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

Mika Zibanejad Helps the New York Rangers from Looking Foolish in Buffalo

Mika Zibanejad saved the New York Rangers from a really bad April Fools prank. Zibanejad scored off an Artemi Panarin pass to lead the Blueshirts to a 3-2 overtime win over the Buffalo Sabres. The Rangers appeared to be destined for a regulation win until Buffalo scored late in the third period to send the game to overtime.

The goal and the win spared the Rangers from a loss against the team with the worst record in the NHL. On Wednesday, the Sabres ended a shootout-era record of 18 games without a win by beating the Flyers 6-1.

In his post-game interview, Zibanejad talked about his overtime goal. “It’s a little bit of different game 3 on 3. We got a 2-on-1 and we took advantage of it. We took the two points and we move on.”

Zibanejad tallied his sixth overtime goal with the Rangers, which is the fourth-most in franchise history.

After giving up a first-period goal to Sabres Rasmus Asplund, Colin Blackwell tied the game with a goal in the second period. Blackwell has registered three goals/points in the last three games, according to NYR Stats&Info. He currently ranks fourth on the Rangers in even-strength goals and is tied for fifth on the team in goals his season with nine.

Ryan Strome assisted on Blackwell’s goal. Strome now has an 11-game point streak, which is the longest active point streak in the NHL. It is also tied for the third-longest point streak in the league this season.

The New York Rangers controlled the action in the last two periods

Filip Chytil scored at the 6:14 mark of the third period. His goal gave the Rangers the lead which held up until Buffalo’s Tage Thompson scored with 3.6 seconds left to send the game to overtime.

The Rangers controlled most of the action in the last two periods. The Blueshirts outshot the Sabres by a margin of 47-23, including a 37-11 margin in the final two periods and overtime.

Even though the Rangers had 47 shots on goal, head coach David Quinn still feels that the Rangers still need to shoot more often. After describing how the Sabres overtime goal gave them a kick in the butt, Quinn said in his post-game Zoom conference that “we still have to have more of a shooting mentality.”

Igor Shesterkin stopped 21 of the 23 Sabres shots on goal. He appeared to have been hurt when form Ranger Steven Fogarty was called for interference after sliding into Shesterkin. Shesterkin told the media after the game that he feels fine.

The two teams meet again in Buffalo on Saturday night with a 7 p.m. puck drop.

 

 

 

 

 

How will Vitali Kravtsov fit in the New York Rangers lineup?

One team’s loss is the New York Ranger’s gain.

Now that the KHL’s Traktor team has been eliminated from the playoffs, Vitali Kravtsov is expected to join the Rangers very soon. The ninth overall pick in 2018 NHL will have to go through a few pandemic and non-pandemic hurdles before playing in games. Kravtsov will have to go through the visa process in traveling from Russia to the states. He will have to satisfy the proper COVID-19 protocols, which should take roughly 10-to-14 days.

Kravtsov’s appearance in a Rangers jersey is eagerly anticipated, especially after having a fine season in the KHL. He finished the KHL season with 16 goals and 24 points in 49 games. Even though his Traktor team was eliminated in 5 games, Kravtsov did score two goals and have two assists in that round.

Now he brings his skills to broadway, but the big question will be on how the Rangers will use him in their lineup.

The New York Rangers should bring Kravtsov along somewhat slowly

Even though Kravtsov has been playing hockey, and playing well, he will unlikely jump right into the first two lines. The KHL is not the NHL. Having him jump into even a third line, along with possible young teammates of Alexis Lafreniere and Filip Chytil, is not likely.

Depending on how things shake out after satisfying protocols, Kravtsov could spend time on the taxi squad. The Rangers may decide to give him time to skate with and get acclimated with his new teammates. If ends up looking ready for NHL play, he will probably start on the fourth line. Many need to remember that he struggled to adapt to the North American game after signing his entry-level contract in May 2019.

After a tough 2019-20 season, Kravtsov did return for the summer restart, which seemed to reinforce his commitment. It was also reported that he participated in the summer session with an improved attitude. It was also reported from scouts and sources from the Rangers that noted his improved physicality, defensive-zone coverage, and willingness to work in dangerous areas of the ice.

Whether it is sometime later this year or at the beginning of next, Kravtsov will end up spending a lot of time in the top nine for the Blueshirts.

Head coach David Quinn believes that your line placement will be based on merit. However, at some point, the Rangers will want to see their young forward will more skilled players versus the fourth-line grinders.

Much of that will depend on how well Kravtsov has taken to heart the lessons he learned from last year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The New York Rangers have another strong offensive game in defeating the Devils

New York Rangers, Ryan Strome

The New York Rangers scored six goals in a game for the second time in two games against the New Jersey Devils. On Saturday, this resulted in a 6-3 victory over the Devils. The Rangers have tallied at least six goals in two consecutive road games against the Devils for the first time since they moved to New Jersey prior to the start of the 1982-83 season.

Ryan Strome scored twice while Adam Fox, Kevin Rooney Libor Hajek, and Filip Chytil also scored for the Blueshirts.

Alexandar Georgiev stopped 24 shots and also picked up an assist on Fox‘s coast-to-coast power-play goal. It was his fourth career NHL assist.

Julien Gauthier had two assists, posting a multi-assist game, and a multi-point game for the first time in his NHL career.

Not only was it the second straight game with six goals, but the Rangers have also had many players contribute to the effort. Five different Blueshirts have tallied a goal and 11 different NYR have recorded at least one point. The Rangers have tallied 9 goals over the last 4 periods, and 9 different players have tallied a goal over the span (Kreider, Buchnevich, Smith, Lafrenière, Fox, Strome, Rooney, Hajek, Chytil), per NYR Stats&Info.

Many of the young Rangers contributed to the effort in the win. Per NYR Stats&Info, six Ranger players 23 years old or younger have tallied a point in the win (Fox, Kakko, Chytil, Gauthier, Hajek, Miller). At least one player 23 years old or younger has recorded a point on each of the team’s four goals thus far in the game.

Head coach David Quinn praised his young players during his post-game Zoom conference. “Look how quickly they have adapted,” Quinn said. “I give these kids a lot of credit, it is not easy to develop in the National Hockey League. This isn’t a league where you develop. It’s a dramatic change in their hockey life.”

Filip Chytil makes a welcome return for the New York Rangers

Chytil had a goal and an assist, playing in only his ninth game this season after suffering an injury. After the game, he talked about returning to play after not playing in five weeks in his post-game Zoom conference. “Today it felt like a good game from my side, but it could have been better. Of course, I am playing wing now instead of center, but I am happy for the two points for the team.”

Quinn also talked about the return of Chytil to the team. “There was certainly more flashes of his speed, the things he can do for us offensively, pushing people back and generate offense. He is still finding his way with the injury he had.”

Hockey Day in America takes place this Sunday, March 7 with a quadruple-header on NBC and NBCSN. The Rangers will travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Penguins in the finale of the four games, with a puck drop at 7:30 p.m.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The New York Rangers lose Filip Chytil for 4-6 weeks

Filip Chytil, New York Rangers

The New York Rangers have announced that forward Filip Chytil will be out four-to-six weeks due to an upper-body injury sustained in Sunday’s game at Pittsburgh. The incident happened in the second period when Chytil collided with the Pens Evan Rodrigues. Chytil attempted to continue but left the game for good after one shift.

The exact injury has not been revealed as the NHL does not reveal details about injuries, something that they r started last summer when the league announced that teams will be barred from disclosing injuries or cases of the coronavirus beginning with the move to Phase 3 of the coronavirus protocols after an agreement with the NHL Players’ Association.

The injury was also costly for the Pens as head coach Mike Sullivan told reporters that Rodrigues would be out “longer-term with a lower-body injury.” Rodrigues appeared to injure his knee in the collision.

It is unclear who will replace Chytil on his line but his loss hurts a team that has started slow out of the gate. Chytil’s play has been one of the bright spots for the Rangers in the first five games of the season. After Tuesday’s skate around, Brett Howden told the media via Zoom that the Rangers are not sure what the lines will look like as a few things need to be worked out.

 

 

 

The New York Rangers face a crucial series against the Buffalo Sabres

It is definitely not the start that the New York Rangers were hoping for when the 2020-21 season started. After five games, the Blueshirts sit at just three points, in last place in the East Division, behind the Buffalo Sabres. Now the Rangers head to Buffalo for two games with the Sabres, which has made these games crucial to win some points during this 56 game sprint of a season.

The Sabres are coming home on a little bit of a high note, defeating the Washington Capitals 4-3 in a shootout. The Sabres also faced a tough schedule to start the season, Buffalo six straight games to open the season against Philadelphia and Washington, with four of them on the road.

The Rangers will also be without Filip Chytil, who collided with the Penguins Evan Rodrigues in the second period.  He appeared to have hurt his left arm but played another shift, before leaving for the night. It was later revealed that Chytil has returned to New York to be evaluated by team doctors and will not be available for Tuesday night’s game.

As the media was unable to view Monday’s practice, it was unclear how the Rangers would replace Chytil on his line. However, the leading candidates for this daunting task appear to be Brett Howden, Kevin Rooney, and Colin Blackwell. A tough task indeed as the third line of Phil Di Giuseppe, Chytil, and Kaapo Kakko has been the Rangers’ most consistent so far in this young season.

The other task that the Rangers must overcome is the ability to hold on to leads and get the win, something that head coach David Quinn addressed in his post-game Zoom conference Sunday night.

“Really, you’ve got to find ways to win,” Quinn said. “We can sit here and talk about some of the good things we did and the chances we had in the third period. But you’ve got to win hockey games.”

Artemi Panarin also addressed this issue after Monday’s practice when he told the media via Zoom that “each player on this team has to get better.”

Panarin also talked about how things were working with his linemates, Pavel Buchnevich and Ryan Strome. “At the beginning of the season, we did not have that much confidence. We have had many chances and to get many chances you have to be doing a lot of things right. And when the bad luck passes, we will be scoring 5 goals a game.”

The Rangers need to have all of this happen quickly because, after the two-game set in Buffalo, the Rangers return home to face the Penguins for two games. The same Penguins who they just blew two third period leads.

Puck drop for the Rangers-Sabres tilt is at 7 P.M. and will be broadcast on MSG 2. Alexandar Georgiev is scheduled to be in the net for the Blueshirts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The New York Rangers will not have Filip Chytil for Tuesday night’s game

Filip Chytil, New York Rangers

The New York Rangers have confirmed that Filip Chytil will not play Tuesday against the Buffalo Sabres. The Rangers are reporting that Chytil returned to New York from Pittsburgh to be evaluated by team doctors.

Chytil collided with the Pens’ Evan Rodrigues in the second period. He tried to continue playing but left the ice for good after one shift.

It is not clear who will take his spot, but the most likely candidates are Brett Howden, Colin Blackwell, and Kevin Rooney. It will be a tough task as the third line of Chytil, Phil Di Giuseppe, and Kaapo Kakko has been the Rangers’ most consistent line so far.

Chytil has also improved his shot in the off-season to go along with packing on some muscle and improving his skating. The 21-year-old has played in 149 NHL games.

 

New York Rangers: Filip Chytil Deserves More Praise

Filip Chytil, New York Rangers

The New York Rangers have one of the most talented, young teams in the National Hockey League. Big-name players such as Igor Shesterkin, Kaapo Kakko, Adam Fox, and Alexis Lafrenière have garnered more media coverage than most veterans – and rightfully so. Shesterkin was outstanding in the first NHL games of his career last season, sporting a 10-2 record and a .932 save percentage. Kakko was the No. 2 overall pick in 2019, and in his rookie year, he tallied 23 points. Fox racked up 42 points last season, tied for the fourth-most among rookies. Lafrenière, to put it simply, is the most highly touted prospect in years. Each of them are huge pieces of the Rangers’ future, but there’s another young guy who hasn’t gotten the attention he deserves – 2017 first-round pick Filip Chytil.

Why Filip Chytil Deserves More Praise:

His Hot Start to 2021:

Chytil has been on the third line for each of the Rangers’ four games this year, and with each of those games has come improvement. He’s currently riding a three-game point streak, including a goal in two straight. His goal on Friday night against Pittsburgh was nothing short of spectacular, as he flexed his magnificent stick-handling to tie the game at 1-1 in the second.

The Rangers should be ecstatic that the center on their third line is able to make a play like that. Depth is a vital aspect of a successful hockey team, and Chytil provides that.

His Chemistry With Kakko and Di Giuseppe:

Head Coach David Quinn has struggled mightily this season to find the best line combinations for his team. He is yet to send out an identical lineup card for two consecutive games. But luckily for him, it appears his third line is ready to be set in stone. In three games for the New York Rangers, the line of Phillip Di Giuseppe on the left, Chytil at center, and Kakko on the right has an impressive +4 scoring differential. That is the best plus/minus of any line combo on the team this year.

It’s clear that Chytil is benefitting from his new linemates, but just as impressively, Kakko is finally starting to look like the player he was supposed to be when he was drafted in June 2019. He looks significantly more confident on the ice now than when he was playing alongside Artemi Panarin and Ryan Strome earlier this season. That’s not a knock on Panarin or Strome, but it’s clear as day.

The fluidity of the sequence above is beautiful. Chytil senses Di Gieuseppe to his right, and Kakko knows he’ll be getting a clean pass to try a one-timer. Textbook hockey. The chemistry between the three is striking.

His Continued Growth Over The Years:

Since playing his first game in 2018, Chytil has done nothing but develop. It took him 15 fewer games in 2019-2020 to notch the same number of points (23) he had in 2018-2019. His efficiency improved as well, scoring three more goals on 19 fewer shots. Now in his third full season on Broadway, the 21-year-old is playing the best hockey of his life – and he’s only going to get better. It’s time Filip Chytil gets the respect and praise he deserves.

 

The New York Rangers waste a solid effort by third line in shootout loss

While usually, the first and second lines lead the New York Rangers, tonight was a different story. The third line of Philipp Di Giuseppe, Filip Chytil, and Kappo Kakko provided the spark for the Blueshirts. However, the effort was somewhat wasted when the Rangers fell to the Penguins 4-3 in a shootout.

Di Giuseppe was a menace on the ice tonight, registering 8 hits along with two assists in allowing the Ranger’s third line to make an impact in this contest.

Chytil scored 2:41 into the second period when two Pittsburgh defensemen ran into each other. Adam Fox gave the Rangers the lead when he blasted a shot from the point into the net at 5:18 the second. Kakko needed just 24 seconds to extend the advantage to two goals when a rebound off a shot by Di Giuseppe landed right on Kakko’s stick.

The positive part of earning one point from the shootout loss is that the Rangers’ three goals in Friday’s game have been scored by players who are 22 years old or younger.

Igor Shesterkin started in net and allowed 3 goals on 29 shots. One of the goals was not Shesterkin’s fault as Ryan Lindgren accidentally put the puck in his own net trying to shuffle the puck pack to Shesterkin.

Artemi Panarin did pick up an assist on the Fox goal, recorded his 100th career point as a Blueshirt in his 73rd game with the team. This makes Panarin the faster player to get to 100 points in Rangers history, surpassing the record set by Mark Messier.

K’Andre Miller did notch his first career NHL assist/point with an assist on Kakko’s goal.

Meanwhile, first overall pick Alexis Lafreniere remains pointless in the season and did not perform well playing on the first line, as he didn’t record a shot on goal and was a -2 on the night. He appeared to pass up good shots in order to set up his linemates and was slow to get off his shots on a couple of occasions. Lafreniere also did not get a shift during the 3-on-3 overtime session.

While not explicitly addressed, it is apparent that the lack of a full training camp and exhibition games has affected the young forward’s acclimation to the speed and strength needed to play NHL hockey. Something that the Rangers and their fans hope happened quickly.

The Rangers and Penguins will meet again on Sunday night.

 

 

 

 

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