Over the past week -- a four-game spell -- the New York Rangers allayed two concerns: the fact that they were earning points early in the season but playing underwhelming hockey and No. 2: that they'd continue their mediocre play on home ice. In fact, what the Blueshirts did in going a perfect 4-for-4 on home ice -- after losing one in regulation and one in a shootout the week prior -- was return to playoff-brand hockey and the style that made them so effective last season. For the first time all season, the Rangers' play matched the eight points they received during the week and showed a glimpse of just how good this team can be this year.
New York improved its record to 7-3-3 by generally hunkering down on defense -- especially without their No. 1 defenseman Marc Staal -- as they allowed six goals in the four games and receiving offensive contributions from across the board. Impressively, the Rangers scored 14 goals and had 11 different guys put the puck in the back of the net. These are two indicators that bode very well for their future.
From Monday Nov. 7 to Sunday, Nov. 13, the Rangers play just two games, one away and one home. The practice time should allow coach John Tortorella time to refine certain areas of their play, but also continue to work on their power play, which has looked improved, but not put enough goals in the net (just eight in 59 chances, 25th in the league). It also gives the coaching staff time to work with new defenseman Anton Stralman, who figures to get some time in place of the slower Jeff Woywitka.
At Ottawa Senators: Wednesday, Nov. 9, 7:30 p.m. EST, MSG+
The Rangers may have been taught a valuable lesson five games ago, on home ice, against the Ottawa Senators when they blew a three-goal, third-period lead: No lead is safe and all teams have the ability to come back. New York played two excellent periods against the Sens, but could do nothing to fend off the rally in the last frame. Since that game, Ottawa has one once: 1-2-1, though they still have a better-than-expected 7-7-1 record. The players you'd expect to lead the way are doing so: Jason Spezza leads with 15 points, Milan Michalek has meshed very well with him and has nine goals and five assists and fledging defenseman Erik Karlsson has 13 points, 12 assists. Ottawa has a top-three power play, but the 25th-ranked penalty kill. They're also a minus-10 goal differential on the year. Which is the real Senators? The one that lost five of six to begin the year, or the one that won six straight? New York would like it to be the former, enact revenge on an earlier loss, and hand Ottawa its fourth-straight defeat. The Blueshirts do that by bottling up the top line and continuing the good things they shown over the past week.
Carolina Panthers: Friday, Nov. 11, 7:00 p.m. EST, MSG
New York travels back home to play a team that many considered to be pretty reasonable lock to make the post season, but have been maddingly inconsistent to start the year. Three straight losses, three more wins, three losses, two more wins sandwiched between a loss and now defeats in two straight. What is Carolina's problem? Defense, to an extent, goaltending, and a missing star. Cam Ward has been adequate: 2.85 goals-against average, .912 save percentage, but Carolina is giving up the fifth-most shots per game in the league at 32. The 'Canes are also pretty reliant on their top-two forwards, Jeff Skinner and Eric Staal, however only the sophomore has showed up. Skinner has 14 points on the year, but the team's captain has been missing in action. He has five points and is a league-worst minus-16 on the season. Carolina will not go anywhere without closer to a point-per-game production from their power forward. New York was 2-2 against the 'Canes last year, but won its only two games in the shootout and overtime.
Next 5 Games
|@ Ottawa||Wed 11/09||7:30 PM EST|
|Carolina||Fri 11/11||7:00 PM EST|
|@ New York Islanders||Tue 11/15||7:00 PM EST|
|@ Montreal||Sat 11/19||7:00 PM EST|
|@ Florida||Wed 11/23||7:30 PM EST|
Last 5 Games
|Winnipeg||Sun 11/06||W 3 - 0|
|Montreal||Sat 11/05||W 5 - 3|
|Anaheim||Thu 11/03||SO - W 2 - 1|
|San Jose||Mon 10/31||W 5 - 2|
|Ottawa||Sat 10/29||SO - L 4 - 5|