The New York Rangers’ four-game road trip concluded with a 3-0 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Jan. 13. The Blueshirts ended with a 2-2 record on their West Coast trip. The franchise is first in the Metropolitan Division with 52 points, and has been very fortunate with players from the Hartford Wolf Pack of the American Hockey League (AHL) stepping up on the Rangers’ roster. Here are some takeaways from the Blueshirts’ road games out West.
Rangers Alternate Wins and Losses
Jan. 6 – Vegas Golden Knights
The first game was against the Vegas Golden Knights, and the most difficult of the trip judging by the final score. The Rangers lost, 5-1, and did not play well for a full 60 minutes. According to head coach Gerard Gallant, “When they scored the second goal, it just seemed like everything went the wrong way. We didn’t compete anymore, we didn’t have the hard work, real disappointed in the last 35 minutes” (from ‘Igor Shesterkin-less Rangers ripped by Golden Knights,’ New York Post, 1/7/22).
Along with Gallant, Ryan Reaves made his return to the T-Mobile Arena, and was disappointed in the Rangers’ loss, “Definitely didn’t want to come in here and get beat like that. Tough way to go out, for sure.” The head coach and forward were honored during the game with a video tribute from their time with the Golden Knights organization. Reaves was with the Golden Knights for over three seasons before being traded to the Rangers last offseason.
The Blueshirts were without Igor Shesterkin, as he was placed in health and safety protocols before the game began. Alexandar Georgiev did not have one of his better games of the year, as he allowed five goals on 35 shots. The team headed to Anaheim next to play the Ducks on Jan. 8.
Jan. 8 – Anaheim Ducks
The Rangers responded with a much better effort against the Anaheim Ducks by winning 4-1. The home team took a 1-0 lead in the second period but Mika Zibanejad evened the score at one a few minutes later. A pair of defensemen – Jarred Tinordi and Ryan Lindgren provided the rest of the goals for the Blueshirts with the latter notching two goals.
Zibanejad mentioned the enjoyment of goals by the two defensemen, “I guess it’s a little extra special when guys who don’t score often, do a good job defensively and may not get so much credit on offense, they get to score. That’s fun, especially when they’re important goals like these” (from ‘Ryan Lindgren, Jarred Tinordi propel Rangers past Ducks,’ New York Post, 1/9/22).
Lindgren commented on the win as well, “I think we play our best when we play simple, cycle the puck, go low to high and get pucks to the net. That was definitely something Coach stressed tonight. That’s winning hockey for us.” The Blueshirts finished with a large advantage in shots as they had 39 compared to 14 for their opponents. The forwards and defensemen played much better in front of Georgiev as he did not see many shots on goal during the win.
Jan. 10 – Los Angeles Kings
Up next for the Rangers was a trip to the Staples Center to face the Los Angeles Kings. The Kings are one of the seven teams in the Pacific Division who are currently in the mix for a playoff spot. The Rangers lost to their opponent, 3-1, in another offensive struggle for them on the road trip. The jumbling of lines continued as the Blueshirts have been rotating players in and out of the lineup due to positive COVID tests, which has affected all teams in the NHL substantially over the last several weeks.
Chris Kreider commented on the struggles the team had in the loss against the Kings’ defensive style, “We didn’t commit to getting through that 1-3-1 [trap]. We talked before the game what they do in the neutral zone and we just decided to work hard and not smart. We needed to come with speed and support each other but we made it really easy on them walking out of the zone and ultimately trying to get our feet going, but it was too late.
“When we did finally get in, we weren’t doing a good enough job of getting into battles, staying in battles and winning battles. They did a good job, but we didn’t do nearly a good enough job of establishing the forecheck” (from ‘Short-handed Rangers stumble to lackluster loss to Kings,’ New York Post, 1/11/22).
The Rangers did not generate as many shots on net against the Kings as they had previously against the Ducks. Cal Petersen stopped 22 of the 23 shots he faced against the Blueshirts. The road trip was nearing its end and the Rangers had scored only one goal each in the losses to the Golden Knights and Kings.
Jan. 13 – San Jose Sharks
The Rangers were headed to San Jose to face the Sharks in the final game of the West Coast trip. Igor Shesterkin was cleared from health and safety protocols before the game, and would receive the start in net for the Blueshirts. Alexis Lafreniere was going to play on the second line with Ryan Strome and Artemi Panarin but was placed in COVID protocol before the game.
Shesterkin continued his excellent season, as the goaltender stopped all 37 shots he faced against the Sharks. He has become the most valuable player for the Rangers at this point in the year. His play has been a significant part of why the Blueshirts have remained within the top three teams in the Metropolitan Division for a majority of 2021-22.
Braden Schneider notched a goal in his first game in the NHL during the Rangers win. He was impressive in his NHL debut, and gives hope that the team has found a defenseman that can be relied upon to be used in the third defensive pairing. Gallant has used Nils Lundkvist, Jarred Tinordi, Libor Hajek and Zac Jones with Patrik Nemeth in the third pair this season.
Schneider was partnered with Nemeth during the game against the Sharks and he earned himself more playing time in the near future with his performance. The Rangers return to the East Coast and are scheduled to play the Philadelphia Flyers on Jan. 15. Kreider is coming off a multi-goal game against the Sharks and has 23 goals for the year as the Blueshirts prepare to play the orange and black.
Rangers Continue To Adjust Lineup Due to COVID Protocol
Before the recent road trip began, the Rangers were without Shesterkin and Artemi Panarin, which led to opportunities for Georgiev, Lafreniere, and Barclay Goodrow to contribute in bigger roles on the team. As Shesterkin and Panarin have returned, Lafreniere and Goodrow are now in health and safety protocols. The Blueshirts are without Dryden Hunt due to an upper-body injury while Julien Gauthier and Reaves are in COVID protocol.
Tim Gettinger, Morgan Barron, Jonny Brodzinski, Anthony Greco, Schneider, and Tinordi have been getting playing time over the last few games. Due to the unpredictability of who will be placed in COVID protocol, the players who get a chance to play under those circumstances will be looking to make a good impression with the Blueshirts. The Rangers coaching staff and president/general manager Chris Drury get to see how much depth they have within the Wolf Pack organization who are capable of contributing to the Blueshirts regularly.
The Rangers are in a good spot, as they return from the four-game road trip. The team continues to look like they are capable of being a viable playoff contender in the league. Fans should be pleased with the current standing of the team as the midpoint of the season is near.