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Depth Powering Rangers to Historic Start

by Matthew Calamia / New York Rangers

The Rangers made history Thursday night by capturing 12 wins in their first 16 games with their 6-3 victory over the St. Louis Blues at Madison Square Garden.

A big reason for that success? Depth at every position.

Following Thursday's win, the Blueshirts now have five players with at least 10 points on the season — led by Mats Zuccarelo 15 in 16 games —, with another three with nine points. Among those eight players, three lines and one defensive pair are represented.

In goal is a similar story. Henrik Lundqvist, Thursday's winner, is 9-2-2 with a .946 save percentage and a 1.76 goals against and one shutout. His backup, Antti Raanta, is 3-0 with a .976 save percentage and a .67 goals against and one shutout.

"One of our things last year, we had four lines that could play," said J.T. Miller, who picked up his third goal of the season and now has nine points in 16 games. "I think we're doing a good job of that right now. Production from a lot of guys. It's just another tool to have as a team."

The Rangers are second in the NHL with a plus-23 goal differential, and are third in the league in goals for with 51 through 16 games. Production throughout the lineup has become a constant. Six different Rangers scored goals Thursday night, with 11 picking up at least one point. In Saturday's 4-1 win over Arizona, four different Blueshirts scored with nine picking up points. Lastly, in the team's 5-2 win over Washington earlier this month, the Rangers had five different goal scorers and nine players found their way onto the scoresheet.

"From Hank to the forwards, we have four lines scoring goals," said Zuccarello, Thursday's first star with a goal and an assist. "All the D-men are doing everything, scoring goals, blocking shots. We're a deep team, I think, and when we play like this and score on our chances, we're a good team."

Derek Stepan said a team cannot be successful in today's NHL line without contributions up and down the lineup.

"We always talk about it. You want to make sure you have depth throughout your lineup," he said. "The League is getting so good now, you can't just rely on one line. You have to have scoring everywhere. You've got to have all your D's competiting as well on the offensive zone."

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Thursday night marked the 11th time in 16 games this season that the Rangers scored the first goal of the game, and New York is 9-1-1 when doing so. Throughout the first 16 games, the Blueshirts have out-scored the opposition 20-8 in the first 20 minutes of the game, and they currently lead the NHL with a plus-12 goal differential in first periods.

Why the success?

"Preparation," Alain Vigneault said after Thursday's win. "It's all about individual preparation. As coaches, we show our players other teams' tendencies, what you have to do against those [tendencies], but you have to go on the ice and execute and that's mental preparation. That's individual preparation, that's getting in the zone and going out and executing."

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As good as the team's first periods have been, the Rangers' astronomical record when leading after two improved to160-1-9 over their last 170 regular season games dating back to Feb. 6, 2010 against New Jersey.

Zuccarello couldn't pinpoint one reason for that success, but chalked it up to depth.

"I don't know. It's hard to say," he said. "Pretty good D-men we have, knocking down pucks and blocking shots and making plays. I give a lot of credit to them. We have four lines backchecking and forechecking. Just trying to make it hard for them. We've been successful with that."

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