Lots to Love About the Rangers So Far This Season

Going into this season, both the New York Rangers and their passionate fan base had a sour taste in their mouths. After going up 2-0 in their first-round series with the New Jersey Devils in last year’s Stanley Cup playoffs, the Blueshirts went on to lose the series in seven games. Their effort in Game 7 was particularly awful as they were shutout by a score of 4-0.

Rangers General Manager Chris Drury then made some key changes this offseason. He fired head coach Gerard Gallant and bought in former Cup winner Peter Laviolette to replace him. Drury also went out and signed free agents Jonathan Quick, Blake Wheeler, Nick Bonino, Tyler Pitlick, Erik Gustafsson, and others to deals. The names Quick and Wheeler certainly surprised Rangers fans, but we will have more on that later.

Fast forward to now, and the Rangers are one of the best teams in the league. Going into their game on Wednesday night, December 28th, against the Washington Capitals at Madison Square Garden, the Blueshirts were first in the Metropolitan Division, first in the Eastern Conference, and second in the NHL with a record of 23-8-1 for 47 points, just two points behind the league-leading Vancouver Canucks.

There are many reasons why the Rangers are having so much success this season. Let us take a look at five things to love about this team this season.

1) Artemi Panarin Has Been an Offensive Monster
Rangers’ forward Artemi Panarin has been an absolute beast this season.

Panarin leads the team in scoring with 44 points on 18 goals and 26 assists, which also puts him tied for fifth in the league in scoring with Edmonton Oilers superstar Connor McDavid. Panarin, 32, has been putting the puck on net a ton this season (currently leads the team with 134 shots on goal), which has led to a lot of goals, assists, and scoring chances.

He is also making his linemates, Vincent Trocheck, and Alexis Lafreniere, have a lot of success this season. Trocheck currently has 28 points, while Lafreniere currently has 18 points.

2) Lafreniere Has Taken a Step Forward
It is hard to believe that Lafreniere is just 22 years old. His adjustment to NHL hockey has not been the easiest,t and there was certainly a lot of pressure on him to get it going this season.

Thanks to Laviollete instilling a lot of confidence in him, Lafreniere’s play has been terrific this season. As mentioned above,e he has 18 points on nine goals and nine assists and is playing with a consistent effort every single game.

Lafreniere goes hard to the net, creates room for both Panarin and Trocheck and scores key goals, as he has already scored two game-winning goals this season. He still has to continue to play this way for the rest of the season, but for right now, he has shown that with confidence from his head coach and playing with consistent linemates, he can be a key contributor to this hockey club.

3) Special Teams Are Special
Despite losing the likes of Vladimir Tarasenko and Patrick Kane in the offseason, the Rangers power play has been deadly this season.

As of this writing, the Blueshirts have the league’s best power play,y as they have converted on 31.1 percent of their opportunities with the man advantage. Players like Chris Kreider (eight goals), Mika Zibanejad (six goals), Panarin (six goals), and Trocheck (five goals) have all been key contributors to the team’s power play so far this season.

The Rangers have also been excellent on the penalty kill this season. They are currently fifth in the league in that category, as they have killed off 85.7 percent of the penalties they have taken so far this season.

4) One of the Best Goaltending Tandems in the League
Going into this season, many wondered why the Rangers signed Quick, 37, in the offseason.

Well, do not look now, but Quick has been one of the league’s best goaltenders this season. He is currently 9-1-0-1 (tied for 17th in the league) with a 2.27 goals-against average (fourth in the league), a .920 save percentage (sixth in the league), and two shutouts.

All-Star and franchise goaltender Igor Shesterkin has also been solid this season. Shesterkin, 27, is currently 13-7 with a 2.86 goals-against average and a .906 save percentage.

5) Great Coaching from Laviolette
Lastly, the hiring of Laviolette has proven to be a fantastic one for this hockey club.

Under Laviolette, this team plays hard every night, does not take nights off, does not give up in games, plays hard for each other, and believes that they can win every game. They are playing with a killer instinct on a nightly basis, which is something they lacked under Gallant last season.

Laviolette has also shown faith in his players to do what they do best. He has put his players in the right positions to succeed and has instilled confidence in all of them, which has led this team to be at or near the top of the standings for much of this season.

Patrick Hoffman

Patrick covers the NHL for Inside The Rink. He has previously covered the league for The Ultimate Hockey Fan Cave, WTP Sports, Sportsnet.ca, Kukla’s Korner, Spector’s Hockey, NHL Network Radio blog, TheHockeyNews.com, The Fourth Period, Stan Fischler’s “The Fischler Report”, as well as a slew of others.

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