Rangers Recall: Quality goaltending, special teams shine in Seattle and Calgary
Before the New York Rangers headed for a 5-game swing through Western Canada, they had just posted a pitiful performance on home ice. In their 4-1 loss to the Nashville Predators last Thursday, the team was very truthful about how they played.
“That wasn’t a game I thought we deserved to win at all,” captain Jacob Trouba admitted. “Definitely our worst game of the season thus far.”
Heading into the road trip, the Blueshirts were a .500 hockey team, but back-to-back solid wins now have them sitting atop the Metropolitan Division. New York has 8 points (4-2-0), 1 point better than the New Jersey Devils.
Let’s recall some of the key takeaways from the Rangers’ win over the Seattle Kraken and Calgary Flames.
Rangers Recall: A strong start to the road trip
In both contests, the Rangers gave up the first goal and managed to rally for victories. That’s due in large part to the goaltending of backup Jonathan Quick and starter Igor Shesterkin.
Quick, 37, got the ball rolling by stopping 18 of 19 Seattle shots en route to a 4-1 win. After a shaky preseason, the veteran has a record of 1-0-0, with a GAA of 0.70, and a .964 save percentage in two appearances (he relived Shesterkin in the loss to Nashville).
What’s been noticeable about Quick’s game, despite not being an explosive as he used to be, is his battle level. He simply doesn’t give up on a play and made several excellent glove stops to keep the Kraken at bay.
“You always want to start the season with a win and build from there,” Quick said afterwards. “[The defense] were awesome in front of me and made my job easier.”
As for Shesterkin, he bounced back after a poor outing versus the Predators. It wasn’t without a little concern after allowing a goal just 75 seconds into the game. Of course, the former Vezina winner shrugged it off and made several jaw-dropping pad saves to douse the Flames and secure a 3-1 win.
Shesterkin, 27, is now 3-2-0 on the season with a GAA of 2.66, and a .897 save percentage which should greatly improve.
Special Teams Clicking
The importance of good special teams can’t be understated, especially during a long road trip.
So far, through two games, New York is perfect on the penalty kill going 7 for 7. Meanwhile, the Blueshirts are 2 for 6 on the man advantage, scoring both goals in the second period against the Flames to erase the deficit and secure the victory.
Alexis Lafreniere and Chris Kreider scored off deflections in front of the net. That’s something the Rangers got away from last season, as their power play focused on a lot of east-west passing to set up Mika Zibanejad for a one-timer.
However, under Peter Laviolette, the Rangers are focused on going north scoring a majority of their goals from the middle of the ice. According to NHL Edge, 12 of their 18 goals have come right in front of the opposing goaltender.
Alexis Lafreniere playing with speed
Coming into this season, Alexis Lafreniere was under scrutiny after a poor preseason. That being said, it was more about the fact he hasn’t lived up to expectations as the first overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft than anything else.
One particular aspect of his game that’s been widely criticized is speed. Well, thanks to NHL Edge and their player tracking technology, Lafreniere is clocking in at 21.53 mph, which is in the 66th percentile in the entire league. Additionally, he’s showing much better quickness by ranking in the 66th percentile for speed bursts of 20 mph or better.
Lafreniere, 22, is off to an excellent start with 3 goals in 6 games, all while transitioning from his natural left wing to the right side. It’s been made easier playing with Artemi Panarin and Filip Chytil.
“Keep playing, keep trying, and try to create chances offensively,” Lafreniere said. “The season is still really young, but to get some games with the same guys is really good. Obviously, Fil and Bread are amazing, so it’s really fun to play with them.”