The 2013-14 season hasn’t started out the way the New York Rangers had envisioned it. Injuries to key players and uncharacteristic play from some of the stars are just a couple of reasons the Rangers are looking up in the standings of the new Metropolitan Division.
Take all of that and include the fact that the Rangers haven’t set foot on home ice all season so far is certainly a recipe for disaster. I am sure the Rangers are looking forward to putting this first month of the season in the rearview so let’s take a look at what remains to close it out.
Thursday October 24th @ Philadelphia Flyers (1-7-0, 2pts)
There is no better way to build confidence for a club then to see a team that is struggling even more than you are on the schedule. The Rangers head to Philly on Thursday to take on the Flyers who have only one win so far this season which was at home against the Panthers earlier this month. The injury bug has also hit the city of brotherly love taking out newly signed Vincent LeCavalier, Scott Hartnell, and Kimmo Timonen.
The Flyers have had difficulty putting the puck in the net scoring only eleven goals so far this season which is tied for last in the league with the Rangers. Goaltending hasn’t been terrible with Steve Mason (1-5-0, 2.37) leading the way. Hard to win if you can’t score.
This game could really go either way. The news of Henrik Lundqvist’s undisclosed injury and the uncertainty of his availability certainly plays into the hands of the Flyers.
Saturday October 26th @ Detroit Red Wings (6-3-1, 13pts)
Detroit’s move to the Eastern Conference hasn’t slowed them down any. 2nd in the Eastern Conference in points (13), the Red Wings have only lost one game against their New Conference opponents which came on October 5th against the Bruins. It is the out of conference games that are giving the Red Wings trouble. Three of their four losses have come against teams in the West.
The normal cast of characters are performing well so far for Detroit. Henrik Zetterberg leads the team in goals (6) and is tied for most points (11) with Pavel Datsyuk. The goaltending has been superb with both Jimmy Howard (3-3-1, 2.26) and Jonas Gustavsson (3-0-0, 1.67). The Red Wings are a well coached well oiled machine and are going to make plenty of teams in the Eastern Conference miserable.
As for the game, the Rangers are going to have a difficult time in Motown. The defense is going to need to step up to stop this prolific offense in their tracks. Saying it and doing it are totally different.
Monday October 28th vs Montreal Canadiens (5-3-0, 10pts)
Home sweet home. After nine games on the road the Rangers will finally be in a familiar (although cosmetically a little different) place. Madison Square Garden. They have the luxury of taking on another Original Six team in back to back nights, the Montreal Canadiens. The Habs have had some success in the early going and find themselves in fourth place in the Atlantic Division.
The Canadiens are enjoying some offense in the early going. Lars Eller is leading the team in goals (5), while P.K. Subban leads the team in points (10). A +11 in goals for/goals against differential doesn’t hurt things either.
This is another hard game to figure out. Huge bonus here is that it is the first game at MSG for the Rangers this season. That should count for something. Other than that it is anyone’s guess who will come out on top when the final buzzer sounds.
Tuesday October 29th @ NY Islanders (3-3-2, 8pts)
Look this could be another possible winnable game for the Rangers. The Islanders haven’t been overwhelmingly good so far but find themselves in 3rd place in the Metropolitan Division. Slow starts by teams like the Rangers, Flyers and Devils certainly helps that.
Captain John Tavares and Frans Nielsen are responsible for most of the Islanders offense, while Evgeny Nabokov has been decent in goal (3-2-2, 2.51) so far.
As I said this is a winnable game for Rangers who could already have momentum in their favor depending on the outcome of the earlier games.
Thursday October 31st vs Buffalo Sabres (1-8-1, 3pts)
This Halloween tilt will be scary for the team not named Rangers. There is a huge difference between teams that have an unexpected slow start (Rangers) and teams that everyone knew going in was going to struggle (Sabres). The Sabres have been pretty bad so far with not really many signs pointing to that changing. Rumors of Vanek and/or Miller being shipped out of town certainly won’t help their cause any. Good teams beat bad teams and that is what is expected out of the Rangers here.
Thomas Vanek leads the team in goals with just three. Cody Hodgson is team leader in points with seven, while Ryan Miller (1-6-0, 2.73) takes the brunt of the work in net. Miller has been really good this year which is most likely his last in Western New York. Hard to win games when your offense doesn’t score for you.
The Rangers should take this game and end the month of October on a winning note.
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John Is a contributor with The Hockey Writers covering the Buffalo Sabres. He is also a Senior Writer and Editor at MetsMerizedOnline.