Rangers Recall: This team hates to lose

After a disappointing loss to the Florida Panthers on Friday, the New York Rangers channeled their anger into a 5-1 romp over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night.

This team simply hates losing and has responded in a positive way almost every single time they get beaten. In the second game of back-to-back sets, they’re a perfect 6-0-0. On the season to date, the Rangers are 9-1-0 after a defeat and have outscored opponents by a wide margin of 33-15 in the process.

“I was really happy about that,” coach Peter Laviolette said after the latest victory. “Self awareness by them. They are the ones that go out and play the game. For them to go out and play as hard as they did, that’s really good to get us back on the winning side of things.”

Let’s take a look at some key points over this weekend.

Related: Chris Drury should be credited for Rangers success

Rangers Recall: This team hates to lose

NHL: New York Rangers at Tampa Bay Lightning
Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

Rangers first team to hit 50 points

The New York Rangers will enter the 2024 calendar year with 51 points at 25-9-1, making them the first team to hit that benchmark this season. The last Rangers team to accomplish that feat was the 1993-94 squad. There’s still a long way to go, but I’m sure matching any feat of that Stanley Cup winning group will raise this team’s championship aspirations.

As noted before, this team truly hates to lose, suffering consecutive losses just once this season. Since losing to the Ottawa Senators 6-2 on December 5th, and the Washington Capitals 4-0 on December 9th, the Blueshirts are 7-3-0.

“You never want to lose two games in a row,” noted Vincent Trocheck. “I thought we played hard (against Tampa) and set the tone early.”

And set the tone they did, by jumping out to a 2-0 lead and responding to a Lightning goal to cut that in half with a tally of their own just 51 seconds later. Led by Trocheck’s 4 points (1 goal, 3 assists) and Artemi Panarin’s hat trick, the Rangers never looked back.

A terrible first round playoff loss to the New Jersey Devils in 7 games aside, this team has been very good. Dating from January 1, 2023 through December 31, 2023, the Rangers are 53-19-8. That ranks them third in the NHL for wins and points (114) for the calendar year.

New York came into the 2023-24 campaign with a bitter taste in their mouths. Losing to the Devils sat with them all summer, and their distaste for losing has powered them to the very top of the standings after 35 games.

Piping hot Bread

What an incredible season Artemi Panarin is having. It’s one that should have more people talking about him as the top candidate for the Hart Trophy as league MVP.

The 32 year-old forward went head-to-head against the NHL’s top scorer Nikita Kucherov (59 points) and made a statement by scoring 3 goals on 4 shots. While Kucherov did net Tampa’s only goal, Panarin was an absolute force that traumatized the Lightning’s defense all night.

On the season to date, Panarin has registered 23 goals and 27 assists for 50 points in 35 matches. He currently ranks 3rd in the NHL for scoring with more points than Connor McDavid (47) and Auston Matthews (44). Both those players have won the Hart Trophy over the last two seasons.

What may be even more important for the Rangers is the positive impact Panarin is having on 2020 first overall pick Alexis Lafreniere. Now in his fourth NHL season, the 22 year-old is finally displaying the skills that made him such a high selection. To date, he’s notched 10 goals and 22 points in 35 games. This puts him on pace for 23 goals and 28 assists for 51 points, which would all be career-highs.

“He’s pretty good,” Lafreniere smiled regarding Panarin’s talent. “Just making so many plays out there. Troch has been really good too, so all three of us are trying to build that chemistry out there.”

Despite all this, Panarin is still far from favored to win the Hart Trophy. Per Vegas Insider, he ranks 7th on the list with Jack Hughes of the floundering Devils at 3. It may be time for someone to revisit their rankings.

Special Teams for a Special Team

We will close out the final Rangers Recall of 2023 with an appreciative look at this squad’s special teams.

The Rangers scored a power play against Tampa to mark the 9th time in their last 10 games where they posted one on the man-advantage. New York ranks 1st in power play percentage (30.9) and 2nd in PPG For at 34.

On the PK, the Blueshirts are ranked 5th with an 84.9% success rate at killing off penalties and have 3 shorthanded goals on the season.

Happy New Year Everyone!

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