The month of October was unkind to the New York Rangers. Due to the final phase of renovations to Madison Square Garden, the team was forced to play its first nine games of the season on the road. They suffered embarrassing losses to the San Jose Sharks, Anaheim Ducks and New Jersey Devils. They were outscored 20 to 37, and have the league’s third-worst goal differential at -17.
Despite all their struggles, the Rangers enter November only one point out of a playoff spot with five months to play. To put their difficult and sometimes embarrassing October behind them, they need to start playing consistent hockey. Their November schedule presents a great opportunity to push for a top spot in the Eastern Conference. Here is what the Rangers face this month.
They begin with three-consecutive home games against tough opponents, as the Carolina Hurricanes, Ducks and Pittsburgh Penguins come to town. After that, they visit some old friends in Columbus as they face the Columbus Blue Jackets. Unfortunately for Jacket fans, they most likely will not witness a Rick Nash return, as the star winger remains sidelined indefinitely with a concussion.
Following home games against the Devils and Florida Panthers, the Rangers go to their own personal house of horrors when they visit the Montreal Canadiens. By then, captain Ryan Callahan should be back in the lineup, hopefully providing the boost they need to exorcise their Bell Centre demons. The next day, they return home to face the Los Angeles Kings, whom they beat 3-1 in L.A. on Oct. 7.
On the 19th, the Rangers will attempt to avenge their loss in last year’s Eastern Conference semifinals when they face the Boston Bruins at home. Then, yet another road trip commences. This time, it “only” lasts five games, highlighted by matchups against the Bruins and the upstart Tampa Bay Lightning. Finally, former Rangers head coach John Tortorella returns to the Garden on the 30th as he brings his Vancouver Canucks to town for a Saturday matinee. Be sure to set your DVRs for the postgame presser!
Examining the schedule, there are a few tough games sprinkled in with several winnable games. A successful month for the Rangers should be a minimum of eight wins out of 15 games. The team is defending better and getting exceptional goaltending from Henrik Lundqvist and Cam Talbot. While the offense has room for improvement, the Rangers appear to be playing with more chemistry and more resolve. A new month worth of games can reaffirm this.
With the long, arduous October road trip behind them, the time for the Rangers to assert themselves as contenders is here. It is still early, but if they don’t start winning consistently, the “early” excuse will no longer apply.
Matt Stillwell is a New York Rangers contributor for rantsports.com. Follow him on Twitter @MattNYR12 for all NYR news and notes! You can also connect with him on Google Plus and “like” him on Facebook.