Blackhawks tough it out during first two games of East Coast trip
In the famous Frank Sinatra song, "New York, New York," he sings "If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere."
The song was released in 1977, but today, residents of the Big Apple use this line as an indirect and pompous way to say that New Yorkers are tougher and grittier and more driven than the rest of the country.
And obviously, with New York having had that haughty reputation since its inception, it only makes sense that Chicago is nicknamed the Second City, which came after New Yorker sports writer A.J. Liebling donned it as such in his book about his distaste for the Midwestern city.
Well, after the Blackhawks' weekend trip to the Center of the Universe, one might think that this perception of New York being the toughest doesn't hold up too well because the Second City's hockey team put New York's through the wringer.
The Blackhawks had lost eight straight games heading into their matchup with the Rangers on Saturday night, and after that stretch of consecutive wrongs, something was bound to go right. Luke Richardson said before the trip that they needed a couple of lucky bounces, "and then we keep them out of the other end and get a win, kind of like an ugly win. Sometimes that propels you."
Chicago won 5-2 Saturday night, and it certainly wasn't the prettiest of games.
Reese Johnson tipped in the first goal of the night, keeping the team's fourth line alive, after it scored several points against Edmonton on Wednesday.
It was the bounce the team needed.
Jake McCabe slapped one from the point, and Johnson poked it out the air, deflecting it past Jaroslav Halak's glove.
The Blackhawks never trailed the rest of the night, but that wasn't enough. They had something to prove.
With just under three minutes left in the second period, Rangers' captain Jacob Trouba put a shoulder through Andreas Athanasiou, and Blackhawks' captain Jonathan Toews took exception. Toews locked up with Trouba, and Connor Murphy simultaneously engaged Barclay Goodrow in a fight as well. It was Trouba's second bout of the night, having dropped the gloves with Jujhar Khaira earlier in the second period.
Trouba and Goodrow ended on top of their respective sparring partners, and the Rangers ended up scoring a power-play goal after the dust had cleared, but it didn't matter. Patrick Kane, who tallied his 1200th point Saturday night, said, "We wanted to show we weren't going to cave in."
Max Domi scored 2 goals against the Rangers but said he thought the fights were the best part of the game, which is good for him because their trip to UBS Arena to face the Islanders on Sunday night started off pretty similarly.
In their first shifts of the game, Johnson challenged Casey Cizikas. Over a month ago, Cizikas was thrown out of the game against the Blackhawks and was later fined $5,000 after crashing into Alex Stalock in the first period. Stalock is still in concussion protocol, and it's clear that his team hasn't forgotten about him.
Unfortunately for the Blackhawks, that was about the only spark for the team on Sunday night. Arvid Soderblom started in net, as Petr Mrazek left Saturday's game after sustaining another groin injury. He faced 40 shots and allowed 3 goals on the way to a 3-0 loss to the Islanders.
"I think we were fresh, and we were determined [Saturday night]," Richardson said after the game. "I think we started the game off well, [but] these guys are a good team. They wear on you, and they frustrate you."
The Islanders scored all three goals in the second period.
Matt Martin, Zach Parise and Brock Nelson scored and veteran goaltender Semyon Varlamov saved all 21 shots he faced.
There were no other fights, and Richardson didn't get hit in the head with a puck, which happened on Saturday, causing him to leave the bench and get stitches for several minutes. It was just another strenuous battle in NYC.
And although the Blackhawks move across the Hudson River to Newark to face the Devils Tuesday night, the level of competition does not ease up. New Jersey has a league-leading 41 points with a 20-4-1 record. But perhaps their trip through the world's grittiest city can boost the Blackhawks' confidence ahead of that matchup.
Because while the Blackhawks went 1-1 in New York, they proved that they can, maybe just once in a while, hang tough with the toughest.