The early-mid range of the season of November and December often make or break the playoff chances for many teams. The New York Rangers, riding an October slide, need to make headway.
The New York Rangers are one of the worst in the league, only earning eight points. November is such a critical month for teams in the NHL, it cannot be stressed enough that the Rangers must make a push to have a decisively winning month.
Where it hurts
The Rangers will need to be driven by captain and leading defenseman Ryan McDonagh. McDonagh has been somewhat of a liability defensively. The relatively lackluster play from McDonagh hurts the Rangers. A night where McDonagh is not playing well is a night they suffer in all three zones. A negative highlight of the past month was McDonagh’s egregious giveaway against Pittsburgh that was quickly followed by an overtime winner.
In addition, the defensive end of the game needs to improve for the Rangers. Despite a fairly well skilled group of five-time Norris candidate Kevin Shattenkirk, Brendan Smith and the aforementioned McDonagh. Coach Alain Vigneault, often misallocates defenders ice time, playing bottom pairings more than the top and second pairings.
The offense is there for some Rangers, such as J.T. Miller, Mika Zibanejad, and Shattenkirk, with 10,10 and nine points respectively. However, some high scoring players such as Pavel Buchnevich sit relegated to bottom-six minutes.
The Rangers kick off the month of November with a difficult tilt against the Lightning on the 2nd. The Lightning are powered by an offense comprising of league leading scorers Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov. Stamkos, leads the league in assists and points, while Kucherov leads the league in goals. The Lightning will provide a wake up call for the Rangers defense, as well as their special teams units, as the Rangers sit near the bottom at #24.
Also taking on the Rangers in November are key divisional rivals Columbus, once at home on November 6th, and once in Columbus on November 17th. Should the Rangers desire to make the playoffs, they need to win these games. Despite only having three in division matchups all November, for playoffs to be discussed, these are must win games. Also in-division are the Carolina Hurricanes, who sit only two points ahead of the Rangers in the Metropolitan.
In addition to the already mentioned games, the Rangers have four more in-conference games, against Florida, Boston, Ottawa, and Detroit. Outside of the Eastern Conference, the Rangers will take on Edmonton, Chicago and Vancouver.
The bottom line is that the Rangers need to win almost all of their in-conference and in-division games to get back on pace. This season really rests in the hands of November and December. The Rangers sit six points out of third place in the Metropolitan