The Blackhawks beat the Rangers last night 2-1 in what was an exciting end-to-end contest. Let’s be honest, most of the low scoring victories the Hawks are involved in are snoozers just because of the way they play. This one wasn’t, in part because the Rangers have an offense that results in a lot of high quality chances but gives up just as many. Here’s what I observed while watching…
Not Sold on Darling
Sorry, you can’t convince me a guy is ready to step in and be a good NHL starting goaltender until he actually does it. All you had to do was look across the ice at Raanta to know that goalies can be really good as a backup. Yes, part of the reason Crawford is so good is because of the style of game the Hawks play and that translates to any goalie. However, you’re not going to convince me that Darling is ready to replace a two time Cup winning goalie because he strings together a few solid games and has a sweet red beard. He made some ridiculous saves last night, especially the ones on Vesey and Zuccarello. I’m not saying he can’t do it, but the people saying the solution to keeping Panarin is getting rid of Crawford should realize what a hot mess this team would be without a top goaltender. If you’re trading Crawford you better be damn sure Darling is the answer.
Jonathan Toews is Good at Faceoffs
We talked yesterday about how weird the Blackhawks look without Toews on the ice. Well, another important yet slightly overvalued part of his game takes place at the faceoff dot. Winning faceoffs is a little more important for a puck possession team, but it’s not the end-all-be-all of possession numbers. But when you’re hovering around 27% at the dot for the past few weeks, it’s nice to have your captain return and straighten those numbers out a bit. Toews was 62% in faceoff percentage last night.
Hawks’ Transition Hand is Still Strong
Arguably one of the strongest qualities of this team for years has been their ability to move the puck and transition quickly out of their own zone. We saw last night, against a team that is very good at throwing the puck into space and creating their own chances, that the Hawks can still do that. This is also a credit to how strong Darling was. Those transition chances don’t happen if Darling doesn’t make the save.