11-1 Artemi Panarin NYR not satisfied

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- What does it mean to you to have points in every game to start the season?

"Nothing," New York Rangers forward Artemi Panarin said in response to that exact question after practice Wednesday. "I don't want to talk about it."

Panarin intimated the same when asked about the Rangers and their 7-2-0 record through nine games.

He has points in each of those nine games, 15 in total on five goals and 10 assists, and the Rangers just set a team record by sweeping a five-game road trip (5-0-0) with wins against the Seattle Kraken, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Vancouver Canucks and Winnipeg Jets.

It is the first time they swept a road trip of five or more games. 

The Rangers return to Madison Square Garden on Thursday to host the Carolina Hurricanes (7 p.m. ET; BSSO, MSG).

"Hockey is a great game and the most interesting game because everything can happen in a season and things can change pretty quick," Panarin said. "I don't want to say something because we had a great five wins. I mean, that doesn't mean we'll be great the next 10 games, it just means we were great the last five games."

True, but what they did in the past five games shows the Rangers what they're capable of doing in the next 10 and beyond.

They outscored the Kraken, Flames, Oilers, Canucks and Jets by a combined 17-7. They allowed 27.2 shots on goal per game with a low of 19 in a 4-1 win in Seattle and a high of 33 in a 4-3 overtime win in Vancouver.

The Rangers led by three goals going into the third period in each of the first three games. They were down in the third period in Vancouver and Winnipeg but won both in overtime.

"I thought we played some good hockey and when we didn't, we didn't play bad," Rangers center Mika Zibanejad said. "That was a big thing for us. Our highs were good. Our lows weren't as low as maybe they've been in the past. I didn't think we got that low at all during the road trip. The last two games weren't as good as we wanted, but we did enough things good enough to win. It was a good team effort throughout."

Breaking down Rangers' strong performance on the road

The road trip came on the heels of New York's worst game of the season, a 4-1 loss at home against the Nashville Predators on Oct. 19. That is the one game of the nine they've played so far that coach Peter Laviolette didn't like all the way through.

He didn't like a stretch of about 25 minutes midway through a 5-3 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Oct. 14, when they allowed four goals, but take away that stretch and the game against Nashville and the Rangers have allowed 10 goals in the other approximately seven and a half games.

"From a defensive standpoint I do think that the guys have made a commitment to coming back and making it difficult to play through the neutral zone and even more to the point in our end and to generate in our end," Laviolette said. "If you can do that you can win a lot of hockey games. We continue to talk and push the other side of the game, the attack side."

That's the area where the Rangers aren't feeling as good. Their 5-on-5 shot and chance generation has led to a deficiency in scoring. 

They're in the offensive zone at even strength 41.1 percent of the time, slightly above the League average of 40.7 percent, but aren't generating much from it. They have scored 12 goals at 5-on-5 and are shooting 6.4 percent, bottom third in both statistical categories.

The good news is their power play is rolling. It was 7-for-18 (38.9 percent) on the road trip and is 11-for-32 (34.4 percent) this season. But that's not enough to satisfy the Rangers.

"We want to keep playing good defense, but at the same time I don't think we've talked about sacrificing offense to play defense," Zibanejad said. "I think we can do more from the defensive work that we're doing to counter quicker. We have some good zone time. Looking around this room I see a lot of offensive talent and offensive ability on every line, so we just have to keep harping on making sure we execute more at 5-on-5. We've done a lot of good things. We've created some chances. If we get one. it might open up the floodgates here."

The key, though, as Zibanejad and Laviolette both said is to not take away from what they're doing defensively to push for more 5-on-5 offense.

"The area that for me was really important was in the offensive zone was when it's no longer our possession that we don't stand there, we don't risk anything," Laviolette said. "In the two games we lost the odd man rushes against was a really large number. You're going to have to withstand one or two or three a game and I feel you can still win the game, but when it's eight to 10, your chances to win the hockey game go down. That's the only thing really that we've changed. We're still in the offensive zone, we're just not getting to where we need to get to and delivering what we need to deliver. I think it's going to come. I feel like we'll get there. But it's a work in progress."

That's why Panarin didn't want to say much about his nine-game point streak and the Rangers five-game winning streak. 

There's been a lot of good but being satisfied could lead to complacency.

"It's hard to do, but we have to help each other stay focused," Panarin said. "We're all humans. It's hard to do when you have success."

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