It may only be a small sample size with which to evaluate, but it’s already a big boost to see the Rangers getting it done at home this season. At 6-1-1, the Blueshirts have reeled off six straight home wins since suffering regulation and overtime losses at the hands of Toronto and Ottawa respectively.
Contrast this seasons start with last seasons 5-5-1 or the 2009/10 6-5-0 and it’s pretty clear to see that the Rangers are setting the right example at the Garden this year. For any team that aims to not only make the playoffs but go far in them, a solid home record is vital and the Rangers’, generally, hasn’t been good enough over the past few seasons.
Of course we are only talking about eight games here, but the Blueshirts have put up some of their best performances on home ice after a long (long) road-trip through Europe and Western Canada to start the season.
Another big thing so far is the goals for and against columns, which make for impressive reading after a slow start at the beginning of the recent home-stand. The Rangers have scored 21 goals while giving up just the 15. Sure it’s not a huge gap, but it’s reasonably reassuring when you remember that eight of those 15 came in the first two games against the Leafs and Senators when the Rangers may still have been a little leg-weary from their excursions out West. That’s seven in six games since for those keeping score.
Of course, Henrik Lundqvist plays a huge part when it comes to preventing goals, but the Rangers defensive game was almost flawless against the Flyers yesterday and they’ve put in a few performances of similar quality at home already this season – San Jose, Anaheim and Winnipeg.
You need to defend your own house to be successful in this league, to make it a tough place to play for opposing teams. Too often the Rangers have rolled over and laid an egg on home ice in recent years. Again, it’s a small sample size and the Rangers have started well in previous seasons only to trip up further down the line, but we’ve rarely seen a stinker at the Garden so far this year.
This Rangers team loves a good dogfight, hence why teams like the Flyers and Penguins bring the best out of them. They need to keep that mentality in mind when other teams roll up to play, keep that intensity flowing and not play down to teams they realistically should be beating at home. That’s when the problems begin.
But they are setting the right example and have gotten off on the right foot so far this season. Maintaining that level of play at the Garden is the next task.