The New York Rangers currently sit at 26-11-2 and hold the top spot in the Metro by five points with a game in hand over the Carolina Hurricanes. While their defense has struggled at times, the Blueshirts have put a major emphasis on doing the small things right, which has given them an edge on the competition so far this season.
The Rangers’ special teams units have been the best combined in the NHL. On the power play, they have a success rate of 29.7%, the best in the league. On the penalty kill, they have an 84.4%, also a top-five mark in the league. The Rangers are only one of two teams that have both units ranked within the top five.
A big part of this success has been the play of the netminders for New York, who have combined to allow 2.74 goals per game, the sixth-best in the NHL. They are also a top-10 team in terms of goals scored per game with 3.37. While the counting numbers are certainly impressive, it’s the intangibles the Blueshirts bring to the table that have set them apart from past Rangers teams.
After falling behind 3-0 to the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday, the Rangers rallied back to tie the game at three and were able to salvage a point against a Canadiens team that has had its ups and downs this season. Not folding when facing such a large deficit shows the mindset that head coach Peter Laviolette has instilled in his team.
“I thought they played hard,” said Laviolette following the shootout loss, “I thought they kept pushing the entire way.”
It’s clear this Rangers team has a different mindset and approach compared to seasons past, and it all starts with Laviolette.
“There was a lot of hockey left to be played,” defenseman Adam Fox said. “We battled back hard, would love to get two points but we worked for that one point.”
The defenseman has been key to the Rangers’ success this season despite dealing with injuries. Fox is the leader in points amongst defensemen on the Blue Shirts even though he has missed ten games this season.
Fox, an experienced veteran on this roster, brings a leadership presence to the locker room while setting the tone on the ice, and anchoring the defense.
While the Rangers still have a long way to go this season, Laviolette has put the building blocks in place for what could be a special year at the Garden. If the Rangers continue their success on special teams, combined with the goalie play of Igor Shesterkin and Jonathan Quick, there is no reason why the Blue Shirts would not be favorites to raise Lord Stanley in June.