Marc Staal, Henrik Lundqvist
ESNY Graphic, AP Photo

The New York Rangers are playing well without the services of Henrik Lundqvist and Marc Staal. The passing of the Blueshirt torch has begun.

Frank Curto

The New York Rangers performed impressively prior to Monday night’s 6-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators. Victories over the Tampa Bay Lightning and Nashville Predators have given new life to this young squad of players.

Oddly enough, the turn around has happened without two veteran players. Defenseman Marc Staal, a healthy scratch for both of the wins, and the face of the franchise, Henrik Lundqvist, who has been the backup for the last two games, weren’t on the ice in the team’s last two victories.

The passing of the torch has begun.

The situation was more of a surprise to Staal. He had played in every game this season until the Rangers called up 21-year-old defenseman Ryan Lindgren a week ago.

David Quinn made the tough decision to bench Staal for the game against the Tampa bay Lightning. The team played very well with a blue line that was made up of Jacob Touba, Libor Hajek, Adam Fox, Brady Skjei, Anthony DeAngelo and Lindgren.

Suddenly, Staal found himself on the outside looking in, as he has become the seventh defenseman.

Quinn acknowledged that Staal needs to improve his game in different areas, but the team needs him in this lineup.

The head coach discussed the defenseman’s situation, via lohud’s Vince A. Marcogliano, following the team’s optional skate on Monday morning at the Garden,

“The plan wasn’t to have him sit three, that’s for sure. But he’s going to get back in.”

Staal addressed the benching on Friday before the team’s game against the Nashville Predators on Saturday, via The Athletic’ss Rick Carpinello.

“Yeah, obviously I was upset, pretty frustrated, Staal said. “But, you know, obviously at this point you want to be in the lineup, you want to play. I want to get that next opportunity so I can make the most of it.”

Henrik Lundqvist sits in a different position. The 15-year veteran was well aware that his playing time would be decreased from years past. What he might not have been prepared for is how well Alexandar Georgiev would play.

Lundqvist served as the backup for the third-straight game Monday night. Hank is scheduled to play against the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday night. It will be 10 days since Lundqvist has played in a game, something he has not done often in his career.

The King is not just looking over his shoulder at the charging Georgiev. In the AHL, the future in net, Igor Shesterkin, is just waiting for his time to stand in between the pipes for the Rangers.

The Hartford Wolf Pack goaltender is off to a great start, posting a 5-1-0 record with a 1.47 save percentage. He was named the CCM/AHL Goaltender of the Month for October.

Lundqvist’s time as the number one goalie is slowly drifting away, a situation he has said he is willing to accept, although saying it and living through it are two very different things.

New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning is experiencing a similar situation that both Staal and Lundqvist are going through. Manning started the season as the No. 1 QB, but after two games, the coaching staff named Daniel Jones the starter.

It’s a little different in the NHL. Hank will still get to play games this season, just not in the high 60s as he has been accustomed to. Marc Staal is in a different situation. He could very well be considered the seventh defenseman for the remainder of the season.

It’s a situation that probably never crossed Lundqvist’s mind following last season, when he appeared in 52 of the 82 games the Blueshirts played.

It’s apparent, to no one’s surprise, that a change is taking place. A passing of the torch from two veteran players to the next generation is taking place before our very eyes.

Both players want what is best for the team, yet the decision by the coaching staff doesn’t make it any easier on these two guys.

The days are winding down for both as the new era begins.

Follow Frank on TWITTER

NYY

NYM

NYG

NYJ

NYK

BKN

NYR

NYI

NJD

SJU