Rangers Are the Best Original Six Team This Season

The New York Rangers have emerged as one of the top teams in the NHL this season. Though it’s nice to see them back in a playoff spot ready to compete for the Stanley Cup, there is also the sport’s rich history to appreciate as well. The Chicago Blackhawks, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadiens, Detroit Red Wings, and Rangers all belong to the group called the “Original Six,” which is a key part of the NHL’s legacy.

After last season’s shortened COVID schedule, the Original Six teams meet again this season. Each club has faced its own challenges, but the Rangers are the most successful. In 67 games, the Blueshirts have 91 points. Next is the Maple Leafs with 89 points in 66 games while the Bruins have 87 points in 66 games after last night’s loss to Toronto. All three teams are top 10 in the league.

Gerard Gallant, New York Rangers
Gerard Gallant, head coach of the New York Rangers behind the bench of his team. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The Red Wings have the fourth-best record among these Original Six clubs, with 66 points in 60 games. The Blackhawks collected 58 points in 67 meetings, and the Canadiens sit with 47 points in 66 matches. There is a significant disparity between these teams at the moment, but during each organization’s long history, they each enjoyed some period of dominance. For the top three of the core group, it is a tight race for points.

The Rangers are the fourth-best team in the league right now. The Maple Leafs sit seventh, and the Bruins are ninth, with the Wings in 24th, Blackhawks in 26th, and the Canadiens in 31st place. The Rangers have exceeded expectations in many areas of the game, including their starting goaltender and special teams, which has put them in a great position for success.

Igor Shesterkin

Taking on the role of the starting goaltender is something Shesterkin makes look effortless. The 26-year-old netminder is poised, excellent at playing the puck, and is performing at a Vezina Trophy level and like his predecessor, Henrik Lundqvist, he gives the Blueshirts a chance to win every night.

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Shesterkin leads the league in save percentage (SV%) with a .936 in 44 games and a 32-9 record. With only three (incomplete) seasons under his belt, he looks just like a veteran and has a very well-rounded skill set. He should be a Hart Trophy candidate as his calmness permeates throughout the team.

He ranks second in goals-against average (GAA) at 2.11, behind the Carolina Hurricanes’ Frederik Andersen who has a 2.05 GAA. Boston’s Jeremy Swayman is below the two in fourth place at 2.24 GAA.

Rangers’ Power Play

One of the most crucial pieces of the Rangers’ success is their power play. Ranked second in the league, they have a 26.8 success rate, with the Maple Leafs at an advantage at 29.3%. Forward Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad are critical members of the special teams unit. Kreider ranks second in the league in goals this season, with 45 in 67 games. Twenty-three of his goals have come on the power play, to lead all skaters.

Though their power play can be inconsistent at times, the units are effective. Artemi Panarin is tied for fourth overall in power-play points with 32 in 62 games. Tied for sixth overall, Adam Fox has 30 power-play points in 64 games, and Kreider sits just below Fox with 29 points. That is three players in the top 10 power-play producer list for the entire league.

Rangers’ Penalty Kill

The Blueshirts are solid on the penalty kill also. The team further fortified their special teams with a couple of NHL Trade Deadline acquisitions, specifically, due to the highly versatile forward Andrew Copp.

Related: Rangers Hoping This Trade Deadline Turns Out Like 1994, not 1996

An added benefit of successful penalty killing for the team is that they use the momentum positively during a game. A four-minute penalty kill was the turning point for the Rangers against the Pittsburgh Penguins two games ago, said coach Gerard Gallant, and it was exactly what the team needed to finish with a solid 5-1 victory over their Metropolitan Division rivals.

Tied for 10th-place with an 81.2 percent-kill rate, the Rangers are among the league’s best. With that said, it’s important to note that the Rangers are not the most disciplined team when it comes to penalty-taking, but the organization manages to stay afloat regardless.

Chris Kreider New York Rangers
Chris Kreider of the New York Rangers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Zibanejad is tied for first overall in shorthanded production with five points (one goal, four assists) while Kreider has the second-most shorthanded goals on the season with three.

Potential Original Six Series Previews

As mentioned, realistically only three of the six are viable contenders this season. The Bruins, Maple Leafs, and Rangers can all anticipate a postseason invite if they maintain their pace. The Maple Leafs and Rangers are in a secure spot right now, with Toronto third in the Atlantic division and New York currently second in theirs. Boston possesses the first Wild Card spot currently.

A playoff series between Toronto and Boston might be imminent. Within the history of these six teams, Toronto and Boston have a more personal, bitter playoff history of their own together. As the standings shake out, another playoff series between the two may be fated once again. As for the Rangers, they meet the Bruins once more and the Rangers can potentially complete a season sweep.

The Blueshirts almost finished a sweep of the Maple Leafs; instead, they won two of the three meetings. Regardless, the Rangers have an excellent record against these two fellow Original Six who are also contenders, further cementing the Rangers’ title as the best Original Six thus far.

By the numbers, the Rangers rank high, if not the highest, in many of these categories, with some competition from fellow Original Six members. Of course, the organization has weak areas to address. The Rangers faced the Penguins on the road last night and secured a very important two points. It is a close race between the Maple Leafs, Bruins, and Rangers for the best record of the Original Six this season.

The Rangers have an Original Six meeting this evening as they are hosted by the Red Wings. Detroit’s captain, Dylan Larkin, leads his team in goals (28) while rookie defenseman, Moritz Seider leads in assists (37). Larkin also leads in points (62). Meanwhile, Kreider leads the Rangers with 45 goals, while Artemi Panarin leads the way with 60 assists and total points with 77.

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