Rangers Recall: Jonathan Quick brilliant as team in great playoff position on Thanksgiving

The New York Rangers, thanks to the unbelievable goaltending of veteran Jonathan Quick, walked out of Pittsburgh with a 1-0 win over the Penguins on Wednesday.

Already having celebrated an early Thanksgiving dinner at Nonna Trocheck’s casa, the team is in prime position of making the playoffs as they sit atop the Metro Division. Sporting a record of 13-3-1, their 27 points is 5 more than the second-place Washington Capitals, who have played one less game.

Over the course of almost the last two decades, U.S. Thanksgiving has been used as a key benchmark for teams’ chances to make the playoffs. Anyone in a playoff spot when folks across America are carving up a Turkey will make the playoffs nearly 80% of the time.

From the start of the salary cap era in 2005 until the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 75% of the teams that were in a playoff position on Thanksgiving ended up making the playoffs that season. That continued in the last two full NHL seasons with four non-playoff-positioned teams ending up in the playoffs in 2021-22 and three making it last season.

USA TODAY

Let’s take a look at some key takeaways after the Rangers’ latest victory.

Related: Jonathan Quick blanks Penguins

Rangers Recall: Great Goaltending and a Great Laf

NHL: New York Rangers at Pittsburgh Penguins
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Jonathan Quick

At 37 years old and coming off two very subpar seasons, there were a lot of question marks regarding the signing of Jonathan Quick this past summer. Throw in a preseason to forget, and many fans wanted journeyman Louis Domingue to backup Igor Shesterkin to start the season.

After posting his second shutout in 2023-24, Quick sits atop the NHL for goalies with at least 6 games played in GAA (1.68) and save percentage (.940). With a record of 5-0-1, his goaltending is a major reason for where the team sits today.

Whatever adjustments he’s made to regain his form, credit must also be given to goaltending coach extraordinaire Benoit Allaire. Not only has Quick’s form and positioning returned, but his explosive reflexes have as well. This combined with a never-say-die compete level that’s never left him make him one of the Rangers’ most valuable players to start this campaign.

You’ve got to love the Benny Effect.

Alexis Lafreniere

There was only one goal scorer in Pittsburgh and that was Alexis Lafreniere, who converted a nice Mika Zibanejad feed off a neutral zone turnover for a breakaway game-winner.

For the first overall pick in the 2020 draft, it was his fourth goal in the last five matches. That ups his total to 8 on the year and puts him on pace for 38 goals this season as he slowly puts to rest talk of him being a bust.

The 22 year-old has 12 points in 17 games this season, but believes he has room for improvement.

“It’s pretty good,” Lafreniere told the NY Post. “But I can still, I think, play better.”

Zac Jones excellent against fast skating teams

For as much as Jones struggled against a physical team like the Dallas Stars on Monday going a -3, he shines versus speedy teams like the Pittsburgh Penguins.

While the 23 year-old did not register any points on Wednesday, he finished with a +1 rating despite being forced to go up against Sidney Crosby for most of the night. Penguins’ head coach had the benefit of last change being the host team as he tried to get Crosby out against Jones and Braden Schneider as much as possible.

Not only did Jones handle it well, but he was great at countering and getting the puck the other way. There’s nothing Jones can do to change the fact that he’s 5-10′ and 176 lbs, so it will be up to the Rangers to work on him to be better in front of his own net and at least get body position against bigger opponents.

Note: To all our readers, thank you so much for supporting Forever Blueshirts this year. From the staff and myself have a Happy Thanksgiving.

Anthony Scultore is the founder of Forever Blueshirts and has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL... More about Anthony Scultore