Rangers’ Offense in 2021 Can Be Special

The New York Rangers possess an offense that other organizations are envious of. It is talented, young, fast, and lethal, attacking opposing defenses and keeping them on their heels for all 60 minutes of a game. Yet, their inexperience, both upfront and on the backend, led to defensive lapses that force the Rangers to chase far too many matches.

A full season of Igor Shesterkin should boost the Rangers’ chances, but the burden of leading the Blueshirts to the postseason falls on the offense’s shoulders. Last season, the Rangers’ offense was superb, averaging 3.33 goals per game (GF/GP), good for the NHL’s fifth-highest total.

New York Rangers Center Mika Zibanejad Scores Hat Trick against Ottawa.

Despite their ability to score, the Rangers also allowed the ninth-most goals, letting 3.14 goals behind their goaltenders per tilt. This trend of defensive lapses won’t just disappear during the 2021 campaign. Instead, the Rangers will have to focus on limiting chances against while continuing to produce offensively, extending the gap between their GF/GP and goals against per game (GA/GP).

The Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning scored 3.47 GF/GP and only surrendered 2.77 GA/GP, owning a differential of 0.70. That difference is vastly superior to the Rangers’ 0.29, and New York has to work on extending their differential if they are too advance in the standings next season.

40-Point Scorers Galore

The 2019-20 Rangers had an impressive seven different players who tallied 40 points during the shortened campaign. Let’s take a look at those seven players and their point totals:

  1. Artemi Panarin: 32 Goals, 63 Assists, 95 Points
  2. Mika Zibanejad: 41 Goals, 34 Assists, 75 Points
  3. Ryan Strome: 18 Goals, 41 Assists, 59 Points
  4. Tony DeAngelo: 15 Goals, 38 Assists, 53 Points
  5. Pavel Buchnevich: 16 Goals, 30 Assists, 46 Points
  6. Chris Kreider: 24 Goals, 21 Assists, 45 Points
  7. Adam Fox: 8 Goals, 34 Assists, 42 Points

Barring any trouble re-signing Ryan Strome, all seven of these players will be suiting up for the Rangers next season (from ‘Rangers’ Brendan Lemieux, Ryan Strome facing arbitration hearings’, New York Post – 10/27/20). It is reasonable to assume that these players could continue this production, especially with the offensive talent this group possesses.

Artemi Panarin, New York Rangers
Artemi Panarin, New York Rangers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

It may not seem like much, but only two teams were able to match the Rangers with seven different 40-point producers; the Lightning and the Washington Capitals. Now, what if I said that 10 players scoring 40 points next season were a possibility for the Rangers? You would probably burst out laughing, but there is in fact a chance that the 2021 Rangers could be historically potent.

Kaapo Kakko, Filip Chytil, and freshly drafted Alexis Lafreniere all have 40-point potential in 2021, with the first two names looking to take leaps next season. Kakko will likely jump up on a line with Strome and Panarin, giving him endless opportunities to raise his production level.

As for Chytil and Lafreniere, well, they will be playing together, pushing each other and hopefully adding a feared third line to the Rangers’ offensive mix. So yes, it may sound wildly absurd, but if steps are taken by Chytil and Kakko, plus the addition of Lafreniere and his No. 1 overall potential, could give the Rangers an offensive balance rarely seen before.

Is 3.89 GF/GP in Reach?

The 2018-19 Lightning set the highest GF/GP of the 2000s with 3.89 GF/GP during their 62-win campaign (The record is 5.58 by the 1983-84 Oilers). That team was extraordinarily talented, clicking on all cylinders for the entire 82-game season. For the Rangers to touch that mark, their young players will have to outperform expectations while veteran leaders will have to continue their high play level.

Kaapo Kakko New York Rangers
Kaapo Kakko, New York Rangers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

In addition to the career seasons needed by a plethora of Blueshirts, the Rangers power play will have to be a major factor if this team has aspirations of reaching that 3.89 total. They ranked seventh in the NHL last season at 22.9 percent, and another year of chemistry should do wonders for their consistency.

The Rangers’ offense is poised to make strides next season, regardless of how high their goal totals wind up finishing. The reality is they fall short of the Lightning’s high-mark, but an offensive outburst should push the Rangers into one of the final two postseason spots.

It will surely be a memorable campaign for Rangers’ fans, one that should qualify as the final year of the rebuild. Yet, playoff expectations remain, and the offense of the Rangers has all the makings of one of the most special units we have seen in quite some time.