Rangers Recall: Key takeaways from biggest win of season in Carolina

NHL: New York Rangers at Carolina Hurricanes
James Guillory-USA TODAY SportsCredit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers are good. Like, really good. Like, Stanley Cup contender good.

And so are the Carolina Hurricanes.

Which is what made the Rangers’ 1-0 win in Raleigh on Tuesday night more than just another regular-season victory in an 82-game grind.

Forced to be at their best – because, make no mistake, the Hurricanes were equal to the task Tuesday – the Rangers skated away with their biggest win of the season, on the road, extending their lead in the Metropolitan Division to six points with 17 games to play.

That’s significant because the Rangers and Hurricanes won’t play again in the regular season. There’s not another chance for the Hurricanes to make up ground head-to-head.

Finishing first in the division is a big deal because there’s a very good chance that the Rangers and Hurricanes will meet in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. And surely the Rangers would love to have the MSG home-ice advantage against an opponent that is as deep and probably just as good as they are.

That said, let’s examine a few takeaways from the Blueshirts’ big win.

Related: Rangers rookie Matt Rempe suspended 4 games by NHL

Rangers Recall: Key takeaways from massive win against Hurricanes

NHL: New York Rangers at Carolina Hurricanes
James Guillory-USA TODAY SportsCredit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Igor Shesterkin wasn’t Rangers only standout in Carolina

Let’s start with Igor Shesterkin. There might not be a better or more dialed-in goalie in the NHL right now than Shesterkin. He’s flipped the script 180 degrees from January, when he was a questionable All-Star selection trying to battle his way out of a disturbing slump.

Shesterkin is 9-1-1 in his past 11 starts, has three shutouts in his past 10 games and posted shutouts in consecutive starts for the fourth time in his career. Only Lorne Chabot (six times) and Ed Giacomin (five) have accomplished that feat more often in Rangers history.

He made things look easy again Tuesday. His positioning and timing were impeccable. Again. Shesterkin is in a great place with the playoffs just about a month away. And that is probably the best news the Rangers could receive.

Yet, the 1-0 win wasn’t just about the Rangers goalie. He got plenty of help. Even if they scored just one goal for him, the Rangers also blocked 23 shots in front of Shesterkin. The Rangers hounded the Hurricanes all over the ice, taking a page out Carolina’s playbook. Playing the second of a back-to-back set, the Rangers showed resolve, skating with smarts and purpose for 60 minutes. 

It was a winning formula, not only for this game, but for the playoffs this spring.

“It was everybody tonight,” coach Peter Laviolette said postgame. “It was certainly ‘Shesty,’ but it was everybody.”

Rangers remain dominant in second games of back-to-back sets

Certain statistics tell you more about a team than others.

That the Rangers are 10-1-0 in the second game of back-to-back sets says this team has a lot of character. They find ways to win the difficult games. And it is a grind to win when playing on consecutive nights, especially when 10 of the 11 back-to-back sets have included travel.

Not each of the wins in the second half of the back-to-back sets have been “Picassos,” as former Rangers coach Alain Vigneault used to say. That 6-5 victory against the San Jose Sharks at MSG on Dec. 3 wasn’t exactly a classic, but it was a win.

Half (five of 10) of the victories here, including the masterful 1-0 shutout Tuesday, have been one-goal wins. That speaks to New York’s resolve, considering the circumstances.

Braden Schneider, Zac Jones step up for Rangers in Jacob Trouba’s absence

Depth is key for any successful team, much less one that has championship aspirations like the Rangers. Recent trades for center Alex Wennberg and forward Jack Roslovic have greatly enhanced their depth throughout the lineup and that trickles down throughout the organization.

The injury absence of Jacob Trouba is also a test for the Rangers defense corps, notably youngsters Braden Schneider and Zac Jones. And three games into Trouba’s expected three-week absence, the kids are acing the test. As is the entire team, allowing only one goal in the past three games.

Schneider moved up from the third pair and has fit fairly seamlessly as K’Andre Miller’s partner. The 22-year-old was making plays all over Tuesday, when he logged a season-high 21:13 in ice time. He was credited with two crucial blocks and was a force defensively throughout. 

It should be noted that Miller has looked pretty darn good paired with Schneider as well during this three-game win streak.

And how about Jones? He stepped into the lineup, paired with Erik Gustafsson, and hasn’t missed a beat despite limited opportunity this season. Jones is making smart puck decisions, playing responsibly in his own end and confidently picking his sports to try and make plays offensively. He picked up an assist on Gustafsson’s goal against the Devils on Monday, blocked two shots against the Hurricanes and played an efficient 17:17 against the St. Louis Blues on Saturday.

This impressive depth is key for the Rangers, even with Trouba healthy and back in the lineup.

Jim Cerny is Executive Editor at Forever Blueshirts and Managing Editor at Sportsnaut, with more than 30 years of... More about Jim Cerny

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