As the start of the New York Rangers season inches closer, there are a few things the fans might want to consider first before getting excited about October. While we anticipate the start of the season, we may want to consider that the first month of play has the potential to be a pretty bad month in Ranger land. However, before everyone gets all doom and gloom let me explain why we exactly we should be dreadful.
There are two main reasons we should be fearful of the opening month, one of them is that the recovery periods of captain Ryan Callahan and speedster Carl Hagelin go straight through October, and are expected to go to the very end. Callahan had 31 points last season, and although that wasn’t the highest point total for the team, it was one of the better point totals. However, regardless of points, he is the team’s captain, and it’s emotional leader on and off the ice. Going an entire month without your captain is not something that a team can do and expect a lot of success from. Also, Callahan was 3rd of all forwards in the shots blocked department in the 2011-2012 regular season and led the NHL in shots blocked in the 2013 regular season, going without him is bound to put a heavy burden on the defense and most importantly, goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. On the other hand Hagelin had 24 points last season, not a big point total, a little more than half of how many points Derek Stepan had last season. However, Carl is one of the hardest workers on the Rangers, consistently working to make sure he’s got the puck, or is forechecking the player who does have it. At the same time, Hagelin is arguably one of the fastest skaters in the NHL and won the title of “fastest skater” at the 2012 NHL all-star skills competition. All this being said, going without these two players is going to seriously damper the Rangers productivity for the month of October and put a heavy strain on the defensive side of the team’s game.
The second thing that should be a concern for Ranger fans in the month of October is our schedule. Arguably one of the toughest opening schedules out of the entire league, in the second week alone the Rangers face the Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks, Anaheim Ducks, and St.Louis Blues on the road, all of those teams made the playoffs in 2013, 3 of 4 made the playoffs in 2012 and the Kings were Stanley Cup Champions in 2012.
Also on the schedule is the Detroi Red Wings, the perennial playoff contender, who drove the eventual 2013 Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks to the edge of elimination during the playoffs and improved greatly with the acquisition of former Ottawa Senators captain, Daniel Alfredsson. In addition to the teams mentioned, the Rangers also have to face the Phoenix Coyotes in their season opener on Oct.3, the Washington Capitals who are going to want revenge for yet again removing them from the playoffs, the New Jersey Devils who have pure hatred for the Rangers, the Philadelphia Flyers that have a new goaltender and a lot to prove, the Montreal Canadiens (home opener) who had a great regular season and then flopped in the playoffs, the New York Islanders who had a great bounce back year but need to be reminded that THIS is New York Hockey, and finally the Buffalo Sabres who are looking to get back into the playoff conversation and start off on the right foot in October, with 10 of the team’s 12 games on the road.
Combine all of these factors, plus the thought of missing two of our best forwards and our tough schedule, what you get is an October that might not turn out the way most Ranger fans would like it too.