New York Rangers last two games show a more dominant team
The New York Rangers have been shaky and somewhat inconsistent since returning from break in February. They’ve experienced scoring issues, defensive collapses, and still struggle to play a full 60 minutes.
New York Rangers breaking out of scoring slump
Since returning from break, the Rangers were struggling to score at five-on-five and even began to struggle on the power play. They were 0/2 on the power play against the Pittsburgh Penguins and 0/3 against the Vancouver Canucks two weekends ago. Overall, the Rangers’ power play has been strong this season. They currently rank fifth in the NHL at 25.5%, so when it failed to score the team lost both of those games.
In their last three games, the Rangers have scored a total of 12 goals. They beat the St. Louis Blues 5-3, the Devils 3-1, and the Jets 4-1. Though they beat the Blues by a two-goal margin, the lead didn’t exactly feel safe. It wasn’t the convincing effort the team needed, which largely due to giving up 3 goals in a little over 2 minutes.
Against the Devils and Jets, the Rangers made a clear change in their effort level. They began each game with a sense of urgency they too often have lacked this season and were able to maintain it. Obviously, as with most hockey games, the momentum shifted between both teams in both games. However, the Rangers put on more consistent pressure and carried it for most of the game.
Igor Shesterkin continues to bail Rangers out
The Rangers defense is significantly improved from last season. With two solid pairs and a third finding its way, one would think that they wouldn’t be so reliant on the goaltender. However, Igor Shesterkin keeps the Rangers in games on too many occasions. The Rangers defense is better but still young. Some players are still finding their way in the NHL. Aside from the defensemen themselves, the forwards are also a reason why Shesterkin is called upon to save games.
Shesterkin, 26, currently leads the league in save percentage at .942 and goals against average at 1.93.
The Rangers currently lack effective two-way forwards. Mika Zibanejad is one of the strongest, and the first two lines are generally solid in their own end. However, the bottom six are not as reliable. The third and fourth lines don’t generate much offense, therefore they need to be strong on defense. While the fourth line uses physicality and can play well defensively, the third line raises concerns. Overhauling the third line should be a priority for Chris Drury at the trade deadline.
While Shesterkin has been incredible for the Rangers all season, they need to improve on defense. Shesterkin can’t be expected to steal games in the playoffs where teams are relentless. The defense needs to tighten up. The defensemen can’t be entirely responsible for taking away the opposition’s chances; the forwards need to step up in this area as well.
Additionally, the Rangers may be facing a concern with backup goaltending. Alexandar Georgiev plays best when he’s playing consistently. He hasn’t had this opportunity because of how impressive Shesterkin has been and how vital he has been to the Rangers’ success. If Shesterkin were to be injured, there is no guarantee that Georgiev can be as reliable in net. Georgiev may not even be with the Rangers after the trade deadline. Overall, while this goaltending situation is working at the moment, it may not be sustainable.
Rangers need to maintain momentum as the playoffs approach
A theme throughout this season has been whether or not the Rangers are a legit contender. While they may not be ready to make a real run for the Cup just yet, they need to prove they can at least compete and deserve to play in the postseason. They have shown how good they can be when they get a complete effort from all parts of the lineup for 60 minutes a night. But there have also been too many missteps that indicate their immaturity as a playoff team.
The rough return from break was arguably the most concerning period for the team this season. But they seem to have recovered from it now. The goal going forward should be to keep the momentum going and prove they deserve to make the playoffs. Overcoming the struggles upon returning from break is already a step in the right direction.
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Note: All stats come from hockeyreference.com and nhl.com