The Rangers have been an offensive juggernaut so far


PITTSBURGH — The last time the New York Rangers played a game in Pittsburgh they were getting absolutely obliterated in an elimination game.

On Monday, in what was their first meeting with the Penguins since that first-round playoff matchup this past spring, they returned the favor and beat the defending champs at their own game in a convincing 5-2 win that was also perhaps the Rangers’ most impressive performance of the season.

Playing their second game in 24 hours and without two top forwards (Pavel Buchnevich and Mika Zibanejad) the Rangers erased an early two-goal deficit and stormed back for five consecutive goals to continue their early season scoring surge.

It was the type of performance that Rangers fans probably did not see enough of last season.

They were winning races to pucks, playing with speed, rolling four lines out on the ice that all had the potential to score, and not sitting back and waiting for their goalie to bail them out and win the game for them. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the win was the fact they were able to keep attacking in the third period, even as they protected a lead and recorded 9 of the first 12 shots on goal of the period.

Overall, the early season numbers for the Rangers offense right now are pretty staggering:

  • Their win on Monday was already their 10th game this season with at least five goals.
  • No other team in the NHL has more than four so far this season. Their current total also matches their total from the entire 2015-16 season. Ten teams in the league failed to reach that total all of last season.
  • They now have a league-leading 81 goals on the season in only 20 games. When their game against Pittsburgh ended on Monday, that was 20 more goals than the next highest scoring team in the league. Their 56 even-strength goals were 14 more than any other team.
  • Michael Grabner, signed over the summer to a two-year, $3.3 million contract, is now tied for the league lead with 12 goals, just as everybody almost certainly predicted the moment he was signed.
  • As a team they have scored on more than 13 percent of their shots this season

The latter point is the one that looks impressive in the short-term, but has to be a little concerning going forward. That is simply a number that is going to come down a bit at some point. Keep in mind that over the past 15 years only 11 teams have finished an 82-game season with a shooting percentage higher than 11 percent. Eight of those came during the two-year window between 2005-06 and 2006-07 when goal scoring in the NHL had a brief surge coming out of the 2004 lockout.

Nobody has done it since the 2009-10 Capitals.

None of those teams finished higher than 12 percent.

Individually, they have four players (Kevin Hayes, Pavel Buchnevich, Jimmy Vesey and Grabner) that are currently shooting north of 20 percent. Over the same time period referenced above only 34 players (minimum 100 shots) have finished a season higher than 20 percent, and only nine of them have come since the start of the 2007-08 season (that is no more than two per season).

So again, there are a lot of players here that are going to eventually cool off in the goal scoring department.

But what you really have to give the Rangers credit for here is going out over the summer and addressing what was a pretty big problem a year ago (speed, forward depth, balanced scoring) and retooling their forward lines.

They saw what happened when they went up against a faster, more skilled Penguins team in the first round and committed to fixing it. It was on display Monday, and they showed that even if they still have some flaws to deal with on their roster they are never really out of a game right now thanks to their offense.

Even if they do not keep scoring at this ridiculous of a pace, these early games — and goals! — still count in the standings. If nothing else the Rangers are taking advantage of this hot streak and building themselves a heck of a cushion for when the inevitable goal scoring slump and regression happens.

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

Ilya Mikheyev
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

caufield surgery
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MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

matty beniers
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SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.