It may sound like a bad Russell Crowe movie, but the last 240 minutes of regulation have been a whirlwind for the New York Rangers. So, what do we make of it? While they picked up 5 out of a possible 8 points during the four-game stretch to obtain, maintain, and gain a lead on the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Rangers can’t be pleased with how they played.
New York played one of their most complete games of the season last Tuesday against the Penguins in Pittsburgh. The two rivals have been jockeying in the Metropolitan Division standings of late, as they’ll most likely face each other in early May when the NHL playoffs begin. Like so many times this season, New York went down early and clawed their way back to another come from behind victory. It was one of the Rangers’ most complete 60-minute efforts against a surefire playoff team all year.
New York came from behind again Tuesday night in Detroit. This time that full 60-minute effort was a bit more elusive. The Red Wings controlled the pace of play for most of the first period and significant chunks of the second and third period. However, the Rangers turned it on late in the 3rd period to tie the game at four and send it to overtime. Andrew Copp got the game-winning goal on a feed from his new linemate, Artemi Panarin. After their back-to-back victories, the Rangers not only lead the league this season in come-from-behind wins, but they also set a new franchise record with 24.
On Friday, the Blueshirts put in one of their worst efforts of the season against the Islanders. Despite outshooting the Islanders 27-18, Head Coach Gerard Gallant went as far to say, “We were horseshit.” Semyon Varlamov shut out the Rangers 3-0. This makes four shutouts in a row for Varlamov at MSG.
It hasn’t happened a lot this season, but when the Rangers get embarrassed, they usually come out on fire the next game or go on a considerable run. It most notably happened in November; after getting humiliated by the Calgary Flames 6-0, the Rangers went on to win 11 of their next 12 contests. After getting humiliated by the Devils 7-4, New York went into Pittsburgh and dominated the Penguins for a 5-1 victory.
So, it was reasonable to expect to see a more complete game Sunday against the struggling Flyers. In a way, they did play a more complete game but still came away with the loss. The Rangers peppered Flyer’s goalie, Martin Jones, with 46 shots during regulation and overtime. After giving up two quick goals in the first, the Rangers controlled the puck for the majority of the game, but Martin Jones reverted to his 2016 season when he carried the San Jose Sharks to the Cup Finals against the Penguins. A strong push late in the 3rd period would send the game to overtime, but former Ranger Kevin Hayes scored what would become the game-winning shootout goal.
So, what do we make of this inconsistent week when the Rangers pulled 2 points ahead of the Penguins for home-ice advantage in the first round? Since the deadline, the Rangers are 4-3 but have outshot every opponent. The five on five issues that Rangers GM Chris Drury tried to fix at the deadline aren’t completely solved, but they’re trending in the right direction.
Are these inconsistencies correlated to; The doldrums of a long season? The signs or a young team? Getting acclimated with new teammates? Or just not respecting weaker teams? With one month left in the regular season, Gerard Gallant will continue to tinker with his lineup as he tries to find the right mix for postseason success.