NY Rangers 11/4 Recap – The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly (Injuries)

Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images

After a busy week on the road the NY Rangers find themselves in a defensive bout Thursday night against the reigning Metro Division winners, the Carolina Hurricanes. This matchup was thought to be the first real test of the Rangers’ capabilities since their 5-0 western swing against some of the furthest teams from their Madison Square Garden home base. Out of those 5 teams (SEA,CGY,EDM,VAN,WPG), only Vancouver has a winning record at this time but, if you were able to stay up for those late-start time games, you could see that the Rangers grinded out some close game wins.

Speaking of grinding out some wins, the Rangers did just that against the Hurricanes in what was a defensive and neutral zone trapping battle for the ages. The casual hockey viewer might have watched this game and been a bit bored since both teams were sticking to their gameplans of allowing easy breakouts but collapsing in the neutral zone to prevent further zone entry. This leads to low danger chances and low-event hockey. The juxtaposition between a Gallant-coached NYR game and this new Laviolette style is jarring.

While Gallant’s Ranger team were told to “play hard” and “fight hard for the puck” they lacked a true hockey system which led to high event chances on the offensive side of the puck AND a ton of giveaways and odd-man rushes. According to Vince Mercogliano of USA Today, the Ranger were 31st of 32 teams last year in giveaways. Translated: They were the second worst team, allowing the 2nd most give aways per game on average in the league. This year, the Rangers are 2nd in the league with the 2nd least giveaways per game. Maybe this means Rangers games will be lower event on both sides of the puck but the Rangers personnel seem to be coping well with this change in hockey mindset and they still have the skill to produce goals and chances, albeit mostly on the Power Play.

Let’s take a quick look at what else is working, what is not working, and (unfortunately) the two injuries that took place for the Rangers.


The Good

Artemi Panarin | Photo by Dan Hickling


Defensive Mindset

The Rangers off-the-puck play has been markedly better than previous seasons. The Left-Wing Lock system and 1-3-1 forecheck has clogged up the neutral zone and prevented odd-man rushes. But it extends further than that, the Rangers are buying into the systems Laviolette has set forth for them. In addition, when the Rangers hold the puck, they are one of the best teams in the league at keeping the puck on their sticks and keeping plays alive in the O-zone.


Artemi Panarin

The best player on the Rangers this season has undoubtedly been Artemi Panarin. Panarin has a 10 game point streak to start the season which is the 3rd longest in NY Rangers history. Mr. Ranger himself, Rod Gilbert, holds the record at 14 points through the first 14 games back in the 1972-73 season. Bald Panarin, or as I like to call him “Breadman without the crust”, has been lighting up the score sheet this year and to see him make a run for Gilbert’s record is must-watch hockey.


Power-Play

The Power-Play personnel has remained completely unchanged on the first unit, with Kreider, Fox, Panarin, Trocheck, and Zibanejad, and yet the puck movement and decisions seem totally revamped and dynamic. This is another sign of the new coaching staff getting their ideologies into the players. We have seen slight changes in PP2 but its usually only out there for the last 30-45 seconds of the man advantage. This is surely to change with recent injuries but we will talk about that later…

The PP is 3rd in the league and just below 33% so 1 in every 3 Power-Plays the Rangers get, they are putting pucks in the back of the net. This, again, is likely to change with recent injuries but could mean we see a more even split of the PP1 and PP2 units. It also means the Rangers will rely more on Kaapo Kakko or Alexis Lafreniere to carry the PP workload. A big responsibility? Yes. But the kids still need more exposure on special teams and what better time when you’re coming 6 wins and have made some space for yourself in the standings.


The Bad


5 v 5 Scoring

For younger Rangers fans, this might seem like a tale as old as time. It seems the Rangers have had poor 5 on 5 play since David Quinn took over as head coach in 2018. There is a key difference this season than years past, however. This year the advanced analytics LOVE the line combinations for the top 3 lines. According to Money Puck, the top 3 lines are ranked 5th, 12th, and 13th with positive stats in expected goals for percentage (xGoals %) and expected goals against percentage (xGoals Against):

https://moneypuck.com/lines.htm

However, the actual act of scoring goals has been more difficult to come by for these 9 players, excluding Artemi Panarin. Lafreniere also got off to a hot start with 4 goals but has since cooled in the last couple of games, and the remaining players on the top 3 lines of Kakko (1), Chytil (0), Zibanejad (1), Kreider (1), Trocheck (0), Wheeler (0), Cuylle (2) combine for 5 goals between them at even strength. Of the top 9, 3 forwards have 0 goals, 3 forwards have 1 goal, and the rookie, Will Cuylle, has 2 goals through 10 games.

This can easily become an issue for the Rangers if the Power Play goes cold and you gotta hope these 7 players can start producing in 5 on 5 situations or else the hot start the Rangers have made for themselves could rapidly disappear. However, the Rangers should stay the course and hope the advanced statistics are true and the the forward groups begins to adjust closer to the mean and produce.


Blake Wheeler

Wheeler still has yet to officially record a point for the Rangers. It hasn’t directly affected any games yet which is likely why it hasn’t been as big of an issue but if injuries linger, the Ranger will need to rely on depth scoring, something Wheeler has not been able to produce yet.

While Wheeler looked rejuvenated and was looking to shoot-first against his former team in Winnipeg, it still resulted in no points produced. A good sign that he still has some jump left in his game but if the pointless streak continues and wins become harder to achieve, the team could look to go in a different direction via a trade or a call up (*ahem* Brennan Othmann…). Othmann should still spend his time marinating in the AHL but it would not be surprising to see more Othmann chatter in the coming weeks.


The Ugly (Injury Update)

“Adam Fox” | Photo by The Athletic – Getty Images


Adam Fox

Adam Fox took an awkward leg check from Carolina’s Sebastion Aho. While, it didn’t look deliberately malicious it should have surely been an interference penalty. Instead, no call was made on the play AND Adam Fox has recently been put on the Long-Term Injured Reserve (LTIR). What this means is Fox must miss 10 NHL games AND 24 days of the season. However, his cap hit of $9.5M immediately comes off of the Rangers Salary cap. This has a number of implications immediately and looking ahead this season.

Immediately, it means the Rangers are down a defenseman and it’s likely that Zac Jones will have to step up as the 6th man. The Rangers called up AHL defenseman Conner Mackey but I expect that to be the 7th D-man and consistent healthy scratch. This will probably mean Laviolette will experiment with the D pairings and fans could see a bit of a shuffle as the team figures out what works best. Jones has been patiently waiting an opportunity to play being a healthy scratch almost every night of the season and, while no one would call Fox’s injury positive for the Rangers, the bright side is the Rangers will get an extended look at Zac Jones on the blue line. This could turn into a showcase for trade-bait in the future or a prove-it moment for Jones to make the Rangers keep him in the lineup. Either way, a tremendous opportunity for the young defender Jones and it should be exciting to see it play out.

Looking ahead, the Rangers could make a move for a player or players to fill the $9.5M void that Fox is leaving on their roster. However, having someone on the LTIR immediately stops the salary cap accrual process. Originally, the Rangers were going to have $2-3M of cap space at the deadline which is typically enough to sign one MAYBE two cheap players. If Fox is out for the entire regular season, the Rangers would be able to pull in additional players and have a wider window at the trade deadline. If Fox comes back at any point in the season, that pool of LTIR money is gone and the cap accrual process can start up again. This means the Rangers may end up with less cap space at the trade deadline than what they were originally projected.


Filip Chytil

It was less clear how Chytil got injured in the Hurricanes game but shortly after it was clear Fox had left the game, the Rangers announced Chytil also would not return. Chytil has been plagued by injuries that have kept him out of multiple games the last 4 seasons. Typically, it seems Chytil is out for a week here and there at random points of the season and has avoided LTIR lately. This injury places Chytil on the Injured Reserve (IR) which means he must miss the next 7 days. This move has no long-term cap implications but the Rangers still made an immediate move to pull up a forward from Hartford.

At the start of the regular season it was clear the Jonny Brodzinski was the Rangers’ favorite to be “first man up” from the AHL. Brodzinski now has been brought back on the Blueshirts’ roster and will likely inject an extra speed boost to that fourth line. Expect to see Barclay Goodrow elevated to the second or third lines to fill the gap for Chytil similar to what we saw in the game against the Hurricanes and because Goodrow has been used as a versatile centerman before up and down the lineup.

Igor Shesterkin

It’s not yet official if Shesterkin will be out for an extended period of time. The Rangers always seemed to be riding with Quick for the Minnesota game on Saturday November 4th but it is frightening to see them call up Louis Domingue to serve as backup. Shesterkin has been one of the best goalies in the league the last 3 years so any extended absence for him would certainly hurt the team but the actual severity of Shesty’s absence is still unclear.

The Rangers’ roster is definitely weaker without Fox, Chytil and possibly Shesterkin but will they be resilient enough to still put up wins without these key players?

Can they address the 5 on 5 scoring issues?

How will the Power Play fair without the dynamic QB role that Fox played?

These questions make the Rangers an interesting case-study and, in my opinion, must-watch hockey for Rangers and all-around hockey fans.

Ben Pratley

I'm a lifelong hockey player and Fan. Grew up playing hockey in the Metro-NY area and now write for Inside The Rink covering all things NY Rangers related. Check out my articles to keep up to date with Rangers news, storylines, and analysis.

2 thoughts on “NY Rangers 11/4 Recap – The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly (Injuries)

  1. Hey buddy! Fellow ITR writer here. I cover the Devils, we have Nico and Jack out now! Jack is still undergoing concussion protocol but we all know what that means!! The loss of Fox most likely won’t affect the Rangers strong start imo. Check out my article today about Jesper Bratt here on ITR, it’s called “Jesper Bratt: Underrated After All These Years”. Also I wanted to say, like myself, you like to write in depth, longer articles. I love that, I grew up playing in the same area as you (NY Applecore, Nassau County Lions, LI Gulls) did you play for Applecore by any chance?

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