The New York Rangers saw two big wins this week against the division rival New York Islanders and conference rival Montreal Canadiens. The Rangers played their second game in a back to back Friday when their road trip ended with a loss in Philadelphia.
Now, the Rangers are just two points back in their hunt to grab a wildcard slot in the playoffs.
Their current standings are in part due to a huge push over the last month. The Rangers played 15 games in February and went 11-4-0. The 11 wins over this span are the most recorded in one month by any Rangers team in franchise history.
With two key losses in the division, the Rangers maintained their position, but need to look to bounce back when they take on the Flyers again at home on Sunday. With following a road trip, a loss as well as the loss of a key player in Chris Kreider (fractured foot) the rest of the roster will really need to show up.
With all the success prior to this, though, it’s possible. Players at every position have been contributing, especially those who are within reach of meeting or surpassing previous career highs.
Many predicted that Artemi Panarin would have an impact on the Rangers, but not many predicted just how big that impact would be.
Through 63 games, Panarin has recorded 32 goals and 56 assists for 88 points. His two assists against Montreal on Thursday tied his career-high 87 points in 79 games last season.
His assist on Jesper Fast’s goal early in the first period against the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday allowed him to surpass it. The assist also helped him extend his point streak to 12 games, another career-high feat.
He is currently on pace for 113 points through the 81 games he could potentially play by the end of the regular season.
The forward, who the Rangers acquired through free agency last summer, is a wizard with the puck and uses his ability to create space for himself and his teammates and generates high danger chances. In addition to contributing himself, Panarin has clearly a hand in elevating the play of everyone who touches the ice with him.
Panarin has seen 50 games with a point this season and has recorded 26 multi-point contests. He has been held without any contributions only 12 times. He also posted five points in a single contest for the second time in his career against the New York Islanders on January 13.
Ryan Strome has finally found his home.
Strome was selected fifth overall (just before Mika Zibanejad) by the New York Islanders in the 2011 Entry Draft. In his first few seasons in the league, with time split between Long Island and in Edmonton as a part of the Oilers, he never really seemed to hit his stride.
Strome hit a career-high 50 points (17 goals, 33 assists) in his second season in the league while playing with the Islanders. He spent the remainder of his years with between 28 and 35 points per season — with the latter reached in his first year with the Rangers.
In his 64 games this year, his numbers have skyrocketed. Strome has recorded 58 points on 18 goals and 40 assists. He is on pace to finish the 82 games in the regular season with 76 points, substantially beating his previously held record.
Strome is looking for an extension this offseason, and the Rangers may need to consider it. Many expected regression in production, but it hasn’t come yet.
DeAngelo has been one of the Rangers’ best defensive players, managing to both adequately serve his defensive role while also going above and beyond to contribute from the blue line.
In only his second full year with the team, the 24-year-old has proven he can be a serious weapon in the offensive end. Through 62 games this season DeAngelo has recorded 13 goals and 34 assists for a career-high 47 points.
Perhaps the highlight of the season thus far was when he recorded his first career hattrick and career-high five point game against the New Jersey Devils on January 9.
Despite being tethered to Marc Staal — who has been playing better hockey this season than in previous years, but is still Marc Staal — DeAngelo has managed to really find his game this year.
His performance will force the Rangers into a hard decision about their future with him and with the rest of the Rangers defense this offseason.
With a shift in the structure of the Rangers goalie arsenal, Alexandar Georgiev has taken on a larger role with the Rangers this season.
Though he has not met his career-high games played (playing in his 31st game this season Friday — two short of his career-high 33), Georgiev has recorded a career-high 16 wins. In addition, he has played in six games where he has made over 40 saves this season.
Georgiev also has had two shutouts this season, and despite a higher workload than goaltenders in the league, Georgiev records some of the best outcomes.
It remains to be seen if Georgiev sticks around through the offseason, but his impact on keeping the team in games — as all the New York Rangers goaltenders tend to do — has been especially felt in the wake of seeing less of Henrik Lundqvist.
Despite missing 13 games due to an upper body injury — or if you want to call it what it really was: a concussion — earlier this season, Mika Zibanejad’s stat line shows absolutely no impact has he holds some of the highest numbers on the team.
While he has not reached his previous career-high 74 points (30 goals, 44 assists) and currently sits at just 62 (30 goals, 32 assists) it is nearly certain that he will surpass number by the end of the regular season.
If Zibanejad plays the remaining 19 games left on the calendar, he will likely record a new career-high in goals — as he tied his previously held record of 30 goals against Montreal on February 27.
Additionally, if he continues at the pace he is currently producing, he should manage to reach 83 points by season end. Seeing that, prior to the game against Philadelphia on Friday, Zibanejad had gone six straight games with a goal and 9 straight with a point, there is a high probability this happens.
Had Zibanejad not missed the 13 games early in the season, his 82 game pace would have put him at 99 points on the year.
How anyone still thinks he’s not a number one center is beyond me.
It is nice to see a career Ranger on the list here, especially since we just signed the guy to a seven-year contract extension at the deadline on Monday.
While Kreider only has 45 points this season and one could argue that his numbers aren’t as flashy as some of his teammates’ are, however, remains consistent as usual.
However, the Rangers suffered a huge loss when Kreider fractured foot blocking a shot in the first period against Philadelphia on Friday.
With an expected recovery time of four to six weeks, it is unlikely we see him return before the end of the regular season. However, in the 62.25 games he played in prior to this, he was he is on pace to succeed his 53 point high (28 goals 25 assists) recorded in 2016-17, and was expected to produce 58 points this year.
Over the course of his career, Kreider has established himself as one of the best net-front presences in the NHL. The numbers that don’t show on the stat line translates into plays he is able to screen the goaltender on.
He will be a big loss through the remainder of the regular season and in the push for the playoffs.
After missing two games following a car accident, Pavel Buchnevich returned to the lineup against the Flyers on Friday.
Prior to missing time, Buchnevich had recorded 12 points his prior 14 games played. This made up a good amount of ground for him this season — after many expressed concern about his production, or lack thereof — and put him within one point of tying his career-high goals, and within six of his points.
With Kreider now out of the lineup, Buchnevich will have to continue to produce regardless of who fills this space.
Kreider is obviously not the biggest impact on Buch’s production. But this, on top of the accident, with the Rangers making a push and his impending contract negotiation soon, it will be more challenging.
Numbers trending up are positive, and there is no doubt he can be clutch in the tough moments.
Jesper Fast recorded an early goal in Philadelphia on Friday tying his career-high 13 goals and bringing him a step closer to meeting his career-high is 33 points recorded last year (13 goals, 20 assists).
Playing on the second line, Fast always manages to help create good chances with linemates Panarin and Strome.
As we all know, Fast isn’t the flashiest scorer, nor is he a leader on the scoreboard, but is the glue that helps to make things happen even if he doesn’t see the benefit on the stat sheet.
The fact that he remains consistent in production from year to year, however, is a benefit. With continued participation in the next 19 games, Fast has a good chance at meeting his assists and points as well.
Since being called up from Hartford earlier this season, Filip Chytil has been a great addition to the Rangers bottom six.
Chytil played in 75 games for the Rangers last season, and in his 55 appearances in 2019-20, is just one point away from matching his career-high (23 points).
Chytil’s 22 points have come off a career-high 13 goals, with his previous record being 11 recorded last year, and an additional 9 assists.
As Chytil’s role continues to grow, these numbers will only increase.
What does this all mean?
The Rangers hit their stride in February and went on a great run during the month. While Friday came with some big hits after a span of highlights, it cannot change what has come to light in the last few months.
The consistency in the line up has been the key to the Rangers’ success.
Once David Quinn stopped tinkering, the points started pouring in. Having stability in where they are playing has finally allowed for players to get comfortable with each other and has allowed for the qualities of the system that Quinn has implemented to start to take shape.
After the loss to Philadelphia, Quinn should try to keep things as consistent as possible. With Kreider out for the foreseeable future, maybe it’s worth it to take a look for someone to fill a hole in the bottom six and get one of the young guys up in Kreider’s slot on the top line.
The Rangers still aren’t out of it — and with things finally coming together, now is not the time to make drastic changes.
Moving forward, they need to rely on these important players to do the work they are supposed to do in the roles where they know how to do them.
All player statistics used in this piece are courtesy of Hockey Reference.