The New York Rangers have won four out of their last five games. They now stand at ninth place in the NHL‘s Eastern Conference with 12 points, and appear to be putting their October struggles behind them. Most importantly, they are learning to play together under new coach Alain Vigneault and are developing chemistry.
The keys to the Rangers’ resurgence have been the maturity of Chris Kreider, the return of Carl Hagelin from injury, and Derek Stepan playing like a top-line center again. Furthermore, Henrik Lundqvist looks like himself and they are scoring on the power play. Kreider was the best player on the ice for the Rangers during their home opener loss to the Montreal Canadiens, and especially in their emotional win the following night against the New York Islanders. The Rangers have not lost a game since Hagelin’s return. His speed and creativity have added a different dimension to the Rangers’ game, and appears to fit Vigneault’s up-tempo offensive system. Hagelin scored his first two goals of the season during last night’s 5-1 Ranger win against the Carolina Hurricanes. In the same game, Stepan proved emphatically that he is the Rangers’ top center, posting his second career hat-trick.
Most importantly for the Rangers, Lundqvist had another impressive game. Following a 2-0 shutout of the Buffalo Sabres, he played even better against Carolina. He made 27 saves, allowing only one goal on a deflection during a Carolina power play. His “undisclosed injury” that sidelined him for a couple of games last week appears to be behind him. And once again last night, the Rangers scored a power play goal, placing their man advantage at 12th in the league.
The team’s only major issue that remains is their goals per game, standing at 28th in the league at 1.9. There is still no timetable for the return of their best forward, Rick Nash, who is still suffering concussion symptoms. However, they should get captain Ryan Callahan back as early as next weekend, and if they can get Nash back healthy, this team could rise to the next level. For now, the Rangers are playing with chemistry and are putting their nightmarish start behind them. Time will tell if it will catapult them to the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference.