Expectations for this New York Rangers team could not have been much higher coming into the 2013 season. With how close the team came to a berth in the Stanley Cup Finals last season, and the acquisition of perennial 30+ goal scorer Rick Nash, many insiders were ranking this squad high among the favorites to contend for the Cup. So it is of no great surprise that Rangers fans had resumed their pessimistic posture as the team got off to a relatively, and unexpectedly, poor start.
But some of the negativity pervading the Blueshirt faithful must surely now be subsiding as the team assumes some of the form that was expected from them at the season’s beginning. The Rangers have now picked up points in five straight contests, four of which have been victories, while the other being a disappointing loss to the Islanders via shootout after having blown a two-goal lead. The Rangers have averaged just under four goals per game (3.8) during this current points streak, and though the sample size is small, the stat is a promising one.
The Rangers finished last season first in the Eastern Conference with 109 points, while averaging a mere 2.7 goals per game, and failing to score more than two goals in over one-third (32) of their regular season competitions.
The Rangers came out of MSG Sunday night with a 2-1 victory over the Washington Capitals in what was, arguably, one of the team’s most complete, all-around performances of the young season. Lundqvist was near-perfect, making 28 saves after allowing an early goal off the stick of Capitals’ defenseman John Carlson just over a minute into the game. The Rangers’ netminder had gotten off to an uncharacteristically mediocre start to the season, but has, as of late, begun to look more like the super-human backstop that fans have become accustomed to over the years.
If the Rangers can continue to build on their improved offensive production—while getting back to their stingy defensive ways of last year—fans should like this team’s chances of winning every night that Lundqvist is in the net.
As of late there have been many promising signs surrounding the team. This includes their abysmal power play, which has begun to show some signs of life over the past couple of games and, to many fans’ surprise, has occasionally looked threatening. This includes a power play goal in each of the last two games, and the latest of which was a beautiful, criss-cross passing play with the team cycling low for the goal.
It’s far too early to begin being content with the man-advantage, which still ranks last in the NHL with an 11.3% success rate, but the coaching staff has obviously addressed the issue and has the team trying a very different approach from what fans saw in the first ten-odd games. The team has also begun to show improvement in other areas, from secondary scoring with Hagelin on a tear, the penalty kill, all the way down to goaltending and the improved play of reigning Vezina winner Henrik Lundqvist.
The team is seemingly beginning to get back some of that “swagger” coach Tortorella loves to speak of. They’ve been better on the forecheck, which has been a major aspect of the team’s identity when playing well; they seem to be generating more chances—last night having been their best performance in that category with an unprecedented 40 shots on net; they are banging bodies, led by the fourth line and resurgent play of Brian Boyle; they are getting a strong net-front presence and are winning battles all over the ice.
Of course there’s a lot of work still to do, and it should be expected that general manager Glen Sather is going to make some moves before too long, but this Rangers team suddenly seems to have found their identity. The guys who are supposed to be getting points are, and the role guys are playing their intended parts well. While Rick Nash hasn’t exactly been lighting the lamp as much as most would like, he has arguably been the Rangers’ most effective and productive forward, leading the team with 12 points and creating chances on nearly every shift. Brad Richards has been the recipient of many fans’ ire despite having near identical numbers as Nash, and it seems somewhat lost upon the masses that he is tied for second on the team in points with 11, and shares the Rangers’ lead in assists (9). Gaborik has continued to be the Rangers’ leading man when it comes to scoring goals, but Carl Hagelin has not-so-quietly caught up and, with his six goals, now sits only one back of the team leader.
The Rangers will come into Madison Square Garden Tuesday night looking to extend their point streak to six games against a surging, industrious Montreal Canadiens team. With the shortened season, and exclusively inter-conference play, points are at a premium. Look for the Rangers to continue improving their play and consistency as this season moves forward. I, for one, am feeling slightly optimistic—which, as a Rangers fan, always feels a little dangerous…and out of place.
As always: LET’S GO RANGERS!!! (CLAP CLAP CLAP-CLAP-CLAP!!!)
Filed Under: Rangers
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.