As a fan of a hockey team playing in the NHL it is important to remember that the season is one of the longest out of all the professional sports. The 82 games span six months from October to April, and if you’re lucky your team will be playing through June which would make it an eight month season. Baseball’s 162 games and playoffs span from April to November, seven months. Football’s sixteen games and playoffs span from September to February, 5 months. Only the NHL and the NBA (when they’re playing) can boast an eight month regular season to playoffs marathon. With this, as a fan it’s important to remember that all teams will experience their ups and downs as the season goes on, and it’s a long one.
Just look at the Blue Jackets out in the Western Conference. Off to a horrid 4-13-2 start, they still remain only twelve points out of the top eight in the conference. Get that team a consistent goalie and wait for Jeff Carter and Rick Nash to click and you’ve got a team that can put together some wins and get right back in the hunt.
What about former Ranger’s head coach and now the Edmonton Oiler’s bench general, Tom Renney’s? How about his squad? They started the season 5-2-2 and surged to the top of the Western Conference, since then they’ve struggled going 5-5 and lost their footing falling all the way back to 8th place.
How about the East? The Bruins got off to one of their worst starts in a VERY long time and coming off of winning the Stanley Cup last season no less. They found themselves sitting in 15th at the start of the season when they went 3-7. Today they sit in 7th place with an eight game winning streak, the hottest of any team in the NHL.
Which brings us back to the Rangers. They got off to a very slow 3-3-3 start and then fired off seven straight wins after to move to 10-3-3 and first in the Conference, for a short time anyway. The Rangers couldn’t keep pace with Boston’s eight game win streak dropping the game Saturday night’s game in Montreal. In fact had the Rangers won that game, with Pittsburgh and Philadelphia losing as well Saturday, the Rangers would be in first in the East today.
Recall the 2009-2010 season when the Rangers started on a seven game win streak after dropping their season opener in Pittsburgh. Gaborik got off to a blistering start that season scoring five goals and adding six assists in that seven game streak. However we all know how that story ended, Gaborik turned out to be the Rangers leading scorer by a long shot recording 42 of the Rangers 222 goals that season, ~19%. Not to mention ultimately the Rangers would be eliminated from the playoffs by the rival Flyers in a shootout on the last day of the season.
The 2009-2010 season shows just how much of a marathon the season is and how important it is for Management, the coaching staff, players, and obviously the fans, to remember that the season is a long one, the longest in the professional sports world. Seven game winning streaks can only take you as far as 7 games, and out of a 82 game season it’s not much. On the other hand it is important to remember that every point matters. As Rangers fans we can attest to this better than any other team in the league as for the past 2 seasons the Rangers playoff fates have come down to the last day of the season. This is why it’s important to level the highs, and stay off the bridge when the lows pop in their ugly heads.
The Marathon that is the NHL is already under full scope for the Rangers this year. In the young season the Rangers haven’t gone two straight games without gaining a point, and only the seven game winning streak boasts times the Rangers have won 3 straight games. In 2009-2010 after their 7 game winning streak only 9 times the remainder of the season could the Rangers string together 2 or more wins. Conversely they also went 9 times when two or more losses came consecutively. And still, they found themselves one skills competition save or goal away from the playoffs.
When the lows come, it’s important to try and find some positives to take away. When the highs come, it’s important to know that things can always be better. Teams don’t go from Stanley Cup contenders to goats because they lost one game after a 7 game winning streak. What does separate the winners from the losers however is how the winners react to winning and losing. The highs will end, as will the lows, but the main thing to come out of both of them needs to be “what did you learn.”