Every hockey team loses games. No team is perfect. Thinking back on the last week of Rangers hockey, these two adages proved to be true for a team that had one of the strongest starts in their recent history. After a tough loss Sunday night at the hands of the Florida Panthers along with the injury to Mika Zibanejad, the Rangers went into Pittsburgh and outplayed one of the strongest teams in the NHL on their ice. Good bounce back, right? Wednesday was much, much different.
The blowout loss at the hands of the Penguins Wednesday night knocked the Rangers down a peg on the confidence scale. They were outplayed at Madison Square Garden and everyone knew it. Now is the time to put all the negatives aside and bounce back. The Rangers must end November the exact same way it started.
Bounce Back Ability
Statistically speaking, the Rangers can and likely will bounce back just fine. After losses this season, the Rangers have outscored their opponents 28-15 and have won five of six games. Those five wins came against the Sharks, Capitals, Lightning, Flames, and Penguins, all of whom have been commonly referred to as playoff teams. Simply put, the Rangers have bounced back against extremely talented teams. This Rangers team hasn’t shown anything that would lead one to believe that they can’t do the same come Friday afternoon.
Another reason the Rangers will be able to finish out November strong is how well Henrik Lundqvist has played this month. Over Lundqvist’s last eight starts, he’s posted a .926 save percentage dating back to November 1st. This means that he’s started stronger this year than he generally has over his career which is a great sign for Rangers fans everywhere. Showing no signs of regression, it’s very likely that Lundqvist will be one of the best goaltenders in the league for yet another season.
Scoring Slowing Down?
There has been a serious concern that Rangers scoring has been mediocre of late but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Over their last seven games, the Rangers are averaging 3.43 goals per game. That number is under the Rangers year long pace but is still strong compared to any other team in the league. If they can score at the same rate at which they have for the last few weeks they are almost guaranteed to be one of the league’s elite teams come playoff time.
Compare their goal-scoring pace to the 2015-16 league-leader, the Dallas Stars. That Stars team scored just over 3.25 goals per game, leading the league in overall goals scored by 15. If the Rangers can maintain their offensive ability, it will do wonders taking the pressure off Henrik Lundqvist and Antti Raanta between the pipes.
This will help the team string together wins, as they’ve been doing with ease through the first 21 games of the season. If the goaltending can remain as solid as it has so far, Rangers scoring will compliment it perfectly and create a dangerous threat to any and every team they face.
Flyers & Senators Foreshadow Rangers Future
The Rangers’ next two games are against two teams they were fairly successful against last year, the Flyers and the Senators. The Flyers have allowed 72 goals in 21 games so far this year which is the league’s worst. With Michal Neuvirth injured and Steve Mason struggling, the Rangers will need to pounce early and often on a struggling Flyers team that’s barely treading water in the competitive Eastern Conference. Nobody needs to be convinced to play hard against the rival Flyers, making this the perfect bounce back game.
On the other hand, the Senators provide a much different look than the Flyers do. So far in the 2016-17 season, the Senators have found themselves in the top third of the league when it comes to preventing goals, but have also struggled mightily scoring themselves, averaging 2.3 goals per game.
In Derick Brassard’s return to MSG, the Rangers will have to pounce on the young Senators roster and force them to make mistakes if they want to give the New York crowd something to cheer for. Both of the games against the Flyers and Senators are winnable. If the Rangers can continue their elite scoring attack, there will be no reason they can’t come out of these two games with points from both.