The New York Rangers’ nine-game road trip to start the season couldn’t have gone much worse.
They went just 2-6-0 to open 2013-14, which included blowout losses to the San Jose Sharks (9-2) and Anaheim Ducks (6-0), lost Rick Nash to a concussion and were an all-around defensive mess by the time they rolled into Detroit Oct. 26 to face the Red Wings.
Since then, however, the Rangers have been one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. They somehow squeezed out a 3-2 overtime win in Detroit and have the most wins (10) of any team in the East since. Only the St. Louis Blues (12) and Chicago Blackhawks (11) have had more victories.
Exactly a month after being tied for last in NHL with the Philadelphia Flyers, New York is now back at .500 and sits third in the Metropolitan Division. The Rangers have also righted their road record, going 6-1-0 away from Madison Square Garden after their 2-6-0 start.
Props go to Cam Talbot, who was called up Oct. 24 and has solidified the backup position behind Henrik Lundqvist, going 5-1-0 with a 1.41 goals-against average, .944 save percentage and two shutouts. Coach Alain Vigneault deserves credit, too, for not panicking.
Yes, the Rangers are back in the mix in part because they play in the NHL’s weakest division. But what could have been a season lost is now a season saved.
Ronnie Shuker is an associate editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. Follow him on Twitter at @THNRonnieShuker. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.