Coming off a turbulent last week—and weekend for that matter, the New York Rangers have a new week ahead. The Rangers will play three games this week against three different opponents. On Monday, the Rangers will take on the Pittsburgh Penguins for the fourth time this year. On Thursday, the Rangers will take on the Capitals for the first time this season. Then on Saturday, they will take on the Devils for the second time this year. The Rangers as a team will look pretty different Monday night. The Rangers will be without center Filip Chytil again, and will be for the next four to six weeks. On top of Chytil, the team will be without Colin Blackwell for seven to ten days. With the recent news of Tony DeAngelo’s placement on waivers, the Rangers will need to recall a defenseman from the taxi squad.
Game One: Pittsburgh Penguins, Monday 2/1
Monday night, the Rangers will have a rematch with the Penguins who they have played three close, winnable games against all year. The Rangers lost the first game in a shootout. Then, they had leads in the 3rd period of games two and three. It’s been a common theme for the Rangers this season, blowing late leads. In four of their last five games, the Rangers were unable to hold a 3rd period lead. In each of their last five, they blew a lead in the second period or later. It’s something that needs fixing early on in the season. The Rangers have played eight games, which may not sound like a lot, but we are already 1/7th of the way through the 56 game season. In a season where every game is played with a division rival, securing two points when they’re well within grasp is huge.
Game Two: Washington Capitals, Thursday 2/4
After two days off, the Rangers will look ahead to the Capitals on Thursday for the first time this season. The Capitals will be the Rangers’ toughest test of the year as they are yet to lose a game in regulation this season. The Capitals are 6-0-3 and are atop the NHL standings with 15 points. This should be a tough test for the Rangers who fared pretty well against the Caps last season. Of course, their meetings last year were capped off by Mika Zibanejad’s magical five goal game. While Zibanejad has started slow this year, the Capitals might be the perfect team for him to get going against. Zibanejad has fared very well against the Capitals over the last two seasons, scoring six goals and tallying five assists over six games. It’ll be big for the Rangers to get Zibanejad going.
Game Three: New Jersey Devils, Saturday 2/6
To cap off the week, the Rangers will take on their rivals from across the Hudson River. The Rangers lost to the Devils earlier this year in a heartbreaking 4-3 game. The Devils have had outstanding contribution from their young core, with Ty Smith and Jack Hughes leading the way. Hughes is second on the Devils in goals, second in assists, and tied for second in points. Smith, a rookie defenseman has two goals and six assists and is a +4 this year. The Rangers need to have their young core contribute at that level in order to beat the Devils. So far, K’Andre Miller has provided that. The Rangers are waiting on other young guys to hit their stride. Alexis Lafreniére has one goal, but at least six good scoring chances. Kaapo Kakko has come close, but needs to retain possession of the puck a little better.
How To Have A Successful Week
A successful week for the Rangers would involve two things. The first is winning at least two games, most importantly against the Devils and Penguins. A two win, one loss pace would have the Rangers finish the season with 34 wins. Winning against the Devils and Penguins is big for the Rangers if they want to keep pace for third or fourth in the division for a playoff spot. Winning all three would obviously be the best case scenario, but two wins should be a success. The other is playing solid defense in wake of Tony DeAngelo being placed on waivers. Although DeAngelo isn’t a strong defensive player, he developed solid chemistry with Brendan Smith and the Rangers defense as a whole played well outside of Saturday night’s game. The Rangers look ahead at an interesting week, which should provide a test for the young guys.