Rangers need a good start returning from All-Star break
At a point in the season when the New York Rangers seemed to be in a downward spiral, the club received a much-needed reset as the NHL took a brief pause for the All-Star weekend festivities. This meant eight days without a game for the Rangers. Returning to play on Monday against the Colorado Avalanche, the Rangers cannot overlook the importance of these next several games.
After dominating the league for nearly the first three months of play, the Rangers hit a severe drop-off in January by going 5-7-2. If they continue on this trend, they will surely see their spot as the number one team in the Metropolitan Division taken over. In order to get back on track, New York needs to treat the first five games following the All-Star break as if they are must-wins.
“This is one of those times where we were back at practice and there was a ton of energy,” coach Peter Laviolette said on Sunday. “We do have to get off to a good start and try to build some success in the month of February.”
Rangers need a good start in February
Getting off to a good start in their return to play is crucial for the rest of the season. As the weeks pass, each game holds more significance. Setting the tone for this important stretch of hockey starts with the next five games. A 3-2-0 record should be the absolute worst that the Rangers can accept. These five contests will lead right up to the Stadium Series game against the New York Islanders on February 18th at MetLife Stadium.
It will not be easy to get things started on the right track as the Rangers face two tough opponents at home as play resumes. New York’s first match up returning from the All-Star break is against the dangerous Colorado Avalanche. It will be their first contest this season against the second-best team in the Western Conference.
Following that will be a battle against the Tampa Bay Lightning, who the Rangers took down in convincing fashion to close out 2023 by a score of 5-1. That being said, the Lightning are always a tough team to play against, and given the Rangers’ rocky performances as of late, this will be no easy task.
The Rangers will then go on the road to face the Chicago Blackhawks. Against a team at the bottom of the league standings, losing should be unacceptable. New York defeated the Blackhawks just one month ago on January 4th, but anyone who watched knew it was not their best performance.
The Blueshirts will then return home to face the Calgary Flames and the Montreal Canadiens. These are two teams who just traded away key centers of their line-up in Elias Lindholm and Sean Monahan, respectively. Whether it was for the intent of a rebuilding move or to clear some cap space for something larger, both of these teams are now slightly less dangerous and could be damaged in terms of morale from losing a teammate.
Securing wins over the Flames and Canadiens would be a great way to lead into the Stadium Series on a high note. Realistically, the Rangers have a clear path to a 3-2 start returning from the All-Star break. Even 4-1 or 5-0 if they can regain their 2023 form that was so dominant.
In order to do that, they will need Igor Shesterkin to find his game once again. It appears that he had a great time at the All-Star weekend, and won the 3-on-3 tournament alongside Vincent Trocheck. Afterwards, Shesterkin was asked if this was the exact kind of mental reset he needed to snap out his recent funk.
“We’ll see,” Shesterkin remarked after receiving a $1 million check for winning with Team Matthews.
As the Mar. 8th trade deadline inches closer, the Rangers need to decide if they are going to be contenders or pretenders. The first half of the season would have anyone convinced that New York was making a run at the Stanley Cup. Since then, not so much.
The All-Star break may have just come at the perfect time for the Rangers. Once the puck drops on Monday night, however, it’s back to business for the Blueshirts. Getting off to a good start over these next five games can certainly determine what the rest of the season is going to look like on Broadway.