Tough Road Ahead For New York Rangers

The New York Rangers lost for the first time since a 5-4 shootout decision against the Ottawa Senators. The nine-game stretch saw the Rangers earn 17 of a possible 18 points and vaulted them to third int he division (just two points behind the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins, who have multiple games in hand each).

Losses are going to happen. It's inevitable that every team comes out flat, and gets smoked every now and then. The key, for those teams who believe they are Stanley Cup contenders, is not to let it last.

That won't be easy, however. The Rangers are coming up on one of their toughest stretches of the season as they face the Florida Panthers and Washington Capitals on the road before hosting the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers.

Join me after the jump for more.

The Rangers will, thankfully, not have a significant break between any of those games, something which probably attributed to the team's slow start against the Montreal Canadiens.

But those are very difficult tests on the horizon.

The Florida Panthers lead the Southeast division with a 10-6-3 record for 23 points. Both The Flyers and the Penguins are tied atop the Atlantic division, and Washington sits just two points behind the Panthers. Those are four very good teams who are currently all embedded in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

It should be a stern test, which will show off the Rangers' true colors as we draw closer to the first quarter of the season. It will also be nice to see how the Rangers handle two of the best teams in the division.

As for the Canadiens game? The Rangers came out flat and got what they deserved, it happened. They had a few chances in the first period to do some damage, but Marian Gaborik and Ryan Callahan both got stoned trying to tie the game at one.

In the end, you hope the game is a learning experience. Otherwise the team might stumble over it.