The New York Rangers decline and subsequent journey back from obscurity have been hard for loyal Rangers fans. However, they have come a long way since 2014 when they lost to the Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup final.
This season’s start has been surprising, or even out of left field. Especially if you compare the last few seasons to this one. The Rangers are good, but not good enough yet. It’s evident when you watch their games against teams like the Colorado Avalanche.
Granted, the Rangers are a young team, and against a well-oiled team, it shows. Although losing is never fun, it should be considered a lesson in where to improve on the ice. Teams like the Avalanche should be regarded as a measure of growth and a benchmark to strive toward.
Not Playing With a Full Deck
While certain players have shown up in the right moment and are finding their footing, the top six are not firing on all cylinders. Unfortunately, at the moment, the Rangers do not have enough depth to make up for it.
Fans are eagerly waiting for the return of pre-COVID Mika Zibanejad. As a result, he’s not gotten recharged back to full capacity or his pay grade. Artemi Panarin has been good at setting up people, but the past few seasons have not been kind in granting goals. This season he has nine in 28 games.
Chris Kreider‘s performance has been unexpected, to say the least. This is the most consistent he has been in a while, and while he has his streaks, he has been putting up points this season. Unfortunately, he has gone five games without a goal, if you include last night’s game against the Arizona Coyotes. However, his three assists from last night might make up for that—just a little.
Let’s Go Boys
The issue most fans are concerned with is the development of the young players. Not everyone is going to come in and be NHL ready like Connor McDavid, but it is concerning when there is only a slight improvement in their play. Not to disparage what they have done to move forward in their careers, it has not been consistent or as timely as some would have thought. However, the young players appear to have improved over last season.
Alexis Lafreniere is in his second season and currently has six goals and two assists in 29 games. He and the Rangers organization are under a lot of scrutiny due to him being the first overall pick the franchise has had in the modern NHL draft. Likewise, Kaapo Kakko, who is in this third year, has had a lot of eyes on him. He was the second overall pick in the 2019 draft, and for this season, he has had five goals and five assists in 25 games.
Don’t forget Filip Chytil, Libor Hajek, K’Andre Miller, and Nils Lundkvist. They are all earning ice time and getting experience on a team that is on an upward climb. Lafreniere, Chytil, and Kakko are further down the depth chart behind players like Zibanejad, Panarin, and Kreider.
Night and Day
The Rangers have had their best start to a season since the 1993-94 team. It’s also eerie similar to the 1971-72 team. Both of those Rangers teams made it to the Stanley Cup final, but only the 1993-94 team brought the cup home. The 2013-14 team didn’t have quite as good a start, but it was decent.
Does this mean they have a chance to make it to the Finals? As it stands now, no. They are a playoff-bound team, barring any serious injuries or a complete meltdown.
What We Have Learned
The Rangers have yet to play a full 60-minute game, but they are still winning games. The team also has a tendency to show up in a game at the last possible moment. The last game against the Avalanche is a great example. They tried really hard in the waning moments of the game, but by then, it was too late.
There is a tendency not to be able to hold the lead, especially in the third period. Whether it is due to complacency or laziness is unclear. However, fans are able to feel more confident than they were last year about the names coming down to the last few minutes.
Overall, the Rangers are currently sitting in a place many would have thought was a pipe dream, especially with a new coach at the helm. However, they are first in the Metropolitan Division and tied for 41 points with the Washington Capitals.
There is no quit in New York, and the boys in blue have taken that idea and ran with it. Hopefully, they will keep it going straight into the playoffs.
Follow Liz Pendergraft on Twitter @lizzibear824
Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images