The New York Rangers are on a roll, having won six in a row. How have they been able to keep this streak alive?
Sitting at 9-7-2, the New York Rangers have played themselves out of the basement of the Metropolitan Division, thanks to their special teams, offensive ability, and shutdown goaltending.
It didn’t look pretty on Halloween with the Rangers down 4-2 to the Golden Knights entering the third period. Everyone surrounding the Rangers knew that Alain Vigneault might have been coaching his final period as the Blueshirts’ head coach if the team didn’t make a comeback.
They ultimately did come back and that game marked the beginning of their current six-game winning streak, which is the longest winning streak in the NHL this season. Let’s take a look at why.
Sometimes a team’s power play and penalty kill can make or break their season. The Rangers have seen this trend throughout the last decade where they’ve had their penalty kill and power play cost them some heartbreaking games.
This season has been different for the surging Blueshirts. Their power play ranks third in the league, converting 25.8 percent of the time. Putting the Rangers on the power play is not something teams want to do anymore because it will more than likely come back to haunt them: Just ask the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Columbus was up by one in the third period but made the mistake of putting the Rangers on the power play three times in the third period and the Rangers made them pay.
A major part of the Rangers’ success with the man advantage has been Kevin Shattenkirk who has been even better than advertised. His nine points with the man advantage rank seventh in the league while his teammate Mika Zibanejad ranks fourth in the NHL with 10 power play points.
With the power play being a constant all year, the team’s penalty kill has been able to get up to speed. The team now ranks 14th in the league down a man compared to ranking 25th prior to their game against Vegas.
Both special teams are clicking for the Rangers and that has allowed the team to stay in games and spark the comeback, should it be necessary. Without this special teams emergence, the Blueshirts would not be on a winning streak and they might even have been still searching for an identity.
Goals, Goals, and More Goals
Last season, the Rangers were one of the best teams at putting the puck in the back of the net. Thier 253 goals scored ranked fourth in the NHL and the expectation was that they would continue that into the 2017-18 season.
The Rangers weren’t finding the same success they found at this time last year, where they notched 50 goals in their first 12 games. This year they only found the back of the net 34 times in the same number of games. A major factor of this was that key players weren’t scoring. Chris Kreider and Rick Nash only had two goals in twelve games and Michael Grabner wasn’t scoring at the same rate he was a season ago.
Now the goal-scoring drought seems to be over as the team leads the league with 26 goals in the last 12 games. They have a goal differential of +10 which leads the league during this time frame. The ability to put up goals has allowed for them to overcome both poor starts and rather large deficits.
During this winning streak, they have gotten goals all throughout the lineup, including from several key players. Kreider and Nash have turned the corner during this streak. Kreider has found the back of the net three times while Nash has done so four times. They are continuing to get production from Mika Zibanejad, Pavel Buchnevich, and Kevin Shattenkirk who have combined for 23 points during the winning streak.
The King is Coming Up Big
Throughout his career with the Rangers, Henrik Lundqvist has always had to be the one to bail out the Rangers. The last two seasons, Lundqvist hasn’t been able to do that but now he is starting to come up with big saves when the Rangers need them most.
With the Rangers’ 2-1 overtime victory over the Lightning, Lundqvist looked to be like the Lundqvist of old. He made 27 saves in that contest, allowing for the Rangers to steal a game that they were projected to lose by a large margin.
Lundqvist started to turn the corner, like the majority of the team, after the Rangers’ 6-4 victory over the Golden Knights. Even though he allowed four goals in that one, it could have been much worse without him in between the pipes.
Teams are still getting the puck past Lundqvist, but the difference in his game during this winning streak is that he is coming up with the big save. When the Rangers were struggling, Lundqvist was unable to make the big save when necessary, allowing for teams to build on their leads and pull out of reach.
Now he is back to keeping the team in the game and the perfect example of that was against Boston.
Boston could have tied that game several times but Lundqvist was the difference in the game, making 25 saves in the final two periods, 31 total in the game.
Lundqvist’s game is starting to come together which is great news for the Blueshirts. Whether it’s his new mask or better play in front of him, Lundqvist has been a major reason for the team winning six straight games. He’s been in net for all six games and doesn’t seem to be slowing down.
The Rangers will look to extend their winning streak against the Chicago Blackhawks in another NBC Sports Wednesday Night Rivalry Game. They’ll need their special teams, offense, and Lundqvist to come up big once again if they want to make this a seven-game winning streak.