The narrow lead the New York Rangers have on the other top teams in the NHL for first place over all is seemingly slipping away. Although the position means little in the big picture, the means by which they relinquish that position should be cause for concern. This is not to say the Rangers are capsizing.
In fact this team has shown time, and time again this season that when the ship seems to venture off course it will inevitably right itself in a short amount of time. Only time will tell as to whether the Rangers will be able to bounce back quickly from the loss.
A potential trap game set for Saturday against the Carolina Hurricanes will test the teams ability to push themselves to work hard against an opponent who could be viewed as having little to play for.
Stiffer competition set for Sunday against the Anaheim Ducks as well as the Los Angeles Kings the following Tuesday may be graced by the appearance of Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist who’s been cleared to return to full participation in practice as of March 17th. This is a key time for the Rangers going forward to prevent a backward slide.
On the night against the Blackhawks goaltender Cam Talbot could not have done a better job facing 31 shots and making 30 saves on the night. The backline had little support in terms of goals despite the multitude of chances. A key turning point in the game was a Rangers goal in the first that waved off and blown dead by an early whistle for an unfrozen puck.
Despite the misfortune the Rangers were able to send 25 shots to the net, but where ultimately shut out. There is more to the game than statistics however there are some in recent days that are somewhat alarming. Despite being overall one of the top teams in the league, the Rangers have dropped to 19th in the league (17.4%) in scoring on the power play.
In the month of March, the Rangers have managed 1 power play goal in 21 attempts; the one goal coming in a game that lead to an overtime loss to the Detroit Red Wings. The scoring for the Rangers of late has been fairly anemic despite the positive results. They’ve averaged 1.57 goals over the last seven games they’ve played.
Granted the Rangers have gotten better defensively than the previous month, as over the last seven games they’ve held teams to 1 goal per game, including racking up two shut outs. The team will need to come together to improve the offense as they strive for the best possible position in the playoffs.
This seasons biggest offensive contributors to the Rangers have seemingly dropped off.
The scoring leader for the Rangers, Rick Nash, has gone 0 for his last 4 games, tallying no points. His offensive contributions have been statistically absent since racking up a goal and an assist against the islanders on March 10th. Rick Nash has been doing the little things that have helped the team win, and in the end, will break out of this funk he’s been in the last four games.
Predictions for the game against Carolina is that the key contributors will break out a bit and punish a team that is moving towards the offseason to focus on rebuilding.
Another individual in need of a boost is forward Chris Kreider, who is in the middle of a seven game goal drought himself. Again Kreider has been putting himself in the right positions and despite not finding the goals have provided assists for the offense.
The same could be said about Derek Stepan, who himself has gone 0 for his last 13 games, tallying 0 points. Carl Haglin, and Derek Brassard have also been lack luster so far this month, however going forward it might be best these kinks get worked out before the playoffs. Now is the time for the Rangers to truly figure out who they are.
We know they can score goals. It’s what saved New York when Henrik Lundqvist first went down with his neck injury. The last two and a half weeks have shown us that this team can play defensively as well, which is crucial down the stretch. The top line guys will need to step up in the coming weeks and as long as they turn it around coupled with the arrival of Lundqvist the multifaceted New York Rangers should be in very position come mid-April.