New York Rangers Vs. Nashville Predators Gameday Preview 12/12/2021

ryan strome, rangers

The first-place New York Rangers are back on the ice today versus the tough as nails Nashville Predators. The Rangers are looking to continue their winning ways after defeating the Sabres on Friday night. The victory came because of a called-back goal due to offsides. The Rangers have been on a tear for the last month winning 12 of their last 14 games.

Bounce back wins and beating teams that they should beat has become a calling card for this year’s Rangers team. They haven’t lost more than 1 game in a row since their Western Canadian trip in early November. During that trip, they lost 3 games in a row. Since then, they have only lost 2 total games. One against the the Toronto Maple Leafs, and one against the Colorado Avalanche.

It looks like Alexander Georgiev will start in goal for the second straight game after posting the win against Buffalo. Igor Shesterkin has been on the ice practicing this week, but is not ready yet according to New York Rangers Head Coach Gerard Gallant.

What To Watch For

Ryan Strome and Nils Lundkvist have been taking it easy due to some suspected non-covid related illness that may be going around. They are expected to be in the lineup.

– Tonight, Chris Kreider will become the 22nd Ranger in team history to play in at least 600 regular-season games for the Rangers.

– The Nashville Predators currently lead the league in fighting majors. So look for things to be very physical tonight. Tonight will be a good test to see how the Rangers’ team toughness has changed them.

Adam Fox has the second-most assists in the NHL and leads all defensemen with 24A and 29 Pts.

Main takeaways as New York Rangers tally 7th straight victory in win over Blackhawks

New York Rangers, Artemi Panarin

The New York Rangers defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 6-2 for their 7th victory in a row on Tuesday night. The game was highlighted by not only Artemi Panarin scoring his 500th point of his career but also by a booming hit by Jacob Trouba that sent Juuhar Khaira to the hospital on a stretcher.

The Rangers got out to an early lead 1:01 into the 1st period on a Jacob Trouba bomb from the right circle. The feed from Artemi Panarin was his 500th point in just 497 games. Becoming just the 49th player in NHL history to accomplish this feat. Panarin capped off the night with another assist and 2 more goals, including an empty netter and the 1st star of the game.

In a scarier moment, at 13:50 into the 2nd period, Juuhar Khaira accepted a pass from behind him while exiting the defensive zone. His head was down while he was trying to find the puck, and Jacob Trouba stepped up and laid a huge hit on him. No penalty was called because it looked like the initial point of contact was Khaira’s chest. The only reason his head/chin was hit was because his head was down. Not because Trouba was headhunting.

 

This game was indicative of what has become Rangers hockey. They do not give an inch, all four lines forecheck, and they stick up for each other. This was apparent after a very questionable hit from behind on Dryden Hunt by Ryan Carpenter. Ryan Strome came screaming in and dropped the gloves, and started throwing punches in a true show of camaraderie. What happened last year after the Tom Wilson incident will not happen again with this current team. Bet on it.

Rangers Game Notes

Alexander Georgiev stood tall in net tonight. Saving 24 of 26 shots for a .923 save percentage for the Rangers. It took his record this year to 4-1-1 with a .876 SV%. His playing well in goal the last 2 ½ games has been a huge boost for this team with Igor Shesterkin out. Igor is on injured reserve with a lower-body injury he sustained on Friday night against the Sharks.

Chris Kreider scored a Power play goal for his 17th goal of the season. This was also his 10th power-play goal of the season so far. Is this the year he finally scores 30?

– This win marked the 7th win in a row for the Rangers and the 11th win in the last 12 games.

Mika Zibanejad is now on a 13 game scoreless streak. Although he does have 10 apples in that timespan

– Jacob Trouba had the 1st “Gordie Howe Hat Trick” by a defenseman since Brian Leetch in1988

New York Rangers Vs. Chicago Blackhawks Gameday Preview 12/7/2021

rangers, nhl

On the tails of a comeback victory in front of a raucous Madison Square Garden crowd on Saturday night, the New York Rangers play the second game of a home and home series against the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Rangers are looking to continue their recent winning ways, having won 6 straight, and 10 of their last 11. With 10 of those victories being won by one goal. The Rangers have figured out how to keep a late lead after struggling with it earlier in the season. Their 6-game win streak is the longest streak for the Rangers since a 6-game stretch in 2017.

New York Rangers Game Day Notes

– Adam Fox is expected to be in the lineup tonight after he took a maintenance day yesterday and didn’t practice. He has a six-game assist streak going in which he has notched eight assists.

Artemi Panarin is looking to become the 49th player in NHL history to score 500 points in 457 games or less. This feat is even more impressive, considering Panarin was never even drafted.

– Alexander Georgiev is in net again tonight for the Rangers after an impressive showing against the Blackhawks on Saturday night.

– Marc-Andre Fleury is making his 900th NHL appearance tonight. The reigning Vezina Trophy winner is currently sitting at 499 career wins. His next win will give him 500 victories, joining an elite group of just two other goalies to achieve at least 500 victories. Martin Brodeur and Patrick Roy.

Rangers’ Alex Lafreniere knows he must leave struggles behind: ‘I have to be better’

alex lafreniere, rangers

As a generational prospect, Alexis Lafreniere of the New York Rangers knows he must perform better in the coming games. Last season, during his first campaign at the NHL level, Alexis played in 56 games, scoring 12 goals and recording nine assists. He enjoyed 13:53 minutes of ice time on average but has seen a significant uptick this year to 15:42.

The Quebec native has scored two goals and earned one assist over seven games this season, recording two game-winning goals compared to four last year.

However, in the team’s most recent defeat to the Calgary Flames, head coach Gerard Gallant singled out the youngster for his poor performance: “I want more from Laffy.”

“For sure, I have to be better,” Lafreniere said. “It was a physical game, tough game and you have to be able to win your battles one-on-one, so no, it wasn’t good enough for me and we’ll try and fix some things and get back to it Friday night [at home against the Blue Jackets].

Alexis enjoyed 15:43 minutes of playing time, taking three shots on goal and recording a -1 +/-.

“In general, I think I played some good games on the first road trip, but I have to do the same things every game and be more consistent. I know exactly what I have to do better. You know when you play a bad game. I’ll be better on Friday.”

At 20-years-old, Lafreniere is still gaining his footing in the NHL against more physical and aggressive players. The team still expects him to become one of their star players, but it will take time. Out of the Rangers’ 12 listed forwards, Lafreniere played in the sixth most minutes, indicating he has a significant role.

Rangers send down Morgan Barron as they make way for return of Ryan Strome

ryan strome, rangers

The New York Rangers are preparing to take on the Calgary Flames at 7 PM on Monday evening, and they will be getting back one of their more prominent players, Ryan Strome.

On Monday afternoon, the team announced they had sent Morgan Barron down to the AHL. He will spend time with the Hartford Wolf Pack until the Rangers require his services once again, and it was clear he needs more time developing before he can take on a more serious role in the NHL. Over two games, Barron averaged 8:28 of ice time, picking up two penalties.

In Barron’s place, Strome, who recently returned to practice after entering COVID-19 protocol, will play against Calgary. The 28-Year-old center cleared isolation protocol, leaving Kaapo Kakko as the last piece to the puzzle waiting to return.

Strome is an important part of the Rangers’ strategy and plan, playing in 56 games last year and contributing 14 goals and 35 assists. He spent 18:16 on the ice per game, contributing three power-play goals and 321 face-off wins.

Replacing Barron will give the Rangers an advantage against Calgary, as their opponent has lost two of the first four games. The Rangers, on the other hand, are coming off a stellar four-game road winning streak, scoring three goals in the third period against the Ottawa Senators to escape with a victory over the weekend.

New York Rangers preparing for the return of Kaapo Kakko

kaapo kakko, rangers

Some of the New York Rangers‘ top players may be out, but that didn’t stop them from rattling off four consecutive wins on an impressive road streak this past week. The Rangers overcame the Ottawa Senators with three goals in the third period in their latest victory.

Thanks to goals from Chris Kreider, Ryan Lindgren, and Barclay Goodrow, the Rangers can feel good with their 4–1–1 record as they prepared to take on the Calgary Flames on Monday evening at 7 PM.

However, they might gain back one of their top players, Kaapo Kakko. The Finland native has played in three games this year, averaging 13:57 seconds on the ice. He has yet to tally a goal or assists this season, but he is an integral part to the Rangers’ plans moving forward.

As the second overall pick in 2019, the 6’3″ Winger should give the Rangers more depth and talent upon his return.

“When he’s ready to go, he’s ready to go.” Gallant said last week. “I think it’s going to be close. I think it’s day-to-day and I think it’s really close. Hopefully, early next week.”

Gallant indicates his return will be day-to-day, but we should expect him to make an appearance this week as he tries to shake off an upper body injury that placed him on IR.

Rangers storm back in heroic fashion to beat Ottawa, snapping decade-old road record

rangers

The New York Rangers are currently on a four-game winning streak, overcoming the Ottawa Senators on Saturday afternoon to perfect a four-game road trip.

Over the past four games, the Rangers have recorded their most points (8) through their first five road games since the 2010-11 season. This is also the first time the Rangers have had a perfect four-game road trip since 2015.

The Rangers entered the third period down two goals, but Chris Kreider, Ryan Lindgren, and Barclay Goodrow contributed goals to drag the team back into the game. Currently, the Rangers are atop the Metropolitan Division standings with nine points and four victories.

“We didn’t do a whole lot in the first two periods,” head coach Gerard Gallant said after the win. “But we kept it close, we didn’t play poor hockey, but we didn’t play to the elite level we had to play at. We kept it close and sometimes that’s what happens when you keep the game close.”

The Rangers started the season losing two consecutive games but have now won four straight, giving up just five goals during that time span. it was exciting to see the Rangers fight back, as their power-play was ineffective, and the top line looked dull and lazy on the afternoon.

Scoring three goals in just three minutes and 20 seconds was the difference between winning and losing. Increasing their effort has been a narrative floated in recent days, but that will come as they improve their stamina throughout the course of the season. This was the first time in franchise history that New York won a game facing a multi-goal deficit in just a final six minutes of play.

Good teams find ways to win and have resiliency, and the Rangers displayed that in the victory.

The Rangers will now prepare to take on the Calgary Flames on Monday evening. Calgary has won their last two games, scoring seven goals and giving up three. Elias Lindholm is leading the way for Calgary, enjoying a hat trick in their most recent win over Washington.

New York Rangers: The Taxi Squad Has Been Elite This Season

Colin Blackwell, New York Rangers

The 2021 season has not gone as planned for the New York Rangers. They’ve underperformed through the first 19 games of the season, and just when things seem to be looking up, the bad returns. From poor goaltending and a lack of offensive production, to a player taking a leave of absence following false claims about his past, the Blueshirts have endured a lot of negativity already this season. But there’s been one consistent positive – the taxi squad. The squad has been arguably the main highlight of 2021 for the Rangers, and they haven’t shown signs of slowing down.

What Makes The Rangers’ Taxi Squad Elite:

The Production They’ve Gotten From Unlikely Names

If you were to tell any Ranger fan that Colin Blackwell would have the sixth-most points on the team at the start of March, they’d probably say, “who?” After all, the Rangers were supposed to have one of the most potent offenses in the league this season. With goal-scoring machine Mika Zibanejad, point-acquiring king Artemi Panarin, and the number of talented young players arriving on the NHL scene, how could a 27-year-old with barely any NHL experience be a legitimate threat on offense?

Well, to be frank, I can’t properly explain why Blackwell’s playing so well. But I can say his production is off the charts, and it’s been that way all season. After watching the first four games from the team-hotel, Blackwell got his chance against the Penguins on January 24. He made the most of his opportunity, scoring just the fourth goal of his career. He then followed that up with a point in each of the next two games. Then things went south, like all things do for the Rangers in 2021, as he suffered an upper body injury.

Blackwell eventually returned 13 days later and picked up right where he left off. In seven games since returning from injury, Blackwell has tallied five points, giving him a total of eight on the year. Those eight points in 11 games give him an average of 0.73 points per game – the second-highest mark on the team.

Along with Blackwell, Anthony Bitetto has been a pleasant surprise for the Blueshirts as well. While being a solid contributor on the defensive end of the ice, Bitetto has also been a spark-provider on offense. In nine games the former sixth-round pick has three points to his name, tied for the fourth-most among Ranger defenseman. He’s playing the best hockey of his career, and like Blackwell, for seemingly no reason. No one is complaining though.

On top of Blackwell and Bitetto, there are a couple other names that must be mentioned. Defenseman Libor Hajek has provided a sturdy presence on D, while forward Jonny Brodzinski has contributed on the offensive end – scoring a goal in last Friday’s game against Boston.

How The Squad Compares To The Rest of the NHL

Individual statistics compared to teammates are always impressive, but the Rangers’ taxi squad is more than just good for their own standards. They’re one of the best in the entire NHL, and the numbers prove it.

As of March 1, the Rangers’ taxi squad players have produced 12 points, tied with Tampa Bay for the fourth-most in the league. But that ranking is a bit unfair to the Blueshirts and Lightning, due to the teams in-front of them making transactions early on in the season. The top three teams in terms of taxi squad production, Chicago, St. Louis, and Anaheim, all have a player that began on the taxi squad following roster cuts but has since played at least 20 games. Meaning their total number of points is an inaccurate representation of their taxi squad success.

Chicago has gotten 20 points of production from their taxi squad in 2021, but 15 of them have come from Philipp Kurashev and Brandon Hagel, each of whom have played at least 20 games. Anaheim’s squad, meanwhile, has produced 15 points, but that’s almost entirely because of Max Comtois’ 13. Comtois, the Ducks’ leader in points, started the season on the taxi squad but was recalled to the active roster the day after, and has started every single game for Anaheim. The same goes for St. Louis who has received 18 points from Jordan Kyrou, a member of the Blues taxi squad for less than 24 hours in January.

So, if you put everyone on an even playing field, that puts the Rangers in a tie for the most taxi squad points in the NHL. On top of this, the Rangers’ taxi squad has been the most valuable in the league. The Blueshirts’ squad has accounted for seven goals, equivalent to 14% of all Rangers goals. No other team is remotely close to that number.

Despite all the negatives in 2021, at least we have the taxi squad to boast about. They’ve been an awesome surprise.

New York Rangers: Why Chris Kreider Is So Dominant On The Power Play

New York Rangers, Chris Kreider

New York Rangers forward Chris Kreider has been the team’s number one source of goals this season. His eight scores lead the team, as do his five power play goals. He posted his third career hat trick in Wednesday night’s loss to Philadelphia and has scored in two straight. In other words, the longest-tenured Ranger has been magnificent around the net – especially on the power play. It’s no coincidence he’s tied with eight other players for the third-most power play goals in the NHL though. His ability to control the ice in-front of the net has turned him into a goal-scoring machine.

What Makes Chris Kreider so Good on the Power Play:

 His Ability to Find Open Space Around the Net

Very few do a better job of finding open space around the net than Kreider. The former first-rounder has virtually made a name for himself strictly by plucking off goals in the crease. Each time Kreider steps on the ice he makes a point of gaining position by the net and waiting for an opportunity to strike. Sometimes that opportunity is a rebound off a wrist-shot from 20 feet out, while other times it’s a tip-in off a slap-shot from the blue line. He’s always waiting to cash-in, game after game.

Kreider positions himself to the right of Flyers goaltender Brian Elliott perfectly. There’s not a single defenseman within reach of him when the puck ricochets off Elliott, giving him a wide-open net to score on.

The Flyers, like every other NHL team that has played the Rangers in the Kreider-era, failed to correct their mistake the next period as well.

This time Kreider waits for Zibanejad to set him up with a picture-perfect pass and cashes in once again. Just like his first goal of the game, there’s no defender to impact his shot. You’d think teams would do a better job of locating him by now, right? Considering he has been tormenting penalty-killing teams for his entire career, after all.

His Ability to Stay Calm Under Pressure

Not all goals will be as easy as the ones from Wednesday’s game against Philadelphia unfortunately, but that isn’t a problem for Kreider. For years he has been able to send the biscuit into the oven despite players draped all over him. He never feels pressure and always remains calm.

The clip above is from a game against Vancouver in 2013. Notice anything about No. 20 in blue? He’s positioned in-front of the net for the entirety of the possession, patiently waiting for a shot-on-goal that he can redirect into the twine. And when former-captain Ryan McDonagh sends a wrist-shot into the pile-up of skaters outside the net, Kreider capitalizes. Despite Vancouver’s Chris Tanev effort to interrupt Kreider’s concentration, the power play goal is scored.

Nearly eight years later and nothing has changed.

He Makes the Most of His Chances

No member of the Blueshirts makes more of their minutes than Kreider. His average ice-time of 17:27 is the fifth-most among forwards on the team, and yet, as mentioned earlier, he leads the team in goals with eight. What makes his goal-tally even more impressive though is how few shots he has taken. He has converted on eight of the 41 shots he has taken this year, an absurd success-rate of 23.5% – the highest on the team.

For perspective, only eight other players in the NHL with at least eight goals scored have converted on at least 23.5% of shots taken. Furthermore, five of those eight players spend more time on the ice than Kreider each game, which provides them with more opportunities.

This is nothing new for Kreider, however. Although he has never averaged more than 17:30 of ice time in a season, the Massachusetts-native has scored 20+ goals in five of his eight seasons. An impressive 31.5% of his career goals have occurred on the power play. All while being one of the speediest skaters on Broadway for the last decade.

It’s not by chance that Kreider is having a strong 2021 season on the power play. The guy knows how to get the puck into the net and has shown no signs of slowing down in year number nine. Nor will he slow down until someone invents a tactic to keep him out of the crease.

New York Rangers: Which Line Combo is Best For Alexis Lafrenière?

New York Rangers rookie Alexis Lafrenière has struggled to adjust to the NHL – and it’s obvious. Despite getting more than 14 minutes of ice time each game, the seventh-most among forwards on the team, he has tallied just a single point in 12 games. Rangers coach David Quinn has done his best to try and get the 2020 No. 1 overall pick going, but nothing has worked thus far. Coach Quinn’s favorite method of attempting to solve Lafrenière’s struggles has been mixing up his line-mates almost every game. Through the first 12 games of the season, the rookie has been a member of six different line combos, by far the most on the team. Here’s which combos have worked well, and others not so much:

Which Line Combo Has Worked Best for Alexis Lafrenière?

The Lines:

Lafrenière-Chytil-Gauthier

Very few probably remember that this line even existed. The third-line for the first game of the season, the three found little success while on the ice together. The line existed for only that first game and hasn’t been seen since. It must be said that perhaps coach Quinn decided to switch things up a little prematurely. After all, it was Lafrenière’s first career game and he had no preseason games to help build chemistry.

The rookie registered one shot with the line, took his lone penalty of the season, and had a -1 plus/minus in 13 minutes of ice time.

Panarin-Strome-Lafrenière

For his second career NHL game Alexis Lafreni̬re was moved up to the second-line. There were questions about how Lafreni̬re would fair playing on the right side, as he had played almost exclusively left wing while in Rimouski, but he ended up playing very well. In his first game with the line he had his best plus/minus of the season Р+2. He also totaled three shots, tied for his second-most in a game.

The following game didn’t have the same success unfortunately. In 14 minutes of ice time Lafrenière managed to get only one shot on goal and had a -1 plus/minus.

Lafrenière-Zibanejad-Kreider

In an attempt to give a scoring-spark to the rookie, coach Quinn moved the No. 1 overall pick up to the first line. On paper, the idea seemed great. Kreider’s high hockey-IQ and Zibanejad’s otherworldly goal-scoring ability would certainly provide scoring chances for Lafrenière, right? Well, not so much.

The first-line was not only a poor fit for Lafrenière, it was also statistically the worst line he was a member of. In two games, he registered just one shot and posted a -2 plus/minus while averaging 17 minutes of ice time in the two contests.

Lafrenière-Howden-Kakko

Another one-hit-wonder, the “under age 22” line existed for only one game. I personally wish coach Quinn gave this line another game to build chemistry. Something about young, underrated players on the same line works very well. For example, the line of Di Giuseppe-Chytil-Kakko that existed earlier this season was stellar prior to Chytil’s injury.

Notching three shots in under 15 minutes with the line, Lafrenière looked very comfortable.

Lafrenière-Zibanejad-Buchnevich

Despite struggling mightily on the first-line two games prior, the rookie returned to the top line and showed great improvement in the January 28th contest against the Sabres. In 15 minutes of ice time, Lafreni̬re tallied four shots on goal, his season-high. He also scored his first, and only, NHL point in the game Рan overtime goal to give the Rangers a 3-2 win.

It must be pointed out that the goal occurred in a 3-on-3 format, not the typical 5-on-5. Meaning Lafrenière still has not accounted for a point with any five-man line this season.

The line would end up playing four total games together, double the number any other Lafrenière line played. In those four games, he totaled nine shots and a 0 plus/minus. Having Buchnevich, a true right-winger, on the opposite side helped immensely.

Lafrenière-Howden-Di Giuseppe

The most recent line combo created by the jigsaw-puzzle-fanatic David Quinn has played two games together thus far. Neither game has been particularly inspiring. In more than 26 total minutes of ice time with the line, Lafrenière is yet to record a shot and has a -1 plus/minus.

I am fully expecting to see a new line be sent out for Friday’s game against the Bruins, as should you.

So, Which Line is Best?

If game seven of the Stanley Cup Final was tomorrow, and I had to send out a line with Alexis Lafrenière’s name on it, I’m putting him on the first line with Mika Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich – no questions asked. Those four games were the best Lafrenière has played all season. He was drafted by New York to score points, and playing alongside two proven veterans give him the best chance of doing that.

On the other hand, ff you’re looking for a line full of potential and the opportunity to burgeon into a line of the future, then putting him alongside Brett Howden and Kaapo Kakko would be the correct answer. Each of them has a unique skillset that would allow the other to grow. Howden’s physical-play compliments Kaako and Lafrenière’s quickness very well. Meanwhile, Kaako’s ability to shoot the puck on net would provide excellent tip-in opportunities for the other two. On top of that, Lafrenière’s passing talent would get his teammates loads of scoring chances at the net.

What do you think would be best for Alexis Lafrenière? Leave a comment below to share your thoughts on the situation.