The Rangers finally had an offensive outburst last night. They put up a pair of field goals against the supposedly vaunted Bruins defense and made them look silly all night. The outburst came one game after one of the sloppiest games the Rangers have played all season. It’s been a rollercoaster ride of a week for the Rangers, which is on par for the entire season. As per usual, I have some thoughts.
1. It’s easy to explain away the Rangers struggles with inconsistency this season. Injuries. Drama. Snakes. COVID. Yet the Rangers still manage to have, for the most part, solid process on the ice. Offense notwithstanding, the overall team defense has been stellar. It’s the team defense that has kept them in games while the offense struggles. Given the number of injuries and outside factors impacting the roster, this is a big positive in what could have been a lost season.
2. The offense wasn’t going to be dormant all season long, but yet yesterday’s big win was still lacking one important thing. Mika Zibanejad was held off the score sheet again, despite getting a bunch of chances. He was one of three forwards with no points (Brendan Lemieux, Brett Howden). Zibanejad is struggling, but at some point he will break through. It’s a bit concerning for sure, especially with the center depth as thin as it is.
3. Speaking of center depth, Filip Chytil’s injury really did have a ripple effect on the lineup. Zibanejad isn’t producing, which leaves Ryan Strome as the best center on the roster at the moment. Strome has certainly stepped up and has had a surprisingly solid all around year. His defensive game has been much improved, and he’s driving offense even without Artemi Panarin. It’s still early, but I’ll happily eat my words if Strome continues to produce with and without the puck away from Panarin.
4. But speaking of Strome, it’s time he is removed from PP1. This is less a slight against Strome and more a slight against David Quinn. His powerplay units have been the subject of much ire, and it’s something that has bugged me since last season. PP1 has four righties and one lefty, with that one lefty being Chris Kreider in front of the net. PP2 has four lefties and one righty. Is it that hard to switch things up a bit? It’s as simple as swapping Strome and Alexis Lafreniere. Neither unit suffers. In fact, you can argue both units gain a lot with the switch. This is a valley of the Rangers rollercoaster ride throughout the season, and is extremely frustrating.
5. Sorry to disappoint, but the Tarmo Reunanen recall to the taxi squad yesterday was just a paperwork move. The Rangers need to have a minimum number of players on the taxi squad, and the recall was to hit those numbers. It was fun watching everyone get excited though. That was certainly one of the peaks of the Rangers rollercoaster yesterday.
6. It’s going to be interesting to see what the Rangers do at the trade deadline this year. The only expiring UFA contracts are Phil Di Giuseppe, Jack Johnson and Brendan Smith. The RFAs are Pavel Buchnevich, Julien Gauthier, Brett Howden, Libor Hajek, Ryan Lindgren, and Igor Shesterkin. There’s not much to work in terms of selling, aside from Buchnevich. The Rangers are going to keep Lindgren and Shesterkin, so no worries there. They might just stand pat. Maybe they look to trade Ryan Strome, since they tried to this summer.
7. I wonder if the Rangers shift Howden back to wing once Chytil comes back. Kevin Rooney deserves to stay in the lineup and at center.