Friday, January 21, 2022

Rangers’ standing as Stanley Cup contender comes with caveat

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If the playoffs start today, says Dave Maloney, you need to turn on the Rangers ’chances.

It’s hard to argue with that.

The Blueshirts 22-8-4 lead the NHL with 48 points and surprise everyone with a team that successfully combines star power with consistency, good special teams and passionate goalkeepers who could be contenders for the Stanley Cup. . Maloni – as the team’s radio analyst points out – is hard to beat them in the playoffs right now.

But there are still four months to go before the start of the post-season, and whether they can continue to do so will serve as a key test.

“I think they have a chance for me,” he said [at a run] because they have [Igor] Shesterkin is online, ”TNT reporter Anson Carter, a former NHL winger who played 54 games for Rangers, said in a telephone interview. “He’s one of the elite players in the National Hockey League.”

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Any conversation about Rangers ’success this year should start with the Russian, who saved the team with his game at the start of the season and played all season as a Vezina Trophy contender. But lately, Rangers have lost faith in the goalkeeper.

Rangers started the season 22-8-4.

Artemi Panarin, Adam Fox, Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad scored 30 points each. Jacob Trouba’s game moved forward. The acquisitions of Ryan Reeves and Barclay Goodrow – condemned as an overreaction to the Tom Wilson incident last spring – have been effective. CEO Chris Drury’s hiring of Gerard Gallant paid off.

Maloni and Joe Micheletti, the team’s color analyst at MSG, both pointed to a comment they made during the meeting when asked how Gallant spent the time from recruitment to the start of camp. Instead of flying around the world to meet his new players, Gallant stayed in place, knowing he would see them at camp.

It’s a symbol of an approach that empowers players.

“He understands what they’re going through,” Micheletti said. “He also understands the importance of the growth of these young players. He makes sure they get the message that the team will win and what they need to do, and give everyone enough rope to play. He accepts mistakes to a certain extent, and so if you make a single mistake, it’s not pressure, it’s sitting on the bench. “

ESPN analyst Kevin Wicks, a former Rangers goalkeeper who has been replaced by Henrik Lundqvist, sees the team playing stronger both in his own zone and in the other team’s zone. He believes he bought Gallant as well as Reaves and Goodrow.

“And all of a sudden you’re a team that plays with more jackpots,” Wicks said. “Not at the expense of skill, but it’s just more competitive. The harder you can be on the puck, the more battles you will engage. You prioritize defense and boxing in front of your own goal.

There is still some hesitation in anointing the Rangers as Cup contenders on the same level as the Lightning, the Golden Knights and other top leagues.

“This team will probably be a contender in the next five years, I think,” said Mike Rupp of NHL Network, who has played 68 games on Broadway, including 11 years in the league. “And they showed they were able to take the next step.”

But?

“There are so many games they’ve won that they shouldn’t have. … And I think most of that was the goalkeeper. “

Of course, it doesn’t have to be a blow – at least if Shesterkin continues to play at such a high level. But if he goes through the cold, it leaves open the question of what Rangers will look like.

Recently, this concern has become less noticeable as the team Shesterkin has been injured and reserve Alexander Georgiev has stepped up his game. It doesn’t hurt to have goal-scoring power like Panarin, Kreider and Zibanejad or to win the Norris Trophy at Fox. Carter compared the 23-year-old to Brian Litch, Ray Burke and Niklas Lidstrom.

Rangers
Chris Craider celebrated his goal.

“Ray Burke fired missiles directly at the tape, forehand or backhand, so you always had to be prepared,” Carter said. “After jumping off the board, you became an option. Many defenders have not been like that.

“From a defensive point of view, I would say Nick Lidstrom would be the perfect comparison to him. Because Lidstrom was a guy who wouldn’t run you to the end, but he would always turn you into a corner so that your real estate would run out. And you would skate yourself on planks where you had no chance. “

Fox’s role in the main part of this team falls to Rupp’s point. The Rangers roster is designed to fight not only this year, but in the future as well. There is no clear place in them that looks like a hole.

“Someone could try to get six other wing backs,” Wicks said. “Can they want someone like Tyler Toffoli from Montreal?”

Toffoli can be helpful, as well as the depth of the blue line. But it’s hard to determine Rangers’ game right now.

“If they had played like that at the end of April,” Meloni said, “boy, you would have liked their chances so much. They’re kicking all the cylinders.”

.

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