New York is preoccupied. While the Rangers have taken the ice to start a season with very real championship aspirations, the Mets and their World Series appearance has eclipsed the other seven professional teams in the big apple.
While those who are too busy with the fall classic will likely view the standings with glee, they should be wary of assumptions. On paper, things are looking up on Broadway, the blueshirts are first in the division and second in the conference with a more than respectable record of 6-2-2. Despite these encouraging numbers, there is more than meets the eye.
For starters, the Rangers have 28 goals in 10 games, yet another example how numbers are misleading in this young season. That 2.8 average is respectable at tenth in the league, though still not elite and still trailing their second in the league figure with goals against per game, but when you look game by game it shows a streaky nature. They have scored at least four in half of their games but lowered the average with three games of a goal or less.
The annual tradition of the Rangers offensive output failing to match the quality of defense and goaltending is in full swing and should be reason for concern. It has held this team back in recent memory.
The Rangers have finished top-five in goals against per game the past four seasons. At the same time they have landed below the league average in goals for per game two out four seasons and outside of the top-10 three out of four years with the exception being last season when Rick Nash had a career year. Even in that case things caught up with the Rangers when they finished third in goals against per game in the playoffs and seventh in goals for per game.
Double digit games into the season, the Rangers cannot sustain first place play at this rate. To assume that Antti Raanta is going to let up one goal every 120 minutes of hockey is delusional. Why they have struggled out of the gate is unclear but a possibility and a worry could be lack of motivation for the regular season after several straight deep playoff runs. If that is the case they need to look no further than the team that beat them in the finals a couple of years ago, the Kings, to see why that is dangerous.
If optimism prevails, Rangers fans can find solace in the fact that even playing poorly they can get 14 points in 10 games and be confident that any team with Henrik Lundqvist will all but assuredly make the playoffs. Furthermore, Alain Vigneault has been vocal about his problems with how the Rangers have played thus far meaning it is not going unnoticed. With the small sample size it is also not out of the question that the Rangers are simply finding their groove.
However, the eye test thus far has been discouraging and it is not unreasonable to worry that the same scoring problems are still prevalent. That paired with a dose of apathy could spell danger for a Rangers team that has to view anything short of a Stanley Cup failure for the time being.
My name is Jason Bisnoff and I am a native New Yorker and currently work for the International New York Times. I have been published in the New York Daily News, Albany Times-Union, Metroland, The Nabe, Florence Magazine, 219 Magazine and previously did hockey writing for Hockey This Week.