On a semi-personal note, I visited the transformed Madison Square Garden last night for the first time this season and let me just say it is one of the nicest venues I have ever been in. The entrance marquee is a sight, the concourse is revamped and the scoreboard is magnificent. A huge thank you to all the people who worked on this over the summer because they truly did an outstanding job.
Now to the important stuff. Throughout the past three games, it seems as if the New York Rangers finally have a pulse. After playing their first nine games on the road and going 3-6 in the process really deflated this team, but the shift back to the East Coast has seriously worked wonders. They dominated the New York Islanders on Tuesday night, they did the same with the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday and they dispatched of the Carolina Hurricanes last night at MSG.
The past two games have seen the Rangers generate 84 shots on goal, a remarkable number. What can be the reason for the Rangers’ recent success? One of those answers could be the return of Carl Hagelin, but the logical answer is the play of the Kreider-Stepan-Zuccarello line. They have been the players that have been the fuel to the fire for this team. Every time they step on the ice, they are dangerous. They have had sustained offensive zone pressure, they have worked the puck well down low and that line generated three of the Rangers’ five goals last night against Carolina.
However, the next three games will truly be the measuring stick to see where this team is at. Tomorrow night they have the Anaheim Ducks at home, then the Pittsburgh Penguins come to town on Wednesday, then they fly out to Columbus to play the Blue Jackets on Thursday. Let’s not forget earlier this season, where the Ducks destroyed the Rangers in a 6-0 rout, and the Penguins have had the Blueshirts’ number for a while it seems like and not to mention they are one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference at the moment.
Let’s not overlook the Jackets as well, because they have former New Yorker’s Marian Gaborik, Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov, three players who would love to defeat their former team.
Overall, the Rangers have gotten back to basics this past week. They got back to their forecheck, Henrik Lundqvist is playing like his former self and they seem to have adapted to Alain Vigneault’s system, which is a pleasant sight.
If the Blueshirts can keep this good play rolling into this week, they will have good results out of their upcoming games.