The Chicago Blackhawks will host the New York Rangers in an NHL regular season match-up.
The Chicago Blackhawks have faced significant challenges this season, losing eight of their last ten games prior to the All-Star break and sitting at the bottom of the league with a mere 30 points. The team has been plagued by inconsistency in their offence, especially following the loss of their leader, Connor Bedard due to injury. A series of five defeats in which opponents outscored them 14:3 accentuates their attacking issues. The upcoming five-game home stand provides the Blackhawks an opportunity to improve their records, given that the majority of their forthcoming matches will be on home ice.
Nonetheless, their team statistics are found wanting; they rank towards the bottom in goals scored, shots per game, and shot conversion percentage, whilst also boasting the league's poorest success rate during power-plays. Goaltending has also been a concern, despite the efforts of Petr Mrazek, who has been one of the team's few bright spots. The Blackhawks have struggled defensively, conceding an average of 3.52 goals per game, making them one of the league's most vulnerable squads.
The New York Rangers showcased outstanding performances in their first two games of the second half of the season, keeping a clean sheet against formidable opponents, including the Colorado Avalanche and Tampa Bay Lightning, thanks to the resilient goaltending of Jonathan Quick. He was able to deflect 49 out of 51 shots, affirming his status as a reliable backup, despite coach Peter Laviolette's assertions that Igor Shesterkin remains the team's primary goalie. Quick has made substantial contributions to the Rangers' three consecutive victories, helping the team to maintain consistency in their performance.
Nevertheless, the Rangers face a challenge in the form of the Chicago Blackhawks, a team finding themselves in a difficult situation this season. The Rangers, touted as one of the top scoring outfits, meets a team experiencing a dearth in defence. With the current form and stats of both teams, the Rangers seem to be favourites in the forthcoming clash. Russian player Panarin has amassed 31 goals and 36 assists in 51 matches, confidently ranking among the NHL's top 5 bombers. Igor Shesterkin has played a whopping 32 matches with an 89.88% save percentage and 2.86 goals against average.
The New York Rangers have shown dominance over the Chicago Blackhawks, coming off victorious in 6 out of the last 7 meetings between the teams. In their most recent match on the 4th of January, the Rangers convincingly won with a scoreline of 4:1, owing to a standout performance from Vincent Trocheck, who made three assists. Artemi Panarin of the Rangers and Colin Blackwell of Chicago scored against their former teams, adding an element of drama to the match.
Continuing their downward spiral, the Blackhawks' likely return of Bedard seems unlikely to trigger a change, especially against the Rangers who have impressive records in their personal meetings and three consecutive victories this season. I expect the Rangers to take an easy victory on the road along with a minimum 1-2 points from Panarin.