It’s been over a week since the New York Rangers season ended, and I think I am confident enough to put their 2021-2022 season into perspective.
At about this time last year, the Rangers were looking back on a letdown season where things could have been much better. To refresh those minds that cannot remember the short and abbreviated 2021 season, I’ll help you out. Igor Shesterkin missed time with an injury, Mika Zibanejad didn’t get going until late in the season, and by that point, New York was too far out of a playoff spot. The season also featured surprise firings of then team president John Davidson, GM Jeff Gorton, and head coach David Quinn. Easy to say the future of the team was clouded with many questions about the team’s future.
Bring on a new clean slate with brand new possibilities. Going into the new season, I don’t think any hockey analyst, whether that’s on ESPN, FOX, or any other sports news outlet, could have predicted the successful season the Broadway Blueshirts had. Filled with plenty of more “ups” than “downs,” it was a season where the team connected on all levels of the game, and skaters found new career highs.
For starters, Chris Kreider led the team in goals with 52, a career-setting milestone for him. His 52 goals also were the second-most scored in a season by a player on the Rangers. Ranking first overall is Jaromir Jagr back in 2006 with 54. Kreider also set a team franchise record with the most power-play goals in a season with 26. The 2021-2022 season was undoubtedly Kreider’s best yet.
Another member of the Rangers’ squad to have a career year was the netminder, Igor Shesterkin. Igor and his league-leading save percentage (.935) and goals-against average (2.07) paved the way for New York as they made a deep playoff push. His unbelievable stats during the passing season made it pretty easy to award him the Vezina Trophy, which is awarded to the best goalie in the season. Igor was also nominated for the Hart Trophy but lost to Auston Matthews. Matthews eclipsed the 60-goal mark, the first to do so since Steven Stamkos in 2012. It’s hard to imagine that Igor and Kreider don’t bring the same intensity next year.
New York began the 2021-2022 season campaign against the Washington Capitals, the team they played the conclude the 2021 year. New York lost game one of the season but were on a tread to trend uphill the rest of the year. At the top of their game, the Rangers had 11 wins in 12 games—a remarkable feat by any team, especially one that was still developing.
The Blueshirts’ caught many teams by surprise. They finished in second place in the Metropolitan Division, with 110 points, six short of the Carolina Hurricanes in the first place. Home ice proved to be critical in the postseason for New York, certainly not having to go over that again.
Overall, from my point of view, describing the 2021-2022 season as a success is correct. Surely it was disappointing to choke away a 2-0 series lead to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Finals, but to say the season was a failure is inaccurate. With all the things considered going into the new season (firing front office staff in May 2021, along with trading away a top-6 forward in Pavel Buchnevich, simply because the team couldn’t afford him), it’s fair to look at the season as anything but a failure. New York overachieved, and all the experience they gained in the past two months will be vital in the future. As a collected bunch of Ranger faithful, we can confidently say the Rangers are a team to be reckoned with next season.
New York has some off-season decisions to make. They’ve already signed Sammy Blais to a minimal extension and, most surprisingly, gave a 1-year contract to Vitaly Kravtsov. It’s to be seen if he’s on the team come October or if the Rangers trade him as a piece to acquire a second-line center. Something tells me the team can’t afford Andrew Copp and are willing to part ways with Ryan Strome.
This summer should be exciting in terms of what the team does to get better as they have their vision set on not only another playoff appearance but a Stanley Cup Victory.