How soon is too soon? The NHL season is not even a tenth of the way over, but at this moment the Rangers are tied with the Penguins, sitting on top of the Atlantic Division, and looking much better than most would have thought.
Since losing opening night in Pittsburgh, the Rangers have won 5 consecutive games. Now this is nothing new to the Rangers as they got off to a hot start last year. However, they are winning much more impressively than they were last year, most notably last night’s 7-2 dismantling of the Leafs.
The Rangers started off last season with a 5 game win streak, but one only needs to look at the scores of those games to see that this is a different team. During last year’s 5 game win streak the Rangers only outscored their opponents by more than 1 goal twice, and even those wins were only by 2 goals; As opposed to this year’s streak where the Rangers have defeated their opponents by 2 or more goals 3 times.
During last year’s streak the Rangers outscored their opponents 16-8; this year its 22-9. 6 goals might seem like a small difference, but when considering the sample size is only 5 games that’s over a goal per game more that the Rangers are scoring. And this coming from a team that often struggled to score a goal a game to begin with last year.
More impressive is the fact that the Rangers are currently tied for the league lead in goals with 24. Yes Kids, the New York Rangers lead the NHL in goals scored. If I had told you that would have been the case two weeks into the season everyone reading this would have laughed in my face. Heck, even I would have laughed in my face.
This is a different Rangers team. A full training camp under Tortorella has gotten this team in shape and playing the coaches system the right way. Thanks to that conditioning and training the Rangers are dominating their opponents in the third period, outscoring them 12-3! During last year’s streak they only outscored their opponents in the third period by a tally of 4-3, often trying to protect the lead instead of adding to it.
And instead of relying on just Gaborik to score, the Rangers have shown that every line can contribute. There was no better example of that then last night when 5 different players scored a goal. So far 7 Rangers have 2 or more goals, including two defensemen. There have been 12 different goal scorers so far this season. Higgins and Lisin are the only two of the top 9 forwards that have not scored yet.
This new, fast, aggressive Rangers team has impressed immensely so far this season but the question is, how far can they go? Many had pegged the Rangers to miss the playoffs this year and although it certainly is a possibility, it seems unlikely if they continue to play at this level.
Playoffs? Eastern Conference Finals? Stanley Cup? Who knows; at this point the fans can only hope. I’m not ready to dive head first into a pool of warm and cozy feelings about my teams chances this year just yet … it’s still too early for that … but I have dipped my toes in the water, and I have to tell you, it feels Nice!