In some ways, the Rangers' beginning to the 2009-10 season can be related to the quick start that the team got off to the prior year, but in my eyes, it is being done a bit differently this time around. If you recall, the Blueshirts kicked off 2008/09 with a deceiving 10-2-1record, which eventually collapsed and resulted in the firing of former head coach Tom Renney. This year, after dropping the season opener to the Pens, New York has once again gotten ahead in the standings early, but I do not expect the same collapse as last season from here for several reasons.
The first reason that this season's start differs from last year's is the way in which the team is earning the two points. In the first two months of the 08/09 season, the Rangers saw themselves heading to overtime a total of eight times, seven of which went to a shootout. Six of those eight times, the Blueshirts walked away with two points in the standings. So far through six games this season, the Rangers are yet to hit extra time, let alone gain a win in the shootout. It seemed like so often last year, this team was playing for the shootout, knowing that they had Henrik Lundqvist to rely on when the time came. With Tortorella, it is a whole different story, and the Rangers have earned all of their wins within the regulation time.
Last year, in the month of October alone, those first ten wins came by two or less more goals scored than the opponent. Meaning that out of thirteen games, the Rangers won ten, but by only one or two goals. Through six games already this season, the Rangers have out-scored the opposition 24-12, with two of their six wins by three or more goals netted than the opponents.
In fact, as of today, the Rangers lead the entire NHL in goals scored, which is a very impressive statistic whether it be game six or game eighty of the season. Also, they sit in 14th place on the powerplay, as opposed to 29th, where they were for a majority of last season.
There has not been a game played that I could complain about the team's effort as a whole so far. If there was a period of time when the played appealed to be lack-luster (first minute of Devil game), Tortorella changed the feeling rather quickly, reviving the team out of its passive state that we saw so often under Renney. It is enjoyable to watch a team that does not rely on their goaltender to bail them out every game, and just play defense until it is time to perform one on one in the shootout. As far as I'm concerned, what the team displayed early on in 08/09 is not how hockey should be played by any means, as it is just plain boring and effortless. Using last night's debacle as an example, Tortorella continues to push his players at the same rate whether their lead is by one, two, three, four, or even five goals, where as Renney would be set on defending a two goal lead that would eventually diminish right in front of him. It is a whole new philosophy being introduced in New York, and both the players and fans enjoy it much more than defending minor leads and shootout victories.
It is a combination of the coaching staff and the player personnel that changes the feeling of this year's 5-1-0 start to the season as oppose to the 5-0-0 start in 08/09. The team is much more entertaining in the new offensive system that has been a proven success for the team being. With that said, fans, including myself, must curb the enthusiasm, as our beloved Rangers have yet to play in ten full games. The key objective for this team now is to remain consistent, and continue to be such a difficult club to play against. I do feel, however, that the roster is much more skilled this season, raising the chances of this hot streak stretching, and if they continue to play like they have recently, you never know where it could take them. But for now, the Blueshirts must not get ahead of themselves, and take it game by game, starting with tomorrow's contest against the Los Angeles Kings at MSG.
(Images courtesy of AP Photo)