Chicago Blackhawks v New York Rangers

Rangers’ slump continues, Blackhawks stay hot with win

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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.

Streaky city

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.)

Rotten apples

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:

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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.)

Backes scores OT goal on his birthday, Blues even up series with Stars

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The St. Louis Blues won’t be thrilled with the way they played in the third period, but in the end, they did just enough to come away with a 4-3 overtime win over the Dallas Stars in Game 2. The Blues’ win means that the series will head to St. Louis tied 1-1.

The Stars opened the scoring in the first period, but the Blues responded by scoring three unanswered goals (Patrik Berglund, Joel Edmundson, Troy Brouwer) on five shots. Stars coach Lindy Ruff had seen enough from starter Kari Lehtonen at that point. He yanked Lehtonen in favor of Antti Niemi at the start of the second period.

Neither team was able to find the back of the net in the second period, but things got crazy in the third.

With his team still trailing 3-1, Mattias Janmark split Alex Pietrangelo and Colton Parayko before scoring a great goal.

Moments after Janmark’s goal, Brian Elliott took a Jason Spezza blast off the mask. Elliott was shaken up on the play (he even lost one of his contact lenses), but he did stay in the game.

Stars captain Jamie Benn (surprise, surprise) leveled the score by burying a goal by Brian Elliott with under three minutes in regulation.

Like they did during their first round series against Chicago, the Blues took some time to regroup before finding a way to get the job done.

The Blues’ power play went back to work after Antoine Roussel took his third penalty of the game. That’s when the birthday boy, David Backes, came through.

That’s a nice way to celebrate your 32nd birthday.

Game 3 goes Tuesday night in St. Louis.

 

Jamie Benn’s late goal sends Game 2 to overtime

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This definitely wasn’t the way the St. Louis Blues drew it up.

The Blues entered the third period of Game 2 with a 3-1 lead. Unfortunately for them, they weren’t able to shut the game down on the road.

St. Louis jumped ahead 3-1 after 20 minutes before Dallas decided to pull Kari Lehtonen in favor of Antti Niemi. The move didn’t provide any results in the middle frame, but something certainly sparked the Stars in the third period.

Mattias Janmark cut the deficit to 3-2 with this beauty (notice how he split Colton Parayko and Alex Pietrangelo).

With less than three minutes remaining in regulation, Stars captain Jamie Benn tied it up (top).

It’s safe to say this wasn’t a memorable third period for the Blues.

Video: Brian Elliott takes a blast off the mask, stays in the game

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A bit of a scary moment in the third period of Game 2 between the Stars and Blues.

Less than five minutes into the third period, Jason Spezza took a shot that caught Blues goalie Brian Elliott square in the mask. Play was halted as Elliott remained down. It appears as though the shot to the mask also made Elliott lose one of his contacts.

Thankfully, Elliott wasn’t seriously injured on the play. After being examined by the team doctor, he was allowed to stay into the game. He did need a new mask though (he got his original one back a few minutes later).

You can watch the play by clicking the video at the top of the page.

The Blues currently lead 3-2 late in the third period.

Here’s some Twitter reaction:

 

Lehtonen only lasts one period in Game 2

Lehtonen
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Kari Lehtonen might have been more hit than miss in the playoffs going into today’s action, but Game 2 against St. Louis was certainly a start he’d like to forget.

Dallas outshot St. Louis 10-5 in the first frame, but the Blues still managed to take a 3-1 lead. Antti Niemi replaced Lehtonen for the second period which means, barring another goalie change, Lehtonen will actually end up with a sub-.500 save percentage this afternoon.

The numbers obviously look bad and it’s hard not to blame Lehtonen in the face of that, but the Blues deserve a lot of the credit for those goals. Patrik Berglund had a great shot on goal for the first marker, Joel Edmundson‘s first career playoff goal came after a nice setup by Troy Brouwer, and when Brouwer collected his own goal it was off of a rebound during a power play.

So to an extent, you could say Lehtonen looked bad due to circumstances that were very unfavorable to him. Nevertheless, the Stars needed to shake things up after what was unquestionably a bad period for them.