After a truly nightmare inducing start to the year the New York Rangers have significantly began to turn their season around after Halloween. A combination of factors including finally being able to play at Madison Square Garden, players finally coming back from injury, and the players finally being more comfortable in the new system have all figured into this turnaround. Of particular importance to the Rangers was getting forward Carl Hagelin back. Hagelin’s speed was badly missed to begin the year and he has been impressive in all areas of the game thus far. He has been dominate on the forecheck, very good at possessing the puck, and has even contributed a few goals himself. Ryan Callahan coming back from his finger injury earlier than many expected has also allowed the Rangers to role four more balanced lines which has led to noticeable offensive production that wasn’t happening to start the year. Lost in the shuffle somewhat is that the Rangers are also getting some pretty stellar performances in goal. Henrik Lundqvist has recovered from whatever injury he had last month and Cam Talbot has been very good as a backup. The Rangers actually went a nine game stretch where they gave up two of fewer goals a game.
Besides the injuries though one simple truth can be immediately noted when watching this team: they simply are playing better. Mats Zuccarello has vastly improved his game making notable contributions every night, which includes sticking up for himself and his teammates despite the obvious size disadvantage he has against most opponents. Brad Richards has played better after cooling off for a few games and is still miles above what he was like last year. Perhaps the most notable improved player has been Chris Kreider who is noticeable every shift. He has had some bad luck in getting on the score sheet but he his improvement in his physical and puck possession skills is what is setting him apart. And though he took a dumb and borderline dirty penalty at the end of the win against the Panthers, his willingness to be stick up for teammates is admirable. It’s no coincidence that Zuccarello, Richards, and Kreider all play on the same line together. Another player who has also noticeably stepped up is Ryan McDonagh. His offensive skills are better than anything Rangers fans have seen out of him thus far in his career and he still has been a dominate force defensively.
All is not perfect in Rangersland however. While they recently had two three game win streaks the wins didn’t exactly come against the best teams in the league. They should have found a way to win against the Devils Tuesday night but didn’t. While the offense is getting better, it’s still ranked 24th in the league. Rumors have popped up of the Rangers possibly trading for Oilers youngster Nail Yakopov who has fallen out of favor with the Oilers coaching staff. Michael Del Zotto continues to be inconsistent at both ends of the ice. However, some good news for the Rangers is that Rick Nash practiced with the team Wednesday for the first time in a month and though there is still not timetable, can’t be far away from getting back in the lineup. The Rangers have an interesting week ahead with games against Montreal, LA, Boston, and Dallas. Check back next week for updates.
About the Author
Written by Eric O'Connell
Eric O'Connell is Junior at St. John's University in Queens, New York but hails from Connecticut. He has been a life long fan of the New York Yankees, Pittsburgh Steelers, and New York Rangers. Other interests include hanging out with friends, listening to music, having a good time, and Coffee Oreo Ice Cream. Follow on Twitter @EOCONN36 (opinions are mine and not Pro Sports Blogging)