The Rangers opened the season 3-4-0. Sure, it’s not the start everyone had envisioned, especially with both Ryan Callahan and Chris Kreider out with injuries, but it’s only marginally worse than last year’s 3-2-2 start through seven games. That start included four games against non-playoff teams. This year the Rangers played the Penguins twice, the Flyers twice, and the Bruins twice. That’s six games against playoff teams.
If you told me that the Rangers would be 3-4-0 after this seven game stretch, I’d take it. I may not like it, but it’s a lot better than what could have been. In the month of February, the Rangers will play 12 games, nine against teams that missed the playoffs last season. Sure, the Lightning (two games) are 5-1-0 to start the season, but for comparison’s sake, the Islanders are 4-2-1. That’s not a slight against the Lightning, but hot starts fade.
Using last year as a barometer, the Rangers still went 0-1-1 in their next two games before really opening things up. After that, they won seven in a row, before going 3-2-0 to close out the month. To put the numbers together, the Rangers started last year at 3-3-3. They finished November with a record of 13-5-2. A lot can happen over the course of a month, and last year’s top-seed in the Eastern Conference also had a sub-par start to the season.
The Rangers had arguably the hardest start to the season. They survived it, managing to get three wins in the process. It wasn’t pretty, and it likely won’t be pretty until the club really hits its stride after two or three more games. Once they get Cally and Kreider back (assuming it’s the playoff Kreider), then their depth problem won’t be exploited as badly as it has been.
Based on the reaction from last night’s game, there’s a lot of ship-jumping at the moment. Such is a by-product of being a New York sports fan. We live and die by the teams we love. But in all the hype, let’s remember that 41 games still remain in this season. The Rangers are only three points behind the Devils for the Atlantic lead, five points behind Ottawa for the conference lead, and two points behind Pittsburgh for a playoff spot.
Remember, it could be worse. We could be Philadelphia, Washington, or Florida. All three made the playoffs last year. All three are in the cellar of the Eastern Conference.