Late Third Period Goal Dooms the New York Rangers

New York Rangers, Mika Zibanejad

After two straight blowouts, the New York Rangers were finally held in check by the Philadelphia Flyers. The Blueshirts were defeated by the Flyers when Samuel Morin put the Flyers ahead 2-1 for good with 4:27 remaining in the game.

After scoring 17 goals in the last two games against the Flyers, the Rangers were held to one goal in Saturday’s contest. Mika Zibanedjad scored the goal and was assisted by Ryan Strome and Adam Fox. Strome extended his point streak to eight games (two goals, 11 assists) and his assist streak to seven games.

Zibanejad registered his 50th career power-play goal with the Rangers, and he has tallied four power-play goals in the last two games. He is tied for fifth in the NHL in power-play goals since the start of the 2018-19 season according to NYRStats&Info.

Coming into the game, Fox had led the Rangers with 23 total assists and has 26 points. According to the NHL Public relations, That was his 15th assist in the month of March. His 15 helpers lead all players in the NHL over that span.

Shesterkin is playing well in his return for the New York Rangers

Igor Shesterkin stopped 35 shots on Saturday afternoon after stopping 41 in Thursday night’s win.

Jacob Trouba had a few very positive things to say about the play of Shesterkin in his post-game Zoom conference. “He’s looked great, definitely made a lot of big saves and made the saves you need a goalie to make to win the game,” Trouba said.  “He did his job tonight.”

Acting head coach Kris Knoblauch could not confirm if Shesterkin will start in goal tomorrow at Washington. He also added that is not sure if he will be behind the bench in that game.

Head coach David Quinn is coming to the end of his NHL COVID protocol leave but will have to go through some testing and procedures before being allowed to return.

The New York Rangers will travel to play the Capitals on Sunday at noon that will be televised nationally, starting at noon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

New York Rangers fall to the Philadelphia Flyers in overtime thriller

In a back-and-forth game, the New York Rangers got sloppy with the puck in overtime and fell to the Philadelphia Flyers 5-4. Jakub Voracek intercepted a Keith Kinkaid pass and scored at 3:47 of overtime to give the Flyers the win.

The Rangers played the game without Adam Fox, Pavel Buchnevich, and Phil DiGuiseppe. The three Rangers were earlier placed on the NHL’s COVID protocol list. This also led the Rangers to cancel their morning skate, something that may have influenced their slow start. The Flyers jumped out to a 2-0 first-period lead against the Rangers who came out very flat.

Tarmo Reunanen was called up and got his first NHL assist on Artemi Panarin‘s second-period goal. Panarin had two assists in the Rangers’ three-goal second period, and Colin Blackwell, Julien Gauthier, and Kevin Rooney also scored.

Head coach David Quinn talked after this game in his Zoom conference on the importance of Panarin’s return.

“You can see how our lineup is totally different when he is in there,” Quinn said. “We are just a much more of a balanced team. When you have a player of that caliber in your lineup, you are that more dangerous. The whole team feels better about itself and he has certainly given us that jolt in the two games he has played.”

The New York Rangers start slow after losing three players to COVID

Jacob Trouba talked about everything that went on during the last day in the post-game Zoom conference. “Before the game, it was a wild 24 hours for us. We didn’t get off to the start we wanted but I thought we came out and played much better in the second. It was kind of back and forth in the third but we lost the special teams game which was pretty telling.”

Quinn also addressed how his team rebounded from the slow start. “You have to shake off bad stretches. every team has them during the course of a game. How quickly can you shake them off and how quickly can you stop the bleeding? I really like our start of the second. I thought our guys approached it the right way.”

The Rangers will face the Flyers again on Wednesday night, with a 7:30 puck drop due to the national broadcast on NBCSN.

 

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The New York Rangers shutout in “frustrating” loss to Boston

New York Rangers, Mika Zibanejad

Normally, an article about the New York Rangers would start with a little summary of what happened in the game. Not tonight. This article is going to jump right into post-game comments after a very poor showing in a 4-0 loss to the Boston Bruins.

In his post-game Zoom conference, Jacob Trouba explained that the Rangers were trying to give it their full effort on the ice. “I don’t think it spiraled out of control. Obviously, we had some breakdowns that led to goals, but I don’t think it totally fell off a cliff.”

“Frustrating.” head coach David Quinn said in his post-game Zoom conference. “I thought we had a good start, was playing well, and had some chances early. The short-handed goal was the backbreaker in a lot of ways. You could kind of sense it. They got goals on their chances and we didn’t.”

Quinn was also disappointed by the lack of production from the Ranger’s power-play. “Our power-play obviously has to be fixed. They get a power-play goal and special teams were really the difference tonight.”

Echoing Jacob Trouba’s comments, Quinn said that “We kept competing right up to the buzzer. We got down 4-0 and it could have got ugly but we kept playing. There are certainly some positives to take out of it and we have to dust ourselves off and get ready to play Saturday afternoon.”

Quinn also mentioned that a lot of the issues for the Rangers was that when they make mistakes, they are big mistakes. This helps explain why the Rangers have been outscored 13-3 in their last three losses.

Takeaways from the New York Rangers loss to Boston

For the second straight time that he has started, Alexandar Georgiev was pulled during the game with just under five minutes gone in the second period. The young Russian gave up four goals in fourteen shots. On the four goals, Boston scored shorthanded, even strength, and on the power play.

Keith Kinkaid finished the game for the Blueshirts by stopping all 13 shots he faced.

Up until tonight, the Rangers had been outstanding in killing penalties. They had not allowed a power-play goal in 15 of their last 17 games, including nine of the last 10 games and each of the last seven games. The Rangers had killed off 54 of their opponents’ 58 power-play opportunities over the last 18 games and have held their opponents to only 73 shots on goal during their opponents’ 58 power-play opportunities over the span.

The two teams will play again Saturday afternoon.

 

 

Who will the New York Rangers start in goal on Tuesday night?

The New York Rangers have a bit of a quandary for Tuesday night’s matchup against the Pittsburgh Penguins. After Alexandar Georgiev was pulled in Sunday night’s loss, many will wonder if head coach David Quinn will give the young Russian another chance. However, the decision is not quite that easy considering that Kieih Kinkaid played very well in relief. He did give up two goals on odd-man rushes but otherwise was quite solid in net.

After Sunday night’s game, Quinn said that it has not given any thought on who would start in net on Tuesday night. As the Rangers did not practice on Monday, we have no idea who will start. If Igor Shesterkin is healthy, he would probably get the nod. But we may not know what is going on until the morning skate at the earliest. Even though Shesterkin’s groin pull was listed as minor, it would still appear that playing Tuesday night might be rushing things too quickly. So the decision may come down to Georgiev vs. Kinkaid.

Why the New York Rangers would start Keith Kinkaid

The biggest reason would be that he played well on Sunday night, even though he had not seen NHL action since  Nov. 30, 2019, as a member of the Montreal Canadiens.

Teammate Jacob Trouba had some good things to say about Kinkaid’s game during his post-game Zoon conference. “Especially me over the last two weeks, I got to see him a lot in practice and how he’s working and staying sharp,” Trouba said. “He got a chance to get in there, and he made some big saves for us and definitely kept us in that game as long as he could. He made some huge saves and it’s good to see out of him, seeing how hard he works and knowing the kind of guy he is. It’s positive for everyone to see.”

Quinn knows about Kinkaid from their college days when Kinkaid was the goaltender for Union College. The Rangers signed him for two years the last offseason.  While having an extra goalie during COVID-19 was needed, they wanted to have a qualifying goalie under contract to expose in the Seattle expansion draft. This way, they could keep both Shesterkin and Georgiev.

Even despite the three goals in 61 seconds against Pittsburgh, Georgiev was a little shaky against the Devils on Saturday afternoon. MSG analyst Steve Valiquette made a very solid point during the telecast. He pointed out that on P.K Subban’s slapshot goal from the blue line, this was a shot the Georgiev usually stops. Valiquette stated that Georgiev, when he has a clear view, had not allowed a goal on 257 shots from that distance in the last three years.

Why Georgiev will start for the New York Rangers

From a confidence standpoint, Quinn may want to start Georgiev so that the young netminder does not lose confidence in himself. At this point, everyone knows what Georgiev is capable of doing in goal. Putting him right back in there would signal that the Rangers have confidence in his abilities.

It should also be noted that Georgiev is not solely responsible for these goals. In the second New Jersey goal that temporarily tied the game, Adam Fox got caught up ice on a turnover, and Filip Chytil was beaten to the net.

The second of the three Penguin goals happened in part because K’Andre Miller fell at the blue line. On the third goal, Sidney Crosby split two defenders and beat Georgiev. Crosby has beat many of a goaltender during his time in the NHL.

So the Rangers have a bit of a small goalie controversy going into Tuesday night’s game. It will be interesting to see who the Rangers decide on to be their goalie when the puck drops at 6 p.m.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New York Rangers doomed by poor stretch of 61 seconds in loss to Penguins

New York Rangers

The game started well for the New York Rangers. After scoring an early first-period goal, the Pittsburgh Penguins scored three times in a matter of 61 seconds late in the first en route to a 5-1 victory.

Mika Zibanejad opened the scoring for the Rangers with a goal at the 1:18 mark of the first period. Pavel Buchnevich had the primary assist, which was his 100th career NHL assist. After a slow start to the season, Zibanejad has tallied a point in three of the last four games (one goal, two assists). He has now registered six points (two goals, four assists) in the last eight games.

Zibanejad was not really in a celebrating mood after the game saying in his Zoom conference: “It didn’t really matter this game, so we’ll just move on.”

Penguins quick three goals doom the New York Rangers

That was because the Penguins scored those three goals at the end of the first period. John Marino tied it 1-1 at 16:13, two seconds after a Penguins power play expired. Kaspari Kapanen then scored on a breakaway to give the Penguins a 2-1 lead at 16:52. Sidney Crosby made it 3-1 at 17:14. After taking a pass from Brian Dumoulin, Crosby split the Rangers defense before scoring.

After the three-goal outburst, Alexandar Georgiev was pulled in favor of Keith Kinkaid, who had 16 saves in relief. He gave up two late third-period goals on odd-man rushes but was solid throughout his time in net.

Head coach David Quinn did not commit on which goaltender he would start on Tuesday night.

The Rangers played well in the second period and for most of the third period after the disastrous minute in the third period.

Jacob Trouba said after the game in his Zoom conference that the Rangers tried to regroup after the first period but added “Give the Penguins some credit too, they got the lead and they played a pretty tight game defensively.”

The Rangers and Penguins will tangle again on Tuesday night, part of NBCSN’s Hockey Happy Hour. The puck drop is scheduled for 6 p.m.

 

More bad news for the New York Rangers: Jacob Trouba out 4-6 weeks

New York Rangers

The New York Rangers received some bad news when they found out that they will be without defenseman Jacob Trouba for the next four to six weeks because of a broken thumb.

“Unfortunately, we’re going to miss everything he brings from a physicality standpoint, from a competitive standpoint, from what he brings to us from a leadership standpoint,” coach David Quinn said Wednesday. “He’ll be missed. But the good news is it’s not as serious as we originally thought and he’s going to be back sooner than later.”

Trouba averaged over 22 minutes a game, so it will take a total team effort to be able to make up for his absence.

“Everybody on that D corps has just got to play a little bit better,” Quinn said. “That’s all. It can’t be one guy. It’s got to be everybody.”

The Rangers did receive some good news in that it was announced that Artemi Panarin is expected to return Thursday against Philadelphia after missing the past two games with a lower-body injury. Also, Quinn announced that defenseman K’Andre Miller will play after sitting out a loss Tuesday night to New Jersey with an upper-body injury.

 

 

 

 

Another close game, another New York Rangers loss

New York Rangers, Kaapo Kakko

In what has been a reoccurring theme, the New York Rangers lost another close game as they fall to the Boston Bruins by the score of 1-0. This marks the third straight loss for the Blueshirts and they were shutout in two of those losses.

As the two teams were playing back-to-back games, this contest became a bit chippy as a handful of fisticuffs broke out in the second period, highlighted by the Rangers Brendan Lemieux and Bruins forward Trent Frederic dropping the gloves.

One of the more telling stats that demonstrate the futility of the Rangers is their inability to score on the power play, going 0 for 6 in the game. This futility was very evident late in the game when the Rangers picked up a power play with just about a minute left in the game when the Bruins Charlie MacAvoy was sent off for delay of the game. The Rangers then pulled goaltender Igor Shesterkin but could not muster a decent attempt at a shot in spite of having a 2-man advantage for that time.

As poor as the Rangers have been on the power-play, the Rangers have been very impressive on the penalty kill, as they have killed off 21 consecutive power-play opportunities by their opponent for the first time since a stretch from Dec. 8 – Dec. 18, 2016.

After the game, Jacob Trouba talked about the frustration of losing so many close games in his post-game Zoom conference. “It’s not good enough to lose games by a goal,” Trouba said. “It’s the NHL, you have gotta win games. You have to find a way to get points, especially in a shortened season. We have got to find a way to win hockey games.”

Head coach David Quinn was asked about the lack of scoring and especially the power-play in his post-game Zoom conference. “We are passing when we should shoot and we shoot when we should pass,” Quinn said. “We just make bad decisions and we are slow. We are not going to go anywhere with the power-play clicking the way it is.”

As the Ranger’s next game on Sunday was postponed due to the Philadelphia Flyers COVID-19 concerns, the Blueshirt’s next scheduled game is on Tuesday night against the New Jersey Devils.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The New York Rangers disappoint on opening night

New York Rangers

It is a good thing for the New York Rangers that they are not a Broadway play because based on last night’s performance, they would be closed down. In falling to the New York Islanders by the score of 4-0, the Rangers disappointed many by the way they were outplayed and outcoached in this contest.

Much of the Ranger’s difficulty did seem to come from a bundle of nerves as they fell behind the Islanders 3-0 after one period. The Islanders jumped on the Rangers early with a Brock Nelson power-play goal and an Anders Lee tally within the first four minutes of the first period. Matthew Barzal scored the third goal to cap the scoring, a goal that goalie Igor Shesterkin would normally have stopped.

Shesterkin became the first goaltender other than Henrik Lundqvist to start a season opener for the Rangers since Kevin Weekes in October 2005.

After the game, Rangers forward Chris Kreider described the game as “a good lesson for our young group tonight in the patient hockey needed to win at this level.” While praising the Islanders play, Kreider also mentioned that they relied too much on their “east-west game”, and to use the things they have been working on during the past week.

While praising the Islanders, a frustrated head coach David Quinn stated the Rangers “did not play fast enough, did not use their speed, and every time we got the puck we stood around to see who we could get the puck to and that approach does work well against anybody, let alone the Islanders.”

Quinn also knows that things need to get better quickly as the Rangers turn around and face the Islanders again on Saturday night at the garden. “We need to be quick learners,” Quinn said. “It might be a good lesson and a reminder for a bunch of guys who don’t have it in their hockey DNA to play the way we need them to tonight.”

Concerning the long-awaited debut of first overall pick Alexis Lafreniere, and rookie defenseman K’Andre Miller, Quinn felt that they got to see what hockey was like at the professional level and that both players did get better as the game went on.

“Tonight was a great lesson for all of our players.”

The Rangers did have a chance to draw the game closer when they had a goal waved off at 9:15 of the second period when defenseman Jacob Trouba looked like he scored. The no-goal call stood after an official review, as the NHL stated that the “intended whistle” negated the goal.

While it was not exactly the start they wanted, it is important to remember that the average age of a player on the Rangers’ active roster entering the season is 25.5 years old, which is the youngest in the NHL. It was the first time in franchise history that seven players 22 or younger played in a season-opening game according to NHL Stats and Information.

Rangers fans are hoping that this young group has a short memory and are quick learners.

 

 

 

 

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 Training Camp Notes: Mika Zibanejad had COVID-19

New York Rangers, Mika Zibanejad

As the New York Rangers season gets ready to kick off on Thursday, some interesting news came out of training camp, one of which being the status of star forward Mika Zibanejad. 

The Rangers’ star center told members of the media after practice on Monday that he feels good now but is taking things day-by-day. He was on the ice with familiar linemates Pavel Buchnevich and Chris Kreider. It was also revealed that there are no guarantees that Zibanejad will play in the Rangers season-opener this Thursday against the New York Islanders.

The Rangers did not reveal this news as per league protocols, players who are placed on non-roster status due to COVID don’t need to be identified during training camp. That is not the case during the regular season.

Also coming out of training camp, head coach David Quinn has been experimenting with the defensive line pairings by having rookie K’Andre Miller skate with Jacob Trouba.

The duo was paired recently in a scrimmage that performed so well that might Quinn to keep them together for Thursday’s season opener.

“That’s one of the reasons why we wanted to see them together tonight,” Quinn said after Sunday’s scrimmage. “See what type of chemistry they had, see how they played off each other. Obviously, they did a really good job tonight. I thought it was a very good pair. I really like that ‘D’ pair, they certainly take up a lot of space.”

Finally, the Rangers announced that they have placed Colin Blackwell, Anthony Bitetto, and Anthony Greco, Keith Kincaid, Jonny Brokinski, Brandon Crawley, and Gabriel Fontaine on waivers. Blackwell, Bitetto, and Greco were signed to two-year deals in free agency.  Brodinski is on a one-year deal worth $700,000, and both Fontaine (171st overall in 2016) and Crawley (123rd overall in 2017) are on similar deals. Kincaid was expected to be on the taxi squad but some wonder if the goaltending starved New Jersey Devils might take a room at him.