Chicago Blackhawks, New York Rangers rolling on the backs of their backups

ByJoe McDonald ESPN logo
Wednesday, December 14, 2016

What do you need to know about last night's big stories? Joe McDonald gives us his take on the biggest and best. This is where we say, "Morning, Joe."

Boffo backups: The marquee matchup of the night didn't disappoint. When the final buzzer sounded Tuesday night, the Chicago Blackhawks beat the New York Rangers 2-1 at Madison Square Garden. The game featured a goaltending duel between a pair of backups thrust into the starting role for different reasons. The Blackhawks' Scott Darling made his six straight start since Corey Crawford (appendectomy) had been sidelined. The Rangers' Antti Raanta has held the hot hand and thus been the team's go-to guy of late, starting four consecutive games in place of a healthy Henrik Lundqvist. This is a perfect example of why successful teams need a strong goaltending tandem, especially with this season's compressed schedule. Having a solid and reliable backup ensures the No. 1 gets proper rest and doesn't get overly taxed before the Stanley Cup playoffs. A team can't rely on one goalie for the majority of the season because it always comes back to haunt that team in the form of injuries or fatigue. There's no reason for a goalie to play upward of 70 games during the arduous NHL season. Darling and Raanta are proving their worth, which will pay off in the long run for their respective teams.

Tortorella's still got it: After Team USA went 0-3 during the World Cup of Hockey under John Tortorella, many wondered whether the Stanley Cup-winning coach had lost his ability to motivate. There was even speculation that he could be the first coach fired if his team, the Columbus Blue Jackets, struggled to start the season. Well, Tortorella is proving he's still a knowledgeable and successful coach as the Blue Jackets extended their winning streak to seven games with a 3-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday. Columbus is 12-1-2 in its past 15 games. The offseason acquisition of free-agent forward Sam Gagner(12 goals, 9 assists, plus-9) has been a major addition. It also helps that Cam Atkinson is playing some of his best hockey lately, posting three goals and four assists for seven points in his last four games. Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky has won six straight games and is leading the league with 17 wins.

Carolina comeback: In one of the best comebacks of the season, the Carolina Hurricanes trailed 5-2 after two periods before scoring six goals in the third en route to an 8-6 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday. What's more impressive is Carolina scored three goals in a span of 1:42. This team has the ability to earn a postseason berth, and a victory like this should give the Hurricanes confidence. They have a roster loaded with talent, especially defensively, so don't be surprised if they continue to climb the standings into a wild-card berth. They are nine points out of a playoff spot, so they have a steep climb, but their comeback win could be a turning point.

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