Rangers Edge Capitals 4-2, Extend Win Streak to Seven
There isn’t a hotter team in the NHL heading into the Christmas break than the New York Rangers. After defeating the Washington Capitals at home 4-2 Tuesday night, the Rangers have won an NHL-best seven games in a row and are clicking on all cylinders.
On this seven-game stretch, the Rangers have defeated three Metropolitan Division teams (the Hurricanes twice) and swept their western Canada trip against the Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames.
“The team is playing good, we are winning games and it’s a great feeling in here,” winger Martin St. Louis, who had a power play goal in the Rangers' win over the Capitals, said. “We’ve taken nothing for granted. We take care of the opponents and we play seriously and we’ve been rewarded with some good plays.”
There are many things that can be looked at to explain the Rangers’ recent success, but one of the most obvious is the health of the team. Outside of center Derick Brassard and winger Lee Stempniak being diagnosed with the mumps, the Blueshirts have had a relatively healthy team for the past few weeks. As a result, players are getting more and more accustom to one another which has led to better overall play.
And a consistently healthy lineup has brought consistent scoring to the team, led by winger Rick Nash. Scoring a hat trick in the win over Washington, Nash’s 23 goals is second in the NHL and he is three points away from tying his season total from last year only 32 games into the season.
“It’s about winning and he’s helping us in a big way to win games,” Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist said. “That’s why he came to New York.”
Nash has also had some help from youngsters Jesper Fast and J.T. Miller, who since being called up from the AHL have been integral parts of the Rangers’ lineup. Miller’s improved defense play and scoring ability found him on the top lines in Brassard’s absence, and Fast has made himself a scoring threat on the fourth line upside on the penalty kill. Combine that with the already specular play of rookie Kevin Hayes on the third line, and the Rangers have a group of young players all making major contributions during a crucial time in the season.
The defense and goaltending of the Rangers has also improved as the year has gone on, and is one of the reasons the team is where it is right now not just on this streak, but throughout the entire season. With Dan Boyle and Ryan McDonagh both back from injury and returning to form, the Rangers’ defense has been able to shut down some of the best scorers in the league. There is a fluidity at the blue line that was absent earlier in the year, and it has come from the return of McDonagh and Boyle to the lineup, which has put less pressure on Marc Staal, Dan Girardi and Kevin Klein and allowed them to worry about their roles alone.
And it’s hard to talk about the success of the Rangers without discussing the recent play of Lundqvist and Cam Talbot. Both started the season with numbers worse than last season, but over the last month both goalies have settled in to a groove and been tough to beat. Lundqvist now has five shutouts with a 2.44 goals against average and .913 save percentage, while Talbot has three wins, all shutouts, on the season with a 2.20 GAA and .928 save percentage.
A healthy lineup, MVP candidate and solid defense and goaltending have placed the Rangers at third in the Metropolitan Division and six points behind the second place New York Islanders with two games in hand. Now with four days off and hosting Devils on Saturday, the big question is how long can the Rangers keep up this impressive play?