At the beginning of the season -- especially after the fantastic road win over the St. Louis Blues -- the quest for the New York Rangers to secure 10 points in their 10 games without Derek Stepan seemed like it might actually be easy. We should have known better.
The Rangers lost their next three games, and now sit at 1-3 on the year. My goal of a 5-5 start is now a 4-2 run away. Not insurmountable; but if you've watched the past three games it doesn't exactly seem like it's going to be an easy road to walk.
Injuries: Jordan Staal (IR broken fibula), Jeff Skinner (IR concussion), Eric Staal (DTD upper body), Patrick Dwyer (IR lower body), Andrej Sekera (DTD upper body), John-Michael Liles (DTD undisclosed)
And that doesn't even include Jeff Skinner who might be making his debut tonight after suffering a concussion in the preseason. Simply put: The Rangers need to take advantage of the situation. That adds pressure to tonight's game, but the Rangers should be able to handle it.
To this point, the Rangers' issues have really stemmed from their defense. Joe Micheletti brought up a good point in the final moments of the Rangers' loss to the Islanders on Tuesday: when the Rangers are scoring three goals a game they're usually winning those games.
Which historically is true, except this year those three goals of offense are met with five or six goals against. Henrik Lundqvist's GAA is over 5.00, and his save percentage is well below .900. Those numbers will regress (in a good way) as will the team's PDO which is around 93%. Luck is playing a bit of a role here, and it's shown.
That doesn't mean the Rangers don't have to be better. The defense especially needs to start to stabilize, and it starts with Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi who have not looked good at all. John Moore, Kevin Klein and Marc Staal haven't been much better, but the buck stops with the top pairing. That group needs to step up, and they haven't.
The Rangers sure could use a goal or two on the power play -- which to be fair has looked fantastic -- and they could use a couple of bounces to go their way, too.
Nine of the next 12 games the Rangers have are at home. This is where they need to take advantage of the schedule despite their injuries.
5-5 sounds pretty hard when a team is 1-3. It won't seem so hard if the team is 2-3. That march starts tonight.