Top takeaways from the Rangers’ shaky first half of the season

New York Rangers left wing Chris Kreider (20) hugs goaltender Igor Shesterkin (31) after defeating the Washington Capitals at Madison Square Garden
Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers have officially reached the midway point of the 2023-24 NHL season, and what a first half it was for the Blueshirts. What started out as a dominant introduction to the year has fluctuated with both elite and embarrassing play, but there is hope that New York can regain their momentum in the second half.

Injuries are interfering with the Rangers’ chances of winning the Metropolitan Division

Early on in the season, the Blueshirts held the number one spot in the entire NHL. The 2024 calendar year began with the Rangers as the top team in the league, but that has quickly changed over the last two weeks. They now rank sixth overall, with their last 10 games resulting in a record of just 4-5-1.

The Rangers are losing sight of the number one spot in the league, but they currently still remain atop the Metropolitan Division. Despite this, even that lead is rapidly fading away. The Philadelphia Flyers and Carolina Hurricanes are both within grasp of the top spot, and if the Blueshirts don’t turn things around soon, they will lose that place in the standings too.

The main problem that has led to the Rangers’ divisional lead diminishing is the amount of injuries that presented themselves during the first half of the season. It was a nonstop onslaught of players getting hurt, causing the Blueshirts to rarely be at their full potential. With Kaapo Kakko recently rejoining the team and Filip Chytil progressing well, the Rangers could hopefully be back at full health soon and regain their momentum in the second half in order to expand their lead on the Metropolitan.

The second line has been the only consistent offensive force throughout the first half

The second line consisting of Artemi Panarin, Vincent Trocheck, and Alexis Lafreniere has been a dominant force in the offensive zone. They have combined for 127 points so far, with Panarin acting as the leading scorer with 59 in 42 games played.

A lack of consistency in the offensive corps is another factor that has led to poor play as of late. Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider have been hit or miss recently, and the entire bottom six has failed to produce anything at all with the exception of Jimmy Vesey and Will Cuylle. The only reason the Rangers remain one of the top teams in the league is due to the success of this elite second line, led by superstar Panarin who is having the best season of his career.

Peter Laviolette has his work cut out for him in the second half of the season

At the beginning of the season, Peter Laviolette began his time with the organization with a bang. He turned a defensively sloppy team into one of the best and improved the Rangers’ face-off percentage tenfold. But now, after practically saving the franchise once this season, Laviolette may need to do it again.

It seems as if all of the work Laviolette put into improving the Blueshirts has unraveled into pure chaos. Defensive mistakes have tarnished their reputation as a shutdown team, as losses are being collected left and right.

There’s no doubt that Laviolette will be able to get this team back on track, but it will not be an easy task. The NHL All-Star break is quickly approaching at the end of the month, which should give the Rangers time to reset and regroup.

It would be helpful if Laviolette utilizes this break to fix his team, but he will instead be attending the ASG as the Metropolitan’s HC.

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