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A Vezina Trophy-winning season from Igor Shesterkin helped guide the New York Rangers to 110 points and a long playoff streak.
After a regular season that saw him post a 36-13-4 record, .935 save percentage and 2.07 GAA, he kept his game going, helping the Rangers lose Game 6 to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the East. Conference final. It marked the deepest run for the Rangers since another trip to the conference finals in 2014-15 and a big sign of life for an organization that missed the playoffs just a year before.
Head coach Gerard Gallant, who in his first year was a driving force in the Rangers’ run for the playoffs, made a big difference. While Shesterkin and Gallant have undoubtedly played big roles, Rangers have played some key players at very high levels.
Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad have each scored a point per game or more – 22 goals and 96 points for Panarin and 29 goals and 81 points for Zibanejad – while Chris Kreider has scored 52 goals. It was the first time Kreider had achieved that mark in his career, and a huge assist up front for their offense.
MAJOR ADDITIONS AND DEPARTURES
Vincent Trocheck, C
Louis Domingue, G
Jaroslav Halak, G
CJ Smith, AG
All Welinski, D
Andrew Copp, C (Det)
Ryan Strome, C (Ana)
Frank Vatrano, RW (Ana)
Alexandrar Georgiev, G (Col)
Patrik Nemeth, D (Ari)
Tyler Motte, F (UFA)
Justin Braun, D (Phi)
Kevin Rooney, C (Cgy)
Greg McKegg, C (Edm)
Keith Kinkaid, G (Bos)
Justin Richards, C (NYR)
Overall, this group will seem more familiar to you than some might think. Andrew Copp, Frank Vatrano and Tyler Motte were all acquisitions last season and while Ryan Strome will be missing up front, the team have brought in Vincent Trocheck to replace him at the No. 2 center position.
Otherwise, it’s a group that remains largely intact. We expect Alexis Lafrenière and Kaapo Kakko to both fill the top six roles for Rangers this year, and they will need to make significant progress in their development. Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider will also have to maintain their offensive production.
Offensively, Rangers struggled 5-for-5 last year, scoring just 2.35 goals per 60 minutes of ice time – a number that ranked them 21st in the league. It’s an area they’ll need to improve on quickly, but much of their offense last season came because of the fourth-tier power play that ran at a 25.2% clip.
Down the roster, Filip Chytil was part of a key line for Rangers last year in the playoffs, although he may have different teammates from Lafrenière and Kakko in the future, and Sammy Blais, who is coming off a torn ACL, will be looking to contribute in an in-depth role this year as well.
Adam Fox’s rise to the ranks of the NHL’s top all-around defensemen was quick. After a second 2020-21 campaign that saw him win the Norris Trophy as the league’s top defenseman, Fox brought him back last season, scoring career highs in goals (11), assists (63) and dots (74). This year marks the first of seven in a massive extension he signed that will earn him an AAV of $9.5 million. He is a key part of this Rangers team.
Around him, Rangers have a mix of other strong defenders. Jacob Trouba and K’Andre Miller have become fairly consistent, but Rangers plan to have a young third pair in Zac Jones and Braden Schneider.
With $1 million in cap space according to CapFriendly, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them add a veteran fullback at a discount before training camp for some organizational depth.
Igor Shesterkin. That’s it.
OK, but seriously, he’s really good. After a Vézina season, his rise to the top of the goaltending ranks was quick. He played the lion’s share of Rangers games last year with 53 and his best « competition » was Georgiev, who was traded to the Avalanche in the offseason. Georgiev was 15-10-2 with an .898 save percentage and a 2.92 GAA.
Jaroslav Halak, who arrives after a 4-7-2 season with the Canucks, could be asked to play a bit more this year as the hyper-athletic Shesterkin isn’t built for more than 65 games a year. Halak posted a disappointing .903 save percentage and 2.94 GAA last season.
Gallant oversaw a staggering 0.536 to 0.671 percentage increase last year in his first season behind the Rangers bench. He finished third in Jack Adams’ vote last year and could very well be in that range again, although the underlying numbers from last season showed Shesterkin made Rangers better than they were. actually were. Gallant activated tons of offense from a guy like Chris Kreider, who scored 0.29 more goals per game than his career average and took 0.85 more shots on goal per game than his career average .
I really liked what Rangers were able to do last year and they will once again find themselves in the mix for first place in a stacked Metropolitan Division.
We won’t see much of real signings for Rangers next year. The aforementioned Jones and Schneider will be the youngest players. While the former has 22 games under his belt between each of the last two years, Schneider played his rookie season last year scoring two goals and 11 points in 43 games. Vitali Kravtsov is another name to watch. The ninth overall pick in the 2018 draft returns to North America to compete for a job in the forward corps after playing in the KHL last season.
1. How far can Igor Shesterkin take Rangers? As much as he wants. Much has been made of the success he had last year in the regular season and in the playoffs, and now he is likely to play in more games than he had in any season, at any level.
2. Will Alexis Lafrenière and Kaapo Kakko take the necessary improvement steps? Much has been said about these two in the Big Apple and neither have lived up to their potential as first and second overall picks, respectively. Lafrenière took a step forward last year by setting career highs for goals (19), assists (12) and points (31) in 79 games played, while Kakko had seven goals and 18 points in 43 games. Both must realize their untapped potential.
3. How much can Adam Fox gamble? Fox’s career high for minutes came during his 2020-21 Norris-winning campaign at 24:42 a night. He saw a slight drop to 23:54 last season. With what appears to be an inexperienced third pair, will Rangers try to get more minutes from Fox this season? I don’t think it’s out of the question to see him playing 25 minutes a night next season.
The Blueshirts will go as far as Shesterkin takes them and it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to see them compete for a spot in the Stanley Cup Final next year. They seem to have the right mix of players, a mix of high-level attacking skills and grit.
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