The New York Rangers are entering this year’s Christmas break with an incredible record of 28-8-1. Not only does this make the Blueshirts the current leaders of the Metropolitan Division, but also the number one team in the Eastern Conference.
If one thing is for certain, it’s that the Rangers are a legitimate Stanley Cup contender at this point. They’ve been dominant throughout a season riddled with injuries, proving that they are still not at their highest potential. As the Blueshirts head into Christmas break, they are certainly one of the top teams in the NHL.
A slow-paced schedule is holding the Rangers back from first place in the NHL
As of now, the Blueshirts are stuck at second overall in the NHL. They held the top spot for a while this year, but the Vancouver Canucks currently hold the title as number one. What’s interesting is that the Canucks have played 35 games while the Rangers have only played 32, and New York sits just two points behind the top spot.
The Rangers are the NHL’s leader in points percentage, meaning that they have capitalized on more point opportunities than Vancouver has. Had the Blueshirts played the same number of games as Vancouver heading into the break, chances are that they would hold the number one spot.
The special teams have been buzzing this season
As the Christmas break begins, the Rangers currently possess the number one ranked power play in the NHL with 31.1%. This success has been driven by the heroics of the Blueshirts’ top offensive scorers, particularly Artemi Panarin, Chris Kreider, and Mika Zibanejad. There’s a steep drop-off in skill between the first and second power play units, but the first is so elite that the Rangers are still good enough to remain top of the NHL.
While the penalty kill isn’t as elite as the power play this season, it’s still the fifth-best in the entire league. The hiring of HC Peter Laviolette has proven to be a genius decision by GM Chris Drury, as his new defensive-minded system has brought a new era of success in the Rangers’ own zone.
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The top scorers can not be stopped
The Rangers’ offensive production has been incredible so far this season. Panarin leads the Blueshirts in points with 44, as he is on pace to set a new career high in practicality in every scoring category. Zibanejad, Kreider, and Vincent Trocheck have also been major contributors from the offensive crops, with defensemen Adam Fox and Erik Gustafsson also proving to be worthy assets in the scoring aspect of the game.
The continuous production from the top scorers is imperative to the success of this season. They’ve been elite through the first 32 games, but the late portion of the season and the playoffs is where their skills will matter most. Fans saw what could happen if the top six cooled down in the playoffs last season, and keeping up the pace will become the biggest goal as the year progresses after this break.