NEW YORK, NY – We are almost a third of the way through the season and the New York Rangers are still playing some great hockey. They have 37 points from 25 games and currently sit in third, even on points with the Carolina Hurricanes and one point behind the Washington Capitals atop the Metropolitan Division. The Blueshirts have a game in hand over the Caps.
The Rangers have found success with great goaltending from Igor Shesterkin, who looked like a clear Vezina winner with his play so far this season, has been one of the primary reasons for NY’s success. Shesterkin left last Friday’s game injured and hasn’t skated with the team since. It is a dreaded “lower body injury”. It looked like the same groin injury that kept Shesterkin out for a spell last season. Igor is eligible to come off of IR tonight but it looks like he will need a bit more time to get back to health.
The injury to Shesty gives Alexandar Georgiev a chance to gain some confidence back with the bulk of the workload until Shesterkin is back. Georgiev has had a rough start to the season. He hasn’t played as much with Shesterkin getting the lion’s share of the workload. And not playing has affected his sharpness and his confidence. One hopes that playing more regularly as the #1 netminder will get Georgiev back to his previous solid form.
With Shesterkin out injured and Georgiev promoted to the #1 spot, the Rangers made a move to call up Keith Kinkaid from Hartford. The only problem was that Kinkaid couldn’t travel to the Rangers because of COVID protocol. With games on back-to-back nights this week, the Rangers started Adam Huska against the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday. It did not go well. It was Huska’s first career game. He gave up seven goals and was immediately sent down once Kinkaid could be recalled. Huska’s GAA stands at a portly 7 after his first game. He’ll need a few years to get that GAA down to near the league average of 2.6 or so. Tough break, kid.
In front of net, the Rangers defensemen have played some stellar hockey. Adam Fox is backing up his Norris Trophy win with another stellar campaign. Jacob Trouba has settled in and is (almost) earning his $8 million cap hit. He recorded back-to-back Gordie Howe Hat Tricks (one gino, one apple, one tilly) this week against the Blackhawks and Avalanche. And he laid a brutal (but clean) hits on Jujhar Khaira and Nathan MacKinnon in those games. Trouba has stepped up his two-way play and physicality and is just behind Fox in average ice time for the Rangers.
The forwards are doing what they have to do. Kreider is still scoring at an amazing clip. He’s scoring dirty goals from in front of the net. He’s not sniping from the hash marks or dangling around whole teams. but he always seems to be where he needs to be to score on a deflection or rebound. Panarin has come on of late and had a stellar game against the Blackhawks recording two goals and two assists. Mika Zibanejad has started out slowly on the goal-scoring front but he did the same last year and then went on a tear. So look for Mika to get in the goals once we get to January.
The Rangers are back on the ice tonight against the Buffalo Sabres. They could go top in the Metropolitan Division with a win and a Capitals loss to the Penguins.