NEW YORK -- It’s a couple of statistics any coach would love: 35 hits and 33 blocked shots. Unfortunately for the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday night, those were New York Rangers’ stats.
The way the Rangers played in their 3-2 win at Madison Square Garden didn’t surprise Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville.
“We talked about how they play,” Quenneville said after the game. “We know that they play hard, and want to press the pace, and they work and they are hard to play against. It’s something we wanted to do going into the game. I didn’t mind how we played, but certainly I didn’t like what we gave up.”
What the Hawks gave up were three goals, all originating in some form or another with a hard Rangers’ forecheck.
“We want to improve on coming out of our zone,” Jonathan Toews said. “We need to support each other a little bit better in our zone and we’ll get the pucks out easier.
“We did what he had to do to win, but we just didn’t bury our chances and small defensive mistakes really cost us.”
Toews isn’t wrong. The Hawks had better chances as the game went along, including a 14-shot third period. Some of that was due to being behind, but there were shifts where the Rangers were caught chasing the Hawks around in their own zone. New York’s saving grace? Those 33 blocks.
“It’s frustrating when you do that,” Toews said. “You play really well in the offensive zone and you don’t always get the bounces and luck you’re looking for.”
Quenneville doesn’t want to leave things up to lucky bounces.
“We had some shots tonight but I don’t think the quality was there,” he said. “They protected the house pretty well. Commend them on blocking shots for sure.”
The good news is, for the second consecutive game the Hawks played better on the defensive end despite some mistakes that led to the goals. Some things are coming together, at least according to the Hawks’ captain.
“We’re not going to be satisfied with the loss,” Toews said. “But we’re finally grasping the system. We’re playing the way we’re supposed to. It’s just about eliminating the mistakes.”
This was arguably the most physical game of the season and hopefully a hard forecheck won’t be the Blackhawks’ kryptonite going forward. The Rangers won the battle of grit, but the Hawks weren’t that far from winning the game.
As Toews said, they’re starting to grasp some things.
Campbell returns: Brian Campbell played 19:58 in his season debut. “I felt all right,” he said. “My timing was off a lot. My gap. Some of my reads. The knee felt good so that’s a step in the right direction.”
Keith blocked: Duncan Keith had four shots on net and two more assists, but had a whopping 12 other shots blocked. That means more than a third of all the Rangers blocked shots came from Keith’s stick. “I got them blocked so they did a good job,” Keith said.
Callahan dominates: Rangers forward Ryan Callahan had a night any fan could respect. To go along with his two assists, as part of the successful New York forecheck he registered five hits and six blocked shots. He was voted the game’s No. 2 star.
The quote: “The important shifts. That’s what we have to learn. Last minute of periods, first shift after goals. Can’t happen.” -- Quenneville, on the Rangers scoring with 0:21 left in the first period and 0:28 after the Hawks tied the game in the third.