NEW YORK — The New York Rangers picked up their sixth straight win and swept a home-and-home set against the Carolina Hurricanes Sunday night at Madison Square Garden. Unlike Saturday night’s game in Raleigh, the Rangers were able to put the game away in regulation with a 1-0 win. Cam Talbot recorded his third shutout of the season and Ryan McDonagh scored the only goal the Rangers needed at 4:10 of the first.
The Rangers, who have struggled with consistency this season, have been able to find a flow and a balance that have proven to be successful. They are playing stronger defensively, getting more production from the back end, and finding ways to win games. Henrik Lundqvist is establishing a more even playing style and putting out performances you would expect from the elite goaltender. Things are coming together for the Rangers—which is evident from their longest winning streak of the season—but the team still needs to give a bit more.
“Our effort, the consistency in our work ethic for the last however many weeks has been right up there. So a good team, when you’re rolling like that, you want to keep it going as much as you can,” Marc Staal said. “Against teams that are below you, good teams find a way to win those hockey games and we did that this weekend, although it was probably some of the ugliest hockey you’ve seen in a long time tonight.”
As Staal pointed out, it is great that the Rangers are finding ways to win, but—like we saw against Carolina—some of their wins aren’t pretty and don’t come easy. In the past two games against the struggling Hurricanes, who only have nine wins this season, the Rangers dominated play. The Blueshirts assaulted Cam Ward and Anton Khudobin with a combined 65 shots; yet, they only had three goals to show for their efforts. Granted, Ward and Khudobin played outstanding games and much is to be said about how they prevented the Rangers from scoring, but New York needs to take advantage of the opportunities they are presented with.
Sunday night the Rangers had three power play opportunities and couldn’t covert on any. The night before, New York went one for two on the man advantage. It may sound repetitive, but the Blueshirts need power-play goals. They are finding ways to win without them, but it would suit the team well, as the season moves on, if they upped the production on the power play. Right now is the perfect time for the Rangers power play to take the helm. The team is playing with confidence and improving on its game in so many other ways. If the Rangers could increase their power-play efficiency they would become a more dangerous team.
Presently, the Rangers are in the middle of the pack working their way up. They are a threatening team, but not a dominating team. Fourteen other teams are ahead of them in the standings and only three of those teams are worse than the Rangers on the power play. The Rangers proved last year that teams can make it far with a weak power play, but it makes it a lot easier if the man advantage is clicking.
In general, the Rangers would benefit from players being more productive. Derick Brassard and Martin St. Louis haven’t scored in five games or more, and only two players—Rick Nash and St. Louis—have recorded 10 goals or more this season. More lines need to start finding the back of the net. Their depth is what helped them make a deep playoff run last year, but so far this season, New York has failed to demonstrate that depth.
Now the Rangers have a chance to go on the three-day holiday break with the longest active winning streak in the NHL. They just have to get through Washington first. The two teams are tied for third place in the Metropolitan Division with 38 points and 15 regulation/overtime wins. With the Capitals power play (second in the NHL) and potent offensive powerhouses—Alex Ovechkin and Niklas Backstrom—the Rangers will face a true test Tuesday night.