This past week for the New York Rangers has had several ups and downs. More downs than ups, but a roller-coaster ride, nevertheless. Fans needed to sit down and buckle up for the wild and strange twists that befell them.
Don’t Forget the Popcorn
Just when you thought the soap opera that is the Rangers was over, it comes back like a questionable second-season plotline. This time, the plot centers on information about questionable behavior that’s being bandied about concerning Artemi Panarin. Rangers fans and others around the hockey world woke up at the beginning of last week to a story out of Russia that Panarin got into a physical altercation with an 18-year-old woman in 2011.
The NHL, KHL, and subsequent organizations always take accusations of this nature seriously. However, the accusations leveled against Panarin are highly suspicious given the fact that he has been a vocal supporter of Andrei Navalny. Navalny is known as an opposition leader in Russia against Vladimir Putin. The accuser, Andrei Nazarov, was Panarin’s former KHL coach and is a known supporter of Putin.
In light of the accusations leveled against him, Panarin announced a leave of absence from the team. It’s interesting to note that nothing about Nazarov’s story has been confirmed yet. The hotel the incident allegedly took place in has no record of any reports of such an altercation occurring.
Panarin’s KHL teammates who were there have mentioned to various news outlets that they’ve never heard of anything like it happening. Some mentioned outright that the accusations were false. It’s important to note that there are no confirmations from the local police in Riga, Latvia, that any incident occurred. Nothing at the time was reported to the KHL.
“Artemi vehemently and unequivocally denies any and all allegations in this fabricated story,” the Rangers said in a statement on Monday, February 22, 2021. “This is clearly an intimidation tactic being used against him for being outspoken on recent political events. Artemi is obviously shaken and concerned and will take some time away from the team. The Rangers fully support Artemi and will work with him to identify the source of these unfounded allegations.”
The Rangers will be missing Panarin for an indefinite period of time in the lineup. How and when the issue will be resolved is a mystery to everyone.
New York Rangers @ Philadelphia Flyers
Wells Fargo Center
February 24, 2021
The Rangers came to the game against the Flyers missing several key players, including Panarin and K’Andre Miller. Late in the day, the Rangers put Miller on the COVID list alongside Kaapo Kakko. Jonny Brodzinski was brought up from the taxi squad for the second time this season and put on the fourth line with Kevin Rooney and Phillip Di Giuseppe.
Despite a hat trick from Chris Kreider, including a few power-play goals, the Rangers lost to the Flyers in a 4-3 game. New York never had the lead at any point during the contest, and it seemed Kreider attempted to put the game on his shoulders while trying to play keep-up. Unfortunately, he was unable to complete the task before time ran out.
Fans know the Rangers tend to let the opposing team score mere seconds into a game. However, this time they didn’t let the Bruins score until over seven minutes had gone by. The goal by Erik Gustafsson was his first as a Flyer.
Less than two minutes later, Kreider scored to even the game, assisted by Mika Zibanejad and Adam Fox. The Flyers gained the lead again with less than five minutes left to play in the period on a goal by Shayne Gostisbehere.
The second period continued to show that the Rangers were still having issues with penalty killing. They took eight penalties throughout the game; four of them came in this period. James van Riemsdyk put the Flyers up a little over four minutes in, but four minutes later Kreider evened the score again. Zibanejad and Ryan Strome are credited with the assists.
It has been the norm for the past few seasons for former Rangers players to score on their old team, and Kevin Hayes was more than happy to oblige. He gave the Flyers back the lead with a little over five minutes left in the period.
The third period was more back and forth, with little going on for either team. The Rangers were still penalty happy, and Kreider was on a one-man mission to win it. He got his hat trick with help from Ryan Lindgren and Colin Blackwell.
New York tried, but the game might have been closer or even won had they been able to stay out of the penalty box. Giving your opponent eight one-man advantages is never a good strategy plan. Two of the Flyers’ goals were on the power-play.
New York Rangers vs. Boston Bruins
Madison Square Garden
February 26, 2021
For the first time this season, the NHL started allowing fans back in for games. There were approximately 1,800 in attendance for this one, and what a difference it made. The routing of the Boston Bruins by the Blueshirts in a 6-2 win says it all. They looked like the Rangers team fans had been expecting since the beginning of the season.
The first period opened with Fox and Brad Marchand getting into a small fracas with Marchand dropping his gloves. No penalty was called, though a penalty for roughing usually does in a situation like that. It might have been because nothing really happened, but who knows what truly goes on in the referees’ minds.
The Rangers scored a little over midway into the period. The goal was originally credited to Julien Gauthier but was later changed to Di Giuseppe due to a deflection. Gauthier and Lindgren were credited with the assists.
In the second period, the Rangers were putting pucks into the net like it was nothing. There were seven minor penalties taken, three by the home team and four by the Bruins. Strome, with help from Alexis Lafreniere and Kreider, put the Rangers up by two.
A few minutes later, the Bruins got on the board with a goal from Patrice Bergeron. Blackwell nets a power-play goal with less than two minutes left to go, and 12 seconds later Kreider puts the Rangers up 4-1. Strome was credited with assists on both goals, and Fox gets a point on Blackwell’s.
Only 64 seconds into the third, Pavel Buchnevich netted a goal during some four-on-four hockey, thanks to penalties taken on both sides at the end of the second period. Fox and Lindgren are credited with assists. In only his third game of the season, Brodzinski got his first goal as a Ranger, with a little help from Rooney and Brendan Smith. Marchand got another point on the board for the Bruins, but the Rangers were too stubborn and held onto the lead by then.
It is amazing to note that 12 different players got at least one point, with Strome getting three on a goal and two assists.
New York Rangers vs. Boston Bruins
Madison Square Garden
February 28, 2021
Early morning or afternoon games have not been the best for the Rangers in general. This one was no exception. After thoroughly trouncing the Bruins two days prior, the Rangers were back to their inconsistent selves. Boston looked like the team we know them to be in this game, and they played like it, beating the Rangers 4-1.
In the first period, there was a scary moment for Alexandar Georgiev when Nick Ritchie crashed the net and fell on top of his head and neck. Despite the cuts and bleeding, Georgiev stayed in, and about a minute later, Charlie Coyle scored for the Bruins. Immediately following the goal, Georgiev was pulled due to concussion protocol, and Igor Shesterkin took over goaltending duties.
The game continued on, with each team having chances until Trent Frederic put one in, giving Boston a 2-0 lead with less than two minutes left.
Georgiev was allowed back in the net at the start of the second, appearing to have no lingering effects from the run-in with Ritchie. The only goal in the period came a little over halfway through from Charlie McAvoy, putting the Bruins up 3-0. Boston was able to keep the Rangers shut down and eliminate opportunities to get back in the game.
The third period seemed to start just like the second. No one was scoring and the Rangers were still shut down. This time the Rangers scored midway through the frame, with Blackwell giving the Blueshirts a chance for a comeback. Lafreniere and Miller were credited with the assists for the goal.
After the score, the Rangers did seem to play a little better, looking like they did in the previous game against the Bruins. Despite that, Boston sealed the deal with an empty-net goal by Coyle.
The teams tended to get a little chirpy throughout the game, and there were several scuffles sprinkled in for good measure. The one fans probably wanted to see more of was Brendan Lemieux deciding to have fisticuffs with Ritchie. You cannot fault a player for trying to send a message to stay away from the goalie, but it should have been done earlier in the game. Send the message, then stop being consistently inconsistent.
Keeping the Roller-Coaster Going
The Rangers have three games in the upcoming week against the Buffalo Sabres and New Jersey Devils. They will take on Buffalo at home and face the Devils in two away games at the end of the week.
Despite the improvement in their game, they are still sitting at 7-9-3 with 17 points overall and are two spots out of a playoff bid. If New York continues to improve, there may be hope for the season yet.