Rangers Weekly: Win Streak, Blais Injury & More

Welcome to New York Rangers Weekly! The New York Rangers have turned their struggles around over the past several games since a difficult road trip in western Canada. The Blueshirts responded from the road trip with four victories in a row – against the Florida Panthers, Columbus Blue Jackets, New Jersey Devils and Montreal Canadiens, respectively, before losing to the Toronto Maple Leafs. In the case of the game against the Maple Leafs, the Rangers encountered a team that was playing well defensively. Let’s take a look at the Rangers’ last handful of games and other news surrounding the franchise.

Rangers Get Back in the Win Column

In putting the crushing slate of games in western Canada behind them, the Rangers responded by playing an undefeated Panthers team tough. The Blueshirts had a four-goal lead heading into the third period in what ended up being a nail-biter of a finish as the Panthers scored three unanswered goals in the final period. The victory was a confidence booster for the Rangers coming off consecutive losses, even though they lost a multi-goal lead.

Related: Rangers Weekly: Road Trip to Forget, Blown Leads & More

The Blueshirts have demonstrated in a few games this season a tendency to score multiple goals in short spurts, such as against the Panthers and Blue Jackets. The goals by defenseman K’Andre Miller and center Ryan Strome in the second period versus the Panthers were thirty seconds apart. During the second period versus the Blue Jackets, forwards Chris Kreider, Artemi Panarin and defenseman Jacob Trouba netted goals that spanned an impressive 1:03 of ice time.

The debate can be made whether the Rangers suffer from inconsistent play or have the ability to quickly switch the momentum of a game with the talent to score multiple goals at a fast pace. Winning games changes the perspective of how much of a concern it may be. If the Rangers lost these two games, the fan base would be more worried that the team was not as capable of holding onto leads and winning close games despite their occasional strong surges of play, such as versus the Panthers and Blue Jackets.

Kakko Contributes Offensively

Forward Kaapo Kakko is a player that has high expectations from the organization and fan base, given that he was selected second overall in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. The third-year forward plays in one of the most competitive sports markets that demands success and is highly critical of its players and teams when the losses pile up. Fans of other New York area-based franchises, particularly the Mets, Jets or Knicks, can understand all too well about consecutive disappointing seasons.

Kaapo Kakko New York Rangers
Kaapo Kakko, New York Rangers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Kakko, playing with Strome and Panarin, netted a goal in the third period of the game versus the Devils and assisted on the tally by forward Alexis Lafreniere earlier during the second period. The Turku, Finland native added a goal during the shootout and contributed the initial goal in the following game against the Canadiens. Time will tell if this is what the young player needs in order to break out and become one of the team’s offensive threats.

Blais Has Torn ACL

Forward Sammy Blais suffered an injury during the game against the Devils during an awkward encounter with defenseman P.K. Subban. The two players were headed for the puck near the boards when the Devils player made contact with the Rangers forward. The veteran defenseman has had several clipping incidents before, and some of them resulted in players getting injured, such as with Blais and Rangers forward Ryan Reaves.

Reaves missed a few games during the preseason after the incident with Subban. Blais was diagnosed with a torn anterior crucial ligament (ACL) and will be out for six to eight months, ending his season. It remains to be seen if the Blueshirts will find a replacement for the forward within the organization or will make a trade to fill the void in their lineup.

Game Versus Senators Postponed, Zibanejad Misses Practice

The Ottawa Senators had a COVID-19 breakout within their franchise and had three of their games postponed, one of which was against the Rangers scheduled for Saturday. The game will be rescheduled for a later date to be determined, and the Blueshirts have another day to prepare for the matchup against the Buffalo Sabres at Madison Square Garden on Sunday evening. The Rangers are coming off of a 2-1 loss to the Maple Leafs in which they could not generate much offense and struggled mightily winning faceoffs, earning only 20 percent of the battles in the faceoff circle.

Related: Rangers Need Much More From Kakko and Lafreniere

Mika Zibanejad was absent from Saturday’s practice with what has been deemed by the organization as a COVID-19 related absence. It is unknown how long he will be away from the team due to being placed in COVID protocol. Filip Chytil and Strome are options to replace him on the top line if he misses time.

Despite the recent loss to the Maple Leafs, the Rangers are in a better place results-wise at this point than they were two weeks ago. Forward Chris Kreider continues his MVP-caliber play, and goaltender Igor Shesterkin continues to be a difference-maker in net. Defenseman Adam Fox is having an exceptional season thus far, which includes a multi-year contract extension, as well as coming off a year in which he earned the Norris Trophy. The Rangers have players that can lead the team in terms of production but need consistent play from their depth, which includes Kakko and Lafreniere. If the team can get more from these individuals on a regular basis, the Blueshirts can take the next steps toward being a contender in the Eastern Conference.

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