Rangers Recall: Trademark offense from blue-line big in win over Capitals

NHL: Washington Capitals at New York Rangers
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers moved atop the NHL standings after a 5-1 win over the Washington Capitals on Wednesday night at the Garden. At 24-8-1 for 49 points, they’re tied with the Vancouver Canucks. However, New York has played 2 fewer games and holds the tiebreaker with a remarkable .742 points percentage.

Unfortunately, captain Jacob Trouba left the victory early in the second period after a collision with Tom Wilson catching him high to the head. Deemed an upper-body injury, Trouba is still being evaluated and hopefully more info will be available after Thursday practice set for 12:00 p.m. ET.

Down to five defensemen, the Blueshirts victoriously rallied around their fallen captain and being down 1-0, to rattle off 5 straight goals.

Let’s look at some KEY takeaways in the team’s latest triumph.

Rangers Recall: The defense won’t rest

NHL: Washington Capitals at New York Rangers
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Offense from the blue-line

The Rangers defense was prominent in the win over the Capitals on Wednesday night by collecting 3 goals and adding 3 assists. New York’s blue-line now has 20 goals in total on the season to date, which is good for 6th overall in the NHL.

K’Andre Miller led the way with 2 goals and an assist. Braden Schneider would also tally for the Rangers. Meanwhile, the defense pairing of Ryan Lindgren and Adam Fox each picked up a helper in the contest.

Last season, the blue-line generated a total of 193 points over the course of 82 games. That’s a clip of 2.35 points per game from the backend. So far this campaign, the Blueshirts defense has registered a total of 87 points in 33 matches for a 2.64 points per game rate.

What makes this even more impressive is the fact that Adam Fox has only played 23 games this year after missing 10 games due to a stint on LTIR.

“I love that they were jumping into the holes and joining the rush,” coach Peter Laviolette noted after beating the Caps. “It’s all part of the game nowadays. Key’s first goal was a real big… They are certainly encouraged to jump into the offense.”

If the Rangers hope to continue this torrid pace, and go deep in the playoffs, production from the blue-line is paramount. Based on their prior history and the current talent on the roster, there’s no reason to believe it will slow down.

K’Andre Miller

Entering the game, Miller was not too pleased with his performance to date this season. It’s understandable after he registered 9 goals and 34 assists for 43 points in 79 games in 2022-23, all career-highs in their respective categories.

“I don’t think I was really playing my best hockey,” noted Miller postgame. “I went into the break with the goal to do a little bit more. Luckily, the puck found me and I was able to capitalize.”

After posting 3 points against Washington, the 23 year-old has 7 goals and 8 assists in 31 matches. That’s good for .48 points per game, just a tad under his .54 rate last season. So there’s no doubt Miller can play better, but if he’s able to find another level, the Rangers will ultimately be the biggest beneficiaries.

Igor Shesterkin

After a pretty tough stretch, the Rangers number one goalie is back to his old self.

In his last four starts, Shesterkin is a perfect 4-0-0 with a GAA of 1.75, and a stellar .938 save percentage. The 27 year-old’s record is now at 14-7-0, and he’s getting other key stats more inline with his career numbers. Thanks to this rebound, Igor’s GAA is down to 2.77, and his save percentage is up to .908 on the year.

It’s great to see Shesterkin bounce back, although I doubt many believed his struggles would last for long. However, the biggest indication that he’s returned to form has been his signature clutch saves in key situations, like his three point-blank stops versus the Sabres before the break, moments prior to Chris Kreider ending the contest in overtime.

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