The New York Rangers have fought all the way back to .500 on the season on the strength of back-to-back wins on Wednesday and Thursday nights. First came an impressive 5-1 outburst over the talented Pittsburgh Penguins, and then came a grittier 4-2 road victory against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Each win was impressive in its own way — although certainly the win over Pittsburgh was both more impressive and meaningful — and the Rangers are finally showing signs of the club they were supposed to be from the start of the year.
There were plenty of familiar faces on the ice in Columbus, what with former Rangers Marian Gaborik, Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov trading in their Blueshirts for Blue Jackets in two separate swaps between the clubs. But it was the more welcome sight of the familiar faces still on the Rangers whom fans have been waiting to break out this season that spurred the team to victory, and have sparked the revival on the season.
Speedster Carl Hagelin was credited with two goals against Columbus, although one was an own goal which a Blue Jackets defenseman tossed into his own net off the back of his goaltender. Still, Hagelin has six points in his last four games.
Captain Ryan Callahan added a power play goal, his 5th tally on the year, and Ryan McDonagh had two points, including an empty netter to seal the game with less than a minute remaining.
The power play has actually managed to find a rhythm with crisp passing and positioning, a rare sight over the past few seasons, and the Derek Stepan-centered line with Chris Kreider, who has seven points in nine games this year, and Mats Zuccarello, continues to be a revelation. Even without former face of the Columbus franchise Rick Nash in the lineup since the start of the season, the Rangers have finally found some offense.
With 16 games played so far, the Rangers year has been divided into two halves. The campaign began with a 2-6 start to the season, in the midst of a miserable nine-game road trip, and you would have been forgiven if you thought the Rangers would need more time to get things in order, particularly as injuries to Nash, Callahan, Hagelin and Henrik Lundqvist piled up.
They were shut out twice in that stretch, and scored only one goal on two other occasions, leading to an awful 12 total goals scored in eight contests, against a perhaps even more awful 31 goals allowed. By comparison, in the eight games since the Rangers have gone 6-2, reversing fates by scoring 23 goals and giving up only 12.
It was Cam Talbot who picked up the W on Thursday against Columbus, and the rookie goaltender has gone 3-1 in his first four career starts. More importantly though is that Lundqvist has picked up his game immensely since a disastrous first few weeks of the season.
He now sports a 2.42 GAA and .919% save percentage – still mediocre numbers, but drastically improved and steadily ticking upwards. In his last five games, he’s given up only six goals, turning away 132 of 138 shots he’s faced, and The King appears to have regained his Vezina Trophy-winning form.
The Rangers now head back to Madison Square for four of their next five games, before embarking on another extended road trip which takes them through the end of November, and another back-to-back set of games, this time a pair of nationally televised afternoon contests on Thanksgiving weekend
It’s a topsy-turvy, back and forth kind of schedule for the club, but hopefully the improved results now stay consistent both at home and on the road.
*This article was first published on Yahoo Sports on November 7, 2013.