The Rangers’ look is different from last season. They’re a speedier squad ready to attack. To those who cover the team, the vibe is different. And fans say they like the team’s direction under general manager Jeff Gorton.
But as October draws to a close, check the records and compare the first eight games. The Rangers are 5-3 after a 3-2 loss to the Hurricanes in Raleigh, North Carolina, on Friday. Last season, with an older lineup, they were 5-2-1.
The Rangers will wrap up this month’s schedule against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday night at the Garden. Last season, the Blueshirts finished October at 7-2-2. The best these Rangers can end up is 6-3.
The Blueshirts scored 29 goals in their first eight games, compared to 22 last season, and have sharply reduced their opponents’ shots on goal. They allowed 258 in their first eight games last year, 58 more than this season. That bodes well.
In the first eight games last season, they were shut out once — by Montreal — and were limited to one goal twice, by the Devils and Jets. This season, the Rangers, who lead the NHL with 3.63 goals per game (the league average is 2.86), have scored at least two goals in seven of the eight games and have not been blanked.
Because of the increase in scoring, the Rangers have not been blown out. All three losses (to St. Louis and Carolina on the road and Detroit at home) have come in regulation, all by one goal. But they missed getting a valuable point, at minimum, in all three games by not forcing overtime.
Henrik Lundqvist, who played for Team Sweden in the World Cup in September, has not quite rounded into form.
After seven starts last season, the team’s No. 1 goaltender sported a 5-2 record, but more important, a dazzling 1.99 GAA and .935 save percentage.
In seven starts this October, Lundqvist is 4-3 with a .901 save percentage and a 2.45 GAA. Among goaltenders with at least three starts, Lundqvist is tied for 25th in save percentage and 16th in GAA.
To be sure, many forwards have stood out. Rookie Jimmy Vesey has four goals, tied with sharpshooter Brandon Pirri and reliable Mats Zuccarello. Mika Zibanejad has eight points in eight games. Chris Kreider, who has missed the last three games with a neck issue, has seven points in five games. J.T. Miller has six points in eight games. Rick Nash has three goals and five points in eight games.
But Derek Stepan (five assists) hasn’t found the net. After eight games last season, he had three goals. Kevin Hayes has three points in eight games. Jesper Fast hasn’t scored.
On defense, outside of Ryan McDonagh, who has been outstanding, there hasn’t been much offense. McDonagh has seven assists and is the first Rangers defenseman to have a six-game assist streak since Brian Leetch in December 2001. Overall, however, the defense has produced two goals in eight games, one each from Marc Staal and Dan Girardi. Kevin Klein, Brady Skjei, Nick Holden and Adam Clendening have yet to score a goal.
On special teams, the Rangers are trending up over last’s season’s final numbers: a 25.9 percent success rate on the power play, compared to 18.6 percent last season, and an 81.0 success rate on the penalty kill, compared to 78.2 percent last season.
After November, when the Rangers play 15 games, it will be clearer how coach Alain Vigneault’s team stands and what needs improving.