The Rangers have won 12 of their last 13. Their power play has cashed in in eight of the last 10 games. Henrik Lundqvist and Cam Talbot have combined to create a dynamic duo between the pipes. And 13 different Rangers have contributed with points offensively over their last two games in Southern California against Anaheim and Los Angeles.
Bottom line? The Rangers are rolling right along, and as this latest Western swing is getting set to come to a close, their final contest in San Jose against the Sharks is significant in more ways than one.
As the Rangers get set to take on San Jose at the Shark Tank tonight, Dan Boyle readies for his return to the place he called home for six seasons between 2008 and 2014.
Boyle, who has become an integral piece of the Rangers’ power play puzzle as of late, posted some of his highest offensive point totals during his six year tenure in San Jose. While he never did win a Stanley Cup with the Sharks like he did with Tampa Bay, Boyle did go on a pair of runs to the Western Conference Finals while playing in California.
As Boyle told the media following New York’s 4-3 win over Los Angeles on Thursday, a win against the Sharks would be especially meaningful to him.
“Any time you’ve been somewhere for a long time, it’s a little extra special going back,” Boyle said. “(Saturday) means a lot to me, so hopefully we keep playing the way we are playing. A win would mean a lot personally and to our team, as well.”
Boyle has fit in nicely with the Rangers, particularly in recent days. After breaking his hand on opening night, the 38-year-old defenseman has now collected nine points in 22 games with New York, seven of which have come on the man-advantage.
Just as teammate Marty St. Louis did earlier this season in Tampa Bay, it is now his turn to return to face his former team for the first time since his departure over the summer.
For this Rangers team as a whole, it couldn’t come at a better time.
Strangers to California Success? Not Anymore
With wins in their first two games on this current road trip, first over the then league-leading Ducks on Wednesday by a 4-1 final, and then the following evening on Thursday, 4-3 over the defending Champion Kings, it became the first time since the 2008-09 season that the Rangers won twice in the state of California during the same season.
While success along the Western coast of the United States has been hard to come by in recent years for the Rangers, perhaps the most infamous of those road trips came just over a year ago. To open the 2013-14 season, New York headed west to face this same trio of teams, and as most Blueshirts fans would recall, things didn’t go all that well.
After beating the Kings in their second game of the season, the Rangers proceeded to fall 9-2 to San Jose, and then 6-0 to Anaheim in consecutive nights.
It was ugly. Very, very ugly.
Of course the Rangers turned things around pretty quickly, and went on to compete in the Stanley Cup Final, but not without some serious turbulence in the early going.
It should’ve come as no surprise to anyone then, that in the days leading up to this ongoing road trip that, despite how well things had been going for the Blueshirts, there were some who questioned how the Rangers would fare this time around visiting those same three arenas.
With their two latest wins over the Ducks and the Kings, and most Rangers fans already considering this a successful road trip, the time for questioning should be long behind us.
The Rangers have proven that not only can they play with the NHL’s best, they can do it where success has seemingly eluded them in seasons past.
Some also may have questioned the quality of competition of this latest string of success for the Rangers, as eight of the 11 teams the Rangers had played, prior to their matchups with the Ducks and Kings, were teams on the outside of the playoff picture looking in. They said that these upcoming games, against three teams in playoff position, would be the “true measuring stick” to gauge where the Rangers really stand.
Well, now the Rangers have an opportunity to go a perfect three-for-three on this Western swing as they pay the Sharks a visit in San Jose. Win or lose for the Blueshirts, though, they have already made quite a statement with convincing wins in both LA and Anaheim.
About to leave L.A…#NYR with 2 huge wins already on this trip, look for sweep Saturday in San Jose as Dan Boyle makes first return there
— Jim Cerny (@JimCerny) January 9, 2015
If this California success doesn’t serve as an appropriate measuring stick for all the remaining critics out there, nothing will.
Jake Gittler is now in his second season as a contributing member of The Hockey Writers. After spending the 2014-15 season working in Communications for Adirondack Flames of the AHL and covering the New York Rangers here for The Hockey Writers, Jake’s coverage has been switched over to the Colorado Avalanche for the 2015-16 season. Jake can be reached via email at Jakegittler@gmail.com, or on Twitter @Jgittler_hockey.