The New York Rangers started the season with questions hanging over them. After the cleaning out of the front office and a new coach, fans were wondering how it would affect the season. However, the Rangers surprised the league and their fans with its playoff run.
At the beginning of the season, most fans would have been happy with the team ending up in a wildcard spot. Instead, the Rangers grabbed second place in the Metropolitan Division. With the rebuild ahead of schedule, the Rangers took on the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round, taking it to seven nail-biting games. Once they defeated the Penguins, it was on to Round 2 to face the storm of the Carolina Hurricanes. The storm surge was no match for the boys in blue, and they defeated Carolina in seven games.
Finally, the Rangers took on the Lightning in the Eastern Conference Final. They won the first two games; however, playing every other day without rest took its toll. The Lightning left the Rangers defeated but not broken. There is no quit in New York, and the boys in blue will be back next season.
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By the Numbers
Power Play: 25.23 (4th)
Penalty Kill: 82.30 (7th)
Goals For: 254 (16th)
Goals Against: 207 (2nd)
While a case could be made for several players like Chris Kreider or Mika Zibanejad, the best player this season has been Artemi Panarin. He had 96 points overall, with 74 of those coming from assists. He has the ability to put the puck on the stick of a player like Zibanejad or Kreider to give them a chance to score. Some might argue that he can score, so he should shoot the puck more. But perhaps he doesn’t want to. Maybe he is just not paired with the players that compliment his style of play best. But, there is a reason the Rangers went out and signed him. He makes opportunities happen; sometimes, that is all a player needs to put the puck in the net.
Ryan Reaves was supposed to be the big nasty dude who was brought in to keep other teams from beating up on the Rangers’ young ones. However, despite the energy he brings to the team, he has no energy on the ice. He is slow, and for a league that is getting faster every season, he is getting left behind, metaphorically and literally. Reaves only had 13 points during the regular season and zero during the playoffs. He had the highest number of hits for a Rangers player with 279 and 52 during the playoffs (Kreider also had 52 during the playoffs). Although that is one of the reasons Reeves was brought to the team, it doesn’t make up for his slowness on the ice.
Behind the Bench Analysis
Gerard Gallant‘s first season coaching the Rangers has been a strange and exciting time. While the players have improved or found their game, a few issues need to be addressed before next season. The big problem with Gallant is his inability to adjust. Whether on the fly, during a game, or simple game-to-game adjustments. Understandably, line changes are a part of the adjustment process. However, it did not matter during the regular season games or playoff games, those line adjustments either worked for a while and then did not, or they never worked at all. Gallant needs to find another way of using the tools he has to achieve better results.
Front Office Analysis
Chris Drury‘s time as general manager hasn’t been bad, but it has not been great either. There is certainly room for improvement, which will come with experience. However, his trade deadline moves were almost spot on, no matter how you feel about his offseason decisions. The players he brought in were just what the Rangers needed at the time, and it will be interesting to see if any of them stay a Rangers. Drury has signed Vitali Kravtsov to a one-year contract, so that is a promising start to what seemed like a daytime drama throughout the season.
2022 NHL Entry Draft Picks
Currently, the Rangers only have four picks in the draft. Thanks to the trade with the Winnipeg Jets for Andrew Copp, they have no selection in the first round. It would have been a second-rounder, but the Rangers made it to the ECF, and Copp played the required number of games to boost it to the first-rounder. So Drury will either have to get creative with those choices or find a way to wheel and deal at draft time to garner more picks. However, the picks will be for the franchise’s future and will not make up for what the Rangers need now. However, it will be a promising start.
Offseason Wish/Checklist for 2022-2023
The front office and the players have a lot to look at throughout the offseason. First, Drury will need to upgrade the center position from what they currently have. Depth at the center position has been an issue for years, and it is time Drury gets it taken care of. Also, during the offseason, Drury will need to work the Gallant to get a better fourth line. Reaves is not the answer for the fourth line. The Rangers need to be able to roll all four lines whenever necessary, and they cannot do that at the moment. It was pretty easy to see during the playoffs, especially against Tampa Bay.
Gallant and the other coaches will need to find a way to improve faceoffs. During the regular season, they were at 48.1% (26th), and during the playoffs, they were at 44% (16th). While working on their faceoffs, they need to figure out how to get the players to score in 5v5 situations. They cannot continue to rely on the powerplay like they did this past season. It was easier to see how abysmal they were at 5v5 when the playoffs rolled around and fewer powerplays were awarded. Gallant needs to find a way to improve the team to increase their chances of being able to go the distance against a team like the Lightning.
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Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images