NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign tonight with a doubleheader. The first game of that series will see the New York Rangers host the Chicago Blackhawks, starting at 8:00 p.m. ET. The Kings and Ducks square off at 10:30 in the nightcap. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the games and pre-show online.
The Chicago Blackhawks have only lost once this month and it was to the New York Rangers. Goaltenders Corey Crawford and Cam Talbot were perfect through 60 minutes when these two squads met for the first time this season on March 8 and it took a Derick Brassard marker 32 seconds into overtime to end the contest in the Rangers’ favor.
“It’s two good teams going at it, fighting for big points right now,” Talbot said at the time, per NHL.com. “They’re trying to climb spots in their division, same as we are, so it’s going to be a battle going down the stretch against teams like that. Every point is huge right now, so it was great we came out with the extra one tonight.”
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A week and a half later, that statement is still largely true. With 90 points in 69 contests, Chicago has the third seed in the Central Division, but is still within striking distance of the Nashville Predators (94 points in 72 contests) and St. Louis Blues (95 points in 70 games). Securing home-ice advantage for as deep into the playoffs as possible could be big given how many dangerous teams there are in the West this season. Beyond that, the simple act of going into the playoffs with momentum on their side could end up being the difference for the Blackhawks.
The main difference is the Rangers are no longer chasing their division rivals. They’ve won five straight to improve to 44-17-7 while the Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins have slumped, giving the Rangers a significant edge in the Metropolitan Division race. At this point, the bigger question for the Rangers is whether or not they’ll win the Presidents’ Trophy. That battle couldn’t be tighter right now as the Rangers are tied with the Blues, Anaheim Ducks, and Montreal Canadiens in terms of points. The Nashville Predators (94 points in 72 games) and Tampa Bay Lightning (93 points in 71 contests) are still in the running too.
The Rangers success has been made even more impressive by the fact that they’ve been missing former Vezina Trophy winner Henrik Lundqvist since Feb. 2. Chicago has preserved through similar hardship due to the loss of Patrick Kane.
This is the last time these two teams are scheduled to face each other, although given the strength of their respective rosters and past playoff success, this might end up being a Stanley Cup preview.