The New York Rangers have gotten off to an impressive start in Gerard Gallant’s first 30 games as their head coach. The Blueshirts are 19-7-4, and there have been a lot of positive changes from last season to this one, including their excellent special teams, their ability to play with physicality, and their ability to win close games.
There are some concerns, however, including the lack of trust in and playing time for young players as well as some questionable in-game decisions from Gallant, but there are certainly many more positives than negatives so far.
Positives Under Gallant
The Rangers have formed chemistry under Gallant, as he hasn’t made too many adjustments to the lineup. They’ve finally found an effective fourth line (Barclay Goodrow, Kevin Rooney, and Ryan Reaves) that has played very well defensively and chipped in offensively.
New York has also excelled on both the power play and penalty kill. They are in the top 10 in the NHL in both, with a 25.6 percent success rate on the power play and an 84.3 percent success rate on the penalty kill, which has made the difference in many close games this season.
Chris Kreider has scored 11 goals on the power play, repeatedly deflecting pucks on goal and winning battles to get to rebounds. Adam Fox and Artemi Panarin have also been key to the success of the power play, as both have shown off their incredible play-making ability this season. Jacob Trouba, who struggled on the power play last season, has gotten his heavy shot on goal this season, helping the Rangers’ second power-play unit.
When shorthanded the Rangers have kept opponents to the outside, and have also gotten great goaltending. Gallant has used Kreider and Kaapo Kakko on the penalty kill this season, though neither got much ice time while shorthanded last year. Both have done an excellent job by using their reach effectively, and winning battles for the puck.
The Rangers struggled to get their forecheck going for most of last season, but under Gallant everyone has shown a willingness to grind in the offensive zone, and it has helped them sustain pressure. The improved forecheck has helped the Rangers hold on to leads or at least get close games to overtime this season.
One of the most impressive accomplishments for the Rangers in these first 30 games is they are consistently using their grit to win games. They’re playing with physicality, they’re wearing down opponents and they’re driving to the net to score goals. They haven’t had many blowout wins or losses and they’ve won the majority of their close games.
Negatives Under Gallant
While the first 30 games under Gallant have certainly been encouraging, there have been a few concerning trends. Some of the Rangers’ top young players including Alexis Lafreniere and Nils Lundkvist haven’t gotten much ice time and have frequently gotten benched late in close games.
Lafreniere has gotten very little time on the power play, as Gallant has opted to use Dryden Hunt instead of him on the second power-play unit. He has also spent the majority of the season on New York’s third line along with Julien Gauthier, and Filip Chytil, who has struggled this season. Though Lafreniere is young and has made a few defensive mistakes, he has driven to the net, scored six goals, and he’s a key part of the team’s future. He deserves more ice time and should at least be on the second power-play unit.
Skilled rookie defenseman Lundkvist has also gotten relatively little playing time, averaging 13:54 in time on ice per game this season. He has gotten playing time on the second power-play unit but has repeatedly gotten benched late in close games.
Gallant has opted to play Trouba with Patrik Nemeth (rather than Trouba’s defense partner K’Andre Miller) late in games with the Rangers holding leads this season. Miller has played very well defensively, while Nemeth has struggled this season. Nemeth has already gotten burned defensively a few times and made a few giveaways in crucial situations but Gallant continues to rely on him in important situations. Unless Nemeth starts playing a lot better, Gallant will have to make an adjustment.
For Gallant and the Rangers Moving Forward
The Rangers have no games scheduled until December 27th, as they get some much-needed time off after a stretch of seven games in 11 days. Though they have struggled in their last few games, Igor Shesterkin is ready to return after missing the past few weeks with a lower-body injury and the Blueshirts still have a very good record after 30 games.
Gallant deserves a lot of credit for the Rangers’ strong start to the season but he will have to make a few adjustments to help develop their skilled young players and help the team play to its potential. Still, there are many more positives than negatives for the Blueshirts thus far and Gallant is certainly off to an impressive start.
I grew up in Brooklyn, New York, rooting for the Rangers, Yankees, Giants, and Knicks. When my dream of playing shortstop for the Yankees fell short, I started writing about sports instead. I’m a proud graduate of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland.