New York Rangers continue to find ways to win during playoff push

The New York Rangers continue to win hockey games, looking for a playoff miracle, as the NHL season concludes on May 8.

The New York Rangers have been on the outside looking in for a playoff spot for most of this abbreviated NHL season.  A slow start by some of its stars, a nine-game absence due to an absurd accusation against Artemi Panarin, and plenty of inconsistency between veteran scoring and the development of the “kids” is why the team sits in fifth place, four points behind the Boston Bruins who have two games in hand.

Up And Down

The Blueshirts have been unable to put a winning streak together, instead of settling for a win-lose, win-lose format for much of the 2021 campaign.

The month of April began the same way with the Rangers splitting all three-game series against Buffalo, Pittsburgh, and the Islanders.

Then a crucial four-game set began against the struggling New Jersey Devils. The Rangers needed every one of the eight points available and surprisingly to some, the team completed the sweep on Sunday afternoon at the Rock.

The win didn’t come without some poor play with the club blowing big leads in each of the last two games. Yet at the end of the day, a win is a win as head coach David Quinn eluded to during Sunday’s post-game zoom conference call.

 

“When you come up with four wins I don’t care what it looks like, I don’t care how many leads you blew, I don’t care. It doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t if you find ways to win and that’s what we did.

Now, that being said, we certainly understand that if we’re going to have success, we’ve got to play better. And we know that that’s not lost on us. It’s not lost on the coaches, and I don’t think it’s lost on any of the players.”

Tough Road Ahead

Playing better needs to begin immediately with the schedule the team has standing in front of them.

The math may not seem to make sense, but the Rangers have a better chance of chasing down the second-place New York Islanders rather than the fourth-place Boston Bruins.

What the heck am I talking about?  Let’s break it down and maybe clarify some of the doubt people may have in this theory.

The Rangers and Islanders have played 45 games each.  The Rangers have 52 points with the Islanders being eight points better at 60. The two teams play each other three more times this season beginning with a game Tuesday night in Long Island.

As much as a long shot as it is, should the Rangers win those three contests, and get a little help (which has not happened all month) the Blueshirts could have a good shot to overtake the Islanders.

The Long Island rivals play three consecutive games against Washington following Tuesday’s nights game against the Blueshirts. Then a two-game set against the Rangers. Then they have two against Buffalo, two against New Jersey and their final game is at Boston on May 11.

The Bruins are harder to catch because of the number of games they have left In the season. Currently, they have two games in hand over the Rangers and also are on a four-game winning streak.

The Bruins have 13 games remaining, five of which are against the Buffalo Sabres. They also play the Pittsburgh Penguins, New Jersey Devils, and Rangers twice and completed their extended schedule with a game in Long Island and at home against the Caps on May 11.

They are scheduled to play two more games after the game against the Rangers on May 8.

Mathematically the Rangers can catch either teams, but this late in the season chasing down the Islanders may be the best way to get into the postseason.

Valuable Experience

Regardless of how things end up for the Rangers this year, the young kids are gaining so much experience from this simulated NHL playoff scenario.

Alexis Lafreniere, Filip Chytil, Kaapo Kakko, Vitali Kravtsov and Igor Shesterkin have all found the score sheet and continue to grow into hockey players that fear no situation or opponent.

For one of the rare times this season the veterans and the kids have been able to play their best hockey at the same time.

When this team plays on all cylinders, as five-man units on the ice, they can compete with any other team in the NHL. Their speed on the ice has caused plenty of chaos for opposing teams, just ask the Devils who had to deal with the Ranger Roadrunners four times in the past week.

Wherever the team ends up on thelast day of the season doesn’t really matter.  What should raise the teams and the fan base’s optimism is a renewed energy on the ice that will get better and better with every game.

This club is learning how to win hockey games instead of trying not to lose games.

Follow Frank on Twitter at @RangerProud

Plenty of blame to go around following another disappointing loss by Blueshirts

New York Rangers, Mika Zibanejad

The New York Rangers need to take a look in the mirror this morning and decide if they are happy with who is looking back at them following another terrible loss on Tuesday night.

The Rangers have been on the wrong side of games this season not due to a lack of hustle or heart but because they have been beaten by teams with more experience and timely talent. Prior to Tuesday night’s game, each of the Rangers’ last 11 games, and 11 of the team’s 13 games this season, have been decided by two or fewer goals.

Tuesday night’s loss had nothing to do with being defeated by a better team and everything to do with a team’s top players’ failure to score goals when they are needed most, and a team that seems to not be hearing its head coach.

Injuries Are Not To Blame

The club is battling the injury bug in a big way currently.  Philip Chytil, Jack Johnson, Artemi Panarin, K’Andre Miller were all out of the lineup last night.  Defenseman Jacob Trouba left the game last night with an upper-body injury and did not return.

Injuries are something every club endures throughout a season. It can sometimes be a reflection of a final score or lack of production on the ice. The issue here for the Blueshirts has nothing to do with injuries, that is something that can be overcome or at the very least managed until the troops return.

The effort is the main culprit.

Frustration Sets In

The top player in this club has not been doing their job lately and the frustration is becoming apparent.  Players are squeezing the sticks a little tighter, taking poor penalties, seem a step behind the play because they are thinking more than playing. All are the definition of a struggling NHL hockey player.

Great players can skate their way out of the slump, find a good aspect in their game, and build on it. Sometimes the player will find himself in quicksand. One bad thing happens, then another, then another, and then a game is lost.

Mika Zibanejad is the team’s most important player. He is the number one center, the most relied upon by the coaching staff, and a mentor to the younger guys on the team.

Yet, Zibanejad can not seem to get out of his own way. He is beginning to play undisciplined hockey, he is second-guessing everything that goes on during the game and as now appear he has become so down on himself he is not winning draws or taking shots on goal.

Reviewing Tuesday night’s game stats and the frustrations of Zibanejad shows how bad things are going for him.

Mika had 25 shifts and 19:50 minutes of time on ice yet he only managed to get four shots on goal. His second-period elbow penalty, which was out of anger rather than just a bad penalty, resulted in a Devils power-play goal and a 1-0 deficit at the time.

You can’t score goals if you don’t shoot the puck.

Zibanejad is not the only reason for the team’s struggles, he is just the most noticeable. Chris Kreider has just four goals, Pavel Buchnevich, 4G, 9 PTS, Ryan Strome, 4G, 6 PTS, are all responsible for the slow start to the season.

The Head Coach Needs To Do More

Head coach David Quinn is feeling the pressure of the stalled season and he should be since he is the captain of a boat taking on water in Rangerstown.

The defense has played much better over the last eight games.  The one-goal games are a reflection of a strong defensive presence that has actually covered up for the sub-par goaltending early on in the season. Quinn can take the credit for the defense, but this improvement seems to be the result of assistant coach Jacques Martin’s hard work and experience.

Quinn cannot teach a player how to put the puck in the net, that is obvious. A good head coach puts players into positions where they can be the most successful. He places players in line combinations where the skill between the three linemates can defend on one side of the ice and explode with a fleury of scoring chances on the other side of the ice.

It is also his responsibility to move players around to different lines to help them find success on the ice.

It is responsible to inquire why players such as Zibanejad and Kreider have held their spots while players like Kaapo Kakko, Buchnevich, Brett Howden have been shuffled up and down the lineup to try to get their game back on track.

Zibanejad could use a game on the third line not as a punishment, but as a way to rejuvenate his game again. The status quo of Mike centering the top line is stale right now. Quinn needs to move him and Kreider at least for a game and see how things progress.

To continue to do the same repetitive things over and over with the same result will not lead to a better outcome. It leads to anarchy, it results in many losses and eventually a change in leadership behind the bench.

Follow Frank Curto on Twitter @RangerProud

The New York Rangers are prepared to “Embrace the Grind”

On the night before the start 2020-21 season, New York Rangers President John Davidson, GM Jeff Gorton, and Head Coach David Quinn held a virtual town hall to talk about their expectations for the upcoming season.

Among the many topics discussed, much was talked about the many difficulties that the Blueshirts face in this very different kind of season.

Unfortunately, one of the biggest tasks that the Rangers and the NHL will face is dealing with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Davidson addressed that by discussing the many protocols and procedures that the NHL is requiring of teams this season.

Some of the procedures that the NHL have put in place include:

• Home teams must make their home rink or practice rink available to visiting teams. Visiting teams are not permitted to use rinks owned by third parties. Team practices will also not be open to the public.

• Players will be prohibited from carpooling to games, there will be no road trip roommates, and teams must secure an additional two hotel rooms on road trips in the event of a positive COVID-19 test.

• Players will also only be permitted to go to the rink and hotel on road trips. No other destinations, including bars, restaurants, clubs, etc., will be permitted.

• During the regular season, the NHL will announce the names of players that test positive, but will not do so during training camp when it will simply release league-wide numbers.

• Coaches must wear masks while on the bench.

In addition to the protocols, other procedures mandated by state or local governments need to be considered in the day to day operations of the team.

Davidson listed off many questions that the Rangers will have to deal with, including questions such as “How do we get the players who live in Westchester County to the Garden?” “What is the best way to get the team out to play the Islanders and the Devils?” Simple questions to answer in previous years but not so simple during a pandemic.

When it comes to these procedures and the necessity to follow them to make sure that the season runs as smoothly as possible, Davidson’s message to the team was “Don’t let your guard down because if everyone does their part, there is a good chance we finish the season.”

Head Coach David Quinn also addressed what the pandemic has meant to design practices for training camp and the preparation for the start of the season. Quinn talked about the coaches’ meetings and how there have been some things that they have not been able to implement yet. While he is concerned about this, he also mentioned that he feels that the Islanders are in the same situation.

“Our sport is so driven by hard work, especially now since you don’t have the chance to work on the structure and the things that you normally work on in a three-week training camp and six exhibition games,” Quinn said.

Another factor that the Blueshirt’s brass discussed was the 56 game season and the fact that they are going to face some very familiar foes eight times this season. Davidson was reminded that this was customary during the time in which he tended net in the NHL.

“The element of nastiness will come back” Davidson predicted, making a point of mentioning that in April, the Rangers will face their old friends, the New Jersey Devils, in four consecutive contests. “That breeds contempt.”

“Familiarity will bring some more intensity to each game,” Quinn also said of the different schedule. “When you see a team eight times in three-and-a-half months, you will probably see some chippiness.”

Davidson also talked about what he feels the Rangers will need to navigate through this unusual season.

“I think one of the main keys is going to be discipline,” Davidson stated. “not only playing as hard as you can and competing, but discipline can make a difference when you are playing in high energy, highly physical games.”

All of these challenges have led the players to adopt the motto “embrace the grind” as they try to navigate through the intricacies of a very unusual season.

The “grind” begins Thursday night in a season that many will “embrace the effort” as the Rangers face more than just who they play on any given night in order to finish a season faced with so many challenges.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ESM’s New York Rangers 2020-2021 season preview

New York Rangers

The New York Rangers are entering their 95th campaign in the National Hockey League. This season has been delayed due to the Covid pandemic, but the hard work during the offseason has kept the organization focused since last season concluded in the Toronto Bubble.

The club has been preparing for a marathon 56 game schedule, which begins on Jan. 14 against the New York Islanders at Madison Square Garden and concludes on May 8 in Boston against the Bruins.

Empire Sports Media writers Jim Bay and Frank Curto take a look at what has transpired since the Blueshirts were eliminated from the playoffs last summer in the qualifying round against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Team President John Davison, along with general manager Jeff Gorton is set to bring the youngest team in the NHL back to the playoffs in an attempt to win the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1994. Plenty of obstacles stand in their way, yet the team is set up for success as they play in the toughest division in the NHL this season.

Players come and go, but the one constant is the name on the front of the sweater. Here is a look at the upcoming season’s preview, oh baby, this is going to be a lot of fun.

Departures

Marc Staal
Jesper Fast
Henrik Lundqvist
Vinni Lettieri
Boo Nieves
Gregg McKegg
Michael Haley
Steve Fogarty
Lias Andersson

The Rangers traded veteran defenseman Marc Staal to Detroit on Sept. 26, 2020, and the forward Jesper Fast signed as a free agent with the Carolina Hurricanes. The toughest transaction was the buyout of 15-year veteran Henrik Lundqvist.

Arrivals

Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Alexis Lafreniere
Kevin Rooney
Anthony Greco
Johny Brodzinski
Colin Blackwell
Anthony Bitetto
K’Andre Miller
Jack Johnson
Tarmo Reunanen
Keith Kinkaid

The Rangers selected the first overall selection in this year’s NHL Draft, Alexis Lafreniere. Gorton and Quinn have high expectations for the success of rookie defenseman K’Andre Miller as he looks to make the team out of training camp. Brendan Smith could be on the bubble with so many new faces on defense.

Goaltender Keith Kinkaid was originally brought in to help ease the team’s expansion draft requirement, but now could be a valuable asset in the Covid pandemic abbreviated season.

Offense

The first line will be led by Zibanejad, who was a goal-scoring machine last year with 41 goals in 57 games, a ridiculous 59-goal pace over a full season, with 15 of those coming on the power play. Zibanejad made some nice improvements in creating more chances at both even strength and on the power play, with the hope that the 15 percent and 26 percent rates continue into this season.

Kreider and Buchnevich will again flank Zibanejad on either side, and both have “analytically” graded out as productive top-six players for the team. The chemistry that the trio achieved was a huge reason why the Rangers improved so much in the second half of the season.

The second line will be anchored by Panarin, who will have Strome returning, will see Kakko added as his linemate to start the season.

What Panarin has brought to the Rangers is not only on-ice results but also how much of a positive influence he has on his linemates and teammates. This will hopefully hold true for Kakko, who showed signs of improvement upon returning to play in the summer after the league was paused due to the pandemic.

The bottom six is where the Rangers struggled last season. Help will come in the form of the first overall pick in the draft, Alexis Lafreniere.

It is tough to see how quickly Lafreniere will adapt to the NHL game with a small camp and no preseason games to evaluate his skills. However, many projection models have him getting 57 points this year. That may seem high for a first-year player, but with the skills that he brings to the team, this seems achievable.

Much of this may depend on his linemates. Chytil has been projected for improvement this year after being a negative goal contributor last season to an expected positive one this year. Gauthier presents some grittiness and size that could complement his linemates.

Howden will hopefully solidify the third line and has had a nice camp. During Zibanejad’s absence at the beginning of camp, Howden stepped in on the first line and did quite well. He also impressed those with his play during last summer’s playoffs. Lemieux provides the grit for this line, and hopefully, not too much-unwanted attention from the referees. Last season, Di Giuseppe provided the solid and steady play that you want to see from a bottom-six contributor.

Projected Opening Night Lineups- Forwards

Chris KreiderMika ZibanejadPavel Buchnevich
Artemi PanarinRyan StromeKaapo Kakko
Alexis LafreniereFilip ChytilJulian Gauthier
Brendan LemieuxBrett HowdenPhilip Di Giuseppe
Kevin Rooney

Defense

The defense will look to improve this season. Jacob Trouba will enter his second season on Broadway and needs to be better than he was last season. By his own acknowledgment, he was not happy with how things progressed, though he seemed more comfortable as the season concluded.

The dynamic duo of Adam Fox and Ryan Lindgren was the highlight of the defense corp. The two rookies became stronger once they were paired together by former defensive coach Lindsy Ruff. With a year under their belt, the two could be the team’s top pair and see plenty of ice time once again.

The club has plenty of new faces on the back end, with rookie K’Andre Miller leading the way. Miller has been praised by the head coach in training camp earning a roster spot on opening night.

Jack Johnson along with Anthony DeAngelo and Brendan Smith will be pushing each other early on to be in the lineup every night.

Projected Defense Pairings

Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

K’Andre MillerJacob Trouba
Ryan LindgrenAdam Fox
Anthony DeAngeloJack Johnson
Brendan Smith

Projected Goalie

Igor Shestrkin
Alexandar Georgiev

Igor Shesterkin will take the reigns as the team’s number one goaltender this season. With such a condensed schedule, Alexandar Georgiev should expect more playing time and responsibility with the teams playing a marathon like a schedule.

Taxi Squad Projected Players

The taxi squad will be a big piece of the puzzle for the Blueshirts. With the AHL delaying the start of their season until Feb. 5, the Rangers are eligible to carry a minimum of 4 to a maximum of six players. These players can practice and travel with the team but are not on the active roster until they are recalled.

Anthony Bitetto
Colin Blackwell
Morgan Barron
Libor Hajek
Matthew Robertson
Keith Kinkaid

Predictions for the MassMutual North Division

  1. Philadelphia Flyers –  The Flyers were one of the most complete teams in the NHL last season, finishing in the top 10 in both goals scored and allowed. With their team from last year mostly intact, they are my favorite to win this division.
  2. Boston Bruins – Boston suffered some notable losses on the blueline in Torey Krug and Zdeno Chara, and that might be enough to put them behind the Flyers. However, with a top offensive line and goaltending tandem, don’t be surprised to see them win this division.
  3. The Pens still have Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, so you have to put them in the top four.
  4. Washington Capitals – The high scoring offense should carry them, put questions with their goaltending may them one of the leading contenders to get bumped by either the Rangers or Islanders.
  5. New York RangersThe Blueshirts have many obstacles with this season that will be difficult for a talented but a young team to overcome. A short training camp with no preseason games is not ideal for a young team, especially when you have the first overall in Alexis Lafreniere coming to town. Playing a 56 game season will not help either.
  6. New York Islanders – In addition to not wanting to put them ahead of the Rangers, this is still quite a mysterious team. Last season, they were two games from the Stanley Cup Final in spite of the fact they allowed more goals than they scored in the regular season.
  7. Buffalo Sabres – The Sabres did get better in the offseason, but playing against such tough divisional opponents every night will mean that they will finish ahead of only New Jersey.
  8. New Jersey Devils– The Devils hope that Jack Hughes will be better, but the Devils are still destined for the bottom of the division. The recent retirement of Corey Crawford will not help either. 

Team Awards

New York Rangers, Artemi Panarin
Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

MVP: Artemi Panarin
Rookie of the Year: Alexis Lafreniere
Top Defenseman: Adam Fox
Most Improved: Kaapo Kakko
Players Player: Brendan Lemieux
Steven McDonald Extra Effort: Mika Zibanejad
Leading Goal Scorer: Mika Zibaenjad – 48G
Points Leader: Artemi Panarin- 90 Pts.

Schedule


Photo via NewYorkRangers.com

The unusual 56 game schedule will see the Rangers face only the other members of the temporary Eastern Division and will not have any preseason games for their young players, such as first overall pick Alexis Lafreniere, to gel with their new teammates outside of the two-week training camp period.

One of the “benefits” of this schedule is that the Rangers will also get eight contests with some of the rivals, including the Islanders, Devis, and Flyers.

In this compact schedule, there are some important times that stand out over the slightly condensed schedule this season that commences for the Rangers on January 14.

Like in a horse race, it is important to get out of the gate well, and this will also be the case for the Blueshirts this season. Easier said than done, especially as they face the Islanders in their first two games to start the season. The opening stretch will also see the Blueshirts face the Devils, as well as four meetings split between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Buffalo Sabres.

February will be a challenging month as, on the 10th, the Rangers start a stretch of games with two against Boston before a two-game battle with the Flyers. They then head to Washington to play the Capitals twice, play the Flyers once more, capping things off with two more meetings with the Bruins. This stretch should show whether the Rangers are a true playoff contender or not.

After facing three games against Sabres and Devils, March will again see the Rangers run through a gauntlet of Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington for most of the month. If they are going to survive this stretch, they must reverse the fortunes of 2019-20 that saw the Rangers go a combined 0-5-1 against the Bruins and Flyers.

April will see the Rangers play many games against the Islanders, Devils, and Sabres. In fact, starting on April 9, the Rangers will have back-to-back road games against the Islanders and then play four straight against the Devils before capping it off with a final tilt with the Isles. Any chance to stay or get into playoff contention may hinge on the outcome of the games, against teams that the Rangers went 3-1 against (Islanders) and 2-2 (Devils) in 2019-20.

The Rangers will need their top players to play as they did last season. The pressure will be heavy once again on Mika Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin to have consecutive great seasons shield the Blueshirts look to replicate last season’s playoff run.

Igor Shesterkin takes over for Henrik Lundqvist, huge skates to fill but something Shesterkin is capable of doing.

The wild card is the head coach himself. Dave Quinn and his coaching staff will walk a fine line between coaching the veterans, along with bringing the younger players through one of the most demanding schedules since the early 1970s.

There are no easy games this season, no time to take a night off.  A team that has a rich tradition along with high expectations from its fan base will need to find the right chemistry out of the gate in order to keep up with the teams within this division.

This season will be like no other. A schedule that has the Rangers playing each division opponent eight times, Covid protocols that will have games postponed and re-scheduling at almost a daily pace, and playing most games in front of little or no fans at all.

2020-2021 season will be the hardest battle of endurance and stamina the Rangers have ever encountered. The reward will be more precious should the team exceed their expectations.

It all begins Thursday night at the world’s most famous arena when the Rangers host the biggest rivals in the NHL.

Empire Sports Media Writers Predictions

We have some great writers at ESM, So Jim Bay and I asked what they predict will transpire in the upcoming season.

Brandon Schnapp
Most Goals: Panarin
Most Points: Zibanejad
MVP: Panarin
Best Defenseman: Fox
Rookie of the Year: Lafreniere
The team will miss the playoffs (Brandon is an Islanders fan, BTW)

Jim Bay
Most Goals: Panarin
Most Points:
Panarin
MVP:
Panarin
Best Defenseman:
Trouba
Rookie of the Year:
Shesterkin
Playoffs:
Not this year

Frank Curto
Most Goals: Panarin
Most Points: Zibanejad
MVP: Panarin
Best Defenseman: Fox
Rookie of the Year: Shesterkin
Playoffs: Yes, will be eliminated in the second round

New York Rangers’ David Quinn looking to add to his postseason resume

Granted, this will not be a typical playoff experience for the New York Rangers. Even though head coach David Quinn is just in his second season as an NHL head coach, he does have postseason experience in his past as a player and a coach.

New York Rangers head coach has postseason experience

Quinn’s career as a player was cut unexpectedly short when he was diagnosed with Haemophilia B (also known as Christmas disease), a rare disorder that prevents blood from clotting properly. This was discovered while he was trying out for the 1988 U.S. Olympic Hockey team. This forced Quinn to give up the game.

However, Quinn was later able to find funding for expensive medication to combat the disease which allowed him to return to hockey. After being cut from the 1992 Olympic team, the young defenseman impressed the Rangers enough that he was signed to a contract. During the next two years, he played in five playoff games as a member of the Binghamton Rangers of the AHL and the Cleveland Lumberjacks of the IHL.

After those two seasons, Quinn hung up his skates and entered the world of coaching. After helping the University of Nebraska-Omaha transition to a Divison One program, he joined the USA Hockey National Team Development Program. There he was an assistant coach for the U.S. National Team at four IIHF World Championships, two with men’s teams and two with women’s teams, helping the women win silver medals at both tournaments.

After that, he then worked as an assistant at his alma mater, Boston University, helping the Terriers to the National Title in 2009.

Quinn then took his first head coaching job with Colorado’s American Hockey League affiliate in Cleveland, the Lake Erie Monsters. He compiled a 115-94-7-20 record in three seasons with Lake Erie and guided the Monsters to their first-ever playoff berth in 2010-11. However, it was a playoff that Quinn may like to forget as after his team gained a 3-1 series lead over the Manitoba Moose in the opening round, the Monsters proceeded to lose the next three consecutive games, losing the series 4-3.

After a year as an assistant with the Avalanche, Quinn took over as head coach at Boston University, a position in which he would have his most successful postseason runs.

During his time at BU, Quinn has led the Terriers to four straight appearances in the NCAA tournament (2015, 2016, 2017, 2018) and orchestrated the biggest turnaround in BU hockey history in 2014-15, including Hockey East and Beanpot titles and a spot in the national title game, which BU lost to Providence.

Despite the lack of NHL playoff experience, Quinn is no stranger to the postseason. At least this year, he is on even footing with the other 23 coaches as none of them has ever experienced a pandemic related playoff series before.

 

 

Rangers’ Igor Shesterkin needs to be perfect in short Qualifying Round

New York Rangers rookie goaltender Igor Shesterkin has been fully focused throughout his career on making it to the NHL and to be named a number one goaltender.

Both of those boxes were checked off this year. In only 12 games (10 wins) Shesterkin has laid down a strong foundation for seasons to come with the Blueshirts.

The 24-year-old now has to overcome two things that he has never battled before.

  1. Getting back In-game shape after a four-month hiatus from the ice due to the COVID virus.
  2. Trying not to look over his shoulder if he should struggle with a future Hall of Famer and the team’s all-time win leader Henrik Lundqvist looking for one more opportunity to take the team to a Stanley Cup Championship.

The pressure on the Russian goalie will be unlike anything he has ever experienced.

The Qualifying Round

The numbers suggest that head coach David Quinn should start a well-rested Henrik Lundqvist.  He holds a 25-5 record against their opponent, the Carolina Hurricanes, since 2011. This season Henrik was 3-0 against the ‘Canes.

Hank has 61 career playoff wins and led the Rangers with two victories of a Stanley Cup In 2014.

The numbers can also be misleading with Lundqvist’s game slipping this season. The recall of Shesterkin in January and eventual number-one status put designated Henrik to the back-up position. One he did not want to accept but did so for the better of the team.

Shesterkin Has Earned His Opportunity

Shesterkin deserves a shot to start in the playoffs. He makes the team in front of him better. The rookie’s speed with his glove, Incredible speed post-to-post, and puck handling skills has made teams have to change their attack into the Rangers defensive side of the ice.

To this point, he has shown no fear in the goal. With only 12 NHL games of experience can he be ready to take on the NHL’s best in the Stanley Cup Playoffs?

Shesterkin has playoff experience while he played in the KHL. He has appeared in 16 KHL playoff games with an 8-6 record, 1.91 goals-against average and .919 save percentage.  As a member of SKA St. Petersburgh, he won the Gagarin Cup.

In the only game, Shesterkin played against the Hurricanes he gave up two goals in a Rangers 5-2 victory in Carolina on Feb. 21. One game does not make a starter in the NHL. Shesterkin lacks one aspect that his backup (crazy to write) does. Stanley Cup Playoff experience along with a first-time playoff coach he may be a little trigger happy to pull Shesterkin early on if things go south fast.

At the end of the day, it’s about winning. There is not much room for error in a best of five series. The decision of who to start or hen to make a change in goal will be decided by David Quinn. How long will he wait for depends not only on the goalie but the team in front of him at the time?

Lundqvist could be a deciding factor before the first game begins. He has been living in Sweden. since the pandemic shit the NHL down in March. The King has been practicing with his brothers Joel team, Frolunda HC. It may not be the same as NHL quality players, but the Frolunda Indians have a good squad with plenty of shooters to keep Hank in shape. He will enter training camp fresh, energetic, and on a mission to get his starting spot back when the Qualifying Round begins.

Shesterkin, for now, will remain in Florida skating with the NHL players like fellow Russian and Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin. He will be in game shape when training camp opens on July 10.

This will be the first time in over 15 years that the Blueshirts may have a goalie competition in training camp. The winner won’t necessarily be the same player that may win the third and deciding game against Carolina.

Safe to assume that Shesterkin gets the start in game 1, but its anyone’s guess how much rope Quinn will give his rookie goaltender knowing he has a King looking to take his throne back.

New York Rangers HC David Quinn excited about playing in a playoff series

New York Rangers head coach David Quinn is happy to be talking about hockey again. He and his team are preparing for the NHL to begin the next phase in their Return to Play format which should begin sometime in June.

Quinn’s weekly show, “Home Ice with David Quinn” airs Sunday night at 7:00 p.m on the MSG Network. The second-year coach had some good things to say about his hockey team and the excitement everyone is feeling with the possibility of getting back to work.

The Rangers opponent in the Qualifying Round, the Carolina Hurricanes, has had some negative things to say about how fair the process was regarding the 24-team playoff format the NHL announced last week. The Carolina Hurricanes were one of two teams to vote no to the NHL proposal.

Quinn was asked if the proposed return to play plan is fair?

“I think we all have to be very careful when we are talking about fair. Because when I think about fair right now I think about the 100,000 people that have lost their lives and the loved ones that have been affected by it. I think about the first responders who have been exposed to this terrible disease mentally and physically. I think about the 30-40 million people that have filed for unemployment. I think about the small and big business that have been shut down. I think about the seniors in high school and college that will never experience one of life’s great moments. So I think we all have to be very sensitive to the word fair. And we have been very fortunate that we continue to play a game that we love and coach a game that we love. I understand fairness in the small context of our sport, but I think we all have to keep the word fair in perspective.”

Quinn was very optimistic when he was asked about his reaction to the plan saying,

“We’re just excited about the progress that we continue to make and hopefully we are inevitably playing in a playoff series. And obviously it’s a difficult time in the world today and the NHL has been working hand in hand with the government to do this in the proper way and the safest way possible. So we’re just excited that a plan has been laid out and the fact that we’ve made some progress.”

Quinn continued with the exciting theme when he talked about his players.

“We all were excited about the good news that we were able to play again. And have a chance to play again. We’ve been in constant contact with our players over the last two and a half months. And our guys are excited about the possibility of playing again. Our guys are in a good mindset. We’re feeling really good about the way we were playing.”

The Rangers were two points out of a wild card spot when the league paused and eventually concluded the regular season. The NHL’s announcement this past Tuesday earned the Blueshirts their first playoff appearance since 2017.

 

 

New York Ranger’s Adam Fox: “It’s Special to Play for the Team I Rooted For”

New York Rangers

The New York Rangers should get many kudos for giving fans some kind of access to players at this time when hockey and other sports are on hold due to COVID-19. On Wednesday, Ranger’s defenseman Adam Fox took the time to answer questions on the Rangers twitter page. When the season was paused in March, Fox was having a solid season. He had scored eight goals with 34 assists and had a +22 on the plus/minus scale.

The Jericho NY native grew up a New York Ranger fan

Fox attended Pioneer High School before enrolling and playing hockey for Harvard. He was selected by the Calgary Flames in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. In June 2018, Fox’s NHL rights were traded to the Carolina Hurricanes and were then traded to the New York Rangers in April 2019. When asked about that trade, Fox replied that “I was obviously super excited getting traded to the Rangers but also was a little bittersweet because I had to leave school.” His first special memory was scoring his first goal for the Rangers, and he remembered that “Scoring my first goal was a feeling of just pure excitement. I pretty much blacked out after it went in.” 

In the terms of his memory about the Rangers, Fox could not remember anything specific about any early games he attended, but he did there was one game that stood out the most for him. “I don’t know my first memory but my favorite was going to a Stanley Cup Final game against LA. They lost the game but the atmosphere was unlike anything I’ve seen before.”

An astute fan remembered that while Fox was at Harvard, current Ranger head coach David Quinn was the head coach at Boston University and the two were on opposite benches during the historic Beanpot Hockey tournament, where Fox’s Crimson team was victorious over Quinn’s Terriers. When asked if Fox ever brings this up to coach Quinn, he diplomatically replied: “I probably wouldn’t bring up that game to Coach Quinn, probably one that he wants to forget about. It is good to have a coach though that understands the transition from college hockey and the adjustments that need to be made to be a good pro player.”

When a Coach Turned Goaltender For the New York Rangers

New York Rangers

On Monday, the New York Rangers posed a question via twitter to head coach David Quinn. They asked him if he could choose a player to trade places with and coach the Rangers for a day, who would he pick? Quinn chose defenseman Tony D’Angelo. Now would that mean Coach Quinn would suit up and take D’Angleo’s place on the blueline? Quinn did play in the AHL and IHL as a defenseman. But as strange as that sounds, there was an instance in Ranger’s history when a coach had to step on the ice, during the Stanley Cup finals nonetheless.

When the Coach turned Goaltender for the New York Rangers

In 1928, the New York Rangers, under the guidance of the legendary coach, player, and GM Lester Patrick, qualified for the Stanley Cup finals. Their opponent was the Montreal Maroons. The game was simpler then, especially the rosters. The 1928 New York Rangers roster revealed that they carried eight forwards, five defensemen, and one goalie. Carrying one goalie was the norm back then, and there were some instances when a goalie was literally called out of the stands to replace an injured netminder. The Rangers would have done that in game 2 of the series when starting goaltender Lorne Chabot suffered an eye injury after being hit by the puck in the middle of the second period. This was way before the time goalies wore masks. Alec Connell, the Ottawa Senators’ star goaltender was in the stands, as well as minor-leaguer Hugh McCormick. However, Montreal head coach Eddie Gerard refused to allow either to man the nets for the Rangers, denying them the opportunity to use the EBUG, as we now call the procedure.

So at the age of 44 years, 99 days, head coach Lester Patrick inserted himself at goal. Patrick was an accomplished defenseman, playing many years for the Victoria Aristocrats of the PCHL. Since teams did not employ assistants back then, Odie Cleghorn, the then-coach of the Pittsburgh Pirates (yes, they did have a hockey team by that name), stood in for Patrick as a coach for the remainder of the game. Interestingly enough, the Rangers had defeated the Pirates in the Quarterfinals. Patrick did his job, stopping 18 of 19 shots, allowing the Rangers to secure the 2-1 overtime victory. After that, the NHL allowed the Rangers to use fellow NHL goalie Joe Miller of the New York Americans for the next three games, thus allowing the Rangers to win their first-ever Stanley Cup.

New York Ranger Lias Andersson Hints at “Incidents” While in Organization, Including Being Bullied

New York Rangers, Lias Andersson

The mystery surrounding New York Ranger prospect Lias Andersson has taken an interesting turn. According to Swedish media, Andersson was recently spotted watching Tuesday’s Champions Hockey League semifinal between Frölunda and Luleå. And further explained his situation to a national broadcast company, SVT, as well as a local newspaper.

Issue #1: “lower-Body Injury”

One of the things that were discussed with Swedish media was Andersson mentioned an injury to both of his feet.  Gothenburg Post hockey reporter Johan Rylander stated that Andersson told him that he was playing through a lower-body injury. However, it’s unclear if he sustained it with the Rangers or after he was sent to AHL Hartford on Nov. 17. Rylander also mentioned that Andersson can’t fit his feet into a pair of skates and that he is going to visit a specialist and get an X-ray to rule out that there is a bone broken. The left foot is the worst.

Issue #2: “Other Factors,” Such as Bullying?

It was part of these interviews that Andersson mentioned that there were a lot of things bothering him, stating: “A lot of things happening, and eventually, there were one too many. I felt enough is enough,” Rylander asked Andersson directly if he had been bullied, to which Andersson responded, “I don’t know what to say or what to answer. It’s been tough; that’s it. I will tell you when it’s the right time.” Ryland also said that Andersson told him that “I’m not a spoiled (expletive) kid who complains about not being allowed to play hockey for the New York Rangers. That’s not the thing. There are other factors.” After the Rangers victory on Tuesday night, Head Coach David Quinn would not comment directly on the situation.

How Andersson and the New York Rangers got to this point:

The Rangers selected Andersson seventh overall in the 2017 NHL draft. He made the Rangers out of training camp, but couldn’t earn top-six minutes.  Andersson played 17 games and had no goals and one assist while averaging a little more than nine minutes of ice time, mostly as a fourth-line center. After being demoted to Hartford, Andersson had five points in 13 games before demanding a trade and eventually leaving the team and heading home to Sweden just before Christmas.