The New York Rangers season thus far has officially come full circle. Two weeks after their 5-2 home loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, a game yours truly attended, where Captain Jacob Trouba’s temper tantrum took place, the Blueshirts marched into the United Center and pummeled Chicago 7-1 on Sunday night to sweep the back-back set that also saw them defeat the Philadelphia Flyers 6-3 on Saturday, for their seventh consecutive victory.
Chicago entered the contest 1-14 in their last 15, with their lone win at MSG, while New York’s most recent loss could be attributed to that December 3rd contest. It was a game the Rangers had to have, particularly in a predominant fashion, to separate themselves from the cellar-dwelling Blackhawks physiologically.
They did so with a dazzling offensive display and razor-sharp goaltending from Igor Shesterkin, who stopped 29 of 30 shots to continue his hog play and remain undefeated at Chicago for his career.
The Rangers came out flat, which is typical for teams on the other end of back-backs.
Chicago pushed the pace early and controlled most of the first 10 minutes, but a fresh Shesterkin stood tall and dashed the Blackhawks’ hopes of an early crowd-pleasing goal.
Instead, it was the Blueshirts who struck first when Adam Fox took advantage of a Blackhawks turnover and found Alexis Lafreniere down low on the left side, and following a superb soccer kick, dished the puck to Filip Chytil who wasted no time putting it past Arvid Soderblom for the 1-0 lead. Twenty seconds after the Chytil tally, Ryan Lindgren took New York’s lone infraction of the night when he lifted the puck over the glass for a delay of game penalty.
Shesterkin then weathered a wave of pressure from Chicago, and after killing off the power play, his teammates rewarded him with two quick goals that set the rout in motion.
First, it was Adam Fox recording his second of three assists when he found Artemi Panarin, who buried it from between the circles before Lafreniere won a puck battle at the boards in his end, got the puck to Chytil, and fed Kappo Kakko on the rush to give the Rangers a commanding 3-0 lead headed into the first intermission.
The Blackhawks’ lone goal came 93 seconds into what turned out to be a hostile second period when Philipp Kurashev backhanded a pass toward the front of the net, which Trouba redirected through to get Chicago on the board.
Given the final score, the only damage this did was spoil Shesterkin’s shutout bid, but that wasn’t the reason for the dampened blowout victory.
In a play away from the puck, Sam Lafferty left his feet and drilled Chytil into the boards, knocking the center, who’s now day-to-day with an upper-body injury, out of the game.
Looking for a response following the smash on their fallen center, the Rangers looked to captain Trouba for an answer, and he delivered by hurting Chicago in the most crucial spot, the scoreboard.
His rifle past Soderblom not only stole momentum back for his team but also settled the score with Blackhawks forward Andreas Athanasiou.
If you recall, before he flung his helmet in the aforementioned loss to Chicago, Trouba leveled Athanasiou, who took offense to that after the game, saying, “He’s an $8 million man with 0 goals, so he has to figure out how to do something when making that much. If you can’t help the team, you try to hurt guys on the other team.”
After Sunday’s clapper, he’s got two in the past two games and used his moment to mock his rival, asking him, “You want the puck?”.
Taking their captain’s message to heart, the Blueshirts powered home another goal just before the end of the frame, as Fox registered his third assist of the contest, firing a puck on net that was tipped home by Vincent Trocheck to make it 5-1, and effectively put the match to bed following just two periods of play.
The third period represented opportunities for those Rangers who hadn’t found the back of the net yet this season to do so, and Vitali Kravtsov and Johnny Brozdinski capitalized, giving New York the touchdown and the extra point on the evening.
3 Kappo Kakko
Kakko led the surging “kid line” on Sunday with his second-period goal and an assist on the Brodzinski tally. After struggling in their first stint this season following a blistering playoff run, the trio has never been better since they’ve been put back together.
2 Artemi Panarin:
The Breadman stayed hot with a goal and two assists on the night and now has 15 points in his past ten games. His score also stood up as the game-winner, his 12th as a Ranger.
1 Adam Fox:
Fox has statistically been the most consistent Ranger this season and recorded the seventh multipoint game of his campaign, his third with three or more points.
The 24-year-old has 34 multi-assist games since 2019-20, the second most in the NHL over that span.
This season, he ranks fourth amongst defensemen with 34 points and is firmly in the conversion for his second Norris Trophy in three seasons.
Aside from the offensive sorcery he displayed on Sunday, Fox was strong on the forecheck, forced turnovers, and completed his defensive obligations by blocking a couple of shots.
He’s the total package and is a joy to watch out there. That April 2019 trade with the Carolina Hurricanes, when they gave us Fox after he declined to sign with them (After acquiring him from Calgary in June of 2018, where he was drafted and didn’t sign with them) for second and third-round picks, is looking better every day.