The New York Rangers finished their franchise-changing 2021-22 season this past week. It was filled with remarkable performances, a return to prominence in the NHL, and followed up with postseason drama and a future that is burning bright.
Let’s review it.
2021-22 NYR Season
What more can you say about it. It was a success. The first successful one since “The Letter” on February 8, 2018, the first season with 50+ wins since 2014-15, and this was the first time in a long time that Rangers fans had this feeling of hope.
With a 52-24-6 record in the regular season, the Rangers finished second in the Metropolitan Division. There were many highlight performances, and each player was a key part of their success.
It all starts in net, with Igor Shesterkin. The Rangers do not win nearly as many games as they did without #31 in net. He was 36-13-4, with a goals-against-average of 2.07. All while stopping .935 percent of the shots he faced. The League noticed his impeccable performance and put him up as a nominee for the Vezina Trophy and Hart Trophy. This season was Lundqvist-like, and it reminded us of the safety net that #30 brought us for so many years. Shesterkin was also incredible in the postseason, with a 10-9 record that included a 79-save performance in the first “real” playoff game of his career against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Chris Kreider was another member of this Rangers team that shined. The running joke of him not being able to score more than 30 goals a season was obliterated with an offensive explosion of 52 regular-season goals and ten more in the postseason. Alongside Mika Zibanejad, the duo combined for 158 points in the regular season and 40 points in the 20 postseason games. Artemi Panarin led the Rangers in points for the second straight year, with 22 goals and 74 assists for 96 points. He proves that he is worth every penny, even with a less-than-stellar postseason performance.
On the defensive side, It was a successful year. They were able to work together as a solid unit, giving Shesterkin a security blanket. Adam Fox, Ryan Lindgren, Jacob Trouba, K’Andre Miller, and Braden Schneider were excellent this season. Fox and Trouba both scored 11 goals a piece, with Fox also adding 63 assists. The 74-point performance was good for the fourth-most points for d-men in the NHL.
The Rangers were buyers at the trade deadline, and it worked out beautifully. Frank Vatrano, Andrew Copp, Tyler Motte, and Justin Braun are the notable players that came over to the Rangers in March. Each helped secure the Rangers playoff contention and were big pieces in the playoffs.
The shining moment of the season for me came in the postseason, with the emergence of the “kid line.” The Rangers heavily relied on the third-line trio of Alexis Lafreniere, Filip Chytil, and Kaapo Kakko in the playoffs and lived up to the challenge. The three forwards were excellent in the 19 playoff games together, aside from the benching of Kaako in the final game of the Rangers postseason. Chytil and Lafreniere each had 9 points, and Kakko finished with five points in their Stanley Cup Playoff debuts.
Looking Ahead To a Bright Future
Rangers fans will remember this season as a successful and exciting one. Finally, the Rangers can be considered a cup contender after coming just two wins away from making the Stanley Cup Final. They fought hard in 7-game battles against the Pittsburgh Penguins and Carolina Hurricanes, and then they took the back-to-back champions, the Tampa Bay Lightning, to six games.
The future is now, and it is shining so bright. This offseason will be tough, as there are plenty of RFA’s and UFA’s that will need new deals. The Cap space is pretty tight now for the Rangers, but I would expect that they can make these deals work, especially since the players all seemed like they wanted to come back in their exit interviews earlier this week.
The expectation of a “Stanley Cup or Bust” is back. Rangers fans don’t have to focus on the youth movement growing up and getting better or what this team could eventually be, and the focus is on winning now.