New York Rangers Still Have Many Positives Despite Loss to Blues

New York Rangers, Chris Kreider

The New York Rangers and their fans can still look at the team and find many good things about the way the team has been playing. On Saturday night, the Rangers lost 5-2 to the defending Stanley Cup Champion St. Louis Blues. Despite some turnovers and shaky defense, the Blueshirts did finish the week 2-1, which is about what many had realistically hoped for since losing to a first-place team that had won their last seven games in a row at home should not be totally unexpected.

The Young New York Rangers are Doing Many Things Well

So the reality that a lot of the fans and media will take is that because of last night’s loss, the Rangers “took a step backward,” or that the Rangers “stink” is just not based in reality. Right now, the Blues are just a better team than the Rangers. The Blues are probably just better than all of the teams in the NHL. So instead of pandering to the haters and Debby Downers, let’s take a look at some of the things that the Rangers have been doing well in recent games.

Artemi Panarin is good, but just how good has he been? Since Dec. 11, Panarin leads the NHL in points with 24. Entering last night’s game, he leads the NHL in even-strength points (47), even strength assists (29), 5-on-5 points (40), and 5-on-5 assists (26) this season. When he tallied his 60th point on Thursday, he became the first player in franchise history who has recorded 60 or more points in his first 43 career games with the Rangers.  And finally, per NHL Stats and Information, when Panarin tallied his 59th point earlier in the week, he became tied for the most by a Ranger in his first 43 career games with the team.  He was tied with Wayne Gretzky, who was a pretty decent player in his time.

But enough about Panarin. The younger Blueshirts are playing well. According to our friends at NHL Stats and Information, the Rangers lead the NHL in goals by players 21 years old or younger with 28 and points by players 21 years old or younger with 78. The includes players like Filip Chytil, who has tallied 11 goals this season in 35 games.  This matches his total from last season in 75 games. He ranks third among NHL players 20 years old or younger in goals this season.

Even in last night’s loss, the Rangers’ two goals had been recorded by a player 21 years old or younger. In addition, Rangers’ players 21 years old or younger have recorded four of the team’s five points in that game (Chytil – two; Howden – one; Lindgren – one). Twenty-one-year-old Brett Howden has tallied six goals this season in 44 games, matching his total from the 66 games he played last season. There is a lot more, but you get the point. This is a good and improving young team, even if it may not be playoff ready.  In reality, the only stinky, disappointing, and crushing loss last night happened in Baltimore.

 

New York Rangers Win Over New Jersey Does Not Solve Three Goalie Dilemma

New York Rangers

New York Ranger fans should heed the advice of a famous quote/song that says “Love is Blind” especially when it deals with the recently promoted goalie Igor Shesterkin. The initial reaction to immediately crown the young Russian as the next great NHL goaltender might be a tad bit premature.

Shesterkin was Solid but not Outstanding for the New York Rangers

Someone will take a look at the stat sheet and say “Hey, he stopped 46 of 49 shots, how is that not outstanding?” Part of the answer has to do with the quality of shots, but the other part is that the Rangers as a team allowed the bottom-feeding New Jersey Devils to get off those 49 shots. If they allow the St. Louis Blues to get off 49 shots on Saturday night, it will not matter who you have in goal. Let’s take a look at the three goals allowed by Shesterkin. The first goal allowed was scored by Kenny Rooney shorthanded. The Rangers are supposed to be scoring shorthanded goals, not their opponents. The second tally was scored when a Devil player got away with a crosscheck on a Rangers defenseman and opened up the area in front of the net for the goal.  The third goal was scored when a big scrum happened in front of the net. He even received praise from Devil’s opponent Blake Coleman who said that Shesterkin was solid but also mentioned that three goals should win NHL games on most nights. So the point really is, so Shesterkin fans don’t start losing their mind, is that you cannot expect your goaltenders to be their best if your defense does not play it’s best.

Who is the Odd Man Out for the New York Rangers

As the young phenom, let’s assume that Shesterkin will definitely stay. Unless the Rangers get blown away with a huge deal, he will stay in New York for the long term. So that leaves Henrik Lundqvist and Alexandar Georgiev.  You would not move Lundqvist, would you? After all, Henrik has stated that he wants to finish his career as a Ranger and because of that, he has a no-move clause in his contract. So unless he waives that, the Rangers cannot move him and free up his 8.5 million dollar cap hit. The big twist in this is that Georgiev is out of options, and cannot be sent down to the AHL. So in all likelihood, Georgiev is going to be the odd man out, and will likely get traded. It would be nice to at least get some defensive help out of this because you cannot rely on Tony DeAngelo having hat-tricks with five points every game.

New York Rangers Overcome Slow Start, Bury Avalanche

New York Rangers

The New York Rangers are getting into a bad habit of having slow starts to games. However, they overcame their most recent slow start and defeated the Colorado Avalanche 5-3. In doing so, recently promoted goalie Igor Shesterkin picked up his first NHL victory.

Shesterkin Shines in Debut

Despite going down 2-0, Shesterkin showed resolve in only allowing one more goal after this. For the game, he stopped 29 of the 32 Colorado shots attempted. in earning the win, Shesterkin is one of only two Rangers goaltenders since 1979-80 who have earned a win in their regular-season NHL debut while playing at MSG. A solid debut for a young man who was quoted after the game as saying: “On the way to the arena my hands were shaking, I couldn’t even drink water. But as I stepped onto the ice, I felt everyone’s support and energy and it really helped me”  Head Coach David Quinn was quick to praise his goalie in post-game comments by saying he was impressed that he could  “To be mentally tough enough to pull himself together”.  Of course, this was due to the fact that J.T. Compher scored at 4:44 of the first period to give Colorado a 1-0 lead, and Nathan MacKinnon scored his 26th goal on a breakaway to make it 2-0 at 6:34. But to his credit, Shesterkin did not melt. he settled down after that, giving up just one goal on the next 29 shots. Igor Shesterkin became the fifth Rangers goalie in 40 years to win in his NHL debut. The others: Mackenzie Skapski (Feb. 20, 2015), Dan Cloutier (Jan. 3, 1998), Mike Richter (Oct. 19, 1989)  and John Vanbiesbrouck (Dec. 5, 1981).

Strong Offense Picks Up Soft Defense

The defense did not do a lot early to help their young goaltender.  The first goal was scored on a deflection and the second goal was scored on a breakaway. Not a great start to help out a young goaltender. But to their credit, the  Rangers bounced back.  Chris Kreider redirected a Ryan Strome‘pass through the five-hole on the power play to make it 2-1. Mika Zibanejad chipped in a loose puck from the slot under the arm of the Colorado Goalie to tie it 2-2.  Brady Skjei‘s huge slapshot from the blueline at 8:05 of the second period gave New York a 3-2 lead.  Colorado rebounded to tie the game but Strome’s fifth goal in the past six games gave the Rangers a 4-3 lead. Artemi Panarin added an empty-net goal to make the final score 5-3. So after some slow stretches, the Rangers’ studs are stepping up. Panarin has 10 assists and 12 points in the last six games. Strome has five goals and four assists in his last six games. Mika Zibanejad has 10 goals and 16 points in his last 12 games

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

New York Rangers, Lias Andersson

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

Issue #1: “lower-Body Injury”

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

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

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

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

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

 

The New York Rangers Need to Take Advantage of January Home Cooking

New York Rangers

The familiarity and comfort that come with playing at home are significant advantages and the New York Rangers are hoping that a home heavy January schedule can help them get right back into the playoff race. The Blueshirts have six of their remaining eight games at home and after the team’s winless trip to Western Canada, they will need to take advantage of these home games.

This Week: Two at Home, One on the Road

The Rangers start with the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night at MSG. The good news for the Rangers is that the Avs are on a road trip of their own, and will have to play back-to-back games as Colorado will play the Islanders Monday night.  However, the Avs are 7-1-1 in their last nine road contests and 9-2-1 in their last 12. Colorado is also 11-2-2 against the Eastern Conference.  Then on Thursday, the Rangers host the New Jersey Devils, who had a three-game winning streak snapped last Saturday by Colorado. The 15-20-6 Devils will host the Islanders on Tuesday night before making their way to MSG. The Rangers finish out the week by taking a trip to meet the defending Stanley Cup Champion St. Louis Blues. Realistically, going 2-1 this week would be a nice start to making a playoff push.

Next Stretch Includes Three Games with the Islanders

Before the All-Star break, the Rangers will play three of their four games against the Islanders. Two of these games are home, and one is out on Long Island. The Blueshirts will also host one game with Artemi Panarin’s former team, the Columbus Blue Jackets. That means that after a quick trip to the midwest, the Rangers will get stay in the Metropolitan area for the rest of the month.  The first game after the All-Star break is a home game on January 31 against the Detroit Red Wings. The Islanders have also struggled recently, losing 5 of their last seven going 2-4-1. The team that stormed through the season’s first seven weeks, going 16-3-1, has won fewer than half its games (9-8-2) since Nov. 21. A Rangers team that could go 4-1 through that stretch could show the league that they are playoff ready.

New York Rangers Decide to Take a Look at Goalie Igor Shesterkin

New York Rangers, Igor Shesterkin

The New York Rangers and their fans may not have to wait long to see their young phenom goalie Igor Shesterkin. The Rangers recalled the goalie from their AHL affiliate in Hartford, and speculation will be that he will start in goal against Colorado on Tuesday night. The Rangers are deciding to carry three goalies, and it may be that the reported illness that plagued Henrik Lundqvist over the weekend may have more long term effects, or did they decide it was time to take a look at the talented young Russian?

Shesterkin was Shining in Hartford

In 23 games for the Wolf Pack, Shesterkin has a 15-4-3 record with a league-best 1.93 goals-against average and a .932 save percentage along with three shutouts. Shesterkin was a fourth-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft who played several years in the KHL before coming to the US this year. He was recently selected to play in the AHL All-Star game. It is expected that he will get a look sooner rather than later as Lundqvist and Alexandar Georgiev, who have been splitting the goaltending duties for the Rangers, who are allowing the fifth-most goals in the NHL on a per-game average. Many had speculated that when he was drafted that he would be Henrik Lundqvist’s heir apparent.

KHL and Career in Russia

Shesterkin played as a youth with Krylya Sovetov Moscow before he was selected by Spartak Moscow of the Kontinental Hockey League, 43rd overall in the 2012 KHL Draft.  In 117 KHL games over six seasons, Shesterkin had an 88-16-7 record, a 1.68 GAA and .935 save percentages. Among goaltenders with at least 100 KHL appearances, his GAA and save percentage are both records.

Also, Shesterkin represented Russia and was one of the top goaltenders at the 2018 World Championships in Denmark. He finished with two shutout victories and a 1.46 goals-against average with a .942 save percentage, both of which were the third-best at the event. He also played for Russia but did not see any action in the 2018 Winter Olympics in which the Russians won the Gold medal.

New York Ranger Go Winless during Their Western Canada Trip

New York Rangers, Brett Howden, Filip Chytil

The New York Rangers certainly thought that after notching two wins in the first part of this critical five-game swing that they would be able to carry that momentum into the three-game section of this trip to Western Canada. That did not happen. The Rangers lost all three games after falling 2-1 to the Vancouver Canucks. That loss was made more difficult by the fact that the Rangers played well in that game, only to see the Canucks score the game-winner with just over a minute to play in the third period.

What Went Wrong for the New York Rangers

In the first two games, slow starts and poor defense led to leads that the Rangers could not overcome. On Saturday night, the Rangers ran into a red-hot team with an equally hot goaltender. Jacob Markstrom made 36 saves for his sixth straight win for the Canucks.  Vancouver outscored opponents 30-17 during their win streak. Markstrom made his best saves with the Canucks being outshot and outplayed by the Rangers for long stretches of the third period. The best of those happened when he made a diving glove save to rob Jacob Trouba with under four minutes remaining. Despite the pressure, the Rangers could not get that second goal past him. Also, some of the big-name players for the Blueshirts seem to be in a mini-slump. It was the second straight game without a point for Rangers forward Artemi Panarin, who had 21 points in his previous 11 games. Not too worrisome as Panarin is still on pace for career highs in most of the major stat categories.

Rangers goalie Alexandar Georgiev started the game because Henrik Lundqvist was sidelined with an illness. Lundqvist took part in warmups after skipping the morning skate and was the backup but did not sit on the Rangers bench. Georgiev made 25 saves in the game.

The Rangers will not make the long trip back to New York and host Colorado on Tuesday night.

 

The New York Rangers’ Doghouse is Open For Business

New York Rangers, Brady Skjei

New York Rangers head coach David Quinn might be beginning to show his frustration with the slow start to games the team has experienced in their last two contests.  People had noticed that during Thursday night’s game against Calgary that a couple of players did not see ice time for most of the third period. Hence being placed in Quinn’s doghouse, which is surprisingly defined in the Cambridge Dictionary as “a situation in which someone is angry at you for something you did or did not do.” The two most recent notables to experience this were Brady Skjei and Kaapo Kakko.

Skjei continues to struggle for the New York Rangers

Social media blew up when the television cameras caught David Quinn leaning over to assistant coach Lindy Ruff and appeared to tell him something to the effect that Skjei does not get any more ice time. Skjei continues to be plagued by turnovers, including a key one in which he tried to clear a puck, and it went right to the Flames’ Dillon Dube, who promptly found Derek Ryan, who scored the goal that made the game 3-2. The benching came in the last 10 minutes of the third period when Skjei was tagged what could have been described as a questionable penalty call. However, it was one of a handful of crucial penalties the Blueshirts took as they were trying to tie up the game.

Kakko’s Benching a Bit of a Surprise

Kakko had already picked up a goal and assist in the Calgary game, but the 18-year-old was whistled for holding at 12:08 of the final period and was benched. After serving the penalty, he did not see the ice for the remainder of the game. Puzzling more was that the line of Brett Howden, Filip Chytil, and Kakko dominated shift after shift for most of the contest. Now, we may also consider that something else was wrong with Kakko that Quinn did not share. It has been well documented that the youngster deals with type 1 diabetes and celiac disease, and perhaps his playing time was influenced by this.

David Quinn is never one that has backed off from the tough love approach of trying to bring along younger players. Let’s hope that this approach will help more than it hurts their development.

New York Rangers’ Resolution to Start Games Better Fails; Lose to Flames

New York Rangers, Henrik Lundqvist

Across the board, members of the New York Rangers hockey team stated that they needed to come prepared to play at the beginning of games. This followed the debacle in Edmonton in which the team gave up six goals in the first two periods before a furious rally came up just short. However, that did not happen on Thursday night as the Rangers fell to the Calgary Flames 4-3. Yes, that same Calgary Flames team that had been 0-4-1 in its last five home games.

The New York Rangers have Plenty of Blame to Go Around

In the loss to Edmonton, the poor defensive play was pointed out as one of the main culprits in that game. In Calgary, that was not the case. Sloppy play lead to the first two goals. Poor passing led to Johnny Gaudreau sliding a backhand between Lundqvist’s legs on a breakaway to put Calgary up 1-0 at 4:15 for the first period.

The breakaways were not done as an old nemesis returned to the Ranger power play: too much passing. During a five on three power play, the Rangers passed the puck around multiple times until an errant Tony DeAngelo pass was nabbed by Michael Backlund, who made it 2-0 with another breakaway at 7:16 of the first period.

Not a good way to start a game, especially against a reeling team that had been outscored 22-9 during its five-game home-ice losing streak. A glaring stat from the game was that the line of Artemi Panarin, Ryan Strome, and Jesper Fast were a -3 for the game, so it is not surprising to see where the sloppy, inconsistent play started.  It does not get better as Saturday as the Rangers head to Vancouver to face a Canucks team that has won six straight.

There was some good news for the New York Rangers

The Rangers did bounce back after going down by two goals. Jacob Trouba scored on the power play on that same 5-on-3 to cut the lead to 2-1 at 7:42. Filip Chytil, still with the man advantage, scored on a rebound 25 seconds later to tie it 2-2. Kaapo Kakko had a goal and an assist breaking a scoring drought while Adam Fox had three assists against the team that drafted him.

The New York Ranger’s Mika Zibanejad Deserves to Play in the NHL All-Star Game

New York Rangers, Mika Zibanejad

The NHL announced on Monday that the New York Ranger’s forward Artemi Panarin has been selected to the All-Star Game. Fans will get a chance to vote for another deserving Ranger in Mika Zibanejad.  The NHL announced the candidates for the Last Men In selection.  Fans can go and vote for one more player to be selected for the contest, and Zibanejed has been placed on the ballot. Voting for the Last Men In opens Wednesday, Jan. 1, at 12 p.m. ET and closes Friday, Jan. 10, at 11:59 p.m. ET. Fans can vote at NHL.com/Vote or on a mobile interactive ballot on the NHL app.

Zibanajed has an All-Star Resume

We know Tony DeAngelo is not a huge fan of analytics, especially when it deals with Ryan Strome. But with all due respect to the Ranger defenseman, we need to dig into the numbers to make a case for Zibanejad. First, let’s take a look at his recent play.  Since Dec. 12, Zibanejad has seven goals in eight games, along with 13 points and five multi-point affairs. Just last Friday, he posted two power-play goals and an assist at even strength in a 5-3 victory over the Hurricanes.  For the season, he has 14 goals and 30 points with a plus-4 rating in 25 games.  Taking a look at 2018-19, Zibanejad scored 30 goals, 44 assists for 74 points in the 82 games played.  He is also considered one of the better two-way players in the NHL, as he is only one of 11 forwards this season who is averaging 2 minutes of power-play time and 2 minutes of shorthanded time.  Finally, let’s consider this stat: If we take a look at his most recent 82 games, Zibanejad has 37 goals with 47 assists for a total of 84 points. That makes him one of only 24 players who have averaged more than 1 point per game over that time period.

Of course, New York Ranger fans are very much aware of his skill set. This is to help you persuade friends and family to vote for one of our favorite Blueshirts. Even if he does not get voted in, there is a chance that he could also be selected to replace Alex Ovechkin, who has decided to skip the proceedings in order to rest his 34-year-old body. If so inclined, vote early, vote often and let’s place our well deserved forward into the NHL All-Star classic.