In a season that started so poorly, it appears the New York Rangers have finally found their stride and are ready to turn a corner. The Rangers hit a season-high four game winning streak after defeating the Colorado Avalanche Tuesday night, 5-1. The win was also their tenth out of their past 13 games, allowing the Rangers to quickly move up the standings in a tightly contested Metropolitan Division.
The Rangers started the season with a West coast road trip, as renovations to Madison Square Garden forced them to play away from home ice. They played their first nine games as the away team, winning only three of them. But the real concern at the time was the play of their starting goaltender, Henrik Lundqvist. A model of consistency over the past number of years, and a recent recipient of the Vezina trophy for the league’s best goaltender, Lundqvist was struggling in the early season, allowing 29 goals in his first seven starts. After a 4-0 loss to their rival, the New Jersey Devils, Lundqvist put the blame on himself, claiming, “The only way to turn things around is to work hard, and good things will happen.”
Now, Henrik Lundqvist’s message seems prophetic. His own play has improved, allowing just 13 goals in his past 10 starts, but the real turn around for the New York Rangers season has to belong to forward Rick Nash. Much was made about his inclusion onto the Canadian Men’s Olympic Ice Hockey team as they were announced in early January, especially given the poor numbers he had put up to that point in the season. But that same inclusion appeared to lift a weight off his shoulders, as he put up 11 goals in 11 games, including four game-winning goals. According to Nash, it was simply a matter of the pucks finding their way in the net on scoring opportunities when they weren’t early in the season. For whatever the reason, the turn around in his play couldn’t have come at a better time for the New York Rangers.
Before this recent string of wins, the Rangers were tied for fifth in the Metropolitan Division and tenth in the Eastern Conference, well out of a playoff spot. Questions were raised about whether the Rangers would be sellers at the trade deadline and what would be done with their captain and upcoming free agent, Ryan Callahan. With the win over the Avalanche on Tuesday night, the New York Rangers are now second in their division and only one point behind fourth in their conference. Now, attempts are being made to re-sign Callahan, though the two sides still appear to remain far apart with regards to salary demands.
The extension talks will have to be put on hold for a couple weeks, as Callahan will represent the United States on the US Men’s Olympic Ice Hockey team in Sochi, Russia. But the New York Rangers hope that when he returns, they can continue talks and continue this run of good play from all their players that has allowed their season to turn around.
By Jonathan Gardner