What a difference two weeks make for the New York Rangers. All the turmoil on the ice and the coaching change rumors seem like history now that the Rangers are the hottest team in the NHL.
After three straight wins last week, the team succeeded this week to extend its league-best winning streak to 6 games.
On Monday, Nov. 5, the Rangers faced the Columbus Blue Jackets with a chance to even their record at .500 for the first time this season.
Despite a rocky start and falling behind in the second and third periods, the Rangers scored 3 power play goals in a 5-3 victory. Two days later, the team continued their homestand against the Boston Bruins.
The Rangers scored 3 first-period goals, 2 of them courtesy of Jimmy Vesey, 29 seconds apart. This put the team en route to a 4-2 win, its fifth straight victory and its first time having a winning record.
Such a terrific start to a game has been rare for the Rangers, as their early season struggles were mainly because of poor starts to games. On Saturday, Nov. 11, the Rangers concluded their homestand against the struggling Edmonton Oilers.
The Oilers featured the reigning MVP Connor McDavid, who scored a goal in the game to give the Oilers a 2-1 lead.
The Rangers stayed resilient and fought their way to a 4-2 win. It is not just one player contributing to this torrid stretch.
The Rangers are getting contributions up and down the lineup. Pavel Buchnevich has scored 7 goals and 10 points in his past 8 games, leading the league with 7 goals since Oct. 26. Buchnevich scored in all 3 games this week.
Kevin Shattenkirk has finally started to play an all-around game, combining his dynamic offensive and power-play abilities with solid defense. His 17 points are second on the team behind Mika Zibanejad’s 18. Michael Grabner scored 3 goals this week and has 8 goals on the season.
Rick Nash has 5 goals in his past 7 games, showing why he is considered to be one of the best goal scorers today. Chris Kreider has also picked up the slack, with 4 goals in his past 7 games. But the most encouraging news is that goaltender Henrik Lundqvist has shown enormous signs of improvement with several dominant performances this week.
Lundqvist’s statistics are much better from when he started, with 2.92 goals against average and a .905 save percentage. Lundqvist has also won six straight decisions, with the offensive surge by the Rangers taking a lot of pressure off him.
The Rangers’ power play has been the difference so far during this winning streak, as it has jumped to third-best in percentage at 25.8 percent, while converting on 8 of their last 19 power plays, a 42.1 percent success rate.
The penalty kill, an area that has struggled mightily, has also improved. It is now ranked 13 in the NHL at 81.4 percent and they have killed off 18 of their last 20 penalties.
With an improved special team, strong goaltending and team chemistry, the Rangers have clawed their way back to the top of the Metropolitan Division, the toughest in the NHL. Their record currently sits at 9-8-2.
Only 4 points separate the Rangers, who are sixth in the division, from the first-place New Jersey Devils. The Rangers have two tough tests on the road next week, with the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday and the Blue Jackets on Friday.
The Rangers did not perform well against the Blackhawks on Nov. 15, as they gave up 6 goals en route to their first loss after beginning their streak. The Blackhawks dominated throughout, and did not let the Rangers climb back into the game every time the latter tried to claw back in.
Lundqvist was replaced after giving up 4 goals on 34 shots. The team will look to rebound against the Ottawa Senators team that eliminated them from the playoffs last season.
If the Rangers can bounce back and get back to their winning ways, there is reason to believe they will be contenders once again.