Vladimir Tarasenko's first 10 games with the Rangers have been a bumpy ride.

Vladimir Tarasenko’s first 10 games with the Rangers have been a bumpy ride. Few Rangers trade deadline acquisitions will be as scrutinized as Tarasenko (and Patrick Kane). He has already played 10 games with the Rangers, and the general way too early narrative is that he’s been a disappointment. This narrative is a bit foolish at this point, but it’s worth looking into why Tarasenko’s first 10 games have gone this way.

Before last night’s three point night, including the game winner, Tarasenko had just two goals and four points in 9 games, including a 3 game pointless streak. Through the full 10 games, he now has a line of 3-4-7, which makes it look a lot better. However it’s hard to ignore some of the struggles on the ice, most notably the lack of driving offense.

Linemates and results are painting a clear picture

At 5v5, Tarasenko has spend most of his ice time with either Artemi Panarin and Vincent Trocheck or Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider. This checks out, of course, as Tarasenko will eventually find a spot in the top six.

Per Natural Stat Trick, Tarasenko has spent 59 minutes with Zibanejad and Kreider, and 44 minutes with Panarin and Trocheck. Not exactly the best sample sizes, but the results are clear:

  • Kreider/Zibanejad/Tarasenko
    • CF/60 – 23.43
    • CA/60 – 62.14
    • CF% – 27.38
    • xGF/60 – 0.88
    • xGA/60 – 2.88
    • xGF% – 23.26
    • PDO – 1.112 (95.83 SV%, 15.38 SH%)
  • Panarin/Trocheck/Tarasenko
    • CF/60 – 61.76
    • CA/60 – 43.92
    • CF% – 58.44
    • xGF/60 – 3.41
    • xGA/60 – 2.04
    • xGF% – 62.54
    • PDO – .946 (87.5 SV%, 7.14 SH%)

It’s pretty cut and dry from a results perspective. Panarin/Trocheck/Tarasenko mostly played together when Tarasenko first arrived in New York. That overlapped with an incredibly bad month for Igor Shesterkin. So we have the illusion of a line that wasn’t performing, even though they dominated play. They hit an unlucky stretch with the poor goaltending.

Meanwhile, the results with Kreider/Zibanejad/Tarasenko are near abysmal. They are only propped up because they’ve received excellent goaltending and have shot over 50% higher than league average. We see the illusion of success propped up on goals like Kreider’s last night, where Tarasenko’s pass to Ben Harpur bounced back to him, and he got lucky on Kreider’s tip in front.

There are two questions at the heart of these results:

  1. Are these results indicative of what’s to come?
  2. Where should Tarasenko, and thus Patrick Kane, play?

Gerard Gallant has stated Kane will play with Panarin tonight against Ottawa. It’s expected, and we knew they’d get at least a game together. That leaves Tarasenko to continue with Zibanejad and Kreider. For the sake of overall team success, Panarin and Kane will likely need to swallow some pride and be split up.

It’s naturally too soon to tell what the lines will look like for the playoffs. But we can guarantee the lines tonight won’t be the lines for the playoffs. We can also guarantee we will see Barclay Goodrow in the top six temporarily at some point.

The Rangers have time to figure this out. Maybe Tarasenko finds a rhythm with Kreider and Zibanejad. Maybe Kane and Panarin won’t be a defensive black hole that only generates one chance before being crushed in their own end (much like last year’s 2nd line).

There’s a lot of unknown at the moment. Tarasenko’s first 10 games have certainly not lived up to the hype, but it is certainly to early to call Tarasenko a disappointment and a failure. Especially with 20 games left in the regular season and a hopefully long playoff run still to come.

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