With another week of the NHL season in the books, Alain Vigneault has the blue shirts playing some great hockey lately. Winners of six of their last seven, the New York Rangers are within arm’s reach of second place in the Metropolitan Division and definitely within striking distance of first that is currently occupied by the Pittsburgh Penguins. I am sure not many thought that the Rangers would be in the position after the start they had but times they are a changing.
The week ahead will have its share of challenges as all weeks do, but the Rangers have a very good chance of keeping the streak going.
Tuesday November 12th vs New Jersey Devils (5-7-5, 15pts, 5th in Metropolitan)
After three consecutive games with at least a point, the New Jersey Devils have climbed back into respectability within the Metropolitan Division. After a decisive victory Sunday night at home against the Nashville Predators (8-7-2, 18pts),the Devils will take a slight road trip to Broadway on Tuesday night. This will be the second of five meetings between these two teams. One thing that is certain is the Devils will be facing a much improved version of the Rangers compared to the last time they met back in October, when the Devils shutout the Rangers 4-0.
It won’t be known until game time who will be between the pipes for the Devils, but if the last several games are any indication, it could be Cory Schneider as he and Martin Brodeur have been on a every other game type schedule. Brodeur is on a little hot streak of his own going 4-1-0 in his last five so it really is anyone’s guess at this time.
Leading the way in scoring for the Devils is the ageless wonder Jaromir Jagr with 11 points (4g-7a). It is truly amazing to see a player like Jagr at the age of 41 still playing at the level he is this far into his career. It remains to be seen if he still has the stamina to last a full 82-game schedule. Michael Ryder leads the Devils in goals with five. New Jersey is in the middle of the pack in the NHL on special Teams.
With momentum on their side the Rangers should be able to take this one over the Devils.
Saturday November 16th @ Montreal Canadiens (9-8-1, 19pts, 5th Atlantic)
What hockey fan doesn’t love an original six matchup? It doesn’t matter what time of the season it is, any time these teams hook up it is entertaining. The Montreal Canadiens come into this game having just snapped an aggravating four game losing streak with a win over the New York Islanders on Sunday. The Habs find themselves in fifth place in the Atlantic Division just five points behind the Tampa Bay Lightning for first. This will be the second of three meetings between the Canadiens and the Rangers. Last time out Henrik Lundqvist and company were blanked by the Habs 2-0 in New York.
Montreal is fifth in the league in goals against led by Carey Price (6-7-1, 2.22) and perennial backup goalie Peter Budaj (2-1-0, 1.34). Montreal’s special teams are just that. Special. The Canadiens have a power play percentage of 23.4 which is 3rd best in the NHL. That’s not it. Montreal’s penalty kill is 87.4% which is 4th best in the league. It isn’t going to be easy for the Rangers although their special teams play has vastly improved over the last several.
21-year old Brendan Gallagher is leading the team in goals with seven. Defensive stalwart P.K. Subban is leading the team in total points with sixteen. Consistency seems to be what is holding this team back from doing great things. The pieces are there. It is just a matter of getting everything together night in and night out.
The Rangers are going to have their handful with this team. Rangers are ranked 25th in the league in scoring. Anytime you have a low scoring offense against up against one of the league’s best goals against it could make for a long afternoon.
Sunday November 17th vs Los Angeles Kings (11-6-0, 22pts, 5th in Pacific)
Hard to believe a team that has 22 points in 17 games is in fifth in their division. The Western Conference is scary good so far this year so any game against one of the teams will be difficult. This is the final meeting between the Rangers and the Los Angeles Kings this season unless they meet in the finals. The Rangers shutout the Kings the first time these two teams met this season. The Kings are winners of 7 out of their last 10.
Team USA hopeful Jonathan Quick has been nothing other than extraordinary so far for the Kings. JQ is tied for first in the Western Conference in wins (10). It will be another daunting task for the Rangers as they face a top goaltender in back to back games.
Justin Williams is leading the team in goals (6) while Anze Kopitar is leading the team in points with 17 (4g – 13a) followed closely by Mike Richards with sixteen (5g – 11a). The Kings are good with the extra man but not so good when they are down one.
This is the first of two home games before a five-game road trip for the Rangers. It is going to be a fun to watch week of games for the blue shirts but a difficult one at that.
John Is a contributor with The Hockey Writers covering the Buffalo Sabres. He is also a Senior Writer and Editor at MetsMerizedOnline.