The New York Rangers will be back in action tonight in their second game of the 2023-24 season. With a perfect record of 1-0, the Blueshirts are set to face off against the Columbus Jackets after one day of rest. It’s the Rangers’ second away game of the season, as their season opener is not until this upcoming Monday.
The Blue Jackets are projected to miss the playoffs by a large margin, but the Rangers must still bring a high level of intensity to this matchup. No opponent should be seen as easy, and the Blueshirts will need to make a strong effort to secure a second victory.
1. The Rangers’ top six must maintain consistency
The 2023-24 season opener saw five of six players on the Rangers’ top two lines record points. Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad led the Rangers with three points each, and Artemi Panarin was right behind them with two. It was a great showing all around from the Blueshirts’ stars, but their performances can not be one-game flukes.
Last season, the Rangers had a major problem with inconsistency. Players would go on incredible streaks of elite play, and then seemingly vanish from the ice. With almost all of the Blueshirts’ top six finding success early on after just one game, this prosperity must continue into game two against Columbus.
Panarin had the biggest upgrade of anyone on the top two lines. He didn’t lead in points, but he showed a more aggressive and defensive side of his game that had never been seen before. If Panarin and the rest of the top six can keep up their elite play, the Rangers could possibly take down the Blue Jackets with relative ease.
Goaltending and defense need to shut down elite scorers
The Rangers possess one of the best goalies in the entire world, as well as an elite defensive corps. Igor Shesterkin already appears to be in mid-season form, and there was not a single bad thing to say about the Blueshirts’ defense in the season opener. Although the starting goaltender has yet to be confirmed, the same sentiment would go out to Jonathan Quick if he gets the go-ahead. Similarly to the top six, both goaltending and defense need to remain elite in order to take down Columbus.
Although the Blue Jackets are statistically less skilled than the Rangers, they do possess some offensive firepower that could pose a threat to the Blueshirts. Johnny Gaudreau and Patrick Laine are great point producers, and it will not be an easy task to shift them down.
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The Blue Jackets’ top six is filled with even more talent, including recent third-overall draft pick Adam Fantilli. He’s still looking to score his first NHL goal and already has one point in one career game played. The Blueshirts need to ensure they are not the team to let Fantilli score his first, as they have given many rookies that honor in the past.
Shesterkin and the Rangers’ defense must play the same way they did in the season opener. It was an almost flawless game, and it must be close to perfect again.
The Rangers can not play down their competition
It is true that the Blueshirts are favorites to win their second game of the year, but that should not affect their level of effort heading into this contest. Too many times have the Rangers gone into “easy win” games with no worries and come out as losers.
The Rangers did not experience this problem in their season opener against Buffalo. The Blueshirts played a full 60 minutes, skated fast, and fought hard. This rewarded them with a 5–1 blowout, showing what this team is capable of when they give it their all.
The must be the same level of effort against Columbus. As soon as the Rangers begin to underestimate their opponents, that’s when things begin to fall apart.