Decisions, decisions ...

So, I’m in a quandary here.

On Friday night, I will be in Sec. 334 of the United Center to see the New York Rangers take on the Chicago Blackhawks. My hometown team versus my adopted hometown team. A Henrik Lundqvist T-shirt covered by a Blackhawks sweatshirt.

What to do?

Do I cheer for the Rangers, much as I have been doing since I was all of 6 years old? Or do I root for the Blackhawks, who couldn’t outdraw the AHL’s Wolves for several seasons and were all but forgotten in this city until tight-fisted owner William W. Wirtz did the honorable thing and died.

Decisions, decisions.

This also won’t be the first time I’ve seen this matchup since moving to the Windy City.

Less than three months after coming here in 2005, I had a date – no, really, I did – and went to the UC for the first time to watch a 2-1 overtime loss after Lundqvist couldn’t stop a bouncing shot by Tyler Arnason, also known as Chris Altruda’s whipping boy.

Believe me, she got me back good: I ended up at a Christmas concert later that month, and we stopped dating shortly after that.

Back then, Chicago’s roster was a wasteland. Todd Simpson. Jim Vandermeer. Andy Hilbert. Mikael Holmqvist. Now, the Blackhawks are once again a team to be reckoned with and provided there is not a complete collapse down the stretch, they’ll be headed to the playoffs for the first time since 2002.

The Rangers have been at or near the top of the Atlantic Division for most of the season, fueling thoughts of a possible Stanley Cup parade in the Canyon of Heroes. If that doesn’t happen, they can look at the third period of a game against Toronto on Nov. 1 as the chief reason.

New York entered that contest off to the best start in franchise’s history at 10-3-1, held a 2-0 lead with less than 8 minutes to play, and appeared well on its way to another win. The Maple Leafs, though, exploded for five goals in a 5:21 span against backup Steve Valiquette, sending the Rangers to a stunning defeat.

“I don’t know exactly why that happened,” Valiquette said. “It hasn’t soaked in yet … I’m really surprised.”

Collectively, it also appears the Rangers have yet to recover. Starting with that loss, New York is 15-14-3, and has been outscored 91-78. Nine of those victories have been courtesy of a trio of three-game winning streaks, and six wins were by shootouts.

Chicago’s turning point this season may have been right around Thanksgiving.

Playing three games in four days, the Blackhawks looked lifeless in consecutive losses to all three California teams. Returning home to face Anaheim on Dec. 3, Chicago went on a 10-0-1 run, highlighted by a franchise-best nine-game winning streak.

On a team that includes All-Star starters Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Brian Campbell, it was former Carolina castoff Andrew Ladd who led Chicago with nine assists and 12 points during the streak.

Ladd was acquired from the Hurricanes in February for Tuomo Ruutu in a swap of disappointing first-round draft picks. In 60 games with the ‘Hawks, Ladd - taken fourth overall in 2004 – has 48 points. Ruutu, selected with the ninth pick in 2001, has notched 47 points in three fewer games.

The Rangers defeated the Blackhawks 4-2 on Oct. 10 at Madison Square Garden behind a goal and two assists from Brandon Dubinsky. New York is 0-1-1 with a tie in its last three visits to Chicago, going 0-for-17 on the power play.


Angela said...

here's what happens (and I know from experience watching the Dodgers play the Rockies at Coors Field): see who you root without thinking, and go for them.

For example, I was watching the Dodgers and thought i was rooting for them, until someone on L.A. hit a long fly ball and i found myself cheering when Brad Hawpe caught it...

Angela said...

of course, don't tell my parents.