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Hartnett: Streaking Rangers Are Looking Like Something Special

By Sean Hartnett
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The 10-3 Rangers are cooking with gasoline as Election Day nears. Riding a five-game winning streak and posting an 8-2 record over their last 10 contests, the free-scoring Blueshirts are earning victories in landslide fashion.

If you were to poll Blueshirt diehards across the tri-state area, approval ratings would burst through the famous Madison Square Garden cable-suspended roof. The Rangers have scored at least five goals in five straight games for the first time since the 1978-79 season. Their 4.23 goals for per game lead the NHL and is highest average in team history. This is only the third time in franchise history that the Rangers have won 10 of their first 13 games. The feat was previously accomplished in 1990-91 and 2008-09.

Key to the Blueshirts' scoring outburst is four quick-strike lines built on speed and skill. No longer do the Rangers carry a traditional fourth line modeled on physicality and wearing down the opposition. Head coach Alain Vigneault has a quartet of lines at his disposal that can really fly in transition, torching opponents when they get caught up ice.

"It's pretty impressive," forward Brandon Pirri said. "Everyone is contributing, and that's what's important. It's a tough matchup for other teams when the next line coming over the boards is just as capable as the one before that."

MORE: Hartnett: Grabner Giving Rangers Excellent Value, Surprising Production

"You're not (expecting) to score five goals every night," forward J.T. Miller said. "That's a lot of goals against the goaltending talent in the league and how good the teams are. At the same time, if we can keep four lines going and out-chance the other team and play with speed on every line, it's hard to stop. The whole team is contributing right now and that's one of the biggest things. If we can get every line and the 'D' to contribute, that's when you're going to get your production."

After falling to the Rangers 5-2 on Sunday night, Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice felt his team fed the Blueshirts' ability to capitalize on transition chances.

"I think we are a little bit guilty of getting too excited about our zone time, and some of our lateral plays that we tried to make instead of getting right to the net," Maurice said. "That's what they are good at, they'll transition off of that. They can shoot the puck off the rush, and we got burned by it."

MORE: Monzo's NHL Notebook: Rangers' Vesey Has Quickly Silenced His Doubters

Earlier this month, St. Louis Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock felt the Rangers taught him "a hell of a lesson."

"They are playing great team hockey, and they just exposed any weakness we had," Hitchcock said after being blanked 5-0 by the Blueshirts. "They exposed it. They've done it to a few teams now. Real eye opener for me.

"The way they were playing, they were in control," he continued. "Their game was in control. They were in control. It's their team play. Their team play is excellent. They're well-coached. Their team plays excellent, and it should be a real eye opener for everybody in the league. It's a real eye opener for us. When you play that well as a team, and you're that well-coached, and you're that in sync right now, you're going to beat anybody. That's where they're at right now."

A packed schedule of five games in eight nights and three games in four nights hasn't slowed down the Rangers' furious lamp-lighting. Following Sunday's victory, the Rangers improved to 8-1 on home ice. MSG has become their rollicking fortress and a house of horrors for visiting teams.

"Even in my career before the Rangers, playing at Madison Square Garden is a pretty electric building," Pirri said. "We certainly feed off the fans and build off the energy. We're getting an offensive output from four lines that are contributing. It's just a matter of everyone doing their jobs responsibly, then all four lines can obviously score goals. It's a matter of one taking care of the other."

The arena is buzzing, Vigneault's face is beaming with joy, and the goal siren is wailing at an unparalleled rate in the Rangers' 90-year history. There's something different about this year's edition of the Broadway Blueshirts.

Follow Sean on Twitter at @HartnettHockey

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