New York Rangers storylines centered around injuries and inconsistency
The New York Rangers are off to a good start to the 2022-23 season. Just not the one many thought they would have after going to the Eastern Conference Final last year.
At 6-4-2, the Blueshirts’ 14 points have them tied for third in the Metropolitan Division with the New York Islanders, who have a game in hand. What’s more concerning is their -2 goal differential on the season.
That differential is odd when you have last year”s Vezina winning goalie with a 6-1-2 record and sporting a solid .916 SV% with a 2.41 GAA.
When it comes to early storylines, the inconsistency of Jaroslav Halak is greatly concerning.
New York Rangers storylines: Jaroslav Halak
Halak, 37, signed with the Rangers as their new backup on a one-year deal worth $1.5 million. While his 4-7-2 record with Vancouver last season was underwhelming, he still posted a .903 SV% and a 2.94 GAA.
However, after a solid start against the Winnipeg Jets in his first outing where he posted a .909 SV%, Halak has been subpar at best in his next two games. His second start was his worst as he allowed 5 goals on 21 shots to a bad Columbus team.
“I’m just going to talk about myself,” Halak said after the game. “I got outplayed by their goalie and I need to be better next game. Hopefully down the road I can help the guys. I wasn’t my best tonight.”
While the veteran goalie has taken ownership of his play, he needs to be better quickly. This season, he is 0-3-0 with a bloated GAA of 3.69 and a terrible .867 SV%.
Halak has a full no-move clause in his contract which means the Rangers can’t send him down to the Wolf Pack unless he allows it, which is unlikely.
Piling up injuries
It started with Vitali Kravtsov getting injured after just 88 seconds of play in the team’s 3-1 season opening win against the Tampa Bay Lightning. He’s now been injured two more times and still remains out. Kravtsov has only played a grand total of 4 games out of the Rangers 12 this season.
Filip Chytil was the next big injury after taking an inadvertent elbow to the head just two minutes into a loss against the Blue Jackets. He’s only been able to suit up for 6 of the team’s matches after being diagnosed with a concussion. Chytil may dress on Sunday versus the Red Wings.
Now there’s concern regarding Ryan Lindgren after leaving the team’s loss to the Boston Bruins midway through the first period on Thursday with an upper-body injury. If he’s out for an extended period of time that will put Libor Hajek into the top four defense. Not exactly ideal.
There’s been other small injuries as well like Sammy Blais missing 3 games with an upper-body injury and Ryan Carpenter being out for a game after a scary skate to the head incident.
This has forced the Blueshirts to go with a 23 man roster and thus running up against the salary cap ceiling. With only $173K in space, they’re limited in what they can do, including at the trade deadline since that amount is prorated.
Keep that in mind every time the Patrick Kane to the Rangers rumors come up.
One thing that the injuries have done is provide opportunities for certain players to move up the lineup and play more minutes.
Julien Gauthier is the biggest example as he’s been real good after being one of the last cuts in training camp. He has 2 points (1G – 1A) in 5 games since being recalled from the Wolf Pack and is noticeable in every game using his speed.
Zac Jones was a healthy scratch for several games before being given an opportunity against the Dallas Stars to help the Rangers end an 0-2-2 slide. He scored the game-winning goal and added an assist for a big win on the road. He’s been rock solid since.
Kaapo Kakko and Alexis Lafrenière
Kaapo Kakko is holding his spot on the top line even though he isn’t picking up a ton of points. The 2019 second overall pick looks better than he ever has in his previous three seasons.
“He’s confident with the puck, he’s moving his feet, getting closer to the net and creating chances,” Gerard Gallant said. “One of the coaches on the last road trip said, ‘This Kakko kid has really taken a big step.’ We know that, but when another coach says that you know he’s really coming on.”
Kakko, 21, has 5 points in 12 games this season.
Meanwhile, Alexis Lafrenière has been very strong on the second line despite playing his off wing. Of course, playing with Vincent Trocheck and Artemi Panarin helps. One thing that you see with the second line is how Panarin and Lafrenière are continually switching sides during play to keep the defense off balance.
Lafrenière, 21, also has 5 points in 12 games this season. The 2020 first overall pick seems poised for a breakout.
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