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.

 

The New York Rangers could use more toughness in their lineup for 2020-21

Whether you use the word toughness or the ever-popular hockey term grit, there is without a doubt that the 2020-21 version of the New York Rangers needs a team to display some physicality and do it in an intelligent matter.

This was very evident when the Rangers were swept out of last year’s playoffs by the Hurricanes, as the Blueshirts were easily manhandled by the Canes. It was not like they did not try, they just were not sure how to play physically in the proper manner. This was evidenced by Chris Kreider‘s comments after the Rangers were eliminated.

“We thought the playoffs were a blood sport, and we were going to go out there and run around and hit, instead of playing the puck possession style that we play,” he said. “A big part of that is on me. Obviously, we needed to snap out of that sooner. I need to acknowledge that. I should have done whatever I could to get us back on the right track.”

During training camp 2021, head coach David Quinn knows that his team will have to play physically smarter in order to improve upon the gains they made last season.

“We need more of an in-your-face, staying-on-top-of-people, defensive-conscious approach to having success,” Quinn told the media following Tuesday’s practice. “It just can’t be one guy on a line.”

This means not only the defense but the forwards must be better on defense, starting with forechecking. Something that is easier said than done with a group of skilled players, but who think offense first.

Part of this will be done with the new pairing of Jacob Trouba and Tony DeAngelo, who should provide more physicality to the team when they are on the ice.

For the forwards, it might be a bit tougher as the Rangers saw one of their more grittier players last season leave to take up a new residence in Carolina.

Quinn also added about the physicality, “we don’t need just one or two guys to do it, we need everybody to do  it”

Possibly inspired by the NFL who are now in their playoffs, Quinn has asked that his team have a mentality that is more similar to a football player.

“In football, every yard, every inch matters,” Quinn said. “And I think in hockey, sometimes people say, ‘I’m close to this guy, I’ll let someone else do.’ And to me, we have to get out of that mentality. We have to get out of that mentality to make the next step as an organization.”

 

 

 

 

 

Will the Trouba-DeAngelo pairing work for the New York Rangers?

Even by his own admission, New York Ranger defenseman Jacob Trouba did not have the season as he wanted in 2019-20. This came on the heels of his seven-year, $56 million contract extension that has already been considered as the worst contract in the league category just after one year. This season, Trouba is hoping to change this and the Rangers have provided him with a new D-line pairing in Tony DeAngelo.

This will be Trouba’s fourth different regular partner after Brady Skjei, Libor Hajek, and Brendan Smith all took turns playing on his left side last season. This also means that D’Angelo will be playing on his off-side, something he says will not impact his play.

It’s more responsibility, more ice time obviously, and bigger responsibility to the team and myself.” DeAngelo told the media.  “So I’m happy about that. Me and Troubs have been talking about anything you would talk about with a partner – I told him I’m comfortable on the left side; pass it to me on my backhand, pass it to me on the forehand, make all the plays he would make to a left-handed shot. So I’m going to be comfortable and I have to make sure I’m doing a good job for him.”

DeAngelo also has a little extra motivation coming into this season.

“Personally, I’m kind of tired of hearing of all the defensive woes of mine,” DeAngelo told the media after the third day of training camp. “So my main goal this year is to be as good as I can defensively. I think the offense is going to take care of itself, so my first goal this year is to be real good defensively. I think I’m going to keep up with the point production and the puck movement, power play, and all that stuff is going to come. So it’s a big goal of mine to become real solid defensively and be relied on in situations.”

As for Trouba, he said that took him a little time to adapt to everything. There were different systems he had to learn, in particular in the Ranger’s own defensive’ zone. He did feel that he got better as the year went on.

At the very least, this tandem should be a difficult physical matchup for opposing forwards. It will also be interesting to see the feisty DeAngelo take on some of the top forwards in their new division, especially the always annoying Brad Marchand.

It is the hope that this tandem can lead a defensive group that at least on paper, is not as good or experienced as they were last year. Both players seem motivated for that task.

 

Three Takeaways From the New York Rangers Loss to the Islanders

New York Rangers, Kaapo Kakko

The New York Rangers really needed to kick off the rust last night in their 2-1 loss to their cross-town rival Islanders. The lack of game of real game sharpness and the style the Islanders play made for a very frustrating night for the Blueshirts. However, there are some positives that came out of this contest.

The New York Rangers know that Carolina and the Isles play very different styles

The clogging, suffocating defensive style that the Islanders play has always given the Rangers some issues. The Blueshirts usually play better against faster teams and even the tougher teams. But teams that are good at clogging the neutral zone make it tough for the Rangers to get their transition game going.

Post-game, head coach David Quinn thought they got frustrated as the game went on, that their transition game stalled and they got bottled up a little bit in the neutral zone.

Another thing that makes it tough is when a team has to spend a lot of time killing off penalties. In the first period, the Rangers spent three and a half consecutive minutes of the first period killing penalties, including 33 seconds of five-on-three. They did a really good job of killing penalties, but it means that you spend less time getting your offense going, against the team that excels at stifling offensive production. This is was really the main reason why Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad did not look good, something that Quinn is not expecting on Saturday.

Kaapo Kakko looks much improved coming off the break

One of the more pleasant surprises in last night’s game was the play of forward Kaapo Kakko. For many games during the season, Kakko was criticized for hesitating, or passing the puck, instead of shooting it. Not last night. Kakko was aggressive with his shots including the time when he came out of the penalty box, made a little move against an Islander defender, and got off a good shot that was stopped.  Kakko also got a few shifts on the Artemi Panarin-Ryan Strome line in place of Jesper Fast.

Quinn told the media after the game that Kakko won’t start in the top six on Saturday, but it is a possibility if he’s trying to get some different looks.

The New York Rangers defense looked a little different

Many in Rangers nation celebrated the fact that former defensive assistant Lindy Ruff took a head coaching job in New Jersey, as Ruff was the brunt of much frustration when the Rangers defense broke down in the season.

In his post-game media availability, Jacob Trouba talked about the effect that Gord Murphy has had on the defense. “Obviously, Gord’s here now and Lindy moved on so that’s a little bit of a different voice. PK is something we went over a lot the last week or so.” Trouba said. “A little bit of a different feel. It was nice to get some practice in today because there are a couple of changes with a different voice leading the way.”

Speaking of the defense, Marc Staal had a minor injury but was held out due to precautionary measures. Quinn expects him to play Saturday in game one against the Hurricanes.

Hockey Community Shows Support for the New York Ranger’s K’Andre Miller

New York Rangers

On Friday, New York Rangers prospect K’Andre Miller was subjected to a repeated racial slur from a hacker during a Zoom video chat with New York Ranger’s fans. Immediately many of the people in the hockey community tweeted their dismay over this vile incident and their support for the twenty-year-old defenseman.

Current New York Rangers among the first to offer support and encouragement

Ranger’s defenseman Jacob Trouba was among the first to tweet his support: “What happened today was inexcusable and cowardly. Racism has no place in the hockey community or the world. K’Andre Miller, we are excited to have you as a part of the Rangers and I look forward to having you as a teammate.” Sentiments that were also echoed by Ryan Strome and Tony DeAngelo. Strome tweeted out that “This team and this organization sticks together. You are one of us and we have your back!”

Many outsides of the Ranger’s organization was also quick to respond. Miller’s former head coach at Wisconsin, Tony Granato tweeted this: “K’Andre Miller has the support of myself and the entire Wisconsin hockey family. He has a bright future in the game of hockey. No one should be subjected to the inexcusable, racist behavior experienced today by K’Andre.” USA Hockey, which Miller has been a part of through his performance representing the United States in two Junior World Tournaments, stated that: “We support K’Andre Miller, an incredible leader, teammate, friend & person. Racial & derogatory slurs have absolutely no place in the game or society.”  Miller even received support from the Los Angeles Kings twitter feed when the posted that: We support K’Andre Miller and are proud to have you as part of the NHL family. There is no place for the racist remarks you had to endure today, and we look forward to hosting you and the Rangers in the future.”

A couple of years ago, William Douglas posted an article on thecolorofhockey.com that detailed Miller’s journey through hockey. Let’s hope that this incident goes a long way in making sure that incidents like these can be purged from this sport and our society.

Looking Back at the Pre-Season Predictions for the New York Rangers

New York Rangers

This was supposed to be the week that the New York Rangers played their final set of regular-season games for the 2019-2020 season, with the hope of many that it would be a springboard to the playoffs. But of course, we all know that the NHL as are most sports around the world are in a holding pattern. So with the normal regular season all but done, let’s take a look back to see what some experts predicted what the season would look like for the Rangers.

Some Experts had the New York Rangers doing well

A bit understandable, even as most realized that the Rangers were in a rebuilding mode. In the Sporting News, very few experts had the Rangers making the playoffs. One pundit who did was Jackie Speigel of the sportingnews.ca, who predicted the Blueshirts would capture the second wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference. She even selected Kaapo Kakko as the winner for the Calder Trophy, awarded to the league’s top rookie. Many might remember Jackie for her wonderful work at SNY, so it could be a bit of regional bias but at least the Rangers were knocking at the door when the season shut down. Jace Mallory took it a step further and predicted that the Rangers would secure the third spot in the Metropolitan Division.  Brooklyn native Sammi Silber of NBC Sports even had the Blueshirts winning the Metro. Dave McCarthy of NHL.com and SiriusXM-NHL picked the Rangers second in the Metro.  Overall, less than half of the experts polled had the Rangers making the playoffs.

In looking at some articles that had more in-depth features, Adam Gretz stated in his article for NBCsports.com that: “They should be significantly better. How could they not be after adding Artemi Panarin, Jacob Trouba, Adam Fox, and two potential rookie of the year contenders at forward in Kaapo Kakko and Vitali Kravtsov? That is a ton of talent to enter the organization in one summer and it should be enough to have the team at least in contention for a playoff spot.”

The SI.com staff predicted that the Rangers would finish seventh in the Metropolitan Division and wrote that “It’s easy to imagine the Rangers playing above their station, and it’s also easy to see them hit growing pains.”

They also wrote that “Each season always brings its own surprises”. I don’t think they had our current predicament in mind when they wrote that!

The New York Rangers Need These Three Players to Mature in Order to Make Playoff Run

New York Rangers

As the New York Rangers continue with their All-Star/Bye week break, they will soon come upon a favorable part of their schedule that could get them within shouting distance of the NHL playoffs. In order for this to happen, three of their younger players will need to step up their game in the second half of the season.  This is even more important for a team that has 14 players who are 26 or younger and five of whom are 21 or younger.

Filip Chytil is making nice progress after the New York Rangers called him up

It would have been very easy to put your head down and pout after being demoted. We have seen that before. But that was not the case with Filip Chytil. he started this season in the AHL but was called up to New York after playing just nine games with the Wolf Pack. The Rangers rewarded him with the opportunity to have consistent ice time, including time on the power play. This time he has taken full advantage of it  Last year he finished with 11 goals and 12 assists but struggled to play with consistency and also was a minus-22, worst on the team. This year he already has 11 goals and has been sometimes paired Brett Howden and Kaapo Kakko, forming what has been termed “The Diaper Line”. The twenty-year-old will be expected to demonstrate the leadership and maturity needed in order for this third line to continue making contributions for the Blueshirts.

The New York Rangers continue to be patient with Brady Skjei

The Rangers were expecting a lot from Brady Skjei after a promising rookie season in 2017-18. They did not get that from the young defenseman in the next two seasons. Instead, the saw an inconsistent, mistake-prone young player struggling to play up to his potential.  The turn around may have come when the Rangers traded for longtime friend Jacob Trouba. The two 25-year-olds have been a duo on the ice in the back part of this season so far. For Skjei, this has led to some improvement this season. This season he already has seven goals and has added 14 assists in 47 games and he has still been much better with his decision-making and in the defensive zone than he was in previous seasons. This needs to continue as many times the Rangers have suffered from poor decision making. However, it is time to reward the Rangers for the patience they have shown him in previous years.

Adam Fox making a case for Rookie of the Year

His move from college to the NHL has gone better than most have anticipated. Fox has shown a level of poise with the puck that was always evident at Harvard, and his average north-south speed has not been an issue thanks to good edges and anticipation. Fox moves the puck remarkably well, racking up assists and aiding in the transition game. He recently took sole possession of the team lead in power-play assists with 11. Fox is having an outstanding season with 27 points. The process of the maturing of young NHL players is keeping this kind of play up for the entire season, especially as the Blueshirts gear up for a playoff run.