New York Rangers confidence soaring after last three games

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Jan 3, 2022; New York, New York, USA; New York Rangers celebrate the goal by New York Rangers left wing Chris Kreider (20) against the Edmonton Oilers during the third period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

Since returning from break, the New York Rangers are 3-1 with their only loss being to the Florida Panthers by a score of 4-3. Since then, the Rangers have shown that they can compete with the NHL’s best, something they’ve been needing to prove.

While the two games against the Tampa Bay Lightning are a small sample size, the team still showed a complete effort and a willingness to compete. Their last game included shutting down the dynamic duo of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl beating the Oilers 4-1.

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Rangers getting excellent goaltending

Igor Shesterkin went from being the long awaited Rangers starter to one of the top goaltenders in the NHL. He currently ranks second in the league in save percentage at .936, fifth in goals against average at 2.09, and always seems to know where the puck is. He posted a shutout against Tampa Bay on Sunday making 38 saves. In the previous game, Shesterkin was able to shut down all three the Lightning’s top scorers used in the shootout as well. This is certainly impressive against the Lightning’s elite offense.

Alexandar Georgiev has gotten more opportunities this year and looks more like the goalie we’re used to seeing. Playing fewer games last season caused him to struggle, but he is playing much better now. The Rangers can trust him in net as much as they can trust Shesterkin. He played well against the Edmonton Oilers on Monday night, only allowing one goal on 34 shots. He, along with the Rangers defense, was able to hold Connor David and Leon Draisaitl off the board.

Georgiev’s play since stepping into the third period of 1-0 lead over the San Jose Sharks on December 3rd, to replace an injured Igor Shesterkin has been stellar. In that time, Georgiev’s stats rival that of his counterpart. In 8 appearances he is 4-2-1 with a 1.70 GAA and a .940 SV%.

Shesterkin’s stats since that game are 3-1 with 1.89 GAA and a .940 SV%. Impressive goaltending indeed from the Blueshirts backstops.

Overall, both goaltenders have not only been reliable for the Rangers, but have exceeded that. Goaltending is one element the Rangers can be confident in.

Contributions coming from up and down the lineup

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Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

Chris Kreider and Artemi Panarin have been the most consistent Rangers this season. Mika Zibanejad began to pick up his game prior to the break and has made a strong return. He had a hat trick on Sunday against Tampa Bay and was 71% on faceoffs, something the Rangers generally struggle with.

Ryan Strome continues to be a solid second line center. He has two goals and two assists for four points in the last three games. His chemistry with Panarin is undeniable, but in the last two games, he has had success with different linemates with Panarin in COVID protocol.

Barclay Goodrow and Alexis Lafrenière have each shown improvement of late, particularly on a line with Ryan Strome. Goodrow was more noticeable in the last few games leading up to the pause, and his last three games have been excellent. He has two goals and three assists for five point points in that stretch. Hopefully Goodrow’s better offensive play will continue. It may have simply taken time for him to adjust to this team.

Lafrenière’s all around play is showing progress. Recently, he has been better defensively, especially on Sunday against Tampa Bay. He was also named second star Monday night against the Oilers tallying a goal and an assist. As a first overall pick, there’s a lot of pressure on Lafrenière in his second year. He has begun to elevate his game and is becoming more noticeable on the ice. It also helps that Gerard Gallant is giving him more playing time; he tends to play better with more ice time.

Last three games a source of confidence

The major difference for the Rangers between this season and last season is that the lineup is more complete now. Due to Chris Drury’s plan and Gallant’s coaching, every player has a role and is working to fulfill it. These last three games have been proof of that. The Rangers have demonstrated work ethic, a no quit attitude, and a responsibility to fulfill their roles.

In the last three games, particularly the two against the Lightning, the Rangers illustrated that they can be a competitive team in the NHL and that their success thus far has not been a fluke. They should take the confidence and momentum from this stretch into their western road trip. Right now, they are putting themselves in a position to make the playoffs and possibly even make a real run.

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