Welcome to New York Rangers Weekly! The Rangers have been mediocre over the last three games as they lost consecutive games near the end of January for the first time since mid-December. The Blueshirts lost to the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Minnesota Wild before managing to defeat the Seattle Kraken. Head coach Gerard Gallant was not pleased with the team’s effort against the Kraken.
The All-Star game is near and the NHL teams will be going on a break from Feb. 3-7. The Winter Olympics were the original explanation for the multi-week break in the schedule. However, the league announced previously that NHL players would not be participating in the Olympic games due to concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic.
The break in the schedule will be used for teams to make up games that were postponed due to COVID-19. After the Rangers game against the Florida Panthers on Feb. 1, the Blueshirts will not play until Feb. 15 against the Boston Bruins. Here are some storylines for the Rangers over the last week.
Fox Suffers Upper-Body Injury
Adam Fox left the 5-3 loss against the Blue Jackets with an upper-body injury. He will miss the upcoming All-Star Game on Feb. 5. The reigning Norris Trophy winner left the game after a hit from Vladislav Gavrikov. Gallant said after the game against the Blue Jackets on Jan. 27 that Fox would be “day-to-day” (from ‘Adam Fox ‘day-to-day after exiting Rangers’ loss with upper-body injury,’ New York Post, 1/27/22).
The head coach added, “obviously, we’re concerned about the guy. And then when he doesn’t come back in the period, but besides that, you go play. You go play the game, you play hard, you compete hard. Nothing can change, you know? I’m sure it’s a minor injury. It’s not like he left with a serious injury, you know what I mean? Nothing changes, you play your game.”
Gallant said about the injury to Fox after the defenseman was placed on IR on Jan. 28, ”Yeah, I mean, if it’s going to happen, it’s perfect timing. We fully expect he’ll be back right after the break” (from ‘Rangers place Adam Fox on IR, defenseman could miss All-Star game,’ New York Post, 1/29/22).
Chytil Returns to Practice
Filip Chytil, who left the Jan. 22 game against the Arizona Coyotes with a lower-body injury, returned to practice on Jan. 31. Gallant commented that “He looked good for the practice, it was a hard practice, so hopefully tomorrow we’ll see. He’s still day-to-day, but hopefully tomorrow it’s a good thing and he gets a chance to play” (from ‘Filip Chytil’s return to Rangers practice brings optimism he’ll play soon,’ New York Post, 1/31/22).
It remains to be seen if Chytil will be activated for the Feb. 1 game against the Panthers. He had been playing at the right wing position prior to his injury due to his struggles at center. Gallant had paired the 22-year-old forward on the second line with Artemi Panarin and Ryan Strome.
Gallant Not Pleased With Rangers’ Effort Against Kraken
Gallant was not happy with the Rangers’ performance against the Kraken in a 3-2 win on Jan. 30. He commented after the game, “I think it was awful. Loved the win, but I’m not happy. Competitiveness… quite a bit [missing]. Very disappointing. I’m not disrespecting their team, they play hard, I’m talking about my team and we didn’t play hard enough” (from ‘K’Andre Miller’s late goal saves Rangers after ‘awful’ performance,’ New York Post, 1/30/22).
The Blueshirts had a 2-0 lead before the Kraken scored the next two goals. The Rangers tallied the first two goals in the loss against the Blue Jackets before losing the lead. The Rangers have struggled to maintain consistency through a full 60 minutes during the games against the Blue Jackets, Wild, and Kraken.
A lack of sustained effort is one of the explanations for the Rangers’ play as they have given up multi-goal leads on more than one occasion recently. The Blueshirts have a tough opponent in the Panthers and want to go into the All-Star break on a positive note rather than maintaining their recent inconsistency.
Strome said that the players were aware of their disappointing effort, “I would say if guys weren’t aware themselves without hearing those comments, they’re not in the right mindset. I think everyone was aware of how we felt after the game, during the game, the last few games really, in my opinion. Obviously it’s a long season and there’s times like that and you know, you never want to get a coach to that point. That’s not the ideal situation, you want to nip it in the bud before. But I think there’s a great opportunity to learn from these times. I think things have been [going] so well for us this season that a little bit of this adversity and wanting to be better on a consistent basis is a good thing” (from ‘Gerard Gallant moving past tough talk after Rangers’ disappointing effort,’ New York Post, 1/31/22).
The Rangers are in a battle with the Carolina Hurricanes, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Washington Capitals for first place in the Metropolitan Division. The Penguins have been one of the best teams in the league since improving their play during December. The Pens struggled during the first two months of the season but have been exceptional in December and January.
The Capitals have struggled after an impressive start to the season. They have 57 points and are eight points behind the first-place Hurricanes. The Caps went 4-6-2 during January and will be looking to improve during February in order to remain near the top spot in the Metro.
The Hurricanes and Penguins look like the two best teams in the division. Both organizations have been playing like Stanley Cup contenders and it would be an interesting playoff series between the teams if they were to play one another. The Rangers need to improve their play in order to compete with those two teams in the division.