State of the Rangers

Five keys to success for the NY Rangers this season

Hockey is back, and the 2021 season is upon us. While we have to wait for the NY Rangers to begin until tomorrow, we are just happy hockey is back on TV. For all intents and purposes, it’s been ten months since we’ve had real Rangers hockey. There are mixed expectations for sure. But here are five keys to success for the NY Rangers.

No Regression From Top Players

This is perhaps the most important aspect for the Rangers this season. They got career years from Mika Zibanejad, Artemi Panarin, Tony DeAngelo, and Ryan Strome last season. They also had strong seasons from Chris Kreider and Pavel Buchnevich. These are five of the top-six forwards for the Rangers, and the top powerplay defenseman.

The Rangers will go as these guys go. If they are just as good, then the progress expected elsewhere will need to rise. But if they regress and are unable to repeat career years, then the Rangers will struggle. This is a high powered offense, and these six players are key cogs in that offense. They will score in droves, or hit road blocks.

Strong Rookie Seasons

The Rangers have three key rookies this year in Alexis Lafreniere, K’Andre Miller, and Igor Shesterkin. All three come highly touted and are highly skilled. All three are going to be thrust into key roles as well. They will be given big roles and big minutes. What they do with those minutes matters.

Miller will play a big role in stabilizing the top pair and left defense. He’s had a strong camp, but he hasn’t seen true game action yet. Lafreniere is the kid-supreme, but he needs to show it in NHL games. Shesterkin has the experience and hasn’t faltered at any level. Will that continue? The Rangers need it to be successful.

Continued Progression From Kids

Filip Chytil, Adam Fox, Kaapo Kakko, and Ryan Lindgren were all key kids last year. Three of them were solid, while Kakko likely should have been in the AHL. This quartet rounds out the Rangers scoring depth. This team will either have legitimate scoring potential throughout, or will be top heavy. That depends on this quartet. This might be overlooked, but it is one of the more important keys to success for the Rangers.

Kakko will need to do a complete-180 this season, and all signs point to him being able to do so. He will be with Panarin as opposed to Brett Howden, which is important. Chytil will also be separated from Howden and get Lafreniere as a linemate. Clicking early and often will be key.

This is also a make-or-break year for Brett Howden. He’s been atrocious for two seasons. He’s on the fourth line to start the season, but if he challenges Chytil and Strome for more time, then he’s moving in the right direction.

Strong Goaltending

No matter what we say about the blue line, the Rangers are going to need strong goaltending. Henrik Lundqvist is not here anymore, and the reins have been passed to Shesterkin and Alex Georgiev. Georgiev has had flashes of brilliance, but also streaks of rough play. Shesterkin, as mentioned, has not faltered at any level.

Goaltending has been an assumption for the Rangers since 2005. That all changes with a rookie and a third-year pro. They’ve been overall strong, but can they take the full workload? This is certainly a transition year in net for the Rangers.

AHL Kids Supplanting Current Rostered Players

The last of the keys to success for the Rangers is not something often looked at. The Rangers will need to have their current stock of prospects eventually make the cut via call up. Morgan Barron, Tarmo Reunanen, and Libor Hajek are the three players that really come to mind here. Patrick Khodorenko is also a name to watch.

This quartet is divided between centers (Barron, Khodorenko) and left defense (Reunanen, Hajek). It’s no surprise that they weren’t on the roster out of camp, but that doesn’t mean they won’t crack the roster at some point. Ideally they force their way onto the roster, a la Shesterkin last season. But injuries and COVID will happen, and they may get their shot. It’s up to them to force the Rangers to keep them.

Who would they supplant? Howden and Phil Di Giuseppe come to mind on the fourth line. And obviously Jack Johnson is a stopgap for the Rangers. If two of the three aren’t in the lineup two months from now, things are going right for the Rangers

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  • Biggest off season fail was not replacing Strome at 2C. Big reason we went 3 and out during play in. Saw Torts commenting on PLD situation. Sounds like he’s not too happy with him and we should be all over this.

  • My only 2 additional thoughts on additional success factors are the defensive system and the maturation of DQ. Both the new defensive style and the in-game decision-making of DQ have to be better than last year. When to match up who with who, when to sit a struggling player and when to give them another chance. These are the issues that need attention as we go forward.

  • As for regression the odds are good that may happen, the key is to what degree. If they regress less than 5% of last years point totals we’ll be ok. Beyond that it will be problematic. Under continued progression I think Gauthier will need to bring more as well. And key 6 to me is we need to play better defense with Trouba leading the way. And if him and Miller click that’s a game changer for us.

  • If they can solidify their defensive play, and I mean the entire team on the ice, not just the defensemen, and if they get the strong goal tending we expect, then they should be a much better team this season.

    They will score some goals, so one of the keys is better all around defensive play. I have a feeling that we will see at least some improvement there. The better they are defensively, the better chance that they will have to make the playoffs in which is still mostly a development season.

  • One could argue that aside from JJ on LD we should improve in every way aside from Panarin and Mika (or let’s say the Top 5), both of whom need to somewhat maintain their play from last year.

    It’s hard to imagine that players like Gauthier, Howden, Kakko, Lemieux, and Chytil won’t improve … plus having Lafreniere effectively replacing DiGiuseppe as the 3LW is a big upgrade. It’s also hard to imagine that our Goaltending, as a tandem, isn’t also better than last year (Hank was clearly staring to decline). Lastly I expect a little more from Buch (contract year) and Trouba should be much more comfortable than last year as he settles in and assumes a leadership role.

    Regression is of course possible, but logic dictates that this team will resemble what we saw in the 2nd half of last season more so than the 1st half.

    • The real danger is the second line. You replace Fast, who complimented his linemates beautifully, with Kakko, who was one of the worst players in the league last year.

      If Kakko blossoms, this story has a happy ending – but if not, he is in a position to singlehandedly destroy the team.

  • I can’t wait for some hockey on TV tonight! Obviously can’t wait for to begin watching Lafraniere on an everyday basis and see this kid grow in front of us.

    But I love the 2nd line, and hope Kakko can stick there. The kid knows he has an opportunity right in front of him. If he sticks, you have two off-hand wingers on that line, with Strome choosing who to feed one-timers to. This is like an EA Sports NHL line here. These guys have serious potential to become something really special (as long as someone plays defense). But I’ve always liked lines like this, with this setup…

  • so who will stand up to the bullies in the schoolyard when one of the faces of our franchise gets plastered to the boards? I love watching the game as much as anyone else but when the shenanigans start to happen….who will b the brave one? 7 or 8 games against the fishsticks alone makes me nervous!

    • Lemieux is always willing and Rooney is no stranger to knuckle chucking. With that said Kreider, ADA, Trouba, Lindgren have all dropped the gloves. Even Strome and Buch have sucked it up and dropped the gloves–not that they strike fear in anyone–but… Sure we do not have a Martin, Deslauriers, Simmonds or Lucic on the team but Lemieux was 8th in fights last season. We could use more toughness for sure but are not as soft as many think.

  • The most important to me is #3. That is how I will judge the team’s success this season. Not that the other points are not important, but IMO #3 is important.

  • Brett Howden is 22 Years Old and was rushed onto the team during its rebuild process, and suffered some injuries – I will reserve judgement on him for another season. Players like Tony DeAngelo, IMHO are a bigger concern in the present – He is 25 years old in the league 4 years already and has not improved much on the defensive side of the puck. If his offense regresses, he doesn’t maintain his composure, and he continues to create a social stir, he will find himself back in the press box.

    I personally think he should have been moved after last year when his value was at its highest.

    • I have to disagree on all counts regarding Tony D. I believe that he has shown improvement in the D zone and he is a net plus on the ice. He was given the opportunity to let his offensive game blossom last season, and his skills in that area were very apparent. They are not going to use him to shut down other teams and instead will use him where he can excel. He is apparently well liked in the room because he has no hesitation to stick up for his teammates, and will win some games for them.

      Finally, his social media appears only to be an issue for others, not his teammates or even the front office.

      • We don’t know what the team thinks to be honest – just that they will handle ADA comments as an “internal” manner. This isn’t his first rodeo when it comes to making controversial statements and remarks, on and off the ice. Fox will over take him offensively IMHO, and will run the #1 PP. Miller handles the puck well and Trouba can play with more offense if needed. I see him more as part of a future package to bring another offensive center to the Rangers, I am just concerned his offense doesn’t regress and his comments don’t reduce his future trade value.

  • Disagree that Kakko should have been in the AHL last year….but I will agree that he was used terribly, and wasn’t really given a chance at success. This year he is 15 pounds heavier, stronger and knows what to expect….more importantly, he has line mates who will be able to complete plays…if he learned not to hesitate as often, he’ll be fine.

  • Finally…….FINALLY !!!!!……Hockey is back ! Looking forward at watching this Rangers team this winter …..Which person am I happiest about him being a employee on my NY Rangers ?????……Mr. John Davidson and SPECIFICALLY the position he is employed at …….LETS GO RANGERS !!!!!

  • This definitely surprised me (Tho this is just me)…..Was watching the NHL Network preview-this-season-show and when they got to previewing the NY Rangers EVERY CONVERSATION was about how many rounds the Rangers could last in the playoffs ……They without-a-doubt are counting the Rangers as a team that …..no-doubt……will make the playoffs ……And none of the guys on that show really cover the Rangers much .

  • So the gist.

    Rangers who played well last year have to continue to play well.

    Rangers who didn’t play all that well have to play well this year

    And New rangers have to play well.

    Makes sense to me. LGR!!

  • Blueline is still not good enough. I would have preferred a player like Dillion on the backend to protect the integration of the young blue liners like Miller.

  • I’d throw out #5. The guy I was looking to for a call-up was Miller. If he is a Rangers from day one and sticks, the rest can wait until next year. Of your quartet, only Barron is likely to ever matter.

    Maybe kravs come playoff time

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