Welcome to New York Rangers Weekly! The Rangers are in the midst of a West Coast trip as they lost to the Vegas Golden Knights, 5-1, on Thursday night. The Blueshirts’ remaining games on the road trip are against the Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, and San Jose Sharks before traveling to Philadelphia to take on the Flyers. After dropping their first game back from the COVID pause to the Florida Panthers, the Blueshirts defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning in a home-and-home and were victorious against the Edmonton Oilers on Monday evening before their most recent defeat.
The team has gotten some help with players coming back from COVID protocols such as Alexandar Georgiev and Ryan Lindgren, among others. However, Artemi Panarin entered protocol on Jan. 2, which left head coach Gerard Gallant to shuffle line combinations with the absence of their star player. Igor Shesterkin entered health and safety protocols before Thursday night’s game. Let’s take a look at some of the headlines for the Rangers over the last week.
Panarin, Shesterkin in COVID Protocol
Before the second game of the home-and-home against the Lightning, Panarin was placed in health and safety protocols. The Rangers leader in total points has a chance of returning at some point to the team during the road trip out West. The forward has 10 goals and 26 assists in 31 games played in 2021-22.
Shesterkin entered COVID protocol before the Rangers’ loss to the Golden Knights, which left backup Georgiev as the starting goaltender last night. Keith Kinkaid was assigned to the roster as the backup netminder while the Rangers starting goaltender is unavailable. The Blueshirts starting goaltender has been vital to the team’s success this season as he has a record of 15-4-2, a 2.09 goals-against average (GAA), and a save percentage (SV%) of .936 this year. Georgiev filled in well as the starting goaltender during December while Shesterkin was out with a lower-body injury.
New Second Line Plays Well in Panarin’s Absence
Gallant decided on a line combination that has worked out well for the Rangers without Panarin. Ryan Strome remained on the second line with Alexis Lafreniere and Barclay Goodrow joining him and the results were a success for the home games against the Lightning and Oilers. Strome had a goal with an assist from Goodrow during the 4-0 win against the Lightning last Sunday.
The next night resulted in even more benefits as the second line contributed substantially to the score sheet for the Blueshirts. The combination was responsible for three of the team’s four goals in a 4-1 win against the Oilers. Strome had a goal and two assists while Lafreniere and Goodrow each finished with a goal and an assist.
Lafreniere mentioned what he is doing differently since being paired with Strome and Goodrow, “I’m moving my feet a little more and making more plays and holding on more to the puck. That’s my game, and I’ll keep learning from the guys I’m playing with. They have good advice for me, so I’ll keep learning and keep getting better as a player” (from ‘Artemi Panarin out again but Rangers return grows nearer, New York Post, 1/6/22).
Strome noted the familiarity he has with his current linemates, “I played with Goody a little bit this year and Laffy last year so there’s a little familiarity. Honestly, they’re very easy to play with, Goodrow just does all the right things all over the ice. He’s so responsible, he’s such an underrated player. The way he sees the game and reads the play. He’s got a great stick, he breaks up a lot of plays and he’s got underrated skill. Obviously Laffy, you see the playmaking tonight and the ability. He made so many great plays tonight that could’ve resulted in some more points for himself” (from ‘Rangers’ second line clicking on short notice during Artemi Panarin’s absence, New York Post, 1/4/22).
Homecoming for Gallant and Reaves in Las Vegas
Before taking over the head coaching reigns of the Rangers, the last team Gallant coached in the NHL was the Golden Knights. He helped the organization reach the Stanley Cup Final in its inaugural season back in 2017-18. Ryan Reaves played on the Golden Knights before his current stint with the Blueshirts. Both he and the head coach received a tribute video during the game last night.
In response to the video, Reaves said, “I was a little flustered for the rest of the game. When you’re attached to a city like I was here and, you know, had some good times here. Memories kind of start flooding in a bit. I’m not an emotional guy, I wasn’t expecting that at all, but it got to me a little bit. It messed with my game a little bit” (from ‘Igor Shesterkin-less Rangers ripped by Golden Knights,’ New York Post, 1/7/22).
The game did not go as planned for Gallant, Reaves and the Rangers as the team only had one goal in the loss against the Pacific Division-leading Golden Knights. The Blueshirts were outplayed for the majority of the second and third periods at the T-Mobile Arena as Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith each had multi-point games in the victory for the Golden Knights. The Rangers will look to put the loss behind them as they face the Ducks at the Honda Center on Saturday night.
Ducks Have Several Players in COVID Protocol
Within the last week, the Ducks currently have seven players in health and safety protocols as of Friday afternoon. Ryan Getzlaf, Nicolas Deslauriers, Derek Grant, Sam Carrick, Hampus Lindholm, John Gibson, and Vinni Lettieri are in COVID protocol. The team had a game against the Detroit Red Wings scheduled for Thursday night postponed until Sunday due to the number of players on the roster that have been placed in protocol over the last five days. The Rangers-Ducks game is scheduled to take place on Saturday at 10 pm EST as of Friday. The Ducks are currently in second place in the Pacific with 43 points, which is four points behind the Golden Knights.
The Rangers have a challenging remainder of a road trip against the Ducks, Kings, and Sharks as the three teams are close to one another in the division. The Kings and Sharks each have 37 points in what is currently a highly competitive Pacific Division. The Blueshirts need to regroup quickly while they are near the top of the Metropolitan Division. The team is tied with the Washington Capitals with 48 points and the Carolina Hurricanes and surging Pittsburgh Penguins are not far behind them with 47 and 45 points, respectively.