The New York Rangers are 2-4-1, second to last place in the Metropolitan Division. Regardless of how they lost those games, that stat is what will matter most.
In a season with a ceiling of surprising teams and sneaking into a lower playoff spot and a basement of playing the Jack Hughes lottery, a narrative can emerge easily. The losses are piling up and it won’t be long before fans want to think about another draft haul to bolster the farm system and start rooting for the Tampa Bay Lightning to win the Stanley Cup, entitling the Rangers to another first-round pick.
When diving deeper, the Rangers are a few bounces away from being winless, with their only wins coming in a barnburner in which Brendan Smith tied the game in the last four minutes before Brady Skjei buried a game-winner on the first shot of overtime and a shootout won on the stick of Kevin Shattenkirk and the left leg pad of Henrik Lundqvist.
Conversely, the team is not being vastly outplayed. On the contrary, they are likely a few bounces from a few more points. On opening night they only lost by a goal to a Nashville Predators team with realistic championship aspirations. In their first away game, against the Sabres in Buffalo some 48 hours later, they had 20 shots on goal in the third period down just one but, were unable to get one across the line.
Against the Carolina Hurricanes, a team that managed only three goals in the first 120 minutes of their season managed five. Rather than scoring in front of Henrik Lundqvist, who has had a fantastic start to the season, they did it in front of Alexandar Georgiev, who had the worst performance of his young career letting in seven goals on 39 shots. This comes after a rookie season in which he had a far more reasonable 3.15 goals against average in nine starts and one relief performance. One of their most recent loss came again by only one goal with one of the best scorers in the league, Connor McDavid, getting the help he really doesn’t need from a penalty call in which Vladislav Namestnikov was pulled down and somehow penalized for holding.
Hosting the Colorado Avalanche earlier this week, their penchant for blowing leads did not come back to bite. Despite blowing two leads they emerged victorious in the aforementioned shootout, winning a goalie’s duel in which Lundqvist and Semyon Varlamov combined for 72 saves prior to the shootout. The Rangers finished their first couple weeks of the 2018-19 season gaining another point in the standings with their first overtime loss of the season against the defending-champion Washington Capitals.
The NHL gives out the loser point but for the most part, it is neither horseshoes nor hand grenades. Close to winning gets you nothing and with a team dipping its toe in the idea of a full blow up and rebuild, this start moves them closer to that reality.
While the standings don’t paint a rosy picture, the Blueshirts have outshot their opponents in three of seven games while playing a schedule with three cup contenders in this early season. In the NHL there are no moral victories and the Garden faithful can be fickle. It won’t be long before they decide it is time to #LoseForHughes.
Good luck getting a competitor like Henrik Lundqvist to buy-in on that.