This has been a difficult season so far for the New York Rangers. Fans were excited to see the youngest team in the league take the ice this season after a disappointing performance in the bubble. There has been a lot of ups and downs so far for the Rangers. Nothing has come easy for rookies and veterans alike. However, the New York Rangers have looked much better their last two games. They defeated the COVID stricken Philadelphia Flyers 3-2 on February 18 and then defeated the Washington Capitals 4-1 earlier this afternoon. Let’s take a look at what is going right for the Rangers right now.
Goal Monkeys Lifted
One of the biggest storylines following the Rangers this season is Mika Zibanejad not scoring so far this season. Through the majority of today’s game, Mika Zibanejad had only one goal on the season. However, that changed late in the third period. Zibanejad managed to seal the game with an empty net, short-handed goal. Now you may be asking, what is so impressive about an open net goal? Seeing the puck go in the net. That’s what. Zibanejad could not buy a goal to save his life. However, seeing the puck enter the net from his stick hopefully raises his confidence and he starts producing in bunches.
Alexis Lafreniere also lifted the goal monkey off his back today. In an attempt to get the first overall pick going, David Quinn put Lafreniere on the same line with Artemi Panarin. That decision paid immediate dividends. Panarin found himself with the puck along the boards and managed to find a wide open Lafreniere in front of the net. Alexis displayed some silky hands and deked the goalie to score his second goal of his rookie campaign.
Excellent Penalty Killing
The Rangers penalty kill has been excellent over the past couple games. Through the end of today’s game, the Rangers PK is 29 for their last 30, including a perfect game today. The Capitals power play is ranked third in the National Hockey League, but they could not get anything going against the Rangers PK today. They held Alex Ovechkin in check and always knew where he was on the ice while on the PK.
No matter what sport, you need depth in order to win. The Rangers in years past have had very limited depth. Their fourth lines were made up of players who could fight, but not play hockey very well. This year, they changed that drastically. They added actual hockey players in Kevin Rooney, Colin Blackwell, and Anthony Bitetto. Rooney and Blackwell have been two of the Rangers best forwards this season. Their contributions have been amplified with the absence of Filip Chytil and the struggles of Zibanejad and Chris Kreider. Anthony Bitetto has stepped into a major role on the defense ever since Jacob Trouba went down for 4-6 weeks. The Rangers need these guys to contribute and they are pulling far more than their weight.
This is truly a development year for the blueshirts. They have answered a lot of questions with the play of Filip Chytil and Kaapo Kakko. They have taken major steps forward with their play. The same goes for Adam Fox. This may be a bold take, but Adam Fox is playing like the New York Rangers best defenseman since Brian Leetch. Fox is one of the top defenseman in the game already and is only improving. They have been getting better goaltending from both Igor Shesterkin and Alex Georgiev, both of whom need to play well for the Rangers to succeed. Overall, it has been a very tough season for the Rangers, but they have also been a lot of fun to watch. They have a tough stretch coming up with 2 games against the Bruins next week. Hopefully, they can use these past two games to propel their season forward and start making some noise in the division.
-Pete Chatterton (@Pchat12)
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