The New York Rangers recently saw their six-game win streak come to an end against the Minnesota Wild, and although the overtime loss extended their point streak to seven games straight, it seems that the Blueshirts’ reign of terror has come to an abrupt end.
Injuries have plagued the lineup, certain key players are not performing at their expected levels, and the schedule will only get harder from here. The Rangers will surely remain a playoff contender from here on out, but there will be a massive step back from the almost perfect play seen in the last few weeks.
Injuries will hold the Rangers back for the next few weeks
The Rangers’ most recent victory over the Carolina Hurricanes came at a high price. Adam Fox was placed on the LTIR with a lower-body injury, Filip Chytil was placed on the IR with an upper-body injury, and Igor Shesterkin has been considered day-to-day ever since.
With Fox on the LTIR, he’s required to miss a minimum of ten games- but it could be even longer. His first absence came against the Wild, a game in which the defense truly needed their star player. Zac Jones will need to find some sort of sustainability with Braden Schneider, or the Rangers will continue to have a defensive nightmare without Fox.
Chytil’s absence has also caused a major ripple effect across the lineup, as many players had to be moved around to fill the holes in the offense. The once-elite chemistry has been separated, and it will take some time for these new lines to adjust.
Losing Shesterkin is devastating for the Rangers, and although his injury appears to have the shortest timeline of the three, Jonathan Quick may not be enough to keep the Blueshirts’ elite play going. Quick’s first two starts for the Rangers were incredible, but he took a step back in an overall disappointing performance against Minnesota. The defense played a major role in that loss as well, but it showed that Quick can’t steal games for the Rangers like Shesterkin can.
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Key players are not reaching the Rangers’ expectations
World-class offensive production by the Rangers’ top stars has elevated the Blueshirts among the best teams in the NHL. Fox, Artemi Panarin, Chris Kreider, and Mika Zibanejad have been carrying the offense on their backs, but they can only do so for so long. With Fox injured and the remaining stars likely to slow down at some point, the rest of the team needs to step up their game.
Kaapo Kakko has only recorded two points this season on the first line. Alexis Lafreniere has only scored two points in his last five games played, and Blake Wheeler only has one point to his name this season. All three had high expectations this season, and none have lived up to them. It was never an immediate issue due to the team’s overall success, but with a regression likely incoming, their poor play will begin to hurt the Rangers more and more each game.
The Rangers haven’t faced much adversity in their schedule so far this season
Seeing the Rangers successfully execute a seven-game point streak is rather impressive, but when looking at the teams they overcame, there weren’t too many tough opponents. With 11 games played so far, the Rangers have only played against three teams that are currently holding a playoff spot. The Blueshirts managed to win all three matchups, but every win was a one-goal victory with two going to overtime.
The Rangers’ schedule will only get harder from here. Just this month, the Blueshirts will have to face New Jersey, Boston, and Dallas, and December consists of elite teams such as the Boston Bruins. The Rangers have yet to show any signs of being flukes throughout their first 11 games of elite play, but the Blueshirts will truly be put to the test moving forward as this “easy” portion of their schedule has come to a quick end.