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.

 

 

 

 

Can the New York Rangers take advantage of a depleted Penguins defense?

When the New York Rangers face the Pittsburgh Penguins Friday night, the one thing that they know is that they will have to deal with Penguin superstars Sydney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Crosby, in typical Crosby fashion, swept in a rebound 1:11 into overtime Tuesday for his third point to help the Penguins overcome a pair of two-goal deficits to defeat the Washington Capitals 5-4.

However, Pittsburgh played the third period of that game with only four defensemen. Marcus Pettersson left late in the second after taking a blindside hit from Washington’s T.J. Oshie at center ice. Juuso Riikola‘s injury status was uncertain as he did not return to the bench for the third period. The Penguins already had Mike Matheson (undisclosed) and Zach Trotman (right knee) on injured reserve. This could force Pittsburgh to dig deep into their roster for replacements. The three leading candidates to step in are Cody Ceci, Pierre-Olivier Joseph, and Kevin Czuczman.

Chad Ruhwedel did not participate in practice Thursday after becoming a first-time father, which means that potential line pairings will have to wait until game time.

This also comes on the heels of an expected line change based on the lines assembled for Friday’s practice, as Alexis Lafreniere skated on the first line with Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad. After practice, head coach David Quinn told the media that he moved Pavel Buchnevich to the second line in hopes that he could provide some help for Artemi Panarin and Ryan Strome.

Zibanejad seemed to feel that Lafreniere is ready for the first line, telling lohud.com’s Vince Mercogliano that “Lafreniere is very mature for his age, and the speed he plays at and the way he sees the ice. He’s a real pro, so I’m just excited to get to play with him.”

The Penguins also had some help on the offensive side join their team on Tuesday in 24-year-old Kasperi Kapanen. The young forward, son of former NHL star Sami Kapanen, was delayed in joining his team after difficulties in securing a work visa. When the visa was finally processed, Kapanen was allowed to enter the country on Jan. 9, but he had to undergo a seven-day quarantine as per the NHL’s rules regarding the coronavirus pandemic.

The Rangers and the Penguins will see a lot of each other, as they play each other in four of the next six games in this modified 56 game schedule.

 

 

 

 

 

 

New York Rangers stonewalled by the Devil’s Blackwood in one goal loss

New York Rangers

The New York Rangers just got the memo that the New Jersey Devils might be for real this year, falling to their tri-state rival by the score of 4-3. Mackenzie Blackwood was outstanding in net for New Jersey in stopping 47 shots.

The Devils scored three times in the second period, led by 2019 first overall pick Jack Hughes who had two goals and an assist.

Once again, the Rangers got off to a slow start by allowing New Jersey to score within the first 32 seconds of the game, courtesy of a Travis Zajac goal. The play was set up when Miles Wood got a long pass from P.K. Subban and brought the puck up the right side while the Rangers were making a line change. Wood then fired a shot from the right circle that Alexandar Georgiev stopped, but Zajac put the rebound in the net.

Georgiev started for a second consecutive game after shutting out the Islanders on Saturday night but gave up four goals on 20 shots through two periods. Igor Shesterkin came on to begin the third and finished with eight saves.

 

In the post-game Zoom press conference, Jacob Trouba addressed the issue of getting off to a slow start. ” There are some things that we want to adjust and there are some things to be happy about or get super discouraged about but getting off to a faster start is something we want to do.”

Postgame head coach David Quinn echoed those sentiments: “We played 48 minutes instead of 60.”

In spite of Blackwood’s outstanding play, Chris Kreider felt that the Rangers could have been more efficient considering that the Rangers had 50 shots in total. “He (Blackwood) probably saw a few too many shots and we’ve got to do a better job of screening,” Kreider said in his post-game Zoom conference. “But at the end of the day, you have to tip your cap to him.”

Kreider also addressed the slow start by saying that “For whatever reason, we got back to trying to do too much in that first period. If we had that same kind of desperation that we had in the third we probably would have gotten off to a better start.”

Mika Zibanejad and Kreider both scored on the power play, while Filip Chytil also had a goal for the Rangers. Artemi Panarin and Adam Fox each had two assists.

Things do not get easier as the Rangers travel to Pittsburgh on Friday to face the Penguins in back-to-back road contests.

 

 

 

 

The New York Rangers should not look past the New Jersey Devils

New York Rangers, Igor Shesterkin

It may have easy for New York Ranger fans to look at the schedule and see a potential breather game on Tuesday night against their rivals, the New Jersey Devils. After all, the Devils finished last in the Metropolitan Division last season, 11 points behind the Rangers when the season came to a grinding halt last March due to the coronavirus.

However,  the Devils are off to a strong 1-0-1 start, with the even more impressive fact that the points came against last season’s Presidents’ Trophy winners, the Boston Bruins. To add a little bit to the Tuesday night drama is that the Devil’s new head coach is former Ranger assistant Lindy Ruff.

The Rangers defense will have to deal with the Devils’ first line that has been excellent during the first two games of the season. This line features Jack Hughes, who was drafted first overall by the Devils in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. With the Rangers drafting Alexis Lafreniere first overall, this will feature a matchup of the last two overall top selections.

Hughes struggled last season but already has 3 assists on the season. Hughes has shown some nice chemistry on the young season with linemates Kyle Palmieri and Yegor Sharangovich. Even with the shortened training camp, Sharongovich has had some nice chemistry with his linemates after just coming over from his KHL team.

This will provide a challenge to the Ranger’s goaltender Alexandar Georgiev, who was named the starter for the game after Monday’s practice by head coach David Quinn. Igor Shesterkin started that opener but looked shaky. Georgiev started on Saturday night and shut out the Islanders.

Part of this goes with David Quinn’s philosophy of sticking with what worked, including the apparent benching of defenseman Tony DeAngelo.  Quinn told lohud.com beat writer Vince Mercogliano that doing this was “Much more about sticking with what worked. The discipline piece is done and over with. You win 5-0 and play the way we did, you want to build off that.”

The Devils also have an outstanding goalie of their own in Mackenzie Blackwood, who would get noticed a lot more if the Devils were a better team. In fact, Blackwood may have been the primary reason why the Devils were so successful against the Bruins.

In those first two games, Blackwood has stopped 52 of 52 shots at even strength. With an early .954 save percentage, the Blueshirts will need to find a way to slip the puck past him.

The game on Tuesday will also see the Rangers celebrate and honor the commitment, sacrifice, and contributions of frontline workers across the Tri-State area. The Rangers will also wear custom warm-up jerseys to be auctioned after the game at auctions.nhl.com, and an exclusive patch, inspired by Northwell Health’s first responders, will also be available for purchase. Proceeds of both will benefit Northwell Health Foundation.

 

 

 

 

 

Rangers prepare for first game against the Devils, Georgiev starts, DeAngelo sits again

The New York Rangers will host the New Jersey Devils at Madison Square Garden Tuesday night in another tough divisional battle.

New York Rangers:  1-1
New Jersey Devils: 1-0-1
Venue: Madison Square Garden
Television: MSG Networks
Radio: ESPN 98.7

The New York Rangers look to build on their 5-0 shutout over the New York Islanders on Saturday night when the Devils come to Broadway on Tuesday night.

Head coach David Quinn confirmed the same lineup would be used on Tuesday night following practice while also announcing that Alexandar Georgiev would start in net for the Blueshirts. Defenseman Anthony DeAngelo will sit for the second straight contest.

“Much more about sticking with what worked. The discipline piece is done and over with,” Quinn said of DeAngelo as was reported by beat writer Vince Mercogliano.

Lineup

Offense

Kreider-Zibanejad-Buchnevich
Panarin-Strome-Lafreniere
Lemieux-Howden-Gauthier
Di Giuseppe-Chytil-Kakko

Defense

Lindgren-Trouba
Johnson-Fox
Miller-Smith

Georgiev
Shesterkin

Special Teams

The Rangers were 1-for-8 vs. NY Islanders on the power play and killed off all four penalties they took on Saturday night.

The Blueshirts’ game against New Jersey tomorrow is one of only 10 scheduled games this season that is not part of a multiple-game set against one of their opponents (also Feb. 4 vs. WSH, Feb. 6 at NJD, Feb. 8 vs. NYI, Feb. 24 at PHI, Mar. 2 vs. BUF, Mar. 19 at WSH, Mar. 22 vs. BUF, Apr. 20 at NYI, Apr. 23 vs. PHI) via the new york Rangers PR Department.

Mika Zibanejead and Pavel Buchnevich are tied for the team lead in goals scored with two goals each. For the Devils, Myles Wood leads the teams in goals also with two.

This will be the Devil’s first road game of the year. Jack Hughes, the Devil’s first overall selection in last year’s draft, has three assists in the team’s first two games this year.

New Jersey is 0-8 on the power-play this season while allowing one short-handed goal.

 

The New York Rangers bounce back in a big way

The New York Rangers bounced back in a big way with a statement victory over the New York Islanders by the score of 5-0. Alexandar Georgiev stopped 23 shots in earning the shutout victory.

The Rangers caught a little bit of a break before the game when the Islanders goalie Semyon Varlamov was injured in warmups after getting hit below the mask and above his left shoulder around the collarbone by a shot from teammate Cal Clutterbuck. This meant that the Islanders had to turn to Ilya Sorokin, who made his NHL debut in this contest.

It may not have mattered who the Islanders started in goal as the Rangers came out in a much different fashion compared to Thursday night’s loss.

Head coach David Quinn wanted to send a message to his time by making some personnel changes right away. One move he made was to switch lines with Alexis Lafreniere and Kaapo Kakko. The move did not seem to bother Kakko as he responded to his “demotion” with an outstanding goal in the second period,

Another move was the benching of Tony DeAngelo, who drew the ire of Quinn when he took an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in Thursday’s night’s game.  Officials tacked the additional infraction onto a holding penalty after DeAngelo yelled at the referees and slammed the door of the penalty box.

In his post-game virtual Zoom press conference, Quinn was quite pleased with the effort. “I have got to give a bunch of our leaders a ton of credit,” Quinn said “Jacob Trouba stood tall tonight and played one of his best games as a Ranger. Mika, Kreider, Bread, all of these guys were just great.”

Another thing that pleased Quinn about the win was how the team responded to the poor performance on Thursday night. “How you respond to it tells you a lot about your group and we answered some questions tonight in a lot of ways.”

Pavel Buchnevich scored the first of his two goals 2:12 into the game after Mika Zibanejad stole the puck in front of the Islanders’ bench. Artemi Panarin converted a breakaway to stretch the Rangers’ first-period advantage with 7:14 left. Brendan Smith blocked a shot in the defensive zone then delivered the beautiful stretch pass to Panarin.

Buchnevich added his second of the game with a sharp-angled wrist shot from the left faceoff dot at 5:57 of the second period. Phillip Di Giuseppe set up Kakko with 4:36 left in the middle period to make it 4-0.

Panarin finished the scoring on the Rangers’ seventh power play of the game with 4:04 left off a pass from Adam Fox. Buchnevich had an assist for his third point of the game.

One of the few things that were not good for the Rangers was that they went 1-8 on the power play and are now 1-11 on the young season.

On Tuesday, the Rangers conclude this first homestand of the season when they host the New Jersey Devils.

 

 

 

 

The New York Rangers need some quick remedies for Saturday night

Coming off a poorly played 4-0 loss to the Islanders, the New York Rangers will need to turn things around very quickly if they are to improve upon Thursday night’s effort. The added sense of urgency is also needed as the Blueshirts will face those same Islanders at the Garden on Saturday night.

In his post-game virtual press conference after the game, head coach David Quinn was quite clear that this needed to happen. “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.”

The first lesson will revolve around discipline and execution, especially concerning penalties. While they were 0-3 on the power play, their eight penalties led to two Islander power-play goals. While the Rangers did not seem to get any favors from the referees, there were some penalties that were totally unnecessary.

Quinn may have started his lesson on this topic when on Friday’s practice, Tony DeAngelo, who took an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and generally played poorly in the loss, skated with the “taxi squad”. Anthony Bitetto was on the ice with the varsity in a tweet posted by Rick Carpiniello of The Athletic.

The next message sent to players was a Friday practice change in the forward line pairings. Vince Mercogliano of lohud.com shared that Alexis Lafreniere was now skating with the second group while Kaapo Kakko was skating on the third line.

When Mercogliano asked Quinn about this after the practice, Quinn replied “It’s not just a message to Kakko – it’s a message to everybody… If someone plays better than you, they should get a better opportunity.”

Whether or not any of the changes will take place when the puck drops remains to be seen but at least, school is back in session for this young group of Rangers.

One change that will know will take place will be that Alexandar Georgiev will be in goal in the rematch with the Isles.

Even though Igor Shesterkin did not play particularly well, there should not be too much read into the goalie change.

During Wednesday night’s virtual town hall with Rangers fan, Quinn made it quite clear that he feels that “We have two number one goalies.” The general expectation during this unusual 56 game schedule that is put together differently than most years will be that both goaltenders will see a substantial amount of time in the net.

Regardless, the Rangers are going to need better play from the goaltender if they are going to compete with the Islanders.

Then again, that could be said for just about everyone who wore a blue jersey Thursday night.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

• Coaches must wear masks while on the bench.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ESM’s New York Rangers 2020-2021 season preview

New York Rangers

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

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

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

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

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

Departures

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

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

Arrivals

Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

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

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

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

Offense

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Projected Opening Night Lineups- Forwards

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

Defense

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

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

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

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

Projected Defense Pairings

Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

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

Projected Goalie

Igor Shestrkin
Alexandar Georgiev

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

Taxi Squad Projected Players

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

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

Predictions for the MassMutual North Division

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

Team Awards

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

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

Schedule


Photo via NewYorkRangers.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Empire Sports Media Writers Predictions

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

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

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

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