The New York Rangers have hit their bye week and it could not come at a more terrible time after playing some of their best hockey.
Sometimes, timing means everything over the course of a season. It has the ability to make or break a campaign, and the New York Rangers currently find themselves in a battle with just that.
With the NHL All-Star break coming to a close, the Rangers are now at the beginning of their bye week and are not in an ideal situation. They’ve won four of their last seven games and have really started to put together some of their best hockey of the year.
What makes the break concerning is how they’re notorious for coming out of long stretches of time off and then struggling. Look no further than their mini bye week back in October when they had 11 days off in a two-week span, something unheard of in this league. They ended up coming out of that time period immediately struggling, losing four out of five and allowing 20 total goals.
The difference between now and the beginning of the season is simple: there was much more time for New York to put things back together in October compared to Jan. 31, which is when they return now.
From a management standpoint, there remain some serious questions that will have to be addressed in a short period of time. The trade deadline arrives on Feb. 24. Therefore, the Rangers will have 13 games to show management which direction they’re heading. This will also help decide whether or not they should be sellers.
Should the Blueshirts come out of this break and play poorly, it could signal the beginning of more trades involving key veterans.
The Rangers are additionally in the hunt for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Coming back from the break and struggling has the power to put them right on the outside again.
Prior to the break, the Rangers seemed to have found something defensively against the New York Islanders and Columbus Blue Jackets. Those matchups were the most consistent defensive games they’ve played in quite some time only to be disrupted by a lengthy stretch of no action.
While the break will help the likes of Kaapo Kakko, Ryan Lindgren and Adam Fox, it could hurt some of the Rangers youngsters who seem to have found their place over the last few weeks. Filip Chytil slowly emerged as a legitimate center over the last month. He’s one stepping stone away from becoming a dynamic player in this league. While the break shouldn’t hinder that, it could help delay it.
The one player this break hurts the most has to be Henrik Lundqvist, who hasn’t played in a game since Jan. 11 and didn’t look like himself during that 5-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues. In the midst of a three-goalie rotation, Lundqvist is barely seeing any playing time as it is. This layoff will only hurt him moving forward.
Breaks are always good for teams, especially ones who play a game as physical as hockey. New York is hoping theirs helps heal the injured Artemi Panarin along with any additional setbacks to other players.
All-in-all, what the Blueshirts have to be careful with coming out of this break is establishing the same brand of hockey they played leading up to it. If they come back and lay up some goose eggs, the timing of this break will become a major storyline of their season.