New York Rangers Season Previewby Liz Pendergraft September 20, 2021 0 comments
At the end of last season, the New York Rangers were the talk of the NHL. James Dolan finally remembered he owned a hockey team, but several people in the front office paid the price for that. Now that the Rangers are outfitted with a new regime, fans of the team and others are wondering what will be going on in New York City this season.
Despite having a winning record, the Rangers finished fifth in the division this past season. This left them out in the cold when the playoffs started. It meant working to find a way not to be embarrassed when the next season rolled around. The draft was a great place to start. Newly minted general manager Chris Drury would get to show that he’s capable of leading the Rangers in these upcoming years. Once he’d navigated that minefield, Drury was able to score a few players to make the Rangers a little more challenging to play against.
They acquired the rights to Barclay Goodrow from the Tampa Bay Lightning, and they also traded with the Las Vegas Knights to get Ryan Reaves. They also acquired Sammy Blais from the St. Louis Blues when they traded Pavel Buchnevich, much to the dismay of fans. Then the Rangers picked up Patrik Nemeth, the rugged defenseman from the Colorado Avalanche.
As they’re set to skate into the 2021-22 season, the Rangers will need to show themselves and their fanbase that they’re ready to take their game to the next level.
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New York can only hope that Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad have a better season. They’re going to need to if the Rangers are planning on making it into the postseason. Adding Reaves and Goodrow to the mixture will hopefully help to jumpstart the offensive talents the Rangers have. All they need is one spark to ignite a flame. They have the talent with Alexis Lafreniere, Kaapo Kakko, and veteran Chris Kreider. Lafreniere, Kakko, and Filip Chytil have the ability to score upwards of 50 points in a season, given the chance. Those three, along with Panarin and Zibanejad, will be a formidable force if coach Gerard Gallant is able to use them effectively. Ice time and how forwards were used was a major complaint the Blueshirt faithful lodged against David Quinn. Gallant has proven himself to be a successful coach for both the Florida Panthers and the Las Vegas Knights. So there’s no need for fans to worry just yet.
The defense for the Rangers has immensely improved over the last few years. They will depend on Adam Fox and Jacob Trouba to help lead the way on the defensive side. Hopefully, K’Andre Miller will play as well or even better than he did in the first part of last season. Fans are not hoping for a repeat of the last half of the season from Miller. The Rangers will also be considering if they’re going to add Nils Lundkvist as one of the bottom pairing defensemen. He certainly has the ability to make the team if given a chance. With the possibility of Nemeth as his partner, it would be interesting to see how it pans out. Libor Hajek and Anthony Bitetto are still around, so don’t count them out.
Everyone knows Igor Shesterkin will be the number one, with Alexandar Georgiev and Keith Kinkaid fighting it out for the number two spot. However, Shesterkin has a lot to live up to in his second season as the primary goaltender. He’s going to have the weight of the team on his shoulders for an entire season, and we’ll get to see what he’s made of. Despite demonstrating his talent on the ice, there’s still the shadow of Henrik Lundqvist lurking just around the corner. Shesterkin will need to ignore it and continue making the Rangers his own to help them succeed. He’s been impressive so far, and everyone can see his potential to be a future Vezina finalist and winner.
This past season was a strange one. Between the pandemic and issues on and off the ice, the Rangers appeared not to be able to catch a break. However, despite those issues, there are a few players who’ll need to step up and deliver this season for the Rangers.
Fresh off of winning the Norris Trophy, Fox will need to continue to shine for the Rangers. He’s able to handle the puck and is an integral part of the Rangers’ power play. Along with Ryan Strome as his partner, this top pairing offers consistency in play to the Rangers’ defense.
Panarin might have been more effective last season if there hadn’t been any distractions. Unfortunately, his stats don’t do justice to his impact on the team since he became a Ranger. With his focus back where it should be on his game, expect to see the Panarin we were hoping for last season.
Given that he was not at his best throughout last season, it’s only right to believe he’ll be back to his goal-scoring self this upcoming season. Zibanejad is one of several players who have brought stability to the scoring game. But, of course, he’ll be entering his contract season, so he’ll not just be playing to win.
Biggest Question Facing the Rangers
If the Rangers don’t make the playoffs, will the front office hit the nuke button at the end of this season? The logical answer would be no. Players are progressing as they should, and they are becoming a cohesive family. However, with James Dolan as the owner, it’s hard to tell how the end of this year will play out if the playoffs aren’t an option. Of course, fans will not be happy with missing the playoffs; however, they would be able to live with it if there is a visible improvement in the team. The main concern from fans is about how those in charge will view missing the playoffs and the subsequent reactions.
While the future is looking bright for the boys in blue, there are still a few things to be cautious about. First, the Rangers need to take that next step to their Stanley Cup dreams. This means fans should expect the Rangers to fight for a wildcard spot. It may not be an easy or pretty path, but they’re ready to show the rest of the NHL that the Rangers are not a team to take lightly. Second, fans should not jump on the “it’s all over” bandwagon after only a few games. The last time the Rangers won five or more games out of the first ten was the 2015-16 season. There’s still a long way to go, but patience is still the key to success for the Rangers.
Follow Liz Pendergraft on Twitter @lizzibear824
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