After playing 10 of their first 14 games at home and going 8-2 at Madison Square Garden, the Rangers will be tested on a four-game journey on the road, where they are 2-2.
Last season, the Rangers were 19-17-5 away from the Garden. Among the eight Eastern Conference playoff teams, the Red Wings finished with the same road record; the only team worse was the wild-card Flyers.
The mission: Collect more points in enemy arenas, starting this weekend in Westen Canada.
The Rangers have already played two of the upcoming teams. The skidding Canucks responded with a 5-2 victory at the Garden on Tuesday and the Rangers defeated the Oilers, 5-3, on Nov. 3. They have not faced Calgary (5-8-1 as of Wednesday), where they will visit Saturday, or Columbus (5-3-2).
“We’ve been playing lots of hockey lately,” said goaltender Antti Raanta, who is expected to play in Calgary or Sunday in Edmonton. “Sometimes it’s not going to go how we want it to go. Vancouver shut us down and didn’t give us too many chances. I think everyone knows in this locker room that we can do better. We get a couple days without games, so we’re going to get a good break.”
In the last four games, the Rangers went 3-1, but they have allowed 12 goals, including 11 at even strength. They have simply outscored opponents, with 18 goals.
At times, they have struggled to trigger their breakout game, which is the core of the five-on-five offense. The Canucks, for example, “were jamming the walls pretty good and we really didn’t figure out until the third period how to get it out,” Rick Nash said.
Ryan McDonagh lamented the slow starts in the last four games, when the Rangers fell behind in the first period in two games, and totaled only four goals in the opening periods, while opponents scored three.
Throw in that center Mika Zibanejad is slumping. His third-period goal on Tuesday, when the Rangers were down 5-2, was his first in 10 games. He has three goals in his first Rangers season.
Special teams are helping. In four of the last five games, the Rangers did not allow a power-play goal; they ranked 10th in the NHL for penalty-killing entering Wednesday. The Rangers were 1-for-5 with a man advantage on Tuesday, and by going 5-for-22 in the last six games, are eighth in the league at 22.4 percent.