Rangers enter the season facing the kind of great expectations that haven’t loomed large over the franchise in years.
That would be an obstacle in and of itself, but one that can be overcome with a strong team mentality, a trait that Rangers showed no shortcoming during their second-place finish in the Metropolitan Division and qualification for the Eastern Conference Finals last season. The challenge now will be to continue under conditions much different from the narrative of the underdog that once surrounded them.
All went well with the Blueshirts in 2021-22, in terms of injuries and Igor Shesterkin setting up a historic campaign that culminated in the Vezina Cup as the best goalkeeper in the NHL. That’s not guaranteed to happen again – no matter how well Chesterkin plays – so Rangers will have to take steps as a team and potentially overcome some adversity if they want to achieve the same success.
Longtime runner-up Ryan Strom and his March 4 deadline business takeovers (Andrew Cope, Frank Vatrano, Tyler Mott and Justin Brown) are no longer in the picture. As a result, a lot of the responsibility falls on the younger players of the Rangers, who must be ready for it now that they are all a year older and wiser in the playoff round. At least, that is the belief, and it will be up to them to see it.
Rangers Throwing towards a cover crisisThis is what makes this supposed window of the tournament all the more important to take advantage of. With plenty of money going to the top six of Artemi Banarin, Mika Zipanegad and Chris Kreider, plus Vincent Trochek, as well as Adam Fox’s top two linebackers and Jacob Tropa, the recently appointed captain, the Rangers have their core collection. in the foreseeable future.
But competing in a Metro division stacked under high expectations is no small feat for any NHL team. It will come down to the team’s belief, the expected youth progression and, let’s be real, a return from Shesterkin, if Rangers are to build on last season and earn the right to compete for the Stanley Cup.
You can’t talk about Rangers’ offensive last season without mentioning how Kreider scored 52 goals, which blew his previous career high at 28 in the water and was the third-most in the National Hockey League behind Auston Matthews and the Oilers. Leon Drystel. To call it a fluke would be unfair, especially since anyone who watched Rangers last season can see how freely he played under coach Gerard Gallant. There’s no reason Kreider can’t have the same offensive effect this season, and he will have to if the Rangers hope to keep up with the other high-goal teams in the East.
There is still a question mark hovering over the right-winger’s position at the top line with Kreider and Zibanegad, who last season had 81 points and were well placed second behind Panarin’s 96 points. It looks like Zibanejad and Kreider will have to work with whoever ends up in that spot, just as Panarin will have to find out with Trocheck and who completes their unit.
It’s not clear if Alexis Lavrinier, Philippe Chettle’s Kid Lane and Capo Kaku will get a shot together or not, but their attacking influence in the playoffs was decisive. Their five-to-five was one of Rangers’ best play, an area the team as a whole needs to improve massively.
Rangers have some invaluable continuity with the top four defenders, and as a result, their defense has been pretty good. Fox finished last season with 74 points, fourth among the NHL defenses, after winning the Norris Cup during his second campaign in 2020-21. Rangers will want to be careful with Fox’s overwork, who averaged 23:54 a night primarily alongside Ryan Lindgren last season as the team’s best defender and special teams contributor.
K’Andre Miller is on his way to a breakout season in a contract year after making huge strides in 2021-22. His pairing with Trouba was easily the most effective last season, but he also had his fair share of playoff hiccups. The bottom pair has always been a weak spot for Rangers, but it has not yet been decided whether Zach Jones or Lebor Hajek will skate next to Braden Schneider, who is on the cusp of launching into his second season after easily securing his place in the team.
Keeping track of the quality of numbers Chesterkin posted last season – 0.935 savings percentage, 2.07 goal-for-average and six closes – won’t be easy. Shesterkin was the favorite for Vesena early on because it was clear how much the team relied on him. Rangers wouldn’t want that to be the case for the second season in a row, but the team has adopted a stance that they shouldn’t apologize for having the best goalkeeper in the NHL.
Jaroslav Hallack and his 16 years of experience in the National Hockey League should be more than enough support for Chesterkin, while Luis Domingo waits at AHL Hartford in case the Rangers goalkeeper sustains an injury.
In his second season with Rangers, Gallant gave the impression that he finally knew his team. This was evident in the way the 59-year-old started his training camp with a clear idea of where he wants to start when it comes to putting together his squad. Gallant, who reached the final of Jack Adams last season, should benefit from a season in New York under his belt.
Most important offensive player
It’s funny how Panarin could be checked for his offensive contributions during the playoffs when he scored the most important goal in the playoff round for the entire Rangers in overtime from Game 7 in the first round against the Penguins. However, the Russian star winger could be the difference between a good season and a great one. Rangers may set their sights on their unfinished business in the playoffs, but they don’t get there without consistent Panarin production.
The most important defensive player
Placing the soil as the answer to this question may have more to do with the fact that it is recently “C” was sewn on his number 8 shirt Rather than his defensive contributions, that doesn’t diminish the 28-year-old’s importance to Rangers. Serving as captain of a team aspiring to the Stanley Cup is a daunting task and Trouba cannot let stand in the way of his day-to-day impact on the club.
It might be hypothetical, but Vitaly Kravtsov is the most popular rookie this season. After turning down the AHL job only last season, Kravtsov returned to the Rangers pre-season scene and Take the necessary steps to demonstrate his commitment to the team. The next step will be to translate the dynamic play and high goal-scoring abilities that made him the ninth choice of Rangers in 2018 in the first place.
The main training decision
Rangers are designed to have a large squad, which is why a top six ranking will be so important this season. Galant has already experimented with four different right wing players on the top line, but it will be important to settle on a group and let it play to allow the three players to boost their Chemistry.
Rangers have the tools to put together another prolific season and another long one, but it will take a team effort to make up for the acquisitions they lost on this summer’s trading deadline. There must be a solution among the top three in the Metropolitan Division and a return to the conference finals. When you have a goalkeeper like Shesterkin, anything is possible. The support team just needs to do their part.