The second week of the New York Rangers’ 2021 season featured three losses by one goal. On Tuesday, a loss to the Devils, and on Friday a shootout loss to the Penguins. Both final scores were 4-3. On Sunday night they lost again to the Penguins by a score of 3-2. Some troubling trends have developed for this Rangers team. They are plagued by the inability to generate consistent offense over all three periods, they fail to maintain momentum, and they struggle with leads. These young goaltenders have been thrown into the fire early while dealing with the same defensive shortcomings that hastened the decline of Henrik Lundqvist. The team sits at 1-3-1 with their only win so far coming against the Isles.
Game 3: Loss vs Devils (3-4)
This game was all about Jack Hughes and Mackenzie Blackwood. Hughes put up his first multi-goal game of his NHL career, scoring two goals and adding an assist. Blackwood made 47 saves, stymying any chance of the Rangers sneaking out a victory. New York had six powerplays but scored on only two, despite the special teams unit actually looking very good with the man advantage. The team got goals from Zibanejad, Kreider, and Chytil. Georgiev surrendered the first goal of the game just over 30 seconds in, giving up a big rebound that was buried by Travis Zajac. Georgiev posted 16 saves on 20 shots before being replaced by Shesterkin at the beginning of the third period. Shesty saved all eight shots he faced.
It felt like every time the Rangers scored there was a seemingly immediate response by the Devils. The Devils needed only 83 seconds to respond to Kreider’s goal, and shortly after Zib’s goal they scored again but it was called back for offsides. Chytil’s goal brought the Rangers to within one during the third period but they couldn’t get any more opportunities past Blackwood. The brightest star in this game for the Rangers? Adam Fox. The young defenseman has looked like a stud this year and continues to impress with his vision on the ice, his puck movement, and his pure hockey instincts.
Game 4: Loss @ Pittsburgh (3-4, Shootout)
The Rangers only managed to generate offense in the second period, scoring all three of their goals within three minutes of each other including two that were 24 seconds apart. Filip Chytil got his second in as many games, Kaapo Kakko got his second of the year, and Adam Fox continued his hot start with his first of the year. Artemi Panarin notched his 100th point since joining the New York Rangers on an assist on Fox’s goal. He became the fastest Ranger to ever record 100 points with the team. Chytil’s goal came off a turnover in the Penguins’ zone that he finished with an absolutely beautiful goal that would remind older viewers of a Peter Forsberg type move.
The Rangers once again won the shot differential and had more powerplays but could not hold onto a victory here. Shesterkin had 25 saves on 28 shots, although NYR defenseman Ryan Lindgren put one of the Pittsburgh goals into the net himself. Igor looked a little outmatched in the shootout, surrendering two shootout goals. The Rangers’ lone shootout goal came off an insane move by Panarin to freeze the goaltender Tristan Jarry, who got his first win of the season. Zibanejad was fairly invisible in this one, though that could be said about almost the entirety of New York’s offense. The team was completely buoyed by the third line, getting solid points from Di Giuseppe. K’Andre Miller looks like he will be an impressive two-way defenseman as he showed some defensive prowess in this one. The rest of the defense was fairly shaky, with the worst offenders being the DeAngelo/Johnson pairing.
Game 5: Loss @ Pittsburgh (2-3)
The second game in this short series ended in another loss for New York. The Rangers season has gotten repetitive already: win the shot differential, win the faceoff differential, still lose the game. The team gave up too many breakaway opportunities, leading to the first Penguins goal of the evening, a bouncing breakaway effort finished by Bryan Rust in the second period. Shesterkin gave up a goal on a tough angle shot for goal number two, and the game winner came off a one-timer in the slot by Jake Guentzel with 1:31 remaining. The Rangers continue to struggle on defense, allowing teams to create opportunities under very little pressure.
There were some positives in tonight’s game, one being Adam Fox’s play. Not only does he continue to look solid but he notched an assist on the first period goal by new Ranger Colin Blackwell, Fox’s fourth assist of the season. Another positive was Strome finally getting in on some offense, burying a tough chance amongst a crowd at the Pittsburgh net. By this point Shesterkin has been revealed to be number 1 starter to Georgiev’s 1A status, although Igor continues to show flashes of youth. His rebound control has to get better if this team is going to make any noise this season. The team also has to do a better job of clearing the front of his net.
Fan Sentiments and What to Look Forward to Next Week
A particularly vocal section of fans have voiced discontent with head coach David Quinn. These fans have lost patience with his personnel decisions, specifically the decision to keep Ryan Strome on the first powerplay unit despite his beyond shaky start to the season. Many believe, including myself, that Filip Chytil should be rewarded for his blistering hot start and replace Strome on that PP unit. There is also belief that Strome’s presence on the second line is hampering Panarin, leading many to clamor for a shuffle of those two lines.
I’ll push back against that notion, as I think the success of the third line is great for the development of Chytil and Kakko. Quinn’s choice to shuffle lines going into the third period of Friday’s game, I believe, kept that third line from generating more offense in that final period. The fact that Jack Johnson continues to dress over Brendan Smith is also absolutely ridiculous. JJ has been nothing short of a defensive liability, and he is even worse with the puck on his stick. Brendan Smith got the start over JJ on Sunday night and put together a solid effort.
The Rangers play three games before my next article, traveling to Buffalo for games on Tuesday and Thursday, and then playing host to Pittsburgh on Saturday. This team finds itself scrambling to generate wins and will need to find some success this week if the season has any hope of getting off the ground. This division is tough, but I believe we have the talent to beat many of these teams on any given night.
I hope to see strong performances from the young goaltenders. I hope that Chytil continues his torrid pace, and that Kakko continues to have a comfortable start. I’m looking for the first line to get going this week, and I’d like to see Alexis Lafrenière hit the score sheet. He looked noticeably hungry on Sunday night, showing a quick trigger on his shot and putting up a couple heavy opportunities. The season can only go up from here, Rangers fans, please don’t lose hope yet.