GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Relax. Breathe. The sky is not falling. Things are generally fine.
That, in essence, is how the Rangers summarized the state of their 2022-23 campaign now nearly one-quarter complete.
“Overall, we’ve played pretty well,” Ryan Lindgren told Newsday following a 55-minute practice at the MSG Training Facility Tuesday morning.
Following the late-morning session, the Rangers (8-6-3) boarded a flight to Seattle for the team’s West Coast trip, which begins with a match Thursday night against the second-year Kraken (8-5-3) and includes games at San Jose, Los Angeles and Anaheim.
Following the four games, the Rangers will have played one-quarter of a season that had high expectations placed upon it. With good reason. The majority of the squad that reached the Eastern Conference Final last spring returned, and it was believed that the additions of Jaroslav Halak (for Alexandar Georgiev), Vincent Trocheck (for Ryan Strome), Ryan Carpenter and Jimmy Vesey would add depth, grit and experience to a relatively young core.
Heretofore the results have been fairly positive.
Heading into the road trip, the Rangers are fourth in the Metropolitan Division and hold the first Eastern Conference wild-card spot. Why is that significant? Recent NHL history has shown that a majority of the teams in playoff position by Thanksgiving will find themselves playing hockey come the spring.
“We have a board outside the locker room with the standings so everyone [is] kind aware of it,” Vesey said. “But at the end of the day we worry about ourselves first.”
Statistically, the Rangers’ plus-four goal differential (52 goals scored against 48 scored against) ranks ninth in the NHL. Of their 52 goals, 33 have occurred at five-on-five, according to Natural Stat Trick, which is tied for seventh most in the NHL. But per the analytics website, the 33 goals they have surrendered at even strength is tied for 12th.
“I think we’ve improved defensively,” coach Gerard Gallant said. “Still got to get better but we’ve definitely improved defensively. I’d like us to put a few more pucks in the net five-on-five; we’ve got to get better there.”
However, as Lindgren noted, the Rangers are getting opportunities.
Natural Stat Trick ranks the Rangers as the fifth-best team in the league in shots for percentage (54.21%).
“It seems like we’ve been outchancing and outshooting teams but haven’t found a way to win some of those games, but as a whole I think we’ve had a majority good [games],” Lindgren said. “Some not as good but we just [have] to keep finding ways.”
Notes & quotes: Rookie right winger Vitali Kravtsov was a full participant in practice after missing last weekend’s games in Nashville and at the Garden Sunday night against Arizona with an infected tooth. Gallant said Kravtsov “looked great out there,” but was unsure if he would be cleared to play by the team’s medical staff . . . Jacob Trouba did not practice Tuesday as he was given a maintenance day . . . The Rangers will hold practice Wednesday in Seattle.