The Rangers veterans need to step up

Artemi Panarin #10 and Mika Zibanejad #93 of the New York Rangers celebrate their 4-3 victory over the New York Islanders

The New York Rangers are loaded with young talent and those kids are taking over the spotlight to start the 2021 season. However, if the Rangers want to get in the win column they need their veterans to step up. 

The most noticeable Rangers players so far have been K’Andre Miller, Filip Chytil, and Pavel Buchnevich. Buchnevich has the most NHL experience with five years under his belt. But now Chytil is out weeks with an injury and Miller is just a rookie.

Most of the top six that helped make the Rangers a force in the second half of last season are nowhere to be found. 

Slow starts for Rangers veterans

Artemi Panarin quietly leads the team with six points, but Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad each only have two. Kreider and Zibanejad are also the team’s worst in CF% among the regulars. Panarin’s linemate Ryan Strome also only has one goal. 

On defense, Tony DeAngelo and Jack Johnson are by far the team’s worst. Johnson has yet to be on the ice for a Rangers goal, and DeAngelo has only been on the ice for one.

There are more specific instances where veterans helped cost the Rangers games. For example, in January 26th’s game against the Buffalo Sabres, Chris Kreider took a bad penalty for boarding Jake McCabe. The Sabres scored on the ensuing powerplay and the Rangers lost by just one goal. 

The Rangers have already seen the consequences of veterans not stepping up and converting on their scoring chances. 

Not Converting on Chances

New York is 24th in the league in goals for. Surprisingly, however, they are 5th in shots per game with 32.7. But quality is more important than quantity. Of Panarin’s six points, only two are goals. Zibanejad only has one.

Special teams are an important factor for the veterans to make up some ground. The Rangers’ powerplay is at 15% right now. The top powerplay unit includes all of Panarin, Strome, Kreider, and Zibanejad. 

As we know, Mika Zibanejad had COVID-19 and missed the majority of training camp. No matter what he says, that is clearly having an impact. Whether he is actually suffering after-effects of the virus or just isn’t in regular season form. 

Even if you let that factor slide, there are plenty of players on the Rangers that aren’t contributing in the way that they have in the past. 

Underlying analytics are in the Rangers’ favor. They looked particularly good in their narrow loss to Pittsburgh on January 24th. But until shot quality improves and chances are converted on, heartbreaking losses will likely continue. 

The change starts at the top with the Rangers’ best players. The kids may be alright in New York, but the veterans certainly are not and that needs to change quickly.