New York Rangers surge into Holiday Break with strong December

The New York Rangers are officially back on track after struggling in the first two months of the season. Thanks to a seven game winning streak in December the Blueshirts have overcome a mediocre 10-9-4 start.

When the Rangers rallied by the New York Islanders at the Garden on Thursday night, it capped a 9-2-1 run that started with a 3-1 win over the Senators to close out November. That was also Jaroslav’s Halak’s first win as a Ranger.

The team’s 19 points from 11/30 on are tied with the divisional leader Carolina Hurricanes for most points earned during that stretch. The Blueshirts are tied with the Pittsburgh Penguins at 43 points, but the Pens hold third place in the Metro because they’ve played two less games.

Playoff wise, the Rangers hold the first Wild Card spot by three points over the Washington Capitals. The Islanders are five points out of the second Wild Card position.

“I think we’re just confident. We’ve really played well the last 9 or 10 games,” Gerard Gallant said before the break. “Our record should’ve been better than it was in the first 25 (games) and it wasn’t. We found a way to dig down. When you work hard and compete hard good things happen.”

New York Rangers head into break strong

New york rangers
Dec 22, 2022; New York, New York, USA; New York Rangers left wing Artemi Panarin (10) celebrates his goal against the New York Islanders with teammates during the first period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

When it comes to why the Rangers have turned things around, it all starts with Igor Shesterkin in net, who is 7-1-1 with a GAA of 2.19 and a .922 save percentage in December.

The reigning Vezina winner was very hard on himself after back-to-back losses on November 26 and 28 (Edmonton Oilers and New Jersey Devils). After saying he was “ashamed” of his play, Shesty has been on a tear.

Another key to this turnaround is captain Jacob Trouba. His emotional outburst in an embarrassing loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on December 3rd ignited a fire under his teammates, who responded to the challenge with a seven-game winning streak.

“I think we could use a little more emotion, a little more will in our game,” Trouba explained after the loss. “It’s not easy. You’re not out here to go for a twirl. It’s a hard game and you have to play it hard. There’s a lot of story left to be written. It’s not a done thing by any means but it’s gone on for a bit now. Something needs to change. There’s needs to be a little more of a pushback from within. We can’t keep doing the same thing and expect a different result.”

Of course, the puck starting to find the back of the net (despite continuously finding a high number of posts) has helped.

Since November 30, only the Edmonton Oilers (50) have scored more goals than the Rangers’ 46. Of course, you have to keep the puck out as well and they did just that by allowing only 29 against, tied for fourth during that same time.

Finally, the Rangers are getting balanced scoring with 19 players earning at least a point and four players collecting 10 or more points (Artemi Panarin 16, Mika Zibanejad 14, Vincent Trocheck 13, and Adam Fox 10).

In the goal scoring department, Chris Kreider’s six goals in the last 12 games paces the team. Coming in second is young Kaapo Kakko with five, which is exactly the type of secondary scoring you need to win consistently in the NHL.

The Rangers are 19-11-5 after 35 games as we approach the midway mark of the season (41 games). They’re obviously trending upwards and that will mean GM Chris Drury is assessing what he can do at the NHL Trade Deadline to get this squad to the next level.

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