Red Hot Rangers
On December 3, 2022, after already losing four of their last five games, the New York Rangers took yet another loss at the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks, leaving them with a disheartening record of 11-10-5 on the season.
With morale low, and tension high, it was not hard to sense the frustration rising like heat from the Rangers bench. The loss on home ice came as a crushing blow to players and fans alike. How could a team that made it to the conference finals six months prior, be struggling for a wild card spot with more than a quarter of this season already under their belt? Something needed to change. Fast.
Two nights later, once again in New York, the Rangers found themselves trailing late in the game against the St. Louis Blues 4-3. Going into the third period, the Blues were leading 4-3, but the Rangers rallied and went on to score three goals, unanswered, to seal a massive 6-4 win. Madison Square Garden was buzzing again, a weight seemed to be lifted as the building experienced its first Ranger win since November 13. This was no average, ordinary, regular season win. No, this was something more. New York played with passion, with dignity–a true nod to their acclaimed “no quit” mentality.
The win over St. Louis was no easy feat, and it definitely wasn’t a fluke; following the much needed success, New York would go on to win every single one of their next six games. A red hot fire had been lit under the team, and no one was going to put it out.
In the 17 games since their unfortunate loss to Chicago, the Rangers have gone 13-2-2. A true turnaround that has the team looking about as good as they did last June during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
This remarkable reversion is a result of a full team effort. From one end of the ice to the other, Rangers players are giving each game their all.
Defensemen Adam Fox and K’Andre Miller have been the stars in the back thus far. When Fox is on the ice, he manages to make everyone else skating with him better. His hockey IQ is off the charts; it’s as if he is always a step, if not two, ahead of his opponent. Averaging just over a point per game, Adam Fox is 4th in points earned by defensemen league wide. Stats might not tell the whole story, but Fox’s numbers are a true testament to the work he puts in night in and night out. Like Fox, K’Andre Miller has also been a force to be reckoned with in the offensive zone. Over the past several games it is as if Miller is a human-highlight-reel. He has been putting on the performance of a lifetime with clutch goal, after clutch goal, after clutch goal; and even when he can’t get a chance in the offensive zone, with his incredible skating ability, he makes his way past the neutral zone and is ready to defend his own territory again in no time. And what’s more? He makes it look easy!
Of course, the usual suspects are no less impressive; offensively, forwards Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad have taken control. Similarly to Fox, Panarin’s presence on the ice makes the entire team more dangerous. His playmaking ability has been a key part in New York’s comeback from their early season slump. If we’re talking numbers, with 46 points in 43 games played this season, the Bread Man’s skill is obvious, but fellow star Zibanejad is not far behind with 45 points in the same amount of time. While Panarin leads the team points wise, Zibanejad is holding down the fort when it comes to goal scoring. He is a tough player to keep off the scorecard, and with 19 goals on the season, the Mika Magic just seems to keep on coming.
Even with immense scoring talent, this New York team has no one to thank more than their own personal brick wall in net, Igor Shesterkin. The Czar has continued to turn heads with save after save, playing at the same caliber that earned him the Vezina Trophy as the league’s best goalie at the end of last season. Like his team as a whole, he may have had a rocky start to the season, but in his last 10 games played, he has a solid goals-against-average of only 2.28, and an astounding .920 save percentage. Igor Shesterkin is the backbone of this team and is a key factor as the Rangers continue to climb in the standings.
Following their recent victory over the Dallas Stars, the New York Rangers now have a record of 24-12-7 in 43 games played. Their record thus far places them in a playoff spot for the time being, just behind the New Jersey Devils. With three months remaining in the regular season, there are still many games left to be played; but with all cylinders firing, the Broadway Blueshirts are set for a strong second half of the season.