NEW YORK, NY – We’re almost a quarter of the way through the NHL season and the New York Rangers certainly aren’t tanking. They went into last night’s tilt against the Brooklyn Islanders in third place in the Metropolitan Division. Above the likes of the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals.
The Blueshirts lost a defensive battle to the Isles (2nd in the Metro) last night 7-5 but are still in third place and playoff position. This is all after losing a handful of games of the season. They have been better than expected but the Metropolitan Division has been weak this year. The Pittsburgh Penguins are in last place. The Caps are in fourth place and on the outside looking in at the Wild Card. It’s a long season and nobody expects these teams to be down for long. And neither team is far off the pace currently set by the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Henrik Lundqvist has been playing some stellar hockey in net this season. David Quinn has come on board and given a bit more structure to the team defensively so Lundqvist isn’t screened as much on shots. Lundqvist now has six wins on the season and his win on Monday night tied him with Jacques Plante for seventh on the all-time wins list. The King has been a notoriously slow starter in season’s past. But not this year. He’s been more settled in net and he’s been sitting deeper in the crease. He’s been seeing the puck better and making some stellar saves.
Hank has had some help in front of him. Filip Chytil has had a breakout year. As Pavel Buchnevich drops in the pecking order, Chytil is on the rise. The kid can flat out play. He’s worked his way up and has even gotten some playing time on the Rangers’ top line. The Czech center looks to be the real deal and has developed faster than Lias Andersson, who was drafted with Chytil in last year’s entry draft.
Another rookie making waves in the early season is Brett Howden, who scored the game-winning goal against Vancouver Monday night. The young centerman has eleven points through 19 games this season. Howden joined the Rangers from Tampa when Ryan McDonagh and JT Miller headed south at the trade deadline last season. The early returns are promising, as the Broadway Blues think they can make a playoff push this year. They’re not quite as sold on the rebuild as I am.
It’s a long season and there are some big teams that have been under-performing so far. The landscape could change drastically over the next month which could put the New York back in the sellers column at the trade deadline. We’ll see what happens as we get closer to the Winter Olympics, in which NHL players will not be participating. My useless prediction is that the Rangers will end up closer to the bottom of the Metropolitan Division than the top and will trade a few more household names at this season’s deadline.
That’s all I have for this week. Come back tomorrow for Junoir Blaber, a man that thinks Dennis Miller is still relevant.