In case you missed it, and I don’t know how you could have, Artemi Panarin has taken a leave of absence from the Rangers. This is to address the Russian propaganda piece that said he beat up an 18 year old girl in a Latvian bar in 2011. The length of his absence is unknown at the moment, but it will likely be until he can ensure the safety of his family. As per usual, I have some thoughts on its impact to the Rangers. This is not about the politics involved, and comments addressing such matter should be posted in yesterday’s post. I will remove political comments from this post.
1. From a hockey perspective, this is a big loss for the Rangers. The Rangers have not won without Panarin in the lineup. It’s only three games, but still they are winless. Panarin is the driver of almost all things offense on the Rangers. He has the quietest 18 points in 14 games (105 point pace) I’ve ever seen. He draws attention, and he still produces regardless.
2. If there ever was a time for Mika Zibanejad to step up, now is that time. Zibanejad is gripping the stick too tight, and it shows on his one-timers. He’s shanked a bunch that would normally have been in the back of the net. Perhaps that empty netter is what he needed. With Panarin out, and that monkey off his back, a tear by Zibanejad is just what the doctor ordered.
3. The Rangers may be able to survive this in the short term if they continue to play stellar defense. I can’t believe these words are coming out of my mouth. The Rangers have been playing stellar team defense. The keys are two fold. The first is D2 is not chasing the puck and is staying in front of the net. The second is F1/F3 are in their proper spots covering high danger passes. If this continues, then the Rangers may be able to bore teams to death.
4. If the Rangers go with a recall in the short term, they might not make one immediately. The Blueshirts don’t play until Wednesday, and they are still making taxi squad moves to accrue cap space. Jonny Brodzinski was moved to the taxi squad yesterday, and that is something to keep an eye on. The Rangers don’t need to recall him until Wednesday 5pm, and if he’s the recall, he comes at minimum salary as well.
5. This has been a disaster of a season for the Rangers. After so much hope with K’Andre Miller breaking camp, everything else that could have gone wrong, did. First it was the Filip Chytil injury. Then it was Tony DeAngelo getting fired into the sun. Jacob Trouba went down after that. Now it’s Panarin’s turn in things you can’t make up that are keeping Rangers out of the lineup. The fact that the Rangers have six wins is a minor miracle.
6. There is no timeline for Artemi Panarin’s leave of absence from the Rangers. Given he took the leave of absence two days before the Rangers had a game, it’s safe to assume it will be a few games. I wouldn’t expect him back until next week.