First of all, sorry for the lack of updates for two of the three West Coast games. A few of us had some things going on, it's been a particularly busy couple of weeks for me and the late games conflict with most of our real jobs. The good news is that swing is over and we're all back. Yay!
Since we missed them for the win over the Sharks, let's do a West Coast notes and catch up on some lingering thoughts:
- This little run is eerily similar to last year, isn't it? The Rangers stumble out of the gate, it lasts for more than a couple of weeks, everyone gets nervous and then all of a sudden the Rangers rip off a streak of wins that has everyone looking at each other with happily confused faces going, "wow, I didn't know they were this good."
- It can't last forever, though, right? And while eventually this run will come to an end, this Western swing should be all the proof you need this team is for real. When the Rangers started this run they were cutting down the cupcake portion of their schedule. This Western swing saw the Rangers mow down the Anaheim Ducks, defending champs L.A. Kings and San Jose Sharks all in their respective houses. There's nothing "cupcake" about that stretch.
- The biggest positive? It's not like the Rangers are relying on a few players and just squeaking by. Yes, Henrik Lundqvist and Cam Talbot were called on to keep the peace a few times, but in terms of offense the Rangers are getting it from all over. The "fourth line" has been particularly good at providing secondary scoring, while Dan Boyle continues to find his game and the "third line" keep rolling as well. Fold that in with Rick Nash, Martin St. Louis, Derek Stepan and Derick Brassard and you can see why the Rangers are dangerous.
- Chris Kreider is a pretty good example of why scoring depth is so important, too. For a few different reasons he hasn't been putting up the numbers people expected of him. But because there are other guys carrying the load and the Rangers are winning it's more "what's going on with Kreider?" than "Kreider is part of the problem" if that makes sense. I haven't been overly worried about Kreider, to be honest, but it was nice to see him erupt in San Jose. Maybe that will get him going for good.
- The Rangers really relied on their speed out West and it paid off in all three wins. Speed is the Rangers' best asset, and their ability to have the defense move the puck up to the forwards has made all the difference in the world to helping the Rangers score at a clip to keep winning games. Yes, it helps that Boyle and Ryan McDonagh are back in the lineup together (and healthy), but it's been a team effort top to bottom.
- Alain Vigneault showed some faith in John Moore, giving him a few reps during the road trip. I'm not sure if Moore is long for this team anymore, but I really do think he has all the tools to figure it out and become something the Rangers are going to want to have. He's still very young but I understand if he's used as a trade chip at this stage in the game.
- The power play needs to be mentioned as well, since it's been a big part of the Rangers' success. Boyle is a big part of that, but so is the Rangers actually crashing the net and getting bodies in front. That hasn't even just been a man advantage thing, either. Jonathan Quick couldn't see any of the four pucks that beat him in the win over the Kings and that makes a huge difference.
- Tuesday's game is massive. The Islanders are five points ahead of the Rangers but have played three more games. Win on Tuesday and the Rangers inch closer and closer to that top seed in the Metro. A loss gives the Islanders another jolt and pushes them even further up the ladder. It should be fun.