The Rangers are currently in their best stretch since the 1972-73 season when they went 14-0-2. They’ve won 12 of their last 13 games and currently have the league’s longest win streak at four games, after having previously won eight in a row before losing to Dallas.
A big contributor to the streak has been the success with the man advantage, with the Rangers going 12 for 36 during this run, and that’s including the first three games where they went 0 for 5. The 33.33% conversion rate has catapulted the team into the 8th spot, averaging out at 21.2% for the season to date. Eight different players have registered at least a Power Play Goal, a microcosm of the distributed scoring that the team has demonstrated over all.
Derick Brassard leads all Rangers with six points – 1 goal and 5 assists during the run, but the biggest stats of note are the contributions from the blue liners Dan Boyle – 1 goal and 4 assists and Ryan McDonagh – 1 goal and 3 assists.
Both defenders missed a good part of the season to date, with McDonagh out for 11 games with a shoulder injury and Boyle missing 16 games with a broken hand and illness. It’s no coincidence that their return to the line-up has helped turn the team’s fortunes around after an indifferent start through the first two months of the season. Since Boyle returned on November 13th, the Rangers are 15-5-2. McDonagh’s November 28th return coincided with a 13-3-0 run.
Throw in Derek Stepan‘s absence – he missed the first 12 games of the season, and has 25 points in 26 games since returning from a broken leg – as well as short-term injuries/illnesses/personal items for the likes of Lee Stempniak, Chris Kreider, Kevin Klein and Mats Zuccarello, and the Rangers were on the back fort in the frist two months. Alain Vigneault was forced to use 28 different players through that period, and was constantly juggling lines as he tried to patch together the line-up, integrate the new players and cover for the injuries.
A healthy line-up has meant more consistent line-ups, and a better quality team. Initial success has quickly turned into confidence, which in turn has allowed Cam Talbot and Henrik Lundqvist both to step up their games, which again contributes to the mix.
With all that said, it’s the Power Play that has been a keey contributor, and more specifically it has been the addition of the 38 year old Boyle to the unit that has driven that success. Boyle came to the Rangers as a free agent over the Summer on a two year contract, with plenty of questions hanging over him.
Sure he wanted to play in New York. Sure he would be reunited with fellow Lightning alumnus Martin St. Louis, but did he really have anything left in the tank?
A broken hand in the first game of the season didn’t appear to be that big of a deal at first, but when Ryan McDonagh went down, and Dan Girardi and Kevin Klein both began playing hurt, the Rangers’ depth on the blueline was severely tested. When John Moore was suspended for an illegal hit, the team was forced to play with four part time defenseman for a game, and three part-timers for the length of his suspension.
The power play struggled in Boyle’s absence, taking seven games to finally cash in for the first time, and going 6 for 39 – 15.38% – as he worked his way back into the line-up. They went 11-10-4 over that stretch, and were in danger of having their season derail if it hadn’t been for similar poor performances from the other Metropolitan teams they were competing with.
How bad was the hole? Well consider that the Rangers have gone 12-1-0 in their last thirteen games, yet still sit 4 points behind first, and tied for third in the division – albeit with the tie-breaker and games in hand.
The Penguins and Islanders got the early jump, and the Capitals have similarly hit a hot streak at the same time the Rangers have done, though New York did beat them in the one match-up to date.
Clearly the team is in a better spot than they were two months ago. Boyle appears to be finally hitting his stride and rewarding Glen Sather‘s gamble, and in turn helping the Rangers actually win games with their power play. There’s something we haven’t been able to say since around the 2005-06 season when Jaromir Jagr was on pace for his franchise leading 54 goal season.