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We are at game 3 post All-Star break, and it is clear the Rangers lineup is still getting back into the swing of things. Last night was the Panarin and Igor show as both led the way in this one with yet another multi point game for Panarin. Igor handled his business with a 29 save performance and nearly had an empty net goal. It is going to happen any game now folks. He was inches away with about a minute left in the game and it went wide.

Patrik Nemeth made his return to the Rangers lineup after being out for personal reasons for weeks. The problem was, the lineup casualty for this decision was Zac Jones; who I believe today is a far better defenseman than Nemeth by nearly every metric. Nemeth was a great fallback plan in case the kids did not work out for this season, but it’s clear that a top six group of Lindgren, Fox, Trouba, Miller, Schneider, and Jones will win you hockey games with the mixture of skill, athleticism, defensive mindedness.

That contract is not an albatross by any means and I wonder if it gets moved sometime over the next 6 months. It’s pretty obvious that Nemeth has not been a fit here and while his mistakes were limited today, I do not trust him in a 7 game series in May/June.

Has there been a better dichotomy of the Rangers this season than the Rangers 5 on 5 play vs. their special teams? It is hilarious to me how it seems the Rangers can never have both a dominant power play and a dominant presence at 5 on 5. While the Rangers have shown many a time over the years that they have elite finishing talent, you want more out of a team with this much star power. You especially want this when we get to the playoffs and the power plays will become harder to draw.

This is where the blind hope comes I suppose for the emergence of Lafrenière, Kakko (when healthy), Gauthier, and Chytil to really start to shine. Otherwise, a team and fanbase can only be so patient with a process before another solution needs to become necessary. Lafrenière and Kakko will have a few more years based on where they were drafted, but I wonder where Chytil and Gauthier end up after this season if they continue to struggle on the score sheet. Expected goals and time of possession are great statistics when you are dissecting hockey systems, but man you just want more out of Chytil and Gauthier. The talent and raw tools are abundant, results ultimately dictate success in this league though.

Sens 1, Rangers 0

Filip Chytil lost the puck in the offensive zone, and the Sens were able to poke the puck past K’Andre Miller to start the 2-on-1. Jacob Trouba played this fine, as did Igor Shesterkin, but Tim Stuetzle just picked his spot. Tap your stick and move on.

Rangers 1, Sens 1

This is a good play by Artemiy Panarin to collect the loose puck and throw it to open ice and allow Braden Schneider to skate into it. Schneider saw Ryan Strome in front, and this was more of a pass than a shot to Strome, who paused and had an empty net to bury it.

Rangers 2, Sens 1

After multiple chances from Zibanejad that were denied, the Rangers worked from the other side on this powerplay. Eventually, Panarin got the puck with room, and he doesn’t miss. This is a critical piece of the powerplay, being able to score from the other side, as teams will start to cheat to Zibanejad if they can’t.

Game Flow

The Rangers don’t need to be perfect. They need to be good enough. They were that last night, and while you want to see a better performance against a bad Ottawa team, they did what was needed. The detractors will say they won’t do it in a playoff series, and there are big concerns there. They have played up to opponents though. so there is blind hope they can do it in the playoffs.

Shot Heatmap

The Rangers controlled this game for the most part, limiting Ottawa to the outside while getting shots from almost everywhere themselves. What was said in the game flow holds true here: We don’t need the Rangers to be perfect. We need them to be good enough. This is a step in the right direction.

Last thought of this game: Igor has played 79 NHL hockey games and has already won 50 of them. Words cannot describe the calmness felt while he occupies the crease. This is a game in and game out feeling even as the team in front of him can struggle to find their way–a sentence all to familiar with Rangers fans since 2005-2006.

It sounds absolutely insane to write out, as Hank’s number went to the Rafters at MSG only weeks ago. but with Igor, I don’t think I’ve ever seen an athlete have that “We’re not losing tonight” vibe every time he is in the crease. Lundqvist had those nights obviously too, but there is something different about Igor. We are seeing greatness flourish yet again in net in New York. Not to mention, it’s an absolute cheat code that the Rangers have a goalie who can now not only make saves like Lundqvist used to, but then handle the puck the way Igor does; it’s the best of both worlds.

I always would hold my breath whenever Lundqvist would leave the crease, you never knew what was going to happen. Igor has that QB mentality though with not only finding open ice, but rarely missing his target. The puck virtually goes to a Ranger stick every time.

Charts from Natural Stat Trick and Hockeyviz.


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