I’ll admit it, at the beginning of the season when the New York Rangers were 2-6-0 heading into Detroit that I was on every “Fire ____” bandwagon there was. I wanted Alain Vigneault gone, I wanted John Tortorella back, I wanted Rick Nash gone (still do), I even wanted Henrik Lundqvist gone (still do, different reason). Worst of all, I saw zero end to the horror show they were in, and now the Rangers are sitting at 8-8, finally at the .500 mark and things have turned around. Of course the goal is to be well above .500, but this is the start to New York’s turn around, and there’s one main reason in particular that this has happened, Vigneault’s system is finally sinking in.
Offense: The Rangers have won six of their last eight games, out-scoring their opponents 20-10. Two of those games scoring 5 goals, one of those being against their division rival, the Pittsburgh Penguins. The power play has improved tremendously, currently 13th in the NHL. The first line of Mats Zuccarello, Derek Stepan and Chris Kreider has also played it’s part, counting for a significant amount of Rangers offense and total points in the last few games. Brad Richards has found himself again, and is currently leading the roster with 13 points. Even Carl Hagelin, who was never really their top point getter, has tallied seven points in his six games played. This is an offense that’s clicking together, working hard for one another AND note, it’s one that’s without Nash.
Defense: The boys on the blue line have finally begun to look like themselves again. Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi and Marc Staal have all gone back to holding off the league’s best players. One thing to note, and this is probably because of Vigneault’s new system, we see the defense get more involved offensively. Never have I seen John Moore or Michael Del Zotto join the play so much, but now they are. McDonagh is currently third on the roster in points with nine.
Goaltending: “Save made by Lundqvist” ah, what a familiar phrase, almost like music to Ranger fans ears, and finally we’ve begun to hear it again. Lundqvist is back in full form, posting a 2.42 GAA and a .919 save percentage, stopping 320 of 346 shots. However, there’s a new tune being hummed in net, and while we miss Martin Biron, we embrace the arrival of Cam Talbot, who in four games has posted a 1.97 GAA and .933 save percentage, stopping 119 of 127 shots. Could the new kid on the block give Vigneault the “20 starts” he’s looking for? Absolutely, Talbot looks calm in the net, always focused and with the Olympics being this year Lundqvist is going to need a sturdy backup.
The Rangers have turned around every aspect of their game and not a moment too late, only 3 games out of first place in the division, with or without Nash (but preferably with, I guess) this season promises to be a great one.