Despite missing out on the playoffs, the New York Rangers have made amazing progress

kaapo kakko
Mar 22, 2021; New York, New York, USA; The New York Rangers celebrate a second period goal by New York right wing Kaapo Kakko (24) against the Buffalo Sabresat Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Bennett/POOL PHOTOS-USA TODAY Sports

Hopefully by now, the dejection for many Rangers fans has subsided. Many are still hat stomping angry as my Twitter mentions and feed remind me. Trust me when I say this, you weren’t the only ones hoping for a shot at the playoffs. Every player in that locker-room wanted it more than you.

The Rangers took some amazing strides this season

The organization knew coming into the season there was a plan and they stuck with it. They infused more youth into the lineup and are the youngest team in the NHL. Six rookies debuted or about to this season. Alexis Lafrenière, K’Andre Miller, Vitali Kravtsov, Zac Jones, Tarmo Reunanen, and Morgan Barron all highly touted made their way into the lineup.

Even with all these young players debuting and others like Kaapo Kakko, Adam Fox, Ryan Lindgren, and Igor Shesterkin playing prominent roles, they made huge strides as a team statistically. There’s still five games left, but since last season here’s where they’ve improved to date.

.564 (T-18th in NHL)POINTS PERCENTAGE.569 (14th in NHL)
+12 (11th in NHL)GOAL DIFFERENTIAL+31 (7th in NHL)
-10 (21st in NHL)PENALTY DIFFERENTIAL+24 (2nd in NHL)
3.14 (T-23rd in NHL)GOALS AGAINST PER GAME2.63 (8th in NHL)
34.0 (30th in NHL)SHOTS AGAINST PER GAME29.2 (13th in NHL)
77.4% (T-23rd in NHL)PENALTY KILL %83.0% (7th in NHL)
Chart and Info Provided by NYR

The defense and penalty killing stand out

A ton of credit needs to first be placed at the feet of Jacques Martin. He did an amazing job with this young group of defenseman and the penalty kill. Some credit needs to go to Pavel Buchnevich for opening his mouth and letting David Quinn know he used to kill some penalties in the KHL. He’s been a revelation shorthanded and likely a huge reason why the Rangers will chose to hold on to him instead of trading him in a deal for a top center this summer.

new york rangers
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Thanks to reducing their shots per game by 4.8 they’ve gone from 23rd to 8th overall from last season. That also helped dropped their goals against per game from 3.14 to 2.63 this year. On the PK, they went from an awful 77.4% kill rate to 83% which is good for 7th in the entire league this season. A huge jump from 23 in 2019-20.

Offense is going to be extremely good

We know changes are coming and I detailed them earlier here. However, the play of both Alexis Lafrenière and Kaapo Kakko late in the season is extremely promising. Adam Fox who leads all defenseman in scoring is only going to get better. When you add that to players like Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, Ryan Strome, Chris Kreider, and Buchnevich you’re in good shape.

Should the Rangers be unable to get a center in a trade such as Jack Eichel, then Vitali Kravtsov as a full time third line winger is only going to be a bonus. Morgan Barron should provide that bite the Rangers need on the fourth line, but don’t discount Will Cuylle and Adam Edstrom getting extensive looks in camp next season. Both are huge and strong wingers that would make the opposition pay every time they are out there.

The bottom line is this is not how anyone wanted the season to end. Yes, they are still in it, but their playoff chances are now a minuscule 0.4% per MoneyPuck. In saying that, you would have to be pretty negative not to see all the positives this season.

Good things are coming. Really good things.

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Anthony Scultore is the founder of Forever Blueshirts and has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL... More about Anthony Scultore

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