The Rangers blew out the Blackhawks on Sunday at the United Center.
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images
There was no question a new chapter would be written Sunday in the Blackhawks’ soap-opera drama with Rangers captain Jacob Trouba.
Trouba probably liked how the script turned out.
The hard-hitting, sometimes line-crossing defenseman blasted his second goal of the season past Arvid Soderblom in the second period, helping the Rangers run away for a 7-1 victory.
Perfectly for Trouba, Andreas Athanasiou — who had ripped Trouba as “an $8 million man with zero goals” after barely dodging injury from a signature Trouba high hit at Madison Square Garden earlier this month — was on the ice at the time. Trouba was seen yelling at Athanasiou, “Hey, do you want the puck?”
“If he wanted it, he can have it,” Trouba told reporters.
Athanasiou generated several chances to answer, but world-class Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin stopped him each time. The Hawks enjoyed some of the longest attacking shifts they’ve had in weeks, but they were shredded in transition as many of their usual double-pinching and defensive sorting issues reappeared.
As far as physical altercations, the game was considerably tamer than their last few meetings. Trouba played a clean game, even after Jake McCabe coldly bumped him after his goal. The worst hit was actually a late knock from behind by Sam Lafferty on Rangers forward Filip Chytil, who was injured and did not return.
The Hawks have lost 15 of their last 16 games and have been outscored 31-7 over the last seven.
“There’s this weight on our shoulders where when things go wrong, they go really wrong,” Jonathan Toews said. “It keeps snowballing in the wrong direction for us. We’re mentally having a difficult time recovering as a team.”
Kane, Toews hit 1K
Toews and Patrick Kane passed their individual 1,000-game milestones in previous seasons, but Sunday marked their 1,000th game together in Hawks sweaters.
Honored with a video montage at the first TV timeout, they shared a hug along the bench and received a standing ovation from the United Center crowd of 17,365.
During those 1,000 nights since their first game together Oct. 10, 2007, they’ve together factored into 298 goals: 116 scored by Toews and assisted by Kane, 110 scored by Kane and assisted by Toews and 72 on which they both assisted.
“[Jonathan] was a lot more serious in his first few years,” Kane said. “He still has that serious element to him, but I don’t think he takes himself as serious now. He’s able to laugh at himself a little bit.”
Added Toews, smiling: “There were moments where I was envious of his confidence, and I wasn’t sure where he got it from sometimes. But now he’s, believe it or not, just down to earth. He’s focused on the game and just very real and very humble with who he is. We’ve both probably matured in a lot of ways — and stayed immature in some ways, I’m sure.”
Toews recalled a funny story with old fan favorite and unique character Dustin Byfuglien that demonstrated the competitiveness embedded in his friendship with Kane.
“If we were quiet [and] we weren’t on each other on the bench, ‘Buff’ just knew how to stir the pot,” Toews said. “He’d usually say something like, ‘Kaner, why don’t you pass to Tazer there?’ He would get us going. Next thing you know, the two of us would be fighting, and Buff would just be chuckling and laughing.”