3 Rangers that have to step up in second half of 2023-24 season
The New York Rangers have reached the second half of the 2023-24 season on a four-game losing streak (0-3-1). As they get set to take on the Washington Capitals in Game 42, there are three players that need to step up in a big way if this team hopes to get out of this funk.
At the top of our list is goaltender Igor Shesterkin, followed by defenseman K’Andre Miller, and closing out with forward Kaapo Kakko. The Blueshirts need these individuals to find another gear and help right this ship.
3 New York Rangers that have to step up
There’s no doubt that the most important player on the Blueshirts for the last few seasons needs to be their best player again.
Goaltender Igor Shesterkin, who won a Vezina Trophy in the 2021-22 campaign, and used to steal games on the regular, needs to step up. And not just step up, take a huge leap from his average play this season.
Over the course of 26 appearances to date, his record stands at 16-10-0 with a 2.90 GAA, and a pedestrian .901 save percentage. What’s even more surprising is he hasn’t posted a single shut out in 2023-24. These numbers are a far cry from his career GAA of 2.45, and .921 save percentage.
As bad as the Blueshirts’ defense has been in the last month plus, it pales in comparison to how bad they were over the last two seasons. Giving up 40 shots per game and tons of high-danger chances from the slot was almost a nightly occurrence. Yet, the 28 year-old goalie would thrive under the barrage of runner and steal games. They need him to start doing that again.
It’s not being talked about enough, but after a promising year in 2022-23, K’Andre Miller is struggling to find that level of play.
The 24 year-old defender has all the talent in the world, can skate like the wind, and has an underrated shot. But some of his decisions on both sides of the puck have been questionable. Furthermore, as the team struggles, he seems to be pressing and making even more mistakes in the defensive zone than he did to start the campaign.
To date, he’s posted seven goals and nine assists for 16 points through 39 games. That puts him on pace for 32 points, a decent regression from the 43 points he potted last season. Regardless, the Rangers need him to be better defensively, more than adding to the offensive side of the game.
The Rangers desperately need Kaapo Kakko to start producing as the second-overall pick of the draft. Since 2019, Kakko has struggled to find the scoring touch he displayed playing at the World Juniors with Finland.
While many will point to the Rangers organization not immediately playing him in the top-six as a reason for not reaching his potential, he’s been given ample opportunities over the last few seasons. That being said, he’s yet to show that’s where he belongs.
Before going down with a lower-body injury in November, he was demoted from the first line to the third due to a lack of production. In 20 games, he has just two goals and one assist. That’s incomprehensible from a player with his size, speed, and skillset.
As Kakko gets back into action, the Blueshirts expect an immediate boost to their puck possession numbers, which he thrives at. However, the 22 year-old forward needs to turn possession into points in a big way to help the Rangers in the second half.
Note: Stats via Hockey-Reference