McDonald: Rangers Rolling Through The First Half

The Knick and the Ranger locker rooms are separated by all of about five feet at Madison Square Garden, so you have to wonder how can one locker room smell like roses while the other contains the unbearable stench of losing.

The Knicks, of course, are going through a gutting process while Phil Jackson rebuilds the team in his image.

The Rangers, on the other hand, have been, incredible winning 12 of 13 games and playing almost flawless hockey.

Along with the Islanders, the Blueshirts are giving New York some hope during this dark time in professional sports. The Jets and Giants went through awful seasons and the Nets are not much better than the Knicks.

And the prospects of post-season baseball are fleeting at best.

The Rangers, though, have been a juggernaut, since getting their key players back from injury. With Derek Stepan, Dan Boyle, Ryan McDonagh all on the shelf with various injuries and an epidemic of the mumps in the dressing room, the Blueshirts floundered over the first two months of the season.

Now things are looking up and up.

The team is third in the league in goals per game, seventh in goals against, eighth on the power play and 10th in the penalty kill. All along they have jelled as a team even though they seem a little less complete than the team that went to the Final last season.

No matter, since that’s what the trade deadline is for. Currently the Rangers are looking at three younger players to have significant roles in the second half in Kevin Hayes, J.T. Miller and Jesper Fast.

But if they need help, general manager Glen Sather will pull the trigger.

It doesn’t seem like that’s the case as the Rangers won their first two games on the California trip. Anaheim, who leads the league in points, fell 4-1 on Wednesday while the team took a little revenge against the Kings last night.

“We used our legs, we started skating in the second period, we were all over them,” said center Derick Brassard to reporters. “It’s not even about last year. Just to come here and the way they play, it’s so hard, it’s a heavy game, and we’re just happy that we beat two of the top five teams in the league. It’s a big win for us.”

A quirk in the schedule has the Rangers holding two and sometimes three games in hand against some of their rivals. But with 50 points after 38 games, they look pretty strong for the second half.

Partially that’s due to Rick Nash, who is finally playing like the superstar they traded for two years ago. Nash is the only player in the NHL who ranks among the top 10 in each of the following three categories: goals (25 – ranks second in the NHL), plus/minus rating (plus-18 – is tied for seventh in the NHL), and takeaways (33 – is tied for eighth in the NHL).

Nash has recorded at least 20 goals in 11 consecutive seasons (dating back to 2003-04), which is the longest active streak in the NHL. He leads the NHL in games with a goal (20) and he is tied for fifth in the NHL in game-winning goals (four) this season. Nash has recorded a point in 28 of the Rangers’ 38 games in 2014-15 and he has notched at least one point in 18 of the team’s 23 victories.

And Boyle is another signing that worked out for Sather, who is playing like he is 10 years younger. Boyle is tied for third among NHL defensemen in power play goals (three) since he returned to the lineup on Nov. 13 and he is tied for first among all NHL defensemen in power play points (five) since Dec. 23. The Rangers have posted a 16-4-2 record in games which Boyle has played in 2014-15.

And there have been other surprises like the development of Kevin Klein, is the only NHL defenseman to register at least eight goals, tally at least three game-winning goals, record at least two overtime goals, and post a plus/minus rating of plus-15 or better this season.

We can go on and on, but you get the point. There’s still a lot of hockey left to play, but thank the Lord for that, since the Rangers are one of the few teams that can bring a smile to your face in this town.

About the Author

Joe McDonald

Joe McDonald is the founder and former publisher of NY Sports Day. After selling to i15Media in 2020, he serves as the Editor-in-Chief and responsible for the editorial side of the publication. In the past, Joe was the managing editor of NY Sportscene magazine and assistant editor of Mets Inside Pitch. He has covered the Mets since 2004.

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