Don’t look now, but the young and rebuilding New York Rangers have won four straight and are hitting their stride.
As I alluded to in my first column, Garden Party will aim to switch between the New York Knicks and New York Rangers each week. However, that will change from time to time depending on the season and headlines.
That being said, with two rebuilding and young teams, I did not anticipate needing to do that very much. If anything, I was concerned that there would be too little to write about. However, over the last 10 days, the Rangers have made things a bit more interesting.
In the better part of the first month of the David Quinn regime and a season with a roster full of more turnover than we have seen in the better part of a decade, the Rangers went 3-7-1. While the top-line numbers were ugly, last place in the division and only seven points in 11 games, the team was competitive. They were in the lead, tied or down only one goal in the third period in all but one loss in that stretch, in which they lost eight of their first 11.
This less than encouraging start led to discussions of a season with low aspirations, chalked up to rebuilding. In some corners of Rangerstown, there were rumblings of wanting a full tank to try and get likely first overall pick and coveted prospect Jack Hughes in next year’s draft.
However, a Rangers team with a core of players entering the age where most players hit their prime just may have something to say about that.
In the last 10 days, the Rangers have ripped off four straight wins, finding a way to get close games to tilt their way, hitting stride and starting to get a little bit of swagger. During this win streak, they have grabbed their first two wins on the road against the San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks. With those wins, a team strength emerged having now gone 3-0 in the shootout.
The last two wins came at home, where it appears the team has a bit of home-ice advantage at 5-3 in this young season, against the Buffalo Sabres and Montreal Canadiens. The latter was a statement victory where the team was down 3-1 with five minutes to go in the second period before barnstorming one of the best goaltenders in the world, Carey Price, with four goals in the final 25 minutes, beating an above .500 Habs team 5-3.
By the end of this month, the season will be nearly a third of the way through and the league’s hierarchy will start to take shape. Between now and then, the Rangers have some matchups they will be favored in, including struggling teams like the Florida Panthers, Detroit Red Wings and a home and home with the Ottawa Senators.
Beyond that, they will have some more bellwether matchups in the division, namely a pair of games against the rival New York Islanders who have had a hot start to the season.
A couple months from now, this could have been a blip on the radar or a sign that this team was better than we thought going into the year.
But for now, my sentiment coming into the season that it is the realm of possibility that this team fights for a lower-end playoff spot seems truer by the day.