Just a few weeks after the 2023-2024 NHL schedule was released, the New York Rangers have been confirmed to receive an abundance of primetime games this season. After an embarrassing playoff showing following the construction of a super team, there is already substantial pressure on the Blueshirts to perform better this upcoming season.
It’s no surprise that the Rangers will be put in the spotlight, given their original six status and 2023 redemption plotline. But the bar has certainly been set even higher now as New York will be featured in the prime television slot frequently this season.
The Rangers will be featured in 13 exclusive games in 2023
The Rangers are set to feature in seven games shown solely on ESPN platforms, including ESPN+, Hulu, and ABC. None of these confirmed matchups will be easy contests, either. In just three of those seven games, the Rangers will have to take on the reigning Stanley Cup champions, the 2023 Stanley Cup runner-ups, and the best player in the world, Connor McDavid.
On February 18th, the Rangers will also have to take on the New York Islanders in the 2024 Stadium Series game. The Blueshirts are historically successful in outdoor games, going 4-0-0 since their first outdoor game in 2012. However, this matchup against the Islanders may prove to be difficult.
“The Rangers and Islanders are bitter rivals, but over the past 15 meetings, the Rangers have gone 5-9-1 against their in-state foes, a bitter pill to swallow. Yet, the Blueshirts did win the two teams’ lone outdoor meeting by a score of 2-1. Fans get excited whenever the two teams meet, and the game’s temperature gets higher. This outdoor game will only increase that animosity.”via The Hockey Writers
The Rangers will also feature in six games shown exclusively on TNT, making their total number of primetime showings 13. With about 16% of the Blueshirts’ schedule being aired on national television, it’s imperative they do not let this pressure get the better of them.
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How the Rangers can meet raised expectations
Playing in nationally televised games is much more mentally straining than playing in local matchups. Knowing that millions more are watching could easily cause players to crack under pressure, especially late in the season when teams are fighting to secure a playoff spot.
If the Rangers want to succeed with a high amount of primetime games, they’ll have to manage their emotions. Hopefully, new HC Peter Laviolette will be able to manage the locker room atmosphere well and keep the Blueshirts’ heads out of the clouds.
Igor Shesterkin will most likely feel the most of this increased pressure, being the Rangers’ most popular and most skilled player. Goaltending is the backbone of any successful performance, and he’ll need to stay sharp throughout all 13 primetime games. Hopefully, Shesterkin will rise to the occasion and improve his previous season record of 37-13-8.
Players such as Artemi Panarin and Alexis Lafreniere, who tend to disappear in important games, must also break that habit and start to produce under the spotlight.
It’s also essential that the Rangers treat every single matchup the same. Even outside of primetime games, New York has a tendency to exert different amounts of effort depending on who they play against. During these primetime games, even if the Rangers play against a lower-skilled team, they must treat it like they’re playing against a Stanley Cup contender.