The month of love was very friendly to the New York Rangers, who continue their trek to the NHL playoffs. February may be short, but the Rangers still manage
Monthly Record: 9-3-1 (19 points)
Overall Record: 40-21-2 (82 points, 4th in Metropolitan Division, 1st in Eastern Conference Wild Card)
High Point: The Rangers began February on a high note, winning their first six games. After a hiccup on February 16, a 4-2 loss to the Islanders, the Rangers faced the league-leading Washington Capitals at home at Madison Square Garden in a nationally televised matinee game, part of NBC’s Hockey Day in America on February 19. The Rangers didn’t back down to the Caps, as Henrik Lundqvist, having recently earned his 400th career victory, held strong against the might Washington offense. Ryan McDonagh and Mats Zuccarello provided goals, and the Rangers pulled off a 2-1 victory.
Low Point: As fun as February was, it ended on a sour note, with back-to-back losses to Metropolitan foes. Two nights after looking lifeless in a 5-2 defeat to Columbus, the Rangers’ next meeting with Washington on February 28 didn’t go as well as the aforementioned matinee. They took an early lead thanks to a Brady Skjei goal, but after Washington tied it, a negated Rangers goal thanks to a replay changed the course of the game. The Rangers gave up three unanswered goals, and fell to the Caps 4-1.
Three Stars of January
1st Star: Henrik Lundqvist
Rumors of Lundqvist‘s demise were greatly exaggerated. Lundqvist went 7-3-1 in March with a save percentage of .928, resembling the Lundqvist Rangers fans have grown to know and love over the years. It was also a month of history for Lundqvist, who continues to climb up the all-time leaderboard when it comes to wins by a goaltender. Lundqvist earned the milestone 400th win of his career on February 11 in a 4-2 win over Colorado, becoming the 12th goalie to enter that exclusive club. He made himself welcome by passing fellow member Chris Osgood for 11th most wins all-time, doing so in a 2-1 shootout win over Toronto on February 23.
2nd Star: JT Miller
With a dozen points in February, Miller continues to impress, currently pacing the Rangers with 48 points. During the Rangers’ six-game winning streak, Miller led the way with 10 points (2 goals, 8 assists). He had two point in each of the Rangers’ first four February games. When teams asked for Miller at the trade deadline, the Rangers, thankfully, balked.
3rd Star: Brady Skjei
It’s hard to believe Skjei is a rookie, but 2012’s first-round pick is enjoying his his first full year on NHL ice. He may not light up a statsheet like the high-profile rookies like Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine, but he’s still making an impact. At 15, Skjei’s plus/minus is second among all rookies, and his 28 assists are not just tied for 3rd among all rookies, but tied for 15th in the league overall.
Looking Ahead: 3 to Watch In March
March 4 vs Montreal-A brief stay at Madison Square Garden before embarking on primarily Southeast road trip, the Rangers will have another opportunity to face off with their potential first round playoff opponent. The two teams have played two thrillers thus far this season, though Montreal has taken both, including February 21’s 3-2 shootout win. If a Rangers-Canadiens series becomes a reality…and pass the heart medication if it does…the Rangers could use some confidence by beating them in the regular season. (7:00, MSG)
March 22 vs NY Islanders-The Islanders have enjoyed a resurgence since subbing in Jack Capuano with Doug Weight, and that rebirth was on display in the 4-2 win at Barclays Center this month. The Rangers would love to make any potential Islanders playoff appearance as difficult as possible to achieve, and it starts with this Wednesday Night Rivalry tilt at MSG. (8:00, NBCSN)
March 31 vs Pittsburgh-The Rangers have been generally competitive with every team in the NHL, and do own a win over the Penguins this season. However, the past two meetings, Pittsburgh wins by 6-1 and 7-2 finals, and the fact the Penguins bounced the Rangers from the postseason early last season…and a rematch could be well on the way…the Rangers could use some much needed momentum against a team that has had their number of the past few meetings.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffMags5490