The New York Rangers’ topsy-turvy season continues. This week we saw the team extend a losing streak to four games then turn it around and rattle off two consecutive victories. This team has shown that it can win games just as easily as it can lose them. Watching them play is purely anxiety inducing, so I wouldn’t be surprised if you have missed a few. Here’s what happened this week:
Game 12: Loss vs Devils (5-2)
The Devils came into this game off of fifteen days of rest due to COVID protocol. The Rangers came in on a three-game losing streak. This was an opportunity to snap a cold streak, playing against a team that hadn’t played in two weeks. Instead, the Devils took advantage of a lackluster game by the boys in blue, easily skating to a 5-2 victory.
MacKenzie Blackwood recorded 37 saves on 39 shots in another strong showing against the Rangers, while Igor Shesterkin was 32 of 36 with the fifth goal coming on an empty net. The Rangers got goals from Colin Blackwell and Pavel Buchnevich, as both men are having strong seasons. This game may have been tied at two after two periods of play, but it was all Devils in the third period. The Rangers have now lost two games against the Devils and they better figure out a path to success soon. These teams play six more times this season, including a stretch of four straight in April.
Game 13: Win @ Philadelphia (3-2, SO)
Lucky, lucky number thirteen. The Rangers got another crack at a team coming off of a COVID break, but this time they came away with the victory. The Flyers hadn’t played in ten days but they hung in this one with a physical presence, although both teams benefitted from weak powerplay units. The Rangers only scored once on five powerplay chances, while the Flyers failed to convert on all five of their man advantages.
Alexandar Georgiev got the start in net for the Rangers, putting up 20 saves across 4 periods of play. He stopped all three of the Flyers’ shootout attempts. The Rangers got a powerplay goal from Colin Blackwell on a deflection from a shot by Buchnevich. Brendan Smith got the second goal for the Blueshirts, scoring on a magnificent pass from Artemi Panarin. Panarin and Kaapo Kakko both scored in the shootout using quick wrist shots over the pads of Carter Hart. Adam Fox logged over 30 minutes of ice time to make up for the short-term absence of K’Andre Miller and the long-term absence of Jacob Trouba, who will be out a month with a broken thumb. I cannot gush enough about the play of this young man; Rangers fans, he is a stud.
Game 14: Win @ Washington (4-1)
The Rangers travelled to Washington for a Saturday afternoon game, coming away with a 4-1 victory. This game felt like it belonged to the Rangers during the entire contest and there were quite a few feelgood moments.
The Rangers got a powerplay goal for the second game in a row when Chris Kreider buried a rebound to start the scoring in the first. Alexis Lafreniêre was put on the top line with Panarin and Mika Zibanejad, the first time this season that three have skated on a line together, resulting in a Lafreniêre goal. Lafreniêre finished a dime of a pass from Panarin, showing his crafty mitts for his second goal of the season. Ryan Strome fed a shot through traffic for his 100th career goal. Last but certainly not least, Zibanejad ended his scoring drought, notching an empty-netter for his first goal in 13 games. Shesterkin got the start in cage for this contest, posting 26 saves on 27 shots. Kakko missed this game with what ended up being a false-positive COVID test. He should be cleared to go next week.
Fan Sentiments and What to Look Forward to Next Week
Another week, another section about fan dissatisfaction with David Quinn. Frustration was incredibly high following the loss to the Devils, but the last two games showed what the Rangers are able to accomplish when this system works well. Hopefully the scoring logjam clears up for Zibanejad and we see him return to his star-level of production. I believe the wins against Philly and the Caps should give this team a little momentum as they head into half a week of practice before their next game. Every day is another day closer to the return of Filip Chytil and now Jacob Trouba.
This team has the foundation of a really solid NHL team, and they can only get better. The young defensemen have been playing lights out and show the makings of an elite blueline for years to come. Shesterkin is already an NHL-level goaltender and eventually the offensive pieces of the puzzle will start falling into place.
When asked what he sees from his end of the ice, he noted that at times it feels like the Rangers should just get the puck to the net rather than countlessly looking for the extra pass. This strategy seemed to work against the Capitals and the fans can only hope that the trend continues into the coming weeks.
The Rangers don’t play again until Wednesday, when they’ll face the Flyers in Philly. They host the Bruins at the Garden on Friday and next Sunday. Friday night against Boston will be the first game that MSG allows fans to be in attendance. Fans will be limited to 10% capacity and all seats for the games against the Bruins are already sold out. Tickets are still available for the March 3rd game against the Sabres.