The New York Rangers, who had a seven-game winning streak snapped in Wednesday’s 7-3 loss to the Colorado Avalanche, aimed to begin a new win streak at the KeyBank Center in their game against the Buffalo Sabres. The game included backup goaltenders starting in net for both teams in Alexandar Georgiev for the Rangers and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen for the Sabres. Let’s take a look at three takeaways from the Rangers’ 2-1 win last night.
Georgiev Continues His Improved Play
Since becoming the starting goaltender for the Rangers after Igor Shesterkin was injured during the game on Dec. 3 against the San Jose Sharks, Georgiev has proved himself capable of filling in if needed. He has made several key saves over the last week and last night’s game was no different. The Rangers-Sabres game was low-scoring with limited room for error.
The Rangers’ goaltender made 36 saves on 37 shots and had a save percentage (SV%) of .973. He continues to look like a different player compared to his play in October and November of the 2021-22 season. Without his strong play last night, the game could have gone in the Sabres’ favor. The game nearly was in jeopardy for the team as the Sabres tied it late in the third period, but the team was ruled offsides prior to scoring a goal, which allowed the Rangers to maintain the one-goal lead.
The “Kid Line” Scores a Goal
The line of Alexis Lafreniere-Filip Chytil-Julien Gauthier has provided energy and speed since head coach Gerard Gallant decided to put the trio together. The line combination has produced scoring opportunities on a regular basis and their hard work was finally rewarded last night. Lafreniere notched what turned out to be the game-winning goal during the second period for his sixth tally of the season.
Gauthier continues to create a number of shots of goal (SOG) as he had four, which was the most on the team during Friday night’s game. Lafreniere has been on various lines to start the season and he appears to have found a fit on the “Kid Line.” Maintaining stability in his second season will help him improve as a player and the line should remain together with the way the three players have looked since being put together.
Fox Excelling After Winning Norris Trophy
Adam Fox, who won the Norris Trophy last year after his second NHL season, has not suffered a slump this season. The third-year defenseman continues his remarkable career as he leads all defensemen in assists with 24, including two in Friday night’s win. He is second among all skaters in the league with 24 assists behind Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers, who has 29 assists.
The Blueshirts’ defenseman is tied with Roman Josi of the Nashville Predators with 12 power-play points (PPP) for the most points on the man advantage among players at the position. Fox has arguably been the most consistent point producer on the Rangers this season, as he is in second in total points on the team with 29, which trails Artemi Panarin, who has 32 points. The 23-year-old defenseman is well on his way to another Norris Trophy nomination with his current play.
The Rangers are in first place in the Metropolitan Division after last night’s win with 39 points and are in second place in the Eastern Conference behind the Florida Panthers who have 40 points. The team has exceeded expectations, as they were not anticipated to be among the elite NHL franchises in the standings. The team has taken the next step from rebuilding toward contention under the first year head coach Gallant.