The New York Rangers will continue their climb out of a December slump when they skate against the Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals this weekend.
New York Rangers (23-15-5, 51 points, 3rd in NHL Metropolitan Division)
Philadelphia Flyers (19-15-7, 45 points, 7th in NHL Metropolitan Division)
Today, 1:00 PM on MSG, CSN-PH
Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA
By Chris Wengert
The New York Rangers have been a tough group to analyze this year.
The first three months of the season could be described as a Dr. JeKyll and Mr. Hyde complex.
A great October and November were followed by an equally abysmal December, in which the Rangers went 5-11-2.
It seems like the Blueshirts may have put their slumping ways behind them for them with an improved 4-3-1 record over the last eight games.
Have the Rangers been perfect? Not even close. But they have improved their defensive play which was a major factor during their December slump.
Henrik Lundqvist has also started to return to his former clutch self.
The King was unstoppable for most of the Islanders game, stopping John Tavares on more than a few occasions.
The Rangers fore check was perhaps the strongest part of their play, and even their power play looked efficient with quick puck movement.
This “pass happy” Rangers team even out shot the Islanders 35-32.
So what adjustments do they New York Rangers need to make against the Philadelphia Flyers when they battle at 1:00 PM today?
They need to Finish.
The Rangers are getting chances and shots, but now they need to start cashing in on their chances.
Chris Kreider is slowly starting to look like the gritty player from years past. He has been stronger on the fore check and is starting to use his physicality to his advantage again.
Now he needs to start producing on the score sheet.
Rick Nash is going to the dirty areas but he isn’t scoring.
For a couple weeks I’ve been saying that it is only a matter of time before Nash breaks out, but at some point you can’t help but to shrug your shoulders and think “come on man”.
Derek Stepan is another player who can perform a great disappearing act. His comeback from the rib injury was a long time ago, and it’s about time he starts contributing on the scoreboard.
Kevin Hayes needs to simplify his game. At this point his number one priority should just be to protect the puck and shoot it on net when opportunities present themselves.
Rangers Keys To Victory
Strong Goal Tending: In a curious move, Henrik Lundqvist gets the start against Philly while Antti Raanta will play in Washington. Both net minders need to be their very best. A couple of losses could put the Rangers back at square one.
Keep Up The Defense: The Rangers defense has been much better and this play needs to continue. The forward’s effective back checking has taken pressure off of the defensive players, but consistency is the name of the game now.
Finish: Games are not won on the stat sheet, they are won on the scoreboard. The Rangers need to start capitalizing on their scoring opportunities or else March and April will be very stressful months.