Rangers Recall: A new Artemi Panarin, same old Igor Shesterkin in home opener win
The New York Rangers stuck to Peter Laviolette’s system against the Arizona Coyotes coming away with a 2-1 victory in their home opener.
It wasn’t easy, and it was far from perfect as the team made several mistakes getting into penalty trouble. That being said, the penalty kill units were huge, wiping out a two-man advantage for a full two minutes in the later stages of the game.
“I thought it was a lot better from a five on five standpoint,” Peter Laviolette said about his team’s systems play. “There’s a couple of things we’ll talk about where we got caught, but there wasn’t an abundant of opportunities [against]. We stayed patient.”
Ultimately special teams played a big part in the win, with the Rangers power play going 1-3 and the penalty kill 4-5.
Let’s recall some of the key takeaways from the Rangers’ win over the Yotes.
Rangers Recall: 2-1 win vs Coyotes
Same Old Igor Shesterkin
Looking back at last night’s win over Arizona, you have to start with the brilliant goaltending of Igor Shesterkin. The 27 year-old turned aside 26 of 27, including a penalty shot by Jason Zucker late in the third period to preserve the 2-1 lead.
For his career spanning 5 years, he’s a perfect 4-4 on penalty shots.
“We played a great game and it wasn’t easy,” Shesterkin said afterwards. “On the penalty shot, it’s more like mind games. I was ready for a shot on the blocker side. Right now, I want to go relax with my family.”
Shesterkin quickly returned to form after a weird loss 5-3 in Columbus where he was dinged for 5 goals against on 21 shots. A lot of that had to do with the team’s incredibly sloppy and disorganized play in front of him, but last night they were adhering to the system to eliminate traffic in front of the net.
In the early going of this season, Shesterkin is 2-1-0 with a .904 save percentage and a 2.38 GAA. You can expect those numbers to get way better as the Rangers get more comfortable executing Laviolette’s systems.
Straight Ahead Artemi Panarin
Thus far, Artemi Panarin has 1 goal and 3 assists for 4 points in 3 games. That ties him for second place in scoring on the team with Mika Zibanejad and Adam Fox, who both have 4 assists. All three players are behind the red-hot Chris Kreider (4 goals, 1 assist, 5 points).
So why highlight the 31 year-old skilled winger Panarin over the power forward Kreider? It’s because Panarin seems to be scoring this season a little different from the way he has in the past.
Aside from shaving his head bald to get rid of all the bad vibes from last season’s abysmal playoff performance, Panarin is playing a more north-south style of game. That was clearly evident on the goal he scored to open the season in Buffalo and the assist on Vincent Trocheck’s game-winner on Monday. In each case, Panarin was coming down the middle of the ice.
Don’t get me wrong, Panarin is still able to be creative and go a little east-west from time to time. However, the Rangers leading scorer for the past four seasons, is committed to getting off the perimeter to create less fancy scoring chances and more straight-forward high danger ones in 2023-34.
It’s paying off.
Blake Wheeler looked good, K’Andre Miller had an off night
In the loss to Columbus, I pointed out Blake Wheeler’s struggles through two games, but I also mentioned there’s no need to panic.
While the 37 year-old veteran still seems a step slower than Vincent Trocheck and Will Cuylle, against the Coyotes he played his best game for the Rangers. Wheeler did so by using his size to control the boards and cause chaos in front of the net, nearly scoring twice.
Surprisingly, K’Andre Miller had a rough night with the puck. At one point in the second period, he made a terrible decision in his own zone, leading to a turnover and being forced to take a penalty. It wasn’t just that one play either, as it looked like Miller was struggling all night to control the puck and make plays.
That being said, he still managed to be a +1 for the game, and despite the giveaway, Miller was credited with 2 takeaways. A rare blip on the 23 year-old rising star’s radar.