The New York Rangers are looking to prove that their hot start to the season isn’t a fluke. And right now, they’re in the midst of an impressive three-game winning streak, having beaten two-time defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning twice and the Edmonton Oilers.
One of the keys to their success is that players have consistently stepped up when other important players have missed time or slumped. In December, goalie Alexandar Georgiev played very well when starting goalie Igor Shesterkin missed a few weeks with a lower-body injury. Now, center Ryan Strome, along with wingers Barclay Goodrow and Alexis Lafreniere, have all stepped up for the Blueshirts with star winger Artemi Panarin in the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol (he has missed the last two games.)
Strome’s Impressive Play With Panarin Out of the Lineup
Though Strome has certainly benefited from playing on a line with Panarin during each of the last three seasons, he has repeatedly proven that he can also play well for the Blueshirts with Panarin out. Strome had four goals and five assists in the nine games that Panarin missed in February and March of last season.
This season, Strome has once again played well and continued to create scoring chances with Panarin out of the lineup while centering a line with Goodrow and Lafreniere. He scored a goal in the Blueshirts’ 4-0 victory over the Lightning. In their next game, he beat Oilers goalie Mikko Koskinen to the puck behind the net and made a nice pass to set up the first goal of the game in the Rangers’ 4-1 victory. He also added another goal and an assist later in the game.
Strome has driven to the net and created scoring chances for his linemates, but he has also played responsibly defensively and forechecked effectively. The Rangers jumped out to early leads in each of their last two games, and his line consistently kept the puck in the offensive zone as the Blueshirts forechecked aggressively with the lead rather than sitting back and defending.
Recent Play of Goodrow and Lafreniere
This season, Goodrow has proven to be very valuable for the Rangers, as he is capable of playing as a fourth-liner or in a top-six role. He provided a spark for the Rangers against his former team, the Lightning, scoring a shorthanded goal after a smooth deke to give them a 2-1 lead. He then scored another goal to give them a 3-2 lead, as the Rangers went on to win 4-3 in a shootout.
Goodrow also made a nice pass to set up Strome’s goal in the Rangers’ second consecutive victory against his former team. In their next game, he scored another goal and added an assist against the Oilers while playing a key role in the Rangers’ penalty kill. He came through with an important blocked shot and helped shut down Edmonton’s dangerous power play; he also helped prevent both Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl from getting any points.
Lafreniere has also stepped up lately after going through some struggles this season. He has spent the majority of the season on a line with Filip Chytil and Julien Gauthier, who have both struggled to score and are part of the reason that Lafreniere has just three assists in 34 games. However, despite only playing 8:47 in the Rangers’ 4-3 win over the Lightning, he capitalized on a Brian Elliott turnover and scored a goal.
In the Rangers’ last two games, Lafreniere has played on a line with Strome and Goodrow, has gotten more ice time, and has taken advantage of this opportunity. He has been physical, aggressive, and has driven to the front of the net. He scored the Rangers’ first goal in their win over the Oilers and made a nice pass to set up Goodrow, who then scored to give them a 2-0 lead. Lafreniere looks much more confident lately, and he has already formed chemistry with Strome and Goodrow.
For Strome, Goodrow, and Lafreniere Moving Forward
While the Strome, Goodrow and Lafreniere line has been excellent, they probably won’t play together for much longer, as Panarin will likely return to the lineup soon. It’s certainly an encouraging sign that Strome (who is set to become a free agent after this season) is proving to be effective even when he isn’t playing alongside Panarin.
Perhaps head coach Gerard Gallant will consider keeping Goodrow and Lafreniere on a line together, as they have played well together, and both have produced offensively lately. They’ve both shown that they’re capable of stepping into a top-six role.
Strome, Goodrow, and Lafreniere have responded well with Panarin out of the lineup, and the Rangers have responded well when facing adversity thus far this season. It’s an encouraging sign for this young team as they try to prove they’re contenders in a very competitive Metropolitan Division.
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.