With the release of the 2013-2014 schedules, it was confirmed that the Rangers would kick off the year with a lengthy nine game road trip as Madison Square Garden’s renovation is finally completed. With teams such as the Penguins still very much a league heavyweight, the Islanders ever improving, and the Blue Jackets new to the party, a solid start is critical to the Rangers.
The first month of the season is simply survival mode for the Rangers. A nine game road trip is tough regardless of opponents; but when analysing who the Rangers actually face in the month of October – 12 games in total – the Rangers have a brutal stretch to begin the year. The new season begins with tough games against the Coyotes, Kings, Sharks, Ducks, and Blues, all on the road. Losing to any of those teams on the road would not be a shock for any club, so the possibility of starting out 0-5 is by no means unrealistic. There’s no ‘gimmie’ amongst that quintet for sure.
Following that start up with trips to the Capitals, the always annoying (even if decimated) Devils, rival Flyers, and re-tooled Red Wings certainly suggest the road trip doesn’t get easier. Then, finally, the Rangers begin their home portion of the schedule by entertaining the Canadiens – a team it seems they never play well against. Completing October is a trip to the Islanders (always tough) and a Halloween match-up at the Garden with the Sabres.
Perhaps the Devils and the Sabres aside, you could probably have not handpicked a tougher start for the Rangers. Factor in the likely absence of key forwards Ryan Callahan and Carl Hagelin early on, factor in the adjustment period any new coaching staff faces, and the Rangers have to hit the ground running or face playing catch up all season.
Of course, this is a talented club and none of those October opponents will relish facing the Rangers but regardless how, the Rangers just need to get out of October in-touch with the leaders in the new division (horrible division name by the way; is it a division or a cocktail?).
If the Rangers could escape October with a .500 record entering November, not many people would complain. A winning record would be an excellent achievement. With so many factors to consider, new players to integrate, and key injuries to accommodate, the Rangers are already in survival mode. But as the Rangers have proven in recent seasons; it’s not how you start the regular season but its how you finish. Just don’t start too bad.