Rangers off to best start under Alain Vigneault and they’re only going to get better
The Rangers are 6-2-2 with 14 points after 10 games this season. It is the best start for Alain Vigneault‘s troops in his third season. Back in 2013-14, the Blueshirts were a mess. They opened up 3-7 in their first 10 games and Rangers fans still loyal to John Tortorella were wondering if Glen Sather just made a huge mistake.
That season, the Rangers were hovering around .500 all the way into February thanks to a slow start by Henrik Lundqvist and some serious discombobulation by every Ranger trying to learn AV’s new system. However, when they finally stopped being a grinding group of shot blockers and transitioned into a skilled team, they rode that to a hot streak and a run to the Stanley Cup Final.
Last year, they got out of the gate at 5-4-1 in their first 10. Once again, victims to another Lundqvist slow start and assimilating some kids into the roster like Anthony Duclair and Kevin Hayes. It took the Rangers who lost key players to free agency and a buy-out over 2 months to figure it out. On December 8th, they would win 13 out of 14 games and capture their first Presidents’ Trophy since 1994.
Now this year, even with some glaring issues like Rick Nash and Chris Kreider with only one goal each, the Rangers are already clicking. This is also with Dan Girardi struggling defensively along with some other blue-liners like Dan Boyle who has been a turnover machine. The Blueshirts are still able to find ways to win, just like they did against Columbus early in the year and Calgary on Sunday.
So what’s the biggest difference? It’s easy and you don’t need a bunch of fancy stats charts to confuse you. The Rangers are scoring at a high rate and getting spectacular goaltending. Let me lay it out for you more clearly.
2013-14 First 10 Games: 3-7, 1.3 Goals Per Game vs. 3.5 Goals Against Per Game
2014-15 First 10 Games: 5-4-1, 2.6 GPG vs. 3.0 GAPG
2015-16 First 10 Games: 6-2-2, 2.8 GPG vs. 2.0 GAPG
Ok, so maybe that is too simplistic but that’s what it is. The Rangers are in essence the same team as last year with only Oscar Lindberg, Emerson Etem and Jarret Stoll needing to learn the way the Rangers play under Alain Vigneault. In Lindberg’s case, he was prepared in Hartford and already had chemistry with current linemate J.T. Miller.
Another big reason for the improved start is Henrik Lundqvist. It is well documented that AV told him when the season ended that he needed to be ready to go in October. In other words, we can’t have a slow start out of the gate. Lundqvist, being the competitor that he is took it to heart and came in ready to go.
Here’s who else gets a big assist, BAUER! Yes, the company that makes Lundqvist’s equipment. As Stephen Valiquette recently pointed out during one of the MSG telecasts, Lundqvist’s pads are over a pound lighter and as result he is more explosive then before. This extra quickness and mobility, which I assure you most NHL shooters didn’t feel he needed has already led to a half dozen highlight reel stops.
[su_quote cite=”NY POST” url=”http://nypost.com/2015/10/25/the-secret-to-henrik-lundqvists-increase-of-acrobatic-saves/”]For as previously reported by The Post, Lundqvist is wearing a new fashion of Bauer goaltenders’ skates this year, ones without the toe cap that allow him to dig in his blades at a sharper angle into the ice so he can both better close off the low five-hole while getting a better push when needed. “The way I can move in my new skates and new pads has definitely helped my game,” The King told The Post before Saturday’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Flyers on Saturday night. “Maybe it’s a small point, but what can I say? I really like the new skates.[/su_quote]
Thanks primarily to The King and his stellar, 1.87 GAA and .941 SV% the Blueshirts are well ahead of last year’s Presidents Trophy pace. Another big nod goes to Jeff Gorton for acquiring Antti Raanta to replace Cam Talbot whom he was forced to move due to Talbot’s pending UFA status this July. Raanta is 2-0 with a shutout, not a bad replacement.
So to wrap up, the Rangers are getting scoring throughout the lineup from all 4 lines. The defense is doing a solid job despite some rough patches in which their goalies have bailed them out. In addition and it is important to note, almost every Ranger is familiar with what the game-plan is so there is no learning curve this season.
Even with all those positives there’s plenty of room for improvement. Once Rick Nash and Chris Kreider get going, any of these concerns we fretted over today will be yet another laughable memory in AV’s thus far stellar tenure as Rangers’ bench boss.