Never thought you’d be missing 2016 eh? For the first time this season, the Rangers had a losing record in a month, tallying a 5-6-0 mark.
Monthly Record: 5-6-0 (10 points)
Overall Record: 31-18-1 (63 points, 4th in Metropolitan Division, 1st in Eastern Conference Wild Card)
High Point: The Columbus Blue Jackets propelled themselves to the top of the Metropolitan Division with a 16-game winning streak that went from December to January. It was ended with a 5-0 loss to the Washington Capitals on January 5, and they appeared to be taking their anger out on the Rangers in their next game two nights later. Columbus had jumped out to a 4-1 lead, but the Rangers staged a furious comeback, with Michael Grabner scoring both the game-tying and game-winning goals, the latter coming in the final minute, and the Rangers captured a 5-4 victory.
Low Point: The Rangers endured some brutal losses in January. The nadir could’ve been the 7-goal nightmare against Dallas or the month-ending no-show vs Columbus on Tuesday night, but perhaps no other loss is more painful than the one the Rangers suffered on January 14. Taking on the Montreal Canadiens, the opponent the Rangers would face in the playoffs if the season ended today, the Rangers blew three separate leads, with a trio of Montreal goals in a 62 second stretch in third period officially sinking them. It was particularly brutal for Henrik Lundqvist, who gave up all the goals in a 5-4 loss after coming off the bench to replace an injured Antti Raanta. The loss was part of the Rangers’ first three-game losing streak of the year, sandwiched by likewise tough losses to Toronto and Dallas.
Three Stars of January
1st Star: Michael Grabner
The Rangers would’ve pleased if Grabner, a bargain veteran picked up last summer, had 10 goals at this point of the year. Don’t know about you, but Grabner instead feels 22…goals…would be far more sufficient, and he kept up the strong play in January. Grabner had eight goals in the month, five coming in a two-game stretch on January 4 and January 7, earning himself NHL Star of the Week honors. Grabner, his speed seemingly allowing him to earn at least one good breakaway chance per game now, scored a combined 17 goals over the past two seasons. He’s looking to break a career high set in 2011…with the Islanders.
2nd Star: Mats Zuccarello
Zuccarello isn’t putting up the consistent goal scoring the Rangers have grown accustomed to during his time in New York, but he is still leading the team in points, tied with Derek Stepan at 38. Over the past two months, Zuccarello has tallied 21 assists, totaling 29 on the year. Those 29 assists currently ranked him in a tie for 8th in the NHL.
3rd Star: Pavel Buchnevich
The rookie made a long-awaited return to the lineup, absent since November 12. He kept up the strong pace upon his return, earning at least one point in his first four games back, overall picking up an eight game winning streak dating back to November. After a lot of hype during his time in the developmental leagues, Buchnevich has lived up to it, becoming a solid contributor to an increasingly younger Rangers team.
Looking Ahead: 3 to Watch In February
February 13 @ Columbus-The Rangers have an uncanny five meetings with the Blue Jackets this season, with Columbus taking two of three thus far. Each game has been exciting, there will be two more showdowns in the coming month. The other comes on February 26, and they two teams could face off for one of the finale automatic playoff spots in the Metro. (7:00, MSG/NBCSN)
February 16 @ NY Islanders-The Islanders appeared to be dead in the East River when they fired head coach Jack Capuano and later were more or less evicted from Barclays Center. However, since Doug Weight took over in the interim, they are 5-0-1, and have reinserted themselves in the crowded Eastern Conference playoff picture. The Rangers have split the first two meetings with their rivals, and would love to keep them out of the wild card chase. (7:00, MSG)
February 19 vs Washington-Another team that has a catapulted themselves to the top of the Metropolitan Division standings is the Capitals, who have gone 13-5-1 thus far in the calendar year of 2017. The Rangers have faced off with Washington just once this season, a come-from-behind 4-2 victory in October. Both teams have certainly evolved since, and their three remaining meetings, including two this month, could certainly shape out the Metro playoff scheme. (12:30, NBC)