It is just two weeks into the 2016-17 NHL season and New York Rangers fans have already begun to see what this season will entail in terms of individual and team performances. Coming off two big wins against the Washington Capitals and Arizona Coyotes, this Rangers team is currently leading the Metropolitan Division with eight points. While early, this is a good sign that the Rangers are going to be competitive in fighting for a top place in the Eastern Conference standings for yet another year if all goes as planned.
Starting Slow, Finishing Fast
Over the weekend, the Rangers started out slowly, going down at least one goal in both games against the Coyotes and Capitals. This is a not a great sign to start off the year, as the Rangers were not very successful coming back last year. Over the course of last season, the Rangers were 13-22-4 in games that the opponent scored first. On the contrary, they went 33-5-5 over the games where they scored first.
As the stats say, giving Henrik Lundqvist and Antti Raanta the lead last year equated to 71 of their 101 points. With the remaining 39 games where they were scored on first giving them just 30 points, there is a direct correlation to scoring first and winning games. Starting strong will lead to success and success will lead to points for this Rangers team that’s a great mix of young talent and veteran leadership.
The Rangers have shown improvement in many areas so far this year. On faceoffs, they’ve won 53.4% of draws. Although that number seems small, already at this point in the season players like Josh Jooris, Mika Zibanejad, and Kevin Hayes have together won 27 more faceoffs than they have lost. That creates more opportunities for the scorers to generate chances offensively which in turn leads to more goals. That is a large improvement on the numbers from last season in which they lost 78 more faceoffs than they won through the entire season.
Through six games, there have been twelve different goal scorers for the Blueshirts, eight of whom have scored two or more goals. That includes newcomers Jimmy Vesey, Mika Zibanejad, Michael Grabner, and Brandon Pirri. The Rangers are the fourth highest scoring team in the NHL through six games played which is a slight improvement from last year. With a great goaltender in Lundqvist, scoring a lot makes the Rangers very dangerous and will help take the pressure off the defensive core that has been known to be shaky from time to time.
Returning King Henrik’s Crown
Henrik Lundqvist put on his crown and went to battle against the Capitals and Coyotes playing back-to-back games this past weekend. He was nothing short of incredible. After having mediocre starts in both games, Lundqvist showed to the NHL world that he is back in top form, sprawling around in the crease making saves that he’s been making for his entire career. That in itself is a beautiful sight to see, giving off one lasting impression. King Henrik is back on the throne.
As usual, this is another season of Rangers hockey that will be on the shoulders of Lundqvist. This season, though, likely less than others, with the offensive depth which can only help an aging goaltender still playing at a very high level. Lundqvist is known to start slow in October, so a sub .910 save percentage in his first five starts is not a reason to worry. If he can bring his A-game like he did against the Capitals and Coyotes, there is a significant chance that this year’s team will outdo last season in terms of points and potentially compete with the big dogs from Washington and Pittsburgh for a spot at the top of the Metropolitan Division.