It doesn’t matter that the Rangers still haven’t strung together many (if any) complete performances but they are winning. What is even more impressive – and enjoyable – is how the rest of the conference is helping the Rangers as we approach the quarter way stage of the season.
Last night The Canadiens (the next opponents), Capitals and Penguins all lost. Toronto continued to lose and for the second year in the row, ruin a fast start. Everywhere you look in the conference, teams are helping the Rangers in their quest for a higher seed. The best part of it all is that the Rangers are benefitting from all their rivals’ inconsistencies while they remain relatively idle. The Rangers main opponents for a top 5 seed have all played at least two games more, at times three. By the time the Rangers face off on Saturday night in Montreal that could be as much as 4.
So what does the favourable shake down of the East mean to the Rangers? Pressure. Less of it. With a winning streak such as the Rangers’, comes heightened expectancy. With winnable games in Montreal and against the Panthers to come, the Rangers have a chance to really cement a place in the top spots of the Eastern conference before three big showdowns with the Capitals, Flyers and Penguins. Should things go as planned the young Rangers can enter the three games against the perennial Eastern powers with everything to gain and reltaively little to lose.
A young team will benefit from playing big games without too much expectancy, necessity or pressure. They can play freely on not worry about the what if’s. If the Rangers can find a way to win against the depleted blue line of Montreal and the overachieving but hardly world beating Panthers then it really does set up an interesting week ahead.
With Marc Staal to return (at some stage, we hope, we pray) the Rangers have a huge opportunity head. They enter the next two weeks well rested and with a chance to lay the foundations for a strong regular season. If they can continue – for the most part – with what has got them to this point there should be no last day jitters or a race to the April finish line. Well rested and not burnt out come the post season, a prolonged second season is more likely and every Rangers fans wants that. So, let’s hope Avery, Richards and the team can hit the next two games hard and steal another two wins. 9 in a row; sounds good.