The New York Rangers have performed much better as of late. They have won four out of their last five games, including key road victories against the Detroit Red Wings and New York Islanders. Now, they face a tougher test.
This week, the Anaheim Ducks and Pittsburgh Penguins visit Madison Square Garden. Although the Rangers’ results in the win column have improved, they haven’t exactly overwhelmed their competition. Aside from last night’s 5-1 blowout victory over the Carolina Hurricanes, the Rangers have failed to score more than three goals per game. They squeaked by fellow playoff contenders Detroit and the Islanders with 3-2 wins, and struggled to a 2-0 win against the team with the NHL‘s worst record, the Buffalo Sabres.
The Ducks and Penguins will not make things easy for the Rangers, and especially will not let them get away with struggling to score goals. Back on Oct. 10, the Ducks embarrassed the Rangers in Anaheim 6-0. Every facet of the game was lacking for the Rangers at that time, especially their level of effort. Monday’s game should produce a much more respectable effort and/or result, as this Rangers team has improved mightily since. The Ducks will also be without future Hall of Famer Temmu Selanne for this one.
Then come the Penguins, who have opened up a wide lead in the Metropolitan Division thus far. Should the Rangers have any aspiration of overtaking them in the standings, it needs to start with this game. Aside from the obvious strategy of shutting down Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, the Rangers need to find a way to light the lamp and rattle Marc-Andre Fleury. It is important for this team to show the Penguins that they will not run away with the division title.
Grinding out high-scoring teams like the Ducks and Penguins won’t guarantee victory, but it will serve notice that the Rangers are not the timid, confused team they were a month ago. Right now, the team is coming together and playing good hockey again. While winning four out of five is a good start, the Rangers need to prove to themselves and the rest of the league that they can compete with the big boys. They appear ready to do so, and can start showing it tomorrow night.