Skating Toward the NHL’s Best Run in 40 Years

With a 4-3 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday, the New York Rangers became the first team in the NHL to reach 30 points in the standings this season. More impressively, when combined with their final 57 regular season contests from last year, their 14-2-2 start to the 2015-2016 campaign gives them a remarkable 117 points (56-14-5) in their last 75 games. If they remain hot over the next couple of weeks, the team could post one of the best 82-game stretches since the great Montreal Canadiens’ dynasty of the 1970s.

While it can be misleading to include statistics over a two-year span – key players may be traded or leave via free agency – the Rangers’ roster had very little turnover after its run to the Eastern Conference Finals last season. Forwards Martin St. Louis and Carl Hagelin are gone, but they represent only two of the team’s top 15 point-scorers from a year ago. Rookie Oscar Lindberg (7 goals in 18 games) and free agent addition Viktor Stalberg (1 goal) have replaced them, but by and large, the bulk of the team is nearly identical, making the current run spanning two seasons reasonably relevant.

Between October 1976 and October 1977, the Canadiens managed to set the NHL standard of 137 points (62-7-13) over an 82-game span. Since then, the Red Wings (1995-1996) and San Jose Sharks (2008-2009) have had 131-point runs, but no other team has surpassed 128 points – the Rangers’ pace over the past 75 games. Of course, since 2005-2006, teams are able to accumulate more points than their predecessors, via a shootout win. However, the Rangers have 52 regulation or overtime victories during this stretch, which puts them on pace to match the best 82-game win total (57) of the 1980s Edmonton Oiler teams. Since 1980, the 1995-1996 Red Wings are the lone team to have had more with 62.

Only two of the Rangers’ next seven opponents are more than a game above .500, giving them an outside chance to match the post-1970s mark of 131 points in 82 contests by sweeping all seven games. They’ve won their last nine games; what’s another seven?

(photo by Lisa Gansky)

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