The New York Rangers are off to a 12-4-3 start this season and have won six of their last seven games. While their star players have played well, gritty players have also played an important role in their early success. The strong defensive play of their gritty players along with their ability to provide some timely offense has helped the Blueshirts win close games recently.
Defensemen: Ryan Lindgren and Jacob Trouba
The Rangers have a few gritty defensemen with a defense-first mentality who have stepped up for them. Ryan Lindgren has had two consecutive very strong seasons and has continued to play well this season. He plays with physicality, kills penalties effectively, and has helped bring out the best in his defense partner, Adam Fox.
Lindgren’s reliable defensive play has helped the Blueshirts win close games and he has also scored two very clutch goals this season. He deflected in a game-tying goal late in the third period of a 3-2 comeback victory against the Ottawa Senators in late October. He also snuck in from the point to score the game-winning goal with less than one second remaining in a 5-4 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday.
New York has also gotten key contributions recently from another gritty blueliner, Jacob Trouba. After experiencing some struggles and injuries since signing with the Rangers, he has played very well defensively this season. Like Lindgren, he plays physically, plays well shorthanded, and has made smart decisions late in close games.
Despite Trouba’s seven-year $56 million contract (signed during the 2019 offseason,) he played mainly in a shutdown role last season, but lately, he has played to his full potential and stepped up offensively. He has made smart pinches in the offensive zone and has gotten his shots from the point through traffic and on goal. He has two goals and four assists in the Rangers’ last seven games and has continued to play well defensively.
Forwards: Kevin Rooney, Barclay Goodrow and Ryan Reaves
Chris Kreider, who has 15 goals, has carried the Rangers offensively this season, but their gritty forwards have also chipped in while playing with physicality and forechecking effectively. The Rangers’ fourth line played a huge role in their 4-1 win over the rival New York Islanders on Wednesday as center Kevin Rooney scored two goals. Barclay Goodrow made a nice pass to set up Rooney’s first goal and Ryan Reaves made a beautiful pass to set up his second goal.
The Blueshirts’ penalty killers also stepped up against the Islanders, allowing no power-play goals despite taking six penalties. The penalty kill prevented the Islanders from getting many scoring chances and kept them to the perimeter and the Rangers didn’t need to rely on star goalie Igor Shesterkin to bail them out.
This season, the Rangers have been much more physical and their forecheck has helped them sustain pressure and create scoring opportunities. Through 19 games, Rooney is second on the team in goals with five, and Goodrow is sixth on the team in points with nine. Goodrow scored the game-winning goal late in the period of the Rangers’ 3-2 victory against the Senators.
For the Rangers Moving Forward
Over the past few seasons, the Blueshirts have struggled in close games but they’ve done a better job so far this season. They have blown a few leads but have at least managed to get those games into overtime to earn a point. They’ve also held on to win quite a few close games with opponents pressuring them late in those games. Additionally, they have won four consecutive games against divisional opponents, including a wild seven-round shootout victory over the rival New Jersey Devils.
Thus far this season, the Rangers’ gritty players have stepped up with their strong defensive play and timely offensive contributions. The Blueshirts need these players to continue playing well to keep pace in the very competitive Metropolitan Division. The Rangers have certainly played well lately, and the strong play of their role players is making a big difference for them.
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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.