The New York Rangers are through their first 10 regular season games. They have had their ups and downs, but overall sit in a decent position at 6-2-2. Naturally, those ups and downs offer two different ways to assess their first 10 games — one positive, and one negative (a hitherto unexplored dichotomy).
The Positive View
The Rangers are 6-2-2. That’s pretty good. As of Monday morning, they are in first place in the Metropolitan division. Their start is a much better one than they had in their previous two seasons under head coach Alain Vigneault — not that it ended up mattering too much either time.
New York has gotten great goaltending from Henrik Lundqvist who, like the team, does not usually start this well. Backup Antti Raanta has looked very good in his two starts, yielding just one goal across both games. As a team, the Rangers have only given up 19 goals in 10 games.
The Blueshirts also rebounded from some adversity. After dropping two straight regulation games to Winnipeg and Montreal, and then losing a very disappointing game in overtime to the rival New Jersey Devils, the Rangers have rebounded to claim seven of eight possible points in the standings, with the lone point lost being the result of coming up short in a
n absurd skills competition shootout.
Rookie Oscar Lindberg has been very impressive, leading the team with five goals and adding two assists. Keith Yandle has had a decent start, tallying six points in 10 games to lead the way among the defensemen. Feisty winger Mats Zuccarello has thankfully shown no ill effects of his scary head injury from last season’s playoffs, as he’s picked up four goals and two assists.
J.T. Miller has continued his development into an offensive force for the Rangers, picking up six points so far. Defenseman Kevin Klein has stepped up and played a great all-around game, improving his possession numbers along the way. As a team, even the power play has started to come around recently, with a goal in three of the past four games.
The Negative View
Being that Rangers fans have mostly been a tortured bunch, since the club as only won one Stanley Cup in the past 75 years, many are likely to see things something more in line with this alternate point of view.
Rick Nash and Chris Kreider, counted on to be two of the Rangers’ top goal scorers, have a combined two goals between them. Nash’s one goal did not even enter the net, as he was hooked on a breakaway with the net empty, so the goal was automatically awarded.
Of course, the law of averages says these players will find start finding the back of the net sooner or later, but if they continue to struggle to light the lamp, the Rangers could be in trouble. Depth players like Lindberg and Miller have performed admirably, but they cannot be counted on as the club’s top sources of offense.
Derick Brassard has had a sluggish start to the year, despite his five points. If he shot the puck more often, he would be a perennial 25-30 goal scorer, but instead he is unselfish to a fault. Kevin Hayes, who burst onto the scene as a rookie last season, has looked better lately (he also has six points) but oftentimes has tried to do too much, rather than make the simple play.
Hayes really needs to simplify his game right now. You can tell his brain is going 1,000 MPH. Kid just needs to play. Stop thinking.
— Seth Rothman (@RothmanHockey) October 19, 2015
As a team, the Rangers have also been giving up shots on goal like no one’s business. They have allowed an average of 31.9 shots per game, seventh-highest in the NHL through Sunday’s action. This issue was on full display Saturday night in Philadelphia, as they surrendered a whopping 48 shots to the Flyers, including 18 in the third period when the game was tied. Only the spectacular efforts of of Lundqvist salvaged a point for the Rangers.
On the blue line, defenseman Dan Boyle looks very much like he’s ready for retirement. Captain Ryan McDonagh has just one point so far in a season where the Rangers are counting on him to produce offense from the back end. Dan Girardi, his long-time partner on defense, has been moved to play with Yandle in order to shake things up because of his struggles. His game-winning goal against Calgary notwithstanding, Girardi had a bad year so far. He is clearly tentative with the puck and has been prone to costly turnovers, such as this one against the Blackhawks on opening night in Chicago.
Some of these issues could catch up to the Rangers soon if they are not careful.
The Rational View
Okay, so there might be more than just two views. As usual, the rational view falls somewhere in between these two extremes. In the case of the Rangers, it actually falls slightly closer to the positive one, simply because they have proven before that they are a good hockey team. Their same core from the past couple of years is intact. The Rangers certainly have things to improve in their game, and they are aware of that.
So, after 10 games, Rangers 6-2-2 (115-point pace) and, to a man, all are not fooled, know there’s plenty to improve. — Andrew Gross (@AGrossRecord) October 26, 2015
There have certainly been some good things so far this season, but we have not yet seen this team’s best. That’s where the positive leaning comes in: If the Rangers are 6-2-2 without playing their best, and while getting almost no production from their top offensive player in Nash, then they will be in great shape when the tide inevitably turns.
Sure, Lindberg’s goal-scoring pace might slow down, and it’s pretty unrealistic to imagine that Lundqvist’s save percentage will remain above .940 for the whole season, but improvements for Nash, Kreider, and Girardi, among others, should more than offset these marginal decreases in efficacy.