaged a standings point and it seems like Patrick Kane is OK after this injury scare:
Raanta improved to 7-1-0 on the season, allowing two goals or less in all but one of his appearances so far this season. That’s the kind of work you’d expect to see if you’re going sit a guy who’s, you know, a living legend.
Blue Jackets remain in thick of things in Metro on tough night for Red Wings
As the Columbus Blue Jackets keep rolling, the Detroit Red Wings are probably just happy to get Friday behind them.
For the second straight game, the Blue Jackets beat their opponent 4-1.
They’re now on a five-game winning streak, and like the climbing St. Louis Blues, things look great if you go back a little further. They’re 10-1-2 in their last 13 games and 13-2-3 since November began.
The New Jersey Devils have been incredibly difficult to beat at home. Lately, the St. Louis Blues have been on a roll just about anywhere.
On Friday night, the Blues were the hotter team, handing the Devils their first home loss in regulation in 2016-17. And it wasn’t particularly close, with St. Louis winning 4-1.
It’s a convenient time to note that the Blues rank among the hottest teams in the NHL. Most recently, they’re 5-1-1 in their last seven games, but they’ve been especially impressive since they flirted with .500 at 7-6-3. Beginning with a 4-1 win against the Buffalo Sabres on Nov. 15, the Blues are on a 8-2-1 tear.
This leaves them second in the Central with a 16-8-4 record.
That’s impressive stuff.
This 4-1 win was quite the showcase for Robby Fabbri and Vladimir Tarasenko, in particular. Tarasenko collected three assists while Fabbri scored two goals on Friday night. His second goal was particularly slick:
The Blues are right in saying that this was a pretty fitting opportunity to drop a “Holy Jumpin.”
Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk has been the most difficult goalies to score against this season. Leave it to a high-level player like Leon Draisaitl to make it look this, well, “easy.”
Draisaitl scored his 13th goal of 2016-17 by capping this pretty give-and-go play with Benoit Pouliot. You can see the frustration from Dubnyk at the end of the tally, as if he was saying “How was I supposed to stop that?” (though probably with more colorful language).
Draisaitl came into Friday with five goals and three assists in his last five games, so he’s been almost unstoppable lately.