After an absolutely horrendous start to the season on a nine-game road trip, and the past month or so hovering around the .500 mark, the New York Rangers are finally starting to look like a solid hockey team.
At the moment, they are 23-20-3, three games above .500 and fourth in the Metropolitan division, one point behind the Washington Capitals for third place and also one point behind the Philadelphia Flyers for second place (the Rangers face the Flyers tomorrow at The Garden.) I guess you can say things are pretty tight in the Metro right now.
The play of the New York Islanders also cannot be ignored. They are winners of three in a row and are quickly ascending up the standings in terms of points and wins.
But the main focus right now has to be the New York Rangers. This week has been very good for them. On Monday, after going down 3-1 to the Columbus Blue Jackets, they fought back to tie the game at 3 and bring it to OT and steal a point from their division foes. On Wednesday, coming in as extreme underdogs, they managed to defeat the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks in the United Center by a score of 3-2. If that doesn’t give you confidence, I don’t know what will. Then last night, they looked to carry over that momentum from Wednesday’s win and fight back on two different occasions to defeat the Dallas Stars 3-2. The Rangers are a completely different animal.
What is the reason for this change that we are seeing? This season, we have not seen this type of play from them, or the consistency at least. They now look like a team that is communicating with each other, and playing for each other. After dealing a seventh-round draft pick to the Los Angeles Kings in return for Dan Carcillo, some might say that he has sparked the team. He’s not a gifted sniper by any means, and he doesn’t add much offense, but his toughness and grit is something that teams adore. He plays physical and isn’t afraid to get into the dirty areas to make a play.
Another reason for this change is the play of Henrik Lundqvist. It’s obvious that Lundqvist hasn’t been the same goalie we are used to seeing, and his numbers reflect that. In 34 games played this season, the goaltender is 14-16-3 with a .908 save percentage and 2.73 GAA. Those are numbers that we are not used to seeing for the Vezina winner. But for the past week or two, we have seen a tremendous boost in his play. It seems that his is finally playing with confidence, and when you have that as a goaltender, anything is possible. If it wasn’t for Henrik, the Rangers probably wouldn’t have beaten the Blackhawks on Wednesday. Sure, he gave up a weak goal to Brandon Bollig, but in the third period, he stood strong and made multiple saves to shut down Chicago’s superstars and steal two points for his team, which is something we have seen him do so many times in the past.
We can go on all day about why this Rangers team is playing so well right now.
But let’s just enjoy this time and take it all in as New York looks to further the gap and continue their rise up the Eastern Conference ladder.