The New York Rangers continued their turnaround this week. After a 1-3-1 start, the Rangers are now 4-4-2 and have a four game point streak (3-0-1). Their young players are playing better, the veterans are finally making a huge impact and the goaltending is beginning to solidify. Let’s jump into the two games the Rangers had this past week against the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Washington Capitals.
February 1st, 2021: New York Rangers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins @ Madison Square Garden
Starting Goaltenders: Igor Shesterkin – W, Casey DeSmith – L
The New York Rangers came out flying in this game and the improvement they have shown over the past week was evident. The Rangers had some great early chances and were screening DeSmith as much as possible. If not for some nice heroic saves early, the Penguins would have been staring down a deficit. Despite the Rangers great play, Jason Zucker would open the scoring at 9:05 of the first period when he battled for a puck that caromed off the boards. He would stuff the puck past an out of position Shesterkin for a 1-0 Penguins lead. They would take that lead into the locker room.
The second period was where the Rangers took control and never looked back. The Rangers would press most of the second but DeSmith made some great saves once again. At 17:42 of the period, DeSmith would finally falter. A shot from Artemi Panarin would rebound right to Kevin Rooney, who stuffed it past DeSmith to tie the game at one. The teams would go to the locker room tied at one goal a piece. This was a huge goal for the Rangers as they needed to grab some momentum going in to the third period,
The Rangers continued to fight in the third period and at 11:10, Chris Kreider would cash in on the power-play after some hard work from Artemi Panarin and Adam Fox. Panarin would send a quick pass to Fox at the point and Fox head faked one way while shooting towards the stick of Kreider. Kreider would deflect the shot past DeSmith for a 2-1 Rangers lead. The game was tight the rest of the way and Panarin would seal it with a last second shot and goal on the empty net to make it a 3-1 Rangers lead and win. A great night for the Broadway Blueshirts and it was going to get even better.
February 4th, 2021: New York Rangers vs. Washington Capitals @ Madison Square Garden
Starting Goaltenders: Igor Shesterkin – W, Vitek Vanecek – L
The Rangers wore their Reverse Retro Liberty Jerseys for the first time
The Rangers would come flying and this time, they would strike first. At just 1:41 of the first period, Ryan Strome would perfectly deflect an Adam Fox wrister past Vanecek for a 1-0 Rangers lead. The boys were jumping early and they would continue their strong play throughout the first period of the game. The Rangers would keep fighting hard to get that next goal but they would enter the locker room with a 1-0 lead over the Capitals.
The second period began with both teams playing well and exchanging chances. Shesterkin had to make some good saves, including a nice one on Tom Wilson. The Rangers would eventually break through once again and in just his second game in a New York Rangers jersey, Long Island’s own Anthony Bitetto, would weave his way around almost the entire Capitals team to score a highlight reel backhand goal. It was his first goal since 2017 and it gave the Rangers a huge boost and a 2-0 lead. The Capitals would finally strike at 18:57 of the second period when Carl Hagelin would score an extremely flukey goal to cut the Rangers lead to 2-1. The Rangers entered the locker room with a 2-1 lead.
The third period was filled with firepower as both teams traded goals and chances. At 7:55 of the third period, Ryan Strome would get his second goal of the game. Strome and Panarin broke in a on 2-on-1 into the Capitals zone and Strome cashed in on the final pass of the play to give the Rangers a 3-1 lead in the third. Strome and Panarin getting going means bad news for the rest of the league. Alexander Ovechkin would cash in on a wicked wrister at 11:01 in the third. There was no one any goaltender was stopping Ovi’s laser like shot. Finally, the Rangers would seal the deal when Pavel Buchnevich would slide the puck into the empty net at 19:33 to give the Rangers a 4-2 lead and seal the victory.
The New York Rangers have seemingly found their game. Not only are the kids continuing to play well, especially K’Andre Miller who is already looking like the second best defenseman on the team, but the veterans are finally stepping up. Artemi Panarin and Ryan Strome had incredible weeks and Chris Kreider is finding his game as well. With no preseason it clearly took guys a few games to get up to speed and it’s not showing. Anthony Bitetto has been awesome since being called upon to join the lineup and Libor Hajek, a young defenseman acquired from the Lightning a few years ago, has held his own. The team is beginning to gel,
Of course, Mika Zibanejad needs to get himself going soon. The Rangers need their number one center to play well to succeed in this division and if they hope to make any type of noise. Alexis Lafreniere had his statement goal against Buffalo last week but you’d love to see the kid get another one to boost his confidence. Kaapo Kakko continues to get better each game and he is beginning to look great in his spot next to Strome and Panarin.
The Week Ahead
February 8th, 2021: New York Rangers vs. New York Islanders @ Madison Square Garden
February 10, 2021: New York Rangers vs. Boston Bruins @ Madison Square Garden
February 12th, 2021: New York Rangers vs. Boston Bruins @ Madison Square Garden
February 14th, 2021: New York Rangers vs. Philadelphia Flyers @ Madison Square Garden