This was supposed to be the part of the season where the Rangers made up lost ground.
So far, though, it hasn’t happened.
The Rangers — in the midst of a franchise record nine-game homestand (the Blueshirts play 20 of 30 at MSG leading up to the Olympic break) — have started with a thud, dropping a 4-3 OT decision to New Jersey on Saturday followed by a dismal 4-1 defeat to Washington on Sunday.
Following the Caps loss, New York held a players-only meeting to try and make sense of its 5-7-1 record at MSG this season. Captain Ryan Callahan said things had to change — starting ASAP.
“We have to respond,” Callahan said, as per the Bergen Record. “It’s not good enough at home. This is a long home stand and now it takes the guys in here to respond and be better. It starts Tuesday night and that’s how we are looking at this.
“We have a challenge in front of us and now we have to answer it.”
The Rangers will host Nashville on Tuesday and know how crucial a victory is. The Rangers head into tonight’s action on the outside of the playoff picture (15-15-1, 31 points) and that has much to do with their poor start to the season — the Blueshirts opened 3-7-0, which included a grueling nine-game road swing while MSG was being renovated.
And that’s what makes this homestand so important. The schedule allows for few opportunities moving forward — New York won’t have anything longer than a four-game home set for the rest of the season — and, when the slate was first released, everybody looked at this stretch as the time when New York would surge forward.
Problem is, it’s just not happening.
“We’re pretty frustrated,” Ryan McDonagh said. “We may think we’re doing some good things out there but it’s not nearly at the consistent level it needs to be in order for us to be a hard team to play against and the team we know we’re capable of being.”
Born in Scottsdale, AZ., Auston Matthews has taken the NHL by storm in his rookie season as an elite talent headlining an impressive freshman class.
Taken first overall last June, Matthews made history with four goals in his debut, surely a dizzying experience for Maple Leafs fans accustomed to heartbreak and frustration. And he really hasn’t slowed down since.
On Sunday against the Carolina Hurricanes — and on Hockey Day in America — the 19-year-old Matthews once again put on a show, scoring his 28th goal of the season. That gave Toronto a two-goal lead.
As he’s often done in his brief time in the NHL, this goal was of the spectacular variety, as he broke in off the left wing and, as he was getting hauled down to the ice, slid the puck five-hole on Cam Ward.
Related: Auston Matthews is having a rookie season for the ages
For about a month now, Evander Kane has enjoyed a particularly productive stretch for the Buffalo Sabres.
Kane scored with 5.6 seconds remaining in the first period of Sunday’s game versus the Chicago Blackhawks, converting on a nifty pass from Jack Eichel and going top shelf on Scott Darling.
He now has goals in three straight games, and 15 points in 14 games as the Sabres have fought their way back into the playoff race in the Eastern Conference.
Of course, this latest run comes just before the trade deadline, and Kane’s name has consistently been in speculation about a possible move — in addition to off-ice issues. While GM Tim Murray has said earlier this month that he’s not actively shopping Kane, he also didn’t absolutely rule out trading the 25-year-old left winger, now into his second season in Buffalo.
(Murray: “Is there a crazy deal that somebody could throw at me that would force me to do it? I guess there is.”)
Most impressive about Kane’s numbers — remember he missed time earlier this season with a rib injury and then had a slow start, which drew the ire of the coach — is that he’s done the vast majority of his scoring, 20 of 21 goals, at five-on-five.
The Boston Bruins are back from their bye week, looking to continue a three-game winning streak since Bruce Cassidy took over as head coach from Claude Julien.
The Bruins can extend their streak Sunday, when they visit the San Jose Sharks (8:30 p.m. ET). You can check out the game on NBCSN or online with NBC Sports’ Live Extra.
CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE
Here are some links to check out for tonight’s game:
The NHL’s bye week experiment is still a work in progress
Pre-game reading: Are the Bruins and Avalanche on verge of trade?
Sharks have reason to wait on Thornton, Marleau extensions
Jacob Trouba could be getting a call from the NHL Department of Player Safety for a hit to the head of Ottawa Senators forward Mark Stone.
The incident occurred during the third period of Sunday’s game, as Stone was passing the puck after he entered the zone. Trouba stepped up and delivered a high hit, resulting in only a minor penalty for an illegal check to the head.
Stone, who dealt with a concussion that was reported in September, remained down on the ice before eventually going to the dressing room.
As you can see from the video, Senators coach Guy Boucher was furious officials on the ice decided this was only worth a minor for Trouba.