The New York Rangers’ four-game run concluded with a 3-0 win over the San Jose Sharks on January 13. The Blues finished by scoring 2-2 in the West Coast run. 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) to make it to the Rangers roster. Here are some quick points from the Blueshirts road games out of the west.
Rangers victories and losses alternately
Jan 6 – Vegas Golden Nights
The first match was against the Vegas Golden Knights, and the most difficult of the journey judging by the end result. Rangers lost 5-1 and didn’t play well for the full 60 minutes. According to coach Gerard Gallant, “When they scored the second goal, it seemed like everything went the wrong way. We didn’t compete anymore, we didn’t have hard work, really disappointed in the last 35 minutes” (from” Igor Shesterkin Rangers Torn by the Knights golden,” New York Post, 1/7/22).
Related: Lindgren Rangers is an essential part of the team’s future
Along with Gallant, Ryan Reeves returned to the T-Mobile Arena, frustrated at losing the Rangers, “I definitely didn’t want to come here and beat like that. A tough way out, sure.” During the match, the coach and striker were honored with a video tribute from their time with the Golden Knights organization. Reeves was with the Golden Knights for more than three seasons before moving to Rangers outside last season.
The Blues were without Igor Shesterkin, as he was put into health and safety protocols before the match started. Alexander Georgiev did not have one of his best matches of the year, allowing five goals in 35 shots. The team headed to Anaheim next to play the ducks on January 8.
Jan 8 – Anaheim Ducks
The Rangers responded with a much better effort against the Anaheim Ducks with a 4-1 victory. The hosts took a 1-0 lead in the second half but Mika Zibanijad tied the score in one a few minutes later. A pair of defenders – Jared Tenordi and Ryan Lindgren provided the rest of the goals for the Blues and the latter scored twice.
Zibanjad mentioned enjoying goals by two defenders, “I think it’s very special when players who don’t score a lot, do a good job defensively and may not get much credit in attack, they score. It’s fun, especially when you’re important goals like These” (from “Ryan Lindgren, Jared Tenordi Pushing Rangers Away From Ducks,” New York Post, 1/9/22).
Lindgren commented on the win as well, “I think we play our best when we play our little bit, spin the disc, go from the bottom to the top and get the pucks into the net. That was definitely something the coach confirmed tonight. That is hockey win for us.” The Blueshirts finished with a big advantage in shots as they got 39 to 14 for their opponent. The attackers and defense played better against Georgiev as he did not see many shots on target during the victory.
January 10 – Los Angeles Kings
The Rangers’ next trip was a trip to Staples Center to face the Los Angeles Kings. The Kings are one of seven teams in the Pacific Division who are currently in the lineup for an accessory spot. The Rangers lost to their opponent, 3-1, in another offensive struggle for them on the road trip. The streaks continued to mingle as the Blueshirts rotated players in and out of the squad due to positive COVID tests, which have affected all teams in the NHL drastically over the past several weeks.
Chris Kreider commented on the team’s difficulties in losing to the Kings’ defensive style, “We didn’t commit to beating that 1-3-1 [trap]. We talked before the game about what they do in the neutral zone and we just decided to work hard, not smart. We needed to come quickly and support each other, but we made it really easy for them to get out of the area and try to move on in the end, but it was too late.
“When we finally got there, we weren’t doing well enough to get into fights, stay in fights, and win fights. They did well, but we didn’t do nearly enough good enough to establish the forward check” (from ‘Short Hand Guards falter to a lackluster loss to the Kings’) , ” New York Post, 11/1/22).
Rangers didn’t take as many shots at the net against the Kings as they had previously done against the Ducks. Cal Petersen held 22 of the 23 shots he faced against the Blues. The road trip was coming to an end and the Rangers only scored one goal in the loss to the Golden Knights and Kings.
January 13 – San Jose Sharks
The Rangers were headed to San Jose to face the Sharks in the last game of their West Coast trip. Igor Shesterkin has been cleared of health and safety protocols before the match and will get a start in the net for the Blueshirts. Alexis Lafreniere was playing in the second line with Ryan Strome and Artemi Panarin but was put into COVID protocol before the match.
Related: Rangers look to the right track with MVP Shesterkin back in the squad
Shesterkin continued his stellar season, with the goalkeeper stopping all 37 shots he’s faced against the Sharks. He has become the most valuable player for Rangers at this point in the year. His play was an important part of the reason why the Blueshirts remained in the top three teams in the Metropolitan Division for the majority of 2021-22.
Braden Schneider scored in his first NHL game during the Rangers win. He was impressive on his debut in the NHL, and gives hope that the team has found a reliable defensive man to use in their third defensive duo. Galant Niels Lundqvist, Jared Tenordi, Lepor Hajek and Zach Jones have teamed up with Patrick Nemeth for the third pair of the season.
Schneider partnered with Nemeth during the match against the Sharks and earned more playing time in the near future thanks to his performance. The Rangers return to the East Coast and are scheduled to play the Philadelphia Flyers on January 15. Kreider emerges from a multi-goal game against the Sharks and has 23 goals for the year as the team gears up to play in orange and black.
Rangers continue to adjust the squad Because of the COVID protocol
Before the start of the last wild ride, the Rangers were without Chesterkin and Artemi Panarin, which led to opportunities for Georgiev, Lavrinere and Barclay Goudreau to contribute to bigger roles on the team. With Shesterkin and Panarin back, Lafreniere and Goodrow are now on health and safety protocols. There are no blues without Dryden Hunt due to an upper body injury while Julien Gauthier and Reaves are on COVID protocol.
Tim Gettinger, Morgan Barron, Johnny Brodzinski, Anthony Greco, Schneider and Tenordi have had time to play over the past few games. Given the unpredictability of who will be put into the COVID protocol, players who get the chance to play under these circumstances will look to make a good impression with the Blues. Rangers coaching staff and president/general manager Chris Drury get to know how deep they hold within the Wolf Pack organization are able to contribute to the blueshirts regularly.
Rangers are in a good position, returning from their four-game road trip. The team still looks like it could be a viable contender in the league playoff. Fans should be happy with the team’s current standing as the season’s halfway point approaches.
Matt covers the New York Rangers and the New Jersey Devils and has previously contributed content about the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins for The Hockey Writers. For interview and podcast requests, follow Matt on Twitter which appear at the end of his articles.