Rangers annual mid-season surge appears in full effect
“Here come the Rangers!”
Under the guidance of head coach Alain Vigneault the Blueshirts have usually struggled a bit during the first few months of a regular season and then clicked. Have the Rangers clicked again? It certainly appears so.
Rewind back to AV’s first season in NY in 2013-14 and by the end of December the Rangers were a mess. Many were wondering if the firing of John Tortorella was a huge mistake as they were just 1 game over .500 at 20-19-2.
Then it clicked. The hapless Rangers defense starting executing the system and the forwards were generating offense off the transition. Henrik Lundqvist became all world and not even the Olympic break could stop them. They finished the season on a 24-10-4 run and lost to the L.A. Kings in the Stanley Cup Final.
Last season, the Rangers won the Presidents’ Trophy so you must be saying there was no mid season surge. While that is technically correct, they were a mess to start the year. The surge kicked in a month earlier as they were just 11-10-4 on December 6th. What changed? Similar to the prior year, the Rangers just weren’t clicking defensively and allowing way too many scoring chances. Even Henrik Lundqvist looked pedestrian. If not for Rick Nash‘s huge start that record could’ve been worse, instead they went on a 42-14-3 tear but lost in the ECF thanks to a plethora of injuries.
So now the Rangers are in the midst of a 4 game winning streak and are surging back up in the standings. Before January rolled around they were 21-13-4 but they had just wrapped up an awful December at 4-7-2. Thanks to the incredible start by Lundqvist the Rangers were 13 games over .500 and leading the division. Then the Rangers sloppy defense caught up with them and Lundqvist could no longer carry the team without offensive help.
At some point in January, the Rangers went click again! In their last 9 games the Rangers are 7-2 and in his last 10 games Lundqvist is 8-2. The King is heating up as he’s sporting a 1.90 GAA and 930 SV% in those 10 contests. What we also shouldn’t lose sight of is the hot streak young J.T. Miller is on as he’s scored 9 goals and 11 points in his last 11 games.
While the Rangers may not be on the same surge pace as in previous seasons, what they are doing looks like they will be able to continue and sustain their current play. What’s been impressive is this is being done without Rick Nash and as of late Ryan McDonagh.
How are they doing it? Defense first obviously. Just like with the previous surges the defense is clicking and leading the charge. Much maligned Dan Girardi is experiencing a resurgence as he’s posted two helpers and a +6 during the Rangers last 9 games. He’s playing big minutes and has actually been a beast with McDonagh down.
Another huge factor is the play of Keith Yandle who is being given even more minutes with the captain out. Yandle’s 2 goals, 6 points and +6 in the Rangers last 9 have hopefully opened the eyes of AV to play him more and GM, Jeff Gorton to make every effort to keep him.
Feb: 4-1 (so far)
So here we are with the Rangers looking like they’re making another run heading into the playoffs. The Capitals are certainly sitting pretty at the top of the Metro, and it is unlikely the Rangers will catch them. Still, if the Rangers’ annual surge is for real, maybe even the Caps might say…
“Here Come The Rangers!”
Note: I’m actually off from work today and the site is up for now until the end of the month. This post doesn’t mean I’m coming back but I figured I’d share a some thoughts.