Mollie Walker talks about the first place New York Rangers
The New York Rangers continue to roll coming off an impressive 4-1 win over the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night. Peter Laviolette’s charges sit comfortably atop the Metro Division with 21 points and they’re doing all this without Adam Fox (LTIR), Filip Chytil (IR), and both their top goalies listed as day-to-day.
On the latest Forever Blueshirts Show, Mollie Walker, who covers the team for the New York Post, stopped by to discuss the surging Rangers and their excellent start to the 2023-24 season.
How the New York Rangers are dealing with injuries
It has been some sort of minor miracle that the Rangers have started this well, despite battling injuries to start the 2023-24 season. With Adam Fox on long-term injury reserve (LTIR), Filip Chytil on injured reserve, and star goalie Igor Shesterkin missing the last three games with an undisclosed injury, the Rangers have continued to roll. Not to mention, Rangers backup goalie Jonathan Quick has gone down with an injury as well. New York was prepared for such an event, but it’s not something they wanted to have to implement so early in the season.
“It’s a pressing situation because of who Igor Shesterkin is, and who Jonathan Quick is, and who Quick has been so far this season,” Walker explained. “But it is the early days of the season and it’s better to be working out these kinks now in November, rather than February or March.”
When watching the Carolina game, Fox’s injury was obvious. We saw the knee-on-knee hit from Canes forward Sebastian Aho and Fox was subsequently on the ice for a second before not returning to the game. As for Filip Chytil, we never saw what caused the 24-year-old forward to miss time.
“Both players haven’t skated yet, so I don’t believe that bodes well for Filip Chytil’s return in the shortest amount of time he could possibly miss,” she notes. “I believe he’s eligible to return for Sunday’s game against Columbus. I don’t expect that to happen, just because he hasn’t started skating yet.”
The Rangers held practice again on Saturday and Laviolette mentioned that Chytil has not begun to skate. This likely means he will not be ready for Sunday’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Rangers’ next man-up mentality
Since the injury to Fox, the Rangers look to have made one of the biggest steals of free agency. Erik Gustafsson has emerged as a more than serviceable offensive defenseman, making $825,000 against the cap this year. The 31-year-old Swede has tallied three goals and six assists in 13 games this season, along with taking over the top power-play unit in Fox’s absence. Gustafsson has points in all three games that Fox has missed (1G 3A) and has embraced a next-man-up mentality.
“He’s done well slotting into that spot. Peter Laviolette has a lot of trust in Erik Gustafsson, which might not bode well for someone like Zac Jones,” Walker said. “I think it gives Laviolette some peace of mind that he’s rearranging things and the decisions that he’s making to fill in for Adam Fox.”
Artemi Panarin chasing Rangers history
It is impossible to talk about Rangers hockey this season without mentioning the dominance of Artemi Panarin. The Breadman has points in all 13 games this season, one game away from tying a franchise record of 14 consecutive games to start a regular season with a point set by Mr. Ranger himself Rod Gilbert. Panarin will have a chance to tie the record against his former club in Columbus on Sunday.
“He looks like he’s playing lighter,” Walker reveals. “He looks like a very unbothered, lighter Artemi Panarin. Everyone that has skated next to him has benefitted from it.”
One of those guys benefiting is Alexis Lafreniere, who Rangers brass and fans have been dying to see get going. Lafreniere has five goals in 13 games this year and is coming off his first three-point game in his young NHL career.
“He has been set up for more success this season, and that’s on Laviolette as well,” Walker said. “Immediately putting him in that right-wing spot on the second line, putting him on the power play. But even if the results are not coming at a consistent basis, what I’ve seen from Alexis Lafreniere is that he is engaged.”
Deja Vu all over again
The Rangers can barely afford a beer at Madison Square Garden with their cap situation, but here we are again talking about Patrick Kane and a reunion with the New York Rangers. Kane, who’s coming off of major surgery in the offseason, has had the Rangers name linked to him. However, when Adam Fox comes off of LTIR, the Rangers will have virtually zero cap space left. Despite the loud calls from Ranger fans, Barclay Goodrow is not going anywhere to make room for a 34-year-old defensive liability coming off major hip surgery.
“I would really be happy to never answer another question about Patrick Kane ever again,” Walker laughs. “Would the Rangers want to add a guy like Patrick Kane? The name, sure. The uncertainty of the player coming off of major surgery. I don’t know that’s a risk the Rangers want to take.”
The Rangers conclude their brief three-game homestand on Sunday against Columbus, one of the two teams that have beaten them in regulation this year, before not playing for a week and starting a four-game road trip.