Since making his first appearance in a New York Rangers jersey on October 3rd, 2019, Artemi Panarin has been one of the best Rangers to step on the ice night in and night out. After a lackluster first-round series in last season’s playoffs, Panarin took it to heart and sought out revenge. To open up the 2023-24 season, the Breadman is off to a historic start.
Artemi Panarin is showing no signs of slowing down
After Panarin recorded two points in the Rangers’ first-round loss to the New Jersey Devils, fans were not sure how the 2023-24 season would play out for the left-winger. Many believed his play and point totals would take a dip, but Panarin has proved the doubters wrong with his blazing start to the year.
The nine-year veteran has scored in 14 straight to start the season which ties Rod Gilbert for longest streak to start a season in Rangers history. In the 14 games, Panarin has 8 goals, 16 assists, and 24 points putting him on pace for his best season as a Ranger yet (47 goals, 94 assists, 141 points).
His 14-game point streak also sets a new career-high. Panarin is now one game away from tying the longest point streak at any time in a season in Rangers history (Wayne Gretzky 15G 1996-97).
Panarin’s shoot-first mentality has transformed the Rangers’ offense
What makes Panarin’s play different this season than those in the past is his willingness to shoot the puck more. His 55 shots this season are his most through the first 14 games with the Rangers.
Since he’s shooting the puck more, he is creating more rebounds, opening up chances for his team down below. In the Rangers’ first game of the season against the Buffalo Sabres, off a pass from Filip Chytil, Panarin cut through the offensive zone shooting right off of Devon Levi’s left pad.
The puck rebounded back to Panarin who found Alexis Lafrenière across the crease for a goal. Panarin shooting the puck more also opens the ice for his teammates. Defenses and goalies cheat more to his side, opening the ice and the net for his linemates to score goals and make plays of their own.
In last Thursday’s game against the Minnesota Wild, Panarin was again aggressive on the offensive end. Early in the third period, Panarin ripped a shot that just got past Wild netminder Marc-Andre Fleury. Vincent Trocheck was able to get a stick on it, but Fleury ultimately made a good play to find the puck and stop the play.
Panarin’s aggressive shoot-first mentality gave the Rangers a Grade-A chance and almost a 3–1 lead. He added another goal late in the game scoring on the empty net solidifying a 4–1 Ranger win.
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A newfound defensive success
Over the last two seasons, fans were unhappy with Panarin’s unwillingness to forecheck or play defense in the offensive zone. Under new head coach Peter Laviolette, Panarin seems to have found a defensive edge to his game.
While Panarin is only credited with two takeaways via moneypuck.com, the winger has been playing hard along the boards and going into the gritty areas which is something he has not done since the 2019-20 season.
At 17:32 in the second period during the Rangers shootout loss to the Wild last Saturday, Panarin made a beautiful play to deflect the puck into the netting and break up a scoring chance.
At the end of a long shift for Artemi, the Wild entered the offensive zone on a 2-on-1. Panarin was able to race back and deflect Kirill Kaprizov’s cross-ice feed to Marco Rossi up into the netting. Seeing him break up a high-danger chance is not something we are used to seeing from Panarin, but something fans are happy to see.
In the first game of the year against the Buffalo Sabres, Panarin hounded Owen Power along the boards forcing him to lose the puck, and then found Lindgren for a scoring chance from the point. In the very next game, he was able to lift the stick of Mathieu Olivier which led to a hooking penalty on Panarin.
When asked about his forechecking abilities by Jonny Lazarus of The Hockey News, Panarin had to say this, “Glad someone sees that haha. Usually you guys just looking for my mistakes. We feel good with each other…our line..five guys on the forecheck…so much better haha.” Even he knows he’s had a more defensive edge to his game.
Ranger fans should be excited for the rest of the season because when Panarin is at the top of his game and plays defense, it opens up endless possibilities for the team.