The Rangers are on an extremely long road trip, away from Madison Square Garden until the end of the month when the renovations end. They haven't been playing well, getting blown out in San Jose and shut out in Anaheim. Blues coach Ken Hitchcock isn't looking at their bad play going into tonight; he's focusing more on who they have been able to beat: the Kings. Said Hitch to Jeremy Rutherford:
"When we talk about New York, we watched them beat LA," Hitchcock said. "To me, you’ve got an Eastern team learning what it’s like to play out West – not fun. That would be an awful late game back-to-back against San Jose (the day after beating LA). And then when you get blown out, it takes you a couple of days to recover, at least."
In Hitchcock’s mind, the Rangers had no chance to be ready to face Anaheim two days later, and it showed in their shutout.
"So to me, we’re 100 percent focused on the LA game, which was a great hockey game," he said. "We saw how good they were, we saw how good they played, we saw how in sync they were, and that’s what we’re running our read on.
"I don’t look at those other games. To me, those are both write-off games. One is a write-off game because of travel and the other is a write-off game because of mental recovery from a blowout."
That's a smart perspective to take. Yes, they haven't figured out new coach Alain Vigneault's system yet. Yes, goaltender Henrik Lundqvist has probably gotten off to the worst start of his career. But the Rangers are not a bad team. They're not the Florida Panthers by any means - you underestimate them at your own risk.
It's been a year and a half since the Blues last played the Rangers. Perhaps not knowing what to expect is for the best; if they think the Rangers are going to be a tough opponent, then they'll play up to their level, whether real or perceived.
The Blues are, technically, on a nine-game regular season winning streak. Tonight's a good shot to make it a nice even ten.