The New York Rangers finally have a winning record, and they're determined to stay that way. The Broadway Blueshirts had a tough start to the condensed lockout season, but they seem to have it together now.
Despite their slow start to the season, the Rangers are No. 8 in the conference and currently in a playoff spot.
The team has eight games left on its February schedule, meaning that when the month is over the season will be almost half done. It sounds almost ridiculous to say that after 19 games, but that's what happens after a lockout.
During a shortened season the significance of each game increases ten-fold. Here's a list of five games that will be crucial to the Rangers during the month of February.
The Rangers and Bruins split the two games between them so far this season. The Rangers lost 3-1 in the season opener on the road, but four days later they were able to squeeze out a 4-3 victory in overtime at the Garden. This was one of only two Bruins losses so far this season.
New York desperately needs this win. Boston is the best team left on its February schedule, and the Rangers need to prove that they can beat a top-tier team on the road.
The good news for the Rangers is that Henrik Lundqvist has been playing great over the past few games, and the team is more balanced after breaking up the top line consisting of Rick Nash, Marion Gaborik and Brad Richards.
Carl Hagelin, who scored two goals against Tampa Bay, said the imbalance was hurting the team in the beginning of the season. "Our first line was scoring all of our goals, and you're not going to win like that. It's important for every guy to chip in," he commented.
Let's hope the Rangers can continue this trend in Boston.
This game is scheduled for Valentine's Day, but there is no love lost between these two teams. With the news that the Islanders are moving to Brooklyn in 2015, the rivalry is only going to get more intense in the years to come.
After a solid start to the season, the Islanders have dropped to their usual spot toward the bottom of the standings.
The Rangers would like nothing more than to keep them down there by repeating Thursday's performance.
This is New York's final home game before they go on a two-game road trip to Canada.
Believe it or not, the Rangers are one of the best home teams in the NHL.
The Canadiens are currently No. 7 in the conference, a mere point ahead of the Rangers. These are the kind of tough, close games that New York needs to win if they want to be on solid ground with regards to the playoffs.
The Rangers have another game against Montreal just four days later and they can't be satisfied with splitting the series.
On paper, this matchup does not seem favorable to the Rangers at all. New York has one of the worst records on the road at 1-3-0 while Ottawa has a solid 4-1-2 record at home.
Until recently, that is.
In fact, the Rangers have scored at least three goals in every game since the Penguins shut them out on January 31. New York was missing Ryan Callahan during that game.
The Canadiens' schedule is not working in their favor either. They have dropped their last two games against Winnipeg and Carolina, and they are looking at a tough road map ahead with a lot of traveling.
If the Rangers can run away with a win here, it would be a tremendous confidence boost after their abysmal start on the road.
It's difficult to figure out this Tampa Bay team. There is no arguing that they are a high-powered team. Even with the recent slump they've still scored the most goals in the entire NHL.
After winning six of their first seven games, Tampa Bay is now on a four-game losing streak.
However, there is a catch. Two of those losses have come against the Rangers. The other two were road games against the Flyers and the Devils.
At the end of the month we will hopefully have more of a grasp of what kind of team they are. Are they simply inconsistent or do the Rangers have their number?
Considering that the Rangers crushed them at home despite the Lightning's excellent home record, there might be some truth to the latter.