Welcome to New York Rangers Weekly! Among the trending topics we will look at are the new additions to the roster that will debut and the alternate captains that were named earlier this week. It is opening week in the NHL, and the Rangers have four games on tap during the first week of their 2021-22 schedule. The Rangers finished 4-2 during the exhibition portion of their season and will look to begin the regular season on a positive note. The first week of the schedule includes a road game versus the Washington Capitals, followed by the home opener against the Dallas Stars, and two more away games against the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs. Let’s look at some of the trends with the first week of the season upon us.
Zibanejad Will Remain a Ranger
Since Mika Zibanejad was acquired by the Rangers from the Ottawa Senators in a trade during the offseason following the 2015-16 season, he has established himself as a significant player for the franchise. He was rewarded with an eight-year, $68 million extension on Oct. 10, ending the speculation of whether he would remain with the team. He can now focus on the season in front of him with the long-term extension now secure.
Rangers Ready To Debut A More Physical Presence
The Rangers felt the pressure to add physicality to their lineup during the offseason after the game on May 3 against the Capitals last season in which forward Tom Wilson got into physical altercations with former Rangers forward Pavel Buchnevich and forward Artemi Panarin.
Former Rangers head coach David Quinn said: “We all saw it. There are lines that can’t be crossed in this game, and it’s just zero respect to the game in general. You have one of the star players in this league now, who could have got seriously, seriously hurt in that incident.
“You saw what happened. And you know, it happens time and time again with him. It’s just totally unnecessary” (from “Tom Wilson punches defenseless Ranger, rag-dolls Artemi Panarin: ‘Horrible’ – by Mollie Walker, New York Post, 5/3/21).
The team added Ryan Reaves, Barclay Goodrow, Sammy Blais, Patrik Nemeth, Jarrod Tinordi, and Dryden Hunt during the offseason to establish grit and toughness to go along with the skilled players that the Rangers already possess. Reaves, who was acquired from the Vegas Golden Knights for a third-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft back in July, is reunited with new Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant. The 34-year-old forward, known for his fortitude on the ice, was spotted teaching fighting lessons to Vitali Kravtsov during training camp back in September.
After sustaining an injury in the preseason, it looked like he may miss the first few games of the season, but Reaves was in the lineup for opening night. Did the Rangers need to add all of these players known for establishing a physical presence during games? It is a topic of debate among the fanbase, but opposing teams will need to be aware that there will be repercussions from these new members of the Blueshirts should one or more of the players on the top six of the Rangers be the recipient of some sort of physicality, particularly if it is excessive.
Kravtsov Given Permission to Seek Trade
Vitali Kravtsov, who was sent down to the Rangers American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the Hartford Wolf Pack, has refused his assignment and was granted permission by the organization to seek a trade. The 21-year-old forward is expected to be suspended by the Rangers for electing not to report to Hartford. He had one goal and no assists during the preseason and was in the midst of battling for a spot on the roster. It looks as if fans will not get the opportunity to see the young player flourish as a member of the Rangers.
No Captain Yet Named for the Rangers
It was widely anticipated, the Rangers would name their first captain since the franchise traded Ryan McDonagh during the 2017-18 season to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Alas, we will have to wait a bit longer for a captain to be appointed. In the meantime, six alternate captains were named. Goodrow, Panarin, Zibanejad, Chris Kreider, Ryan Strome and Jacob Trouba will all wear the “A” for the franchise as the 2021-22 season gets underway.
I am expecting the Rangers to begin their season displaying toughness. The team and its fans have been eagerly anticipating the season’s first game since the schedule was released months ago. Hopefully, the Rangers maintain the same enthusiasm for the other three games during the opening week, especially with two games on back-to-back nights to start the season. If they win against the Capitals, they need to maintain that same intensity the following night against the Stars at Madison Square Garden. If they fall on opening night, they need to quickly turn the page and rebound with a victory in their home opener.
What are your thoughts on the opponents the Rangers will play during the first game of the season? Do you expect the team to struggle, succeed, or split their first four games of the year? What are your thoughts on how the offseason additions will gel with the rest of the Rangers lineup? Who do you think will be named the next captain of the organization? Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below!
Matt covers the New York Rangers, contributes Rangers Weekly and Rangers Daily Download pieces and has previously contributed content including news and rumors articles about the Philadelphia Flyers and the Pittsburgh Penguins for The Hockey Writers. To see more of Matt’s writing, visit his portfolio. For interview and podcast requests, follow Matt on Twitter that appears at the end of his articles.