The New York Rangers desperately need an infusion of offense and hope to get a bit of a kick with the return of Rick Nash Tuesday night at home to Boston. Now that this team is healthy, we can finally see what they are.
Despite winning eight of their past 12 games, the Rangers have only three goals in their past three games and seven in their past four. New York averages 2.10 goals per game on the year, which is tied with the New Jersey Devils for 26th in the league. At least part of the reason for this struggle is that Nash has been out of the lineup with a concussion since the fourth game of the season. Although even with Nash the Rangers only scored six times in three games - and the former Blue Jacket didn't get any of them. Others, such as Ryan Callahan and Carl Hagelin have missed time to injury, while Chris Kreider started the year in the AHL.
It wasn't supposed to be like this for the Rangers. They were supposed to find new levels of scoring under former Canucks coach Alain Vigneault - and while there have been some surprising contributions from the likes of Kreider, Hagelin and a resurgent Brad Richards, the offense was supposed to come together much easier. They should be better than .500.
Now, in eight games from Oct. 28-Nov. 10, the Rangers scored 24 times for an average of three per game, before sliding into their recent three-game sag. This surge perfectly coincided with their return home from a season-opening nine-game road trip, in which they went 3-6-0. So maybe the Rangers really are turning a corner. Maybe their early struggles had more to do with road weariness and man-games lost than anything else.
After tonight's home game against Boston, the Rangers set off on a five-game road trip before returning home for 11 of 12. Nash won't return to log a ton of minutes right away, but if he can help give this offence a bit of a boost, it may be enough to improve on their next road trip.
It's still not clear what the Rangers are this year - a team that needs a strong defensive structure to succeed, or one that can achieve new levels of goal production under a different system, and survive on it. So far, we've seen both sides of the coin. Tonight is the first time the team is mostly healthy. They can start showing us who they really are for the first time. But if they still have trouble finding consistency with a full lineup, red flags will be raised.
The return of Nash should be a boon to a Rangers recovery. But their inconsistency is at least a little unsettling - thank goodness for fans of the team, they're in the meek Metro Division.