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Rangers Need to Hit The Ground Running Out of the Break

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With the NHL All-Star break currently going on and teams and players who are not involved taking a nice vacation, getting some important rest, and resetting their respective bodies for the second half of the season, it is time for many teams in this 32-team league to start gearing up for a Stanley Cup Playoff run.

This will be the case for the New York Rangers. As of this writing (Thursday, February 2), the team is third in the Metropolitan Division and tenth in the league, with a record of 27-14-8 for 62 points.

The Rangers got off to a sluggish start this season and went through a rough patch in early December, where they dropped several straight games. Luckily, the team turned it around in mid-December, and since that point, they have been one of the best teams in the league.

After coming to within two wins of reaching the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2014, this team knows that they have what it takes to have a solid finish to the regular season and make another long playoff run. To do so, a few things need to happen.

For starters, their All-Star goaltender, Igor Shesterkin, needs to continue to get the job done in the net for this team. On the season, Shesterkin, 27, is 21-8-0-7 with a 2.45 goals-against average, a .918 save percentage, and one shutout.

The numbers mentioned above obviously are not bad. With that said, last year’s Vezina Trophy winner can bring his game to an even higher level, and the Rangers will need him to do that from this point forward.

The team’s offense also needs to find another gear. The Rangers are 19th in the league in goals scored this season, as they have scored 155 goals in 49 games.

While the Rangers have two 20-goal scorers in Mika Zibanejad (22) and Chris Kreider (20) to go along with others who are scoring at a decent rate like Filip Chytil (16) and Vincent Trocheck (14), one player that needs to start putting the puck in the net is Artemi Panarin, yes, Panarin leads the team with 50 points, but he only has 12 goals.

Panarin has been too unselfish this season, passing away opportunities to shoot the puck. Panarin has a great shot, so he needs to start using it for the rest of the regular season and hopefully beyond.

Speaking of scoring goals, the team’s power play needs to be a lot better going forward. The Rangers are 17th in the league with the man advantage as they have converted just 21.6 percent of the opportunities they have been given.

This team has the weapons to have a lethal power play. Heck, they had the league’s fourth-best power play in the league last season.

More pucks need to be put on the net to improve the power play, and they need to start looking for Kreider more. Kreider has just four power-play goals this season after scoring 26 last year.

Another area that the Rangers need to improve is their play on home ice. The team is 13-9-4 at home this season after being 27-10-4 last season.

The Rangers have been great on the road this season, as they are 14-5-4. If they can return to being world-beaters on home ice, it could make a big difference in the standings.

Lastly, team head coach Gerard Gallant needs to find some continuity with the lines. He has been juggling them all season long, sometimes leading to inconsistent play from a few of their players.

A good example of this is Alexis Lafreniere. He has been bounced around all season long, but when he was recently put back with the kid line with Chytil and Kaapo Kakko, he seemed to find his game, and he ended up producing.

This team has what it takes to be successful from here on out. It is time for them to go out and do it.


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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