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New York Rangers Showing They Are Better Team Than Record Indicates

Tom Urtz Jr.@@TomUrtzJrContributor INovember 24, 2014

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 23:  Martin St. Louis #26 of the New York Rangers celebrates after scoring a goal in the second period against the Montreal Canadiens at Madison Square Garden on November 23, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images)
Jared Silber/Getty Images

Through the first 20 games of the season, the New York Rangers have been an interesting team to say the least. The squad that took the ice to start the season was not the team that went to the Stanley Cup Final months prior, although the main cogs are still in place.

The Rangers have had their fair share of injuries, although true contenders find a way to overcome the biggest of obstacles. The team hasn't made excuses, and instead they have focused on picking up points  At 9-7-4 and 22 points, it is fair to say that the Broadway Blueshirts are better than their record indicates.

This is the case because the Rangers have a number of players in the midst of career years, others exceeding expectations and some just stepping up in an unexpected way. This might not jump off the page if you were simply looking at the standings on NHL.com, and most people would easily assume that the team was simply puttering along.

They have also performed well as an offensive unit, as they rank 10th in the league offensively with 2.80 goals per game. This is a vast difference from previous years, which explains why they have been losing more games than in previous years despite playing well offensively.

The Rangers have been on the losing end of some games in which they should have picked up two points, most recently in shootout losses vs. the Pittsburgh Penguins and Colorado Avalanche, and their record doesn't adequately reflect how well their players have performed.

New York has now won two in a row, posting back-to-back shutouts, and it is no surprise that the team is clicking now that the players are playing how they are supposed to. The Rangers defeated the Philadelphia Flyers in standard fashion on Wednesday, November 19, and it led to a profanity-filled rant by Flyers general manager Ron Hextall.

Yahoo Sports NHL @YahooSportsNHL

GM Ron Hextall explodes after #Flyers loss to Rangers. (Warning: Bad words overheard.) http://t.co/mpc02N3v1A #NHL http://t.co/jYLYqUGSxH

The Rangers' 5-0 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday night was also a good sign, although it was the Habs' second game in two nights and backup Dustin Tokarski was between the pipes. That is not to take anything away from the Rangers; the team showed something that bench boss Alain Vigneault has been clamoring for all season long: consistency.

It is an 11-letter word that can be considered a hockey cliche coaches spout off from time to time, but it was something the Rangers had been lacking. During the Rangers' last two games, they haven't allowed a goal and they have had some familiar faces step up and lead the way.

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 23: David Desharnais #51 of the Montreal Canadiens chases Derek Stepan #21 of the New York Rangers in the second period at Madison Square Garden on November 23, 2014 in New York City.  (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

Against the Canadiens, Derek Stepan continued his surge back into the lineup, and the Blueshirts' No. 1 pivot now has two goals, five assists and seven points in eight games since missing the start of the season due to a broken fibula.

It is fair to say that he's exceeded expectations, because the last time Stepan missed an extended period of time, he struggled to get his game going. The situation to which I am referring is when Stepan missed training camp and most of the preseason after failing to negotiate a new contract with the Rangers.

In addition to Stepan playing well down the middle, his replacement for the first part of the season has also continued to play amazing hockey.

Derick Brassard set up Rick Nash for goal No. 14 of the season, and the Rangers' second-line pivot picked up his 10th assist of the season in the process. Brassard now has six goals and 16 points in 20 games, and he's currently on pace to finish with 25 goals, 41 assists and 66 points.

A 66-point campaign would be a career-best for the Quebec native, and the Rangers' decision to sign him to a five-year deal worth $25 million is looking even better than it did months ago.

Last but surely not least is Martin St. Louis. The Blueshirts' biggest acquisition from last season is currently one of the NHL's hottest players. In St. Louis' last 10 games, he's tallied seven goals and four assists for 11 points, including the goal and assist tallied against Montreal.

In MSL's first 10 games, he only recorded one goal and five assists for six points. His two-point performance against the Canadiens illustrated two of his biggest attributes: his amazing work effort and saucy mitts.

The Rangers' sage veteran leader and alternate captain set up Derek Stepan with a seamless cross-ice backhand pass for a goal, and the 39-year-old winger outhustled Alexei Emelin to a loose puck and proceeded to put it up and over Dustin Tokarski.

After getting decimated by his former team last week, there was a lot made over whether St. Louis made the right choice, but he's looked pretty good for the New York Rangers thus far.

Outside of the top guns, the Rangers have received other secondary contributions that have been helpful. This includes 12 points from Chris Kreider, five goals from Carl Hagelin, nine points from Mats Zuccarello, eight from Lee Stempniak, seven from Anthony Duclair, six from Kevin Hayes and the list goes on. 

The production—especially from the youth—is promising, and it is encouraging to see that it isn't only the top stars putting the puck in the back of the net.

Offensively, it looks like the Rangers are better than their record indicates, but what about defensively and in net? The Rangers were without Dan Boyle for the first few weeks of the season after he broke his hand, and the team is currently without Ryan McDonagh.

Throw in the suspension John Moore had to serve and the team is down three top-six defenders.

The Rangers blue line was battered, but it wasn't defeated. Kevin Klein and Matt Hunwick have been unlikely heroes for the Blueshirts, and the unlikely duo has not only provided decent defense but also 12 points.

Both have handled their increase in minutes reasonably well, and the Rangers will eventually benefit from having them back playing normal minutes once McDonagh returns to the lineup. This will result in the Rangers having a more complete defense than they are currently icing, and that should help the Rangers contend with the best of the best in the long run.

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 23:  Henrik Lundqvist #30 of the New York Rangers stretches during pre game warmups before the game against the Montreal Canadiens at Madison Square Garden on November 23, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Jared Silber/NHLI via Gett
Jared Silber/Getty Images

Goaltending is the one area the Rangers never have to sweat because Henrik Lundqvist is one of the best in the business. He's had a rough start to the season, but that is business as usual for Lundqvist; he's a slow starter, and he is showing signs that he is starting to warm up.

Outside of the blowout loss vs. the Lightning, Lundqvist hasn't been terrible for New York, although it goes without saying that he could be much better.

It took a ton of words to say it, but the Rangers are better than their record shows. They are in third place in the Metro division and six points behind the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins. During the upcoming week, the Rangers have a chance to pick up six important points against the Lightning in Tampa and two games vs. the Flyers.

If the Rangers can pick up four of six points on offer, it will prove they have turned a corner. Only then will their record reflect their on-ice play.

Stats via NHL.com and the Hockey News unless otherwise indicated.