The New York Rangers‘ bye week came to a close Sunday afternoon as they held their first practice following the All-Star break. The Blueshirts are already back in action Monday evening, as they will take on the Colorado Avalanche in their first contest since scoring seven goals against Ottawa.
Before the break began, things were not going well for the Rangers. Losses began to pile up as sloppy play worsened, and what was once a near-perfect season quickly fell apart. The bye week came at a great time, giving the Rangers a much-needed break to regain their footing. But in order to save their season, a few things need to happen.
1. Igor Shesterkin returns to form following his All-Star appearance
Igor Shesterkin, who entered the season being known as a world-class goaltender, has not looked like himself this year. He’s earned just 19 games in 32 games played while recording a 2.86 GAA and a .899 SV%. His poor play has added to the struggling Rangers’ problems, and getting him back on track is the first step in bringing this team back to life.
Shesterkin represented the Blueshirts at the All-Star game this year, and he looked better than ever while in Toronto. Taking this break to play some non-competitive hockey hopefully helped him regain his confidence and enjoyment for playing once again.
Vince Mercogliano reported that in the first practice back with the team, Shesterkin looked to be in the best spirits he’s seen since training camp.
2. The Rangers’ offensive corps begins to score more
In recent weeks, the second line has been the only consistent offensive unit for the Rangers. Even that line hasn’t been perfect, however, as Alexis Lafreniere has significantly slowed down while Artemi Panarin and Vincent Trocheck keep up the pace.
Aside from those two stars, the entire offensive corps has looked a mess as of late. Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad have disappeared from the scoresheet, and not a single member of the bottom six has produced consistently. Will Cuylle is the top performer on the bottom two lines, but not because of his offensive production.
For the Rangers to save their season, all four offensive lines must begin to score more. Dropping seven goals against Ottawa in their most recent matchup is a wonderful sign, but the Blueshirts must be able to maintain that momentum after a week of no play.
3. Drury makes a splash at the trade deadline
The NHL trade deadline is just over a month away, and the Rangers are already heavily involved in trade rumors. Elias Lindholm and Sean Monahan were two of their top targets, but both have been shipped elsewhere for hefty return packages.
If the Rangers intend on becoming Stanley Cup contenders again, a trade may be necessary to help that offensive corps begin production again. A first-line right winger and a third-line center should be on Chris Drury’s wish list, setting up what is expected to be a pretty busy deadline for the Rangers. While a trade is expected to happen soon, only time will tell how much of an impact a new acquisition can make on the team.
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