Real talk: Are these New York Rangers the real deal?
Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

There has never been this much parity in the Metropolitan Division which is leaving fans asking if the New York Rangers can actually contend this year?

The New York Rangers are just four points out of first place in the Metropolitan Division after a dreadful start to the regular season, now they are back and they are here to stay.

You can tell when teams are starting to turn a corner and if that turn is a legitimate one or not. The Blueshirts’ play the last month has clearly shown that the turn they made was the right one and not just a fluke.

In goal, Henrik Lundqvist has completely turned the Rangers season around. His save percentage has gone up to .920 on the season while lowering his goals-against-average to 2.50. He is tied for sixth in the league with 17 wins and his eight losses are tied for the 18th, but most of those came at the beginning of the regular season. The numbers look pretty when talking about Lundqvist, but his quickness in net is what makes this run he’s on seem sustainable.

Defensively speaking, the team has turned around their play completely. Although they allow the occasional odd-man rush, they haven’t had Rangers fans wondering whether or not they are going to blow a game in the winding minutes of regulation. This was a major area of concern coming into the season considering how the team lost in the playoffs last season, blowing leads late in games.

This season, the Rangers have not gone into the “shell” where they would sit back and let the play be solely in their end. They have gone on the attack looking for insurance goals. It is a major reason why they are second in the NHL with 45 goals in the third period.

As young players mature, their mistakes are usually glaring ones. When they get to the proper level of play those mistakes don’t happen because they learn from them. That tough love that head coach Alain Vigneault gives usually pays off.

For example, Chris Kreider came into the league as a power forward who needed work on his defense. He’s worked hard on it and has now become dependable in the Rangers’ defensive zone. Other young players are starting to come into a zone like J.T. Miller, who is answering the Rangers’ questions at center on a nightly basis.

The depth that this team has continues to be a major strength. They have gotten contributions from Paul Carey, Boo Nieves, and David Desharnais: all players that fans weren’t expecting to get much from. Michael Grabner continues to lead the team in goals with 17 and he doesn’t appear to be slowing down.

Good teams don’t go on extended losing streaks and, outside of a five-game losing streak in early October, the Rangers don’t lose in long stretches. Over the last 27 games, they have had just two small losing streaks of two games while going 18-7-1 during that span. Preventing extended losing streaks in this league this season is a must and outside of one five-game span, the Rangers have been able to do that showing that they won’t go away easily.

Now no team is perfect and no team has absolutely zero flaws. The ones that win are the ones who are able to cover up those flaws the best they can. For the Rangers, they still turn the puck over way too much. You can live with them as long as they don’t generate high-danger shots against, which they have in the past. This is something that the coaching staff is aware of and just goes down to execution.

The Rangers have found their game, they are 100 percent healthy for the first time all season and are clicking on all cylinders. They have arrived and aren’t going anywhere.

Dominick is a graduate of Canisius College. He has covered the Rangers for the last seven seasons and the Yankees for the last four.