Do you remember that scene in Star Wars when Luke, Leia, Han and Chewbacca were stuck in the trash compactor and the walls were closing in? And at the last moment, R2-D2 shut things down to save the day?
Oh wait, am I allowed to put sci-fi and hockey together?
Too bad. During the month of October, the New York Rangers were the cinematic heroes and their start of the season was like the walls closing in to crush them.
A 2-6-2 start —including a 2-5-1 mark at Madison Square Garden — brought about whisperings of head coach Alain Vigneault’s job security while the Rangers’ hopes of making the postseason for an eighth-consecutive year looked like they would go up in smoke before Thanksgiving.
They were a team that was all out of sorts. The defense was sieve-like while the offense just was not able to get on the same page.
Their play forced Vigneault to shuffle lines, designate players for assignment, send some to the AHL all in an attempt to get things clicking.
It looks like they finally are and the compactor has been shut down.
Since Oct. 26, the Rangers have won five of their last six games, including the last four to get back to the .500 mark. Three of those wins have come at home as they continue to shed MSG’s sudden house of horrors reputation.
They’ve gotten big-time contributions out of their first line, nicknamed the “KZB Line,” in the process. Chris Kreider has recorded four goals over his last six games while Mika Zibanejad has 10 points during that stretch (2 G, 8 A). Pavel Buchnevich has been the marquee scorer of the line with five goals to go with a pair of assists.
But even Buchnevich is chasing Michael Grabner, who has six tallies in his last six games as he continues to heat up during the early portions of the season once again. Last year, he scored 12 goals in his first 20 games before a drastic cooldown. The Rangers will be hoping he stays consistent throughout 2017-18.
Their contributions are the main reason why this team has improved so much in the win column:
Rangers stats through first 10 games
-2.5 goals scored per game
-3.6 goals allowed per game
-8 power play goals scored
-8 power play goals allowed
Rangers stats in last 6 games
-4.5 goals scored per game
-3.8 goals allowed per game
-7 power play goals scored
-2 power play goals allowed