The New York Rangers are 4-2-1 this season. That’s excellent when you consider that they’ve played a majority of those 7 games without 2/3 of their second line.
What’s also impressive is that they are doing it without a good power play or decent scoring 5 on 5. So far, the Blueshirts have just eight goals 5v5 and one 4v4. On the season, they rank 27th with just 2.14 goals per game.
Let’s be honest, if Igor Shesterkin doesn’t steal a win in Toronto, or Alexandar Georgiev didn’t hold the Rangers close in Ottawa, this team could easily be 2-4-1.
Hockey is a team sport, but the Rangers have relied heavily on the play of one key individual since he came to Broadway, Artemi Panarin. They need him to become “The Breadman” again.
Flat Bread: Panarin struggles
“He’s bringing it,” Gerard Gallant responded to an inquiry about Panarin. “He’s making his plays, he made the big play on the first goal (against Ottawa), he’ll be fine.”
Unfortunately, Panarin wasn’t fine against the Flames as he once again turned over the puck at inopportune times.
So far in the early going of the 2021-22 season, Artemi has 4 points (1G, 3A) in 7 games with a -4 rating. This is a far cry from the 1.38 points per game average over his first two seasons in NY. His scoring issues are a huge reason for the Rangers poor numbers at even strength and on the man advantage.
It isn’t just the fact that he’s not on his typical point per game pace, but more to do with his risky passes. Through the team’s first 7 games, he leads all Rangers with 8 turnovers. To his credit, he’s also tied with Adam Fox in takeaways with 9.
Another concerning factor is the difficulty he’s having getting his shots through. Panarin has a team low among forwards with only 35.3% of his shots making it on net. This is not like him at all. In his first season on Broadway, Panarin got 71.4% of his shot through, which was really high. Last year, he was at 47.7% and he needs to start getting closer to that number.
New York Rangers need more from Artemi Panarin
This is a slower start than we are used to seeing for Artemi. Back in 2019-20, he had 6 points with 4 goals through his first 7 contests, and in 2020-21 it was 8 points.
The question that needs answering is if this season’s early struggles are due to timing issues, missing Ryan Strome, defenses figuring out how to play him, or all three.
“We need a bit more from a lot of guys, so I’m not going to single out Panarin,” Gallant said in support of Artemi recently. The new head coach has been keeping a positive tone about the overall play of the team. There’s certainly plenty of concerns as I’ve already pointed out, but Panarin is the straw that stirs the drink on offense for the Rangers.
While this may not be considered a “slump” for many players, Panarin isn’t just any other player. He is one of the top five scorers in the game today, and generally considered the top left wing in the NHL.
Panarin needs to simplify his game. A few less through the eye of the needle passes at the blue-line would be a great place to start. Being taken off the point on the power play would likely be another good move for him. Artemi seems to be better working the half boards on the man advantage.
Bottom line, Breadman has been flat and it’s time for him to rise.
Stats from Hockey-Reference and NHL.com
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