Perhaps the lesson of the Chicago Blackhawks and New York Rangers’ diverging paths is that just about every good team faces its fair share of slumps and hot streaks, so it’s wrong to get too bent out of a shape if they’re still contending.
If you stopped paying attention, it would seem like the Rangers would be the ones who were carrying momentum into tonight’s clash in Chicago, but that wasn’t the case – and the pattern continued with the Hawks’ 4-3 win.
Chicago’s been remarkably streaky this season, but that’s been especially true since the New Year rolled around:
Jan. 2-8: 0-3-1
Jan. 10-20: 5-0-1
Jan. 21 – Feb. 14: 0-8-1
Feb. 16-21: 4-0-0
Feb. 23-26: 0-3-0
Feb. 29 – March 8: 4-1-0
Yup, it doesn’t get much more hot-and-cold as that. On the bright side, the Blackhawks are fairly comfortably placed as the sixth seed, which might honestly be the best draw they’re capable of. (See this article for a further explanation.)
New York hasn’t been anywhere near as inconsistent, but things have been declining to the point that the Pittsburgh Penguins are a serious threat to steal the Atlantic Division crown from them.
The Rangers first showed signs of slowdown by losing three out of four (1-2-1) after an impressive 8-1-1 streak, but they seemingly righted the ship with a three-game wining streak to start March on the right foot. That might not be the case after all, though, because New York is now 1-3-1 in a five game run versus playoff-level teams. (Only Tampa Bay is out of the playoff picture in that group.)
Here are highlights from the game:
Again, Chicago should probably be quite happy with where they are right now. Considering how far behind they’ll likely end up being the Blues and Red Wings, the Blackhawks’ ceiling is probably a fourth seed. With that in mind, would they be better off facing Nashville, St. Louis or Detroit in a battle of No. 4 and No. 5 or against whichever flawed team wins the Pacific?
Right now, the Blackhawks can look at the playoffs with plenty of positivity – which might just be in shorter supply in New York.
(Even Henrik Lundqvist is Tweeting sadly about things.)