Tonight will be the first Rangers' hockey we have seen since the Rangers beat the Calgary Flames 5-2 on Tuesday night. In that game Chris Kreider finally got the monkey off his back and scored on the power play, Rick Nash had 2 gorgeous goals, and Derek Stepan scored his third of the year on an unforgettable wraparound. The Rangers outburst of goals (the fifth was an empty netter by Carl Hagelin) gave the club their fourth straight win and a clean sweep of the 3 Western Canadian teams. Right now the Rangers have some serious momentum and a very confident Henrik Lundqvist behind them. I'm starting to think we should just stay on the road and continue to play games that keep us up past midnight.
Tonight's contest against the hapless Canes will bring the Rangers back to the East coast and into their division, where every game means and counts for a little bit more. Their opponent tonight just so happens to be their opponent tomorrow night; the Carolina Hurricanes. The Hurricanes are currently the worst team in the Metropolitan Division and in the Eastern Conference. Just as a reminder for everyone, the Buffalo Sabres are also in the Eastern Conference. In fact, the Hurricanes have just 1 more point in the standings than the Edmonton Oilers do, though the Oilers have played in 2 more games than Eric Staal's Hurricanes.
The Hurricanes are 3-7-0 in their last ten and have a record of 9-19-3. Despite having some noteworthy forwards, the 'Canes are tied with the Florida Panthers for the fourth worst offense in the league. The goals just hasn't been there and that is partly due to big injuries Carolina has struggled with and big name players not playing like big name players. Let's take a look at their three top scorers.
- Justin Faulk 6 G, 13 A in 31 GP.
- Eric Staal 7 G, 11 A in 26 GP.
- Riley Nash 4 G, 12 A in 31 GP.
- Jeff Skinner 7 G, 8 A in 27 GP.
Rick Nash has 20 goals this season. The Hurricanes don't have a single skater with 20 points. Alex Semin has been a healthy scratch this year for Carolina and he has 1 goal and 5 assists in 21 games. Yes, that Alex Semin. The one that might have the best wrist shot in the league. By the way, Semin is under contract for 3 more seasons after this one at a cap hit of $7,000,000. Yikes. To say that things aren't going well in Carolina would be a bit of an understatement. The only silver lining is that Cam Ward has shown flashes of being the old Cam Ward here and there which has helped the Canes have a chance in some games with their lack of offense. It's true that his numbers are hardly inspiring (2.47 GAA and .909 SV%), but he has been in net for all 9 of Carolina's wins and he's been a great deal better than Anton Khudobin who looked like he might have stolen Ward's job last season.
The point I am laboriously trying to illustrate is that the Hurricanes are a bad team that has been playing bad hockey. The Rangers are bringing a 4 game winning streak into this weekend, and it would be both shocking and infuriating to see it derailed tonight on the road or tomorrow in the Blueshirts' first game back at the Garden since they beat the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Rangers have been playing some weak competition lately and every time we've been saying the same things- we expect the Rangers to win and if they lose it means that they beat themselves. Tonight will be no different. The Rangers can continue to build something really special here if they come away with a win tonight. It seems like just a few games ago going into the game against the Penguins that the Blueshirts were in danger of falling back to .500. The Rangers are now 15-10-4. What a difference strength of schedule and some momentum can make, huh?
There has been some talk that Derick Brassard, who is currently listed as day-to-day, might be back tonight for the Rangers after recovering from the mumps. Obviously, getting Brass back will be a huge addition to the lineup even though the Rangers have been getting some great play from their depth players. Stepan has been fantastic and it's been great to see J.T. Miller and Kevin Hayes play more pronounced roles in the lineup, but getting Rick Nash his center back is an exciting thing to think about if you're a Rangers fan.
With or without Brassard the Rangers are looking to win tonight and wrap-up a perfect road trip which will push their winning streak to 5 games. The puck drops at 7 PM. Let's go Rangers.