Through practically 50 % of this breakout season, the Rangers have acted the aspect of a leading team. They have finished what the most effective teams do: Handle the soft aspect of their program masterfully.
In 22 online games versus opponents that would not qualify for the playoffs if the season finished today, the Blueshirts have gained 16. Their emphasis hasn’t waned versus inferior levels of competition. Their intensity hasn’t dropped. They have not forgotten everyone.
It is the overriding motive mentor Gerard Gallant’s team sits atop the Metropolitan Division, perfectly exceeding anticipations. But now will come a series of litmus tests, a selection of difficulties that will reveal a whole lot about this team.
Of the subsequent 12 online games, eight are versus playoff teams. In opposition to this sort of levels of competition, the Rangers are 9-7-1, which is robust. But that sample measurement is about to raise.
“We’ve talked about it. Coming down this stretch, this is the time to commence getting ready for the playoffs,” forward Ryan Reaves mentioned on Tuesday pursuing apply. “You’re going to be participating in, clearly, playoff teams. … We obtained to place our most effective online games out there and we obtained to confirm to ourselves that not only are we a playoff team centered on the standings, but we’re completely ready to make a operate at it.
“You cannot do that by just beating the teams that are out of the playoffs. You obtained to engage in playoff teams hard, you obtained to engage in them physical. Occasionally you obtained to push them out of the building a few of online games, just to confirm you have a small bit of swagger in you.”
It begins Wednesday at the Backyard garden versus the Maple Leafs. It features conferences with the powerhouse Panthers, tied for the most factors in the NHL with the Lightning, and Western Meeting contending Kings and Blues. The Hurricanes and Penguins, both equally nipping at the Rangers’ heels in the Metropolitan Division, are on the docket on the road.
“This small stretch just before the All-Star crack, and then coming out of the All-Star crack, is seriously vital for us, for certain,” Reaves mentioned.
The very good news for the Rangers (25-10-four, 54 factors) is nevertheless the stage of levels of competition will get more durable, they are getting more healthy. Igor Shesterkin, Artemi Panarin, Julien Gauthier and Reaves have all just lately arrive off the COVID-19 protocol record. Forward Barclay Goodrow returned to apply on Tuesday, and Dryden Hunt (upper-system harm) was taken off hurt reserve. Forward Alexis Lafreniere could be the subsequent player to rejoin the team. In spite of crucial absences, the Rangers have found a way to hold winning, with 6 victories in their past eight online games and a three-two- stretch on the just-finished five-video game road trip.
“Obviously, we’re in initial location in our division — authentic very good division — so I’m authentic content,” Gallant mentioned. “I’m not astonished at all. Do I search at the other teams and say, ‘They’re authentic very good hockey teams?’ Yeah. When I arrived to this team [throughout the offseason, I realized we had a very good team, I realized we had very good goaltending. I like what we’re undertaking, I like in which we are, but I’m not astonished.”
He’ll get an even superior idea in the weeks to arrive just how very good this team is. Several tests await.