Teams cannot win the Stanley Cup in November.
But teams use the 11th month of the year to put themselves in position to be able to play for the silver chalice come the spring.
Just ask the New York Rangers.
“Our record is pretty good,” Alain Vigneault said after the Rangers’ 3-0 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Nov. 10. Following Sunday’s 4-3 win over Toronto, the Rangers enter this week 14-2–2 overall, and in the midst of a nine-game winning streak.
The Rangers will travel to Tampa Thursday and Sunrise, Florida Saturday, and could set a franchise record for consecutive wins should they sweep the Lightning and Panthers.
Entering this week, the Rangers rank third in the NHL in total goals scored (56), fourth in goals per game average (3.11), and lead the league in goals against per game (1.72).
So everything’s great, right? Plan the parade, and all that? Reserve the Canyon of Heroes for sometime in mid-June?
Well, maybe it would be prudent to slow down a bit.
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“The play has been up and down,” Dan Girardi said after the Carolina win. “There have been some breaks in between the games, some longer stretches with some days off and practices. I think maybe it’s good that it doesn’t feel like a six game win streak so you don’t get complacent. You want to just keep getting better every game and we are still trying to get that 60 minute, real good game. Obviously it’s hard to have a 60 minute perfect game in this league. You are going to have teams get opportunities, have some momentum changes, but it’s all how you handle it and we’ve been doing a good job of that. When something goes wrong, we get a big save or a big play, get the play going back the other way and have some momentum in our favor.”
What needs improvement?
Well, goal scoring from Rick Nash and Chris Kreider would be as good a starting point as any.
Coming into the 2015-16 season, the expectation was Nash and Kreider would each score 30 goals. Seven weeks into the season, Kreider has three, and Nash has only found the back of the net twice.
“It’s no secret it’s been a frustrating start. I’m lucky I’m at a point in my career where I’m interested in wins and winning games and being on a winning team, but you always try to help out. It was finally nice to get one; it was a great pass by [Mats Zuccarello],” Nash said after the win over Carolina. His goal, 11 seconds after Jesper Fast’s first period game-winner gave the Rangers a 2-0 lead. "It’s frustrating when you’re supposed to score goals on a great team and you can’t achieve that. I think Zuke and Brass [Derick Brassard] have been looking for me for a while and finally one went in.
"If we had a losing record I think it’d be a lot different but I’m at the point in my career – obviously I want to score and I want to help my team win – but 11-2 means a lot more than if I had 10 goals right now and we were 2-11."
You can follow NHL writer Denis P. Gorman on Twitter at @DenisGorman