With health never looking better, Henrik Lundqvist and his New York Rangers have no more excuses to lean back on.

  • New York Rangers (28-15-1, 57 pts)
  • Dallas Stars (18-19-8, 44 pts)
  • NHL, Jan. 17, 7 p.m. ET, MSG Network
  • Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
At some point after the New York Rangers disheartening loss to the youthful Toronto Maple Leafs on Steven McDonald night, the positive fans in Rangerstown held their ground. They told themselves, “Hey, everybody can lose one game in the NHL. It happens.” 

One night later, those pessimistic Blueshirts faithful reared their ugly heads.

After allowing three goals in 62 seconds in the third period, leading to a 5-4 loss at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens north of the border, the common theme that has plagued this solid hockey club all season long showed up with fury.

Defense, defense, and more defense. These Rangers simply don’t play defense at a championship level. It’ll be the main talking point from now until Feb. 28’s NHL trade deadline.

For now, the Rangers have no excuses.

Alain Vigneault is an offensive coach, the NHL equivalent to Mike D’Antoni who’s in possession of a Hockey Hall of Fame goaltender. While Henrik Lundqvist is playing at an average level, hardly hall of fame worthy, he’s still the face of the franchise.

More importantly, health is in order.

Pavel Buchnevich and Rick Nash finally returned from long absences this past Friday night. Surprisingly, Buch even played on Saturday as well (in a back-to-back situation). Nash tallied his 14th of the season in the second period against the Habs, providing New York with a 2-1 lead at the time.

For Tuesday’s contest against the Dallas Stars, the final piece to the offensive puzzle that saw the Rangers put up mind-boggling statistics earlier in the season will be added when Mika Zibanejad returns to the lineup. AV confirmed the news on Monday.

This means not one Rangers’ forward is out via injury. Marc Staal remains sidelined (concussion) and Antti Raanta will be missed for seven to 10 days, but with the fantastic play of Adam Clendening along the blueline and Hank in net, this team has nothing to complain about.

In fact, at this moment in time, they’re one of the healthiest teams in the land.

When they hit the ice to take on the Stars at the World’s Most Famous Arena on Tuesday night, all of the excuses will have vanished. Instead of remaining a “solid” team, it’ll be up to them should they want to change the narrative to “Stanley Cup contending” team.

First puck drop comes your way at 7 p.m. ET from Manhattan.

Robby Sabo is a co-founder, CEO and credentialed New York Jets content creator for Jets X-Factor - Jet X, which includes Sabo's Sessions (in-depth film breakdowns) and Sabo with the Jets. Host: Underdog Jets Podcast with Wayne Chrebet and Sabo Radio. Member: Pro Football Writers of America. Coach: Port Jervis (NY) High School. Washed up strong safety and 400M runner. SEO: XL Media. Founder: Elite Sports NY - ESNY (Sold in 2020). SEO: XL Media. Email: robby.sabo[at]jetsxfactor.com