Gerard Gallant 1

It’s Going To Be A Busy December

Well it appears I was too pessimistic about the Rangers in November, with the team posting a 7-2-2 record against a prediction of 5-5-3 – two games were postponed, though against Ottawa and an undermanned Islanders, the Rangers would have been favorites in each of those.  Clearly the Rangers did well, including picking up wins over Florida and Boston, both of which were predicted as losses.

November did start out with 13 games scheduled, but with COVID striking two of their opponents, the Rangers got a bit of a break and ended the month a couple of games short.  There is always the chance it happens again in December, but as it stands now they’ll play 14 games in 31 days, though that includes a stretch of 10 days around the holiday break, where they’ll play just one game.

Put another way, they’ll play 13 of their 14 games in 22 nights.

December 1st – RANGERS v FLYERS
The Rangers went 4-3-1 against Philadelphia last season, but most memorably outscored them 17-3 in an eight day span, where they blew their rivals away by the tune of 9-0 and then 8-3 eight days later in the rematch.  The Flyers did recover to win two of the final three, but ended up missing the playoffs like the Rangers.  This will mark the first meeting of the two teams this season, with the Flyers coming in on a six game losing streak, going 0-4-2 and being outscored by a tune of 26-11.  The Rangers by contrast are coming off an unscheduled five day break after Sunday’s game against the Islanders was postponed, and have a three game winning streak.  It’s worth noting, the Rangers have a meager 2-4-2 record at home against the Flyers in their last eight matchups at MSG.

Prediction:  RANGERS WIN

December 3rd – RANGERS v SHARKS
San Jose has not started the year well, having gone 12-9-1 through their first 22 games, but have improved of late, having won 4 of their last 5, and 3 of their last 4 on the road.  They do have a 2-1 OT win against Carolina in that overall streak, as well as a 4-1 win over Minnesota in their road streak, so shouldn’t be underestimated.  That said, this is a game that Rangers would expect to win on most nights, and it’s a team they’ve had success against for much of their existence. New York has won 4 of their last 5 matchups with the Sharks, though two of those wins have come in OT and the shootout respectively.

Prediction:  RANGERS WIN

December 7th – RANGERS at BLACKHAWKS
After starting the year 1-9-2, the Blackhawks have gone 6-3-0, and are more like the team that many expected coming into training camp.  The Hawks have been hit with plenty of turmoil in their season already, having replaced both their GM Stan Bowman for his part in the handling of the Kyle Beach accusations, as well as head coach Jeremy Colliton due to the poor start. 

It’s worth noting that Chicago has not been able to completely assert themselves in this improved streak, and have won five of those six by just a single goal, including two in OT and one in the shootout.  It’s also worth noting that the teams they have beaten are all in the middle to lower end of the league standings, with two of the three losses coming against Edmonton and Calgary.

Head to head, the Rangers have won the last two match-ups between these teams, winning 4-3 in January of 2019, and then 6-3 in February of 2020.

Prediction 4th:  RANGERS WIN
Prediction 7th:  OT loss

December 8th – RANGERS v AVALANCHE
A cup projection for many before the season started, the Avalanche stumbled in the early going, but have more than righted the ship, with seven wins in their last eight, and a 10-3-1 record since starting the year 1-3-0.

Switching in Darcy Kuemper for Philip Grubauer has not gone as smoothly for the Avs, and it remains an area of question for a team that again has big aspirations.  The last time these two teams met, was the final scheduled game of the 2019-20 season, before the league shutdown for COVID, a 3-2 OT win for the home team Avs.

Predicting this game is challenging, as these two teams tend to be relatively even year to year.  It’s worth noting that the Avalanche remain relatively unproven against good teams so far this season, so perhaps the Rangers will have the edge in this one.

Prediction:  RANGERS WIN

December 10th – RANGERS at SABRES
In their first match-up of the season, Georgiev and the Rangers allowed 4 goals on 18 shots before Shesterkin came in to play the final period as he backstopped the Blueshirts to an exciting last second win.  What the Sabres proved in that game, is that they’re not an easy win this year, and whomever is in net for the Rangers, will need to be prepared to make some tough saves against this rebuilding club.

While the Sabres are still expected to lose more often that they win – they’ve 1-3-1 since that first meeting, they do play hard under Don Granato, and won’t go down without a battle.  Their goaltending remains their biggest question mark, along with a young defense, and so you’d expect the Rangers again to win this one

Prediction:  RANGERS WIN

December 12th – RANGERS v PREDATORS
These two teams already met this season, back on October 21st, with the Rangers coming away with a 3-1 win.  A couple of games after that, Nashville went on an 8-1-1 stretch, but have since fallen back to a more sedate 3-4-0 record.  They have a middling 5-6-0 record on the road this year, and while Nashville is a team that can stymie opponents, you’d have to think the last change will be an advantage for the Rangers.

Prediction:  RANGERS WIN

December 14th – RANGERS at AVALANCHE
It’s hard to see the Rangers beating the Avalanche twice in one season, so through the law of averages, we’re going to give this one to the Avs, who’ll perhaps have a little more spice following a loss less than a week prior in New York

Prediction:  RANGERS WIN

December 15th – RANGERS at COYOTES
Unsurprisingly, the Coyotes are amongst the worst teams in the league, beating out only the Ottawa Senators in terms of both points and win percentage.  Arizona made no secret of their intent in the off-season, trading away many of their assets, while also taking on a bunch of bad contracts in return for prospects and picks in the coming drafts.

With the team expected to be evicted next year from Glendale, this could well be the last game the Rangers ever play in Arizona, and what better way to do that than by getting another important two points.  With a league worst 1.83 goals for, and 3.57 goals allowed, this would be the type of game that Georgiev would be expected to play, and even win.

Prediction:  RANGERS WIN

This will mark the first time that Gerard Gallant has faced his former team, and is a chance to exact a bit of revenge for his mid-season sacking a couple of seasons ago.  The Knights have suffered through one of the heaviest injury tolls early in the year, and have still managed an 11-5-0 record over the past 16 games (after starting out 1-4-0).  Depending on who is back by the time this game is played, could well determine who has the upper edge.

The Rangers have a 1-1-1 record at home against the Knights, and a 2-3-1 record overall, so you’d expect that this one could be close.  Perhaps one of the biggest keys though is that Robin Lehner has not performed well this year, with 9-8-0 record, 2.96 GAA and .913 Save% through the first two months.  That said, the Knights do know how to score goals, and so it evens up the odds a bit when considering the matchup.

It’s also worth noting that this is the end of 10 games in 17 nights for the Rangers, one more than Vegas, and a return from a trip out west…and perhaps might feature a couple of tired teams.

Prediction:  RANGERS loss

December 22nd – RANGERS v CANADIENS
A five day layoff, and the final game before the holiday break, and this could have the makings for a let-down game.  The Canadiens have played the Rangers close in both of the two meetings this season, but the Rangers have a chance to close out the season series with a perfect 3-0-0 record.

On paper this should be a Rangers win, but with new management taking over Montreal, and the possibility of a coaching change before these two teams meet again, it’s hard to predict who the Rangers will face.

We’ll go with the odds, even if we have reservations.

Prediction:  RANGERS WIN

December 27th – RANGERS v RED WINGS
Back from the holidays, and the Rangers host fellow original six team the Detroit Red Wings for the first time in 2021-22.  It’ll also mark the first return to MSG for Marc Staal, who was traded to the Red Wings before the start of last year’s abbreviated season.  Detroit has played a little above expectations this year, though have certainly relied a lot on their goaltending tandem of Thomas Greiss and moreso Alex Nedeljkovic. 

The 25 year old Nedeljkovic was snapped up relatively cheaply from Carolina in the off-season and has rewarded Steve Yzerman and the Red Wings with a 7-3-3 record to go with his 2.58 GAA and .923 Save%.  Offensively, it’s been the trio of 23 year old Lucas Raymond, and 25 year old Dylan Larkin and 26 year old Tyler Bertuzzi leading the way.  The threesome had accounted for 28 of the 63 team goals through the first two months of the season.

Still firmly in the rebuilding stage, the Red Wings still haven’t figured out how to consistently win on the road, and are 4-7-1 through the end of November, though they did beat Boston 2-1 most recently to cap off their second month.

Prediction:  RANGERS WIN

December 29th – RANGERS at PANTHERS
In their only meeting this season, the Rangers got out to a 4-0 lead, and then had to hold on in the third period, as the Panthers stormed back to 4-3, only to see their 10-0-1 streak ended.  The game marked a turnaround for both clubs, with the Rangers going 6-1-0 in their next seven games, and the Panthers faltering a little bit with a 5-3-2 record in their next ten.

While Florida has not necessarily been quite as dominating in the last ten, they remain one of the top teams in the league, and will have the advantage of home ice, where they’ve gone 12-1-0, including a more successful comeback from a 4-1 deficit going into the third against the Washington Capitals to close out November.

This is a team that never gives up, and is playing with a lot of confidence, and they’ll be too much for the Rangers this time around.

Prediction:  RANGERS loss

December 31st – RANGERS at LIGHTNING
New York close out the month of December and 2021 with a New Year’s Eve game against the reigning Stanley Cup Champions in Tampa.  Barclay Goodrow will make his first return to the place he won two Stanley Cups, and the Rangers will face a second straight game, against an opponent who knows how to win.

While the Lightning haven’t always looked dominating, they hold a 12-5-4 record through the first two months, even after going 0-1-1 to close out November.  Remarkably, 9 of their first 21 games have gone to OT/SO, with a 5-4 record in those games.  At home they’re 7-3-2, though two of those regulation losses came in the first two home games of the year.

Prediction: RANGERS OT loss

So there you have it, we’re predicting a 10-2-2 record for December, which will be hard to achieve given the compressed nature of the schedule, but certainly you would expect at least 8 wins this month.  There are fewer “harder” games in terms of playing against the top teams this month, and it’s a chance for the Rangers to go on an extended point streak and put some runs on the board so to speak.

A failure to dominate this month would conversely again raise questions about the Rangers make-up, and perhaps drive further conversation on some potential improvements with the Olympic break on the horizon.

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