MATT: We knew the Rangers were better than their start in October, but the turnaround from then until now is drastic. They look like two different teams. The goaltending is back to where it needs to be, as is the defense. The offense seems to be fully embracing Alain Vigneaults puck possession and speed mindset, and its paying off, as the Rangers are now a plus-9 in goal differentials. After beginning the year 3-7, the Blueshirts are now 32-24-3 and find themselves in second place in the Metropolitan. Since Oct. 28's home loss against Montreal, the Rangers are 29-17-3. Not bad.
While some may suggest the break is coming at the wrong time since the team is playing so well, I don't think any player would turn down the rest. The team — all teams — are playing through injuries and the break will help to get guys back to 100 percent, especially after the chaotic scheduling to make room for the Games. Also, the top players will keep on playing over in Sochi, so there's no issues there either. The final 25 games or so should be a fun sprint.
JIM: In a perfect world the Rangers would keep rolling without a break in the schedule right now because, quite simply, the Blueshirts are playing far and away their best hockey of the season. Winners of five of their last six and 11 of 15, the Rangers are 16-6-1 since December 22nd. That said, in a perfect world the schedule would not be so condensced and players not so mentally fatigued around the league right now, either. So the break is what it is, and I really do believe coaches and players will embrace it to recharge and reboot for that stretch run. I thought it was imperative the Rangers win Friday night following Thursday's loss, to head into the break on a high and not the downer of a two-game skid after playing so well for so long. They accomplished that. Next challenge is to not regress in their play coming out of the break and continue to forge ahead and build upong their terrific play the past six weeks.