3 New York Rangers that need to step up in 2023
The New York Rangers kicked off the New Year the right way by beating the Florida Panthers 5-3 on Sunday. They now come home for a huge matchup against the red-hot Carolina Hurricanes, who have won 11 straight, on Tuesday night.
Here’s a look at three Blueshirts that must step up in 2023 for the team to return to the playoffs. Let’s dive in.
New York Rangers that must step up: Jacob Trouba
In his first season wearing the C, Trouba has been measured with his words and keeping things positive. However, when the team really need it, he let his lifeless team have it in an awful loss against the Chicago Blackhawks in early December. His helmet throwing outburst led to a 7-game winning streak.
“It was an enough of is enough attitude,” John Giannone told Forever Blueshirts. “But no one expected what Trouba did. It was surprising since no one throws equipment or a helmet at the general direction of the bench. While there wasn’t too much of a reaction from the them at the time, the players spoke about it over the course of a couple of days and responded.”
The captain of the Blueshirts has been excellent this season when it comes to stepping up and delivering big hits as expected. However, with the Rangers heading into 2023, they need more from him both offensively and defensively.
Trouba has 11 points in 38 games this season and his .29 points per game is well off last year’s mark of .48 points per game. More goals would be nice too as he contributed 11 in 2021-22 but has just 2 this campaign.
Defensively, the Rangers need him to find that shutdown form he displayed last season. He was a +25 and helped his squad finish second in the Metropolitan Division last year. So far in 2022-23, he’s a -4 and was struggling to clear pucks prior to the team’s solid run that began in December.
The 28 year-old defender is showing signs of coming around. Starting with a win over the St. Louis Blues on December 5, Trouba has 2 goals, 5 points, and a +5 rating in 12 games. Coincidentally, the Rangers are 9-2-1 in that span.
The Rangers first ever postmodern #1 overall draft pick (2020) was having a decent season up until a four to five game stretch that led to a healthy scratch on December 29 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Head coach Gerard Gallant made it very clear that his issue with Lafreniere was consistency.
“I didn’t like the way he played the last game (against Washington). Three or four games prior to that were okay, but not great either,” Gallant explained. “Just be more consistent and play better and he wants the same thing.”
Lafreniere, 21, returned to the lineup in a 5-3 win against the Florida Panthers on January 1 and finished the game with 1 shot, 1 block, and a -1 rating. However, his teammates recognized his hard-working efforts and awarded him the Broadway Hat as player of the game.
This season, he’s posted 17 points in 37 games. As Gallant noted prior to the scratch, Lafreniere struggled with just 1 goal and 2 assist in the previous 8 matches.
While Lafreniere is well on pace to top his career-high of 31 points set in 2021-22, there’s so much more he can bring offensively. There’s simply too much talent in Alexis’ game not to produce.
In 2023, Lafreniere needs to start being a more physical force and work on his skating which has been pointed out as a weakness by several anonymous scouts recently.
The Rangers need three lines scoring and contributing if they want to finish in the top three of the super-tight Metro. No matter which line Lafreniere is on, he needs to step up and be noticed every game.
The Rangers went out a spent $1.5 million on a proven veteran backup in Jaroslav Halak. They believed so much in the 37 year-old goalie that they gave him a full no-move clause on a 1-year deal to ensure his signing.
When Halak started the season on an abysmal 0-5-1 run, the sweat must’ve been pouring down GM Chris Drury’s forehead. The team couldn’t send him down or trade him because of his full no-move. Simply put, they were stuck.
In late November, Halak started putting things together and is now 3-1-0 in his last four starts. Even more assuring are his improved GAA of 2.78 and .910 save percentage during the same time frame.
For some context, Halak posted an awful .881 save percentage and was allowing over 3 goals per game (3.20 GAA) in his previous six starts.
Now the Rangers need him to continue this play in order to spot Igor Shesterkin much needed rest for the remainder of the season.
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