3 Rangers players who need to improve their game in the regular season

Apr 7, 2022; New York, New York, USA; New York Rangers left wing Artemi Panarin (10) controls the puck against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the third period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers will conclude the 2023-24 preseason tonight against the Boston Bruins, setting up the final week before the regular season begins. The Rangers’ five exhibition games so far have seen both highs and lows despite a poor record of 1-4.

There have been players who have stood out in both a positive and negative light, and they must step up their game when the regular season begins. There will be a much higher level of intensity and the stakes will increase.

Rangers’ top center needs to start producing points

With three preseason games played, Mika Zibanejad has failed to record a single point. It’s strange to see Zibanejad not appear on the score sheet, as he finished the 2022-23 season as the Rangers’ second-highest scorer. The Rangers have had a problem with goal production as a whole throughout the preseason, but Zibanejad stands out as one of the most disappointing players.

“That’s our role, we’re supposed to score. And when we don’t, it doesn’t matter if I thought we did a pretty good job defensively and tried to pressure. I thought the forecheck was there, but it wasn’t really synced in terms of being able to turn pucks over in their zone and then kind of create.”

Mika Zibanejad via Mollie Walker

With the regular season just a week away, Zibanejad will need to start producing points right away. As the center on the first line, he has the pressure of leading the Rangers each game. Chris Kreider is a pure goal scorer who heavily relies on Zibanejad’s ability to score.

Kaapo Kakko, who is also projected to start on the top line, is a young player the Rangers are hoping will break out. His success is intertwined with Zibanejad’s, meaning this scoring issue spans far beyond his own personal stats.

Quick’s future may be in jeopardy without significant improvement

Perhaps the most disappointing player this preseason has been veteran goaltender Jonathan Quick. Although his stats have been on a steep decline in recent years due to age and injury, there was hope that he would still be a suitable backup to play behind Igor Shesterkin. After playing in three preseason games, Quick has gone winless and only has a save percentage of .807.

These statistics are far from acceptable, and Quick must recover with haste. The Rangers have a great goalie prospect in Dylan Garand, and although he was recently sent down to Hartford, the Blueshirts could very well call him up at any time if Quick continues to disappoint.

Lacking a solid backup will create problems later in the season, as Shesterkin may be overworked by starting too many games. He will be drained by the time the playoffs begin, and the Rangers could see another early exit if their star goalie is not at the top of his game.

Panarin needs to have more of a defensive presence

Although tallying a point unlike Zibanejad, Artemi Panarin is another top forward who needs to improve his game. It’s known that Panarin is one of the best players on the Rangers, but there are a handful of flaws to his game. The Blueshirts’ 2022-23 playoff loss can be highly connected to poor play from Panarin, and he hasn’t seemed to bounce back in preseason just yet.

Panarin is a massive defensive liability, as he turns the puck over with foolish plays on a consistent basis. Outside of scoring points, Panarin has looked invisible when on the ice. The only time he’s noticeable is when he commits a turnover or a penalty, hurting the Rangers.

With as much ice time as he receives, Panarin must be better. Point production can only be so helpful when the same player is causing goals at the same time. He’s looked average at best in the preseason, but Panarin must be great in order for the Rangers to succeed.

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