It’s not just one thing that turns losses into gains. In the case of those two games over the weekend, there were many factors involved – a force resurgence, a somewhat risky goalkeeper decision, some secondary scoring from unlikely places and a few other ingredients. Let’s take a peek at some of the things that worked and whether the Rangers can continue their lead for success in an upcoming four-game home game:
Igor Shesterkin has been very good, despite some not-so-Igor-like moments in some places before the weekend. Even on the weekend, he gave up a couple you don’t see him concede – a couple of goals under balls from star winger Jason Robertson from close range, though one was called back on an apparent offside he missed.
Shesterkin ranks seventh in the league for goals saved above expectations out of 66 goals, so he still puts up above-average play even if the numbers aren’t as eye-catching as last season. He still hasn’t lost a regulation game this season. And despite facing just three high-risk chances in Tempe on Sunday night, he still needed to build up a huge lead with the game tied for third in a choppy one sequence.
Gerard Gallant’s decision to play back-to-back Chesters was a gamble and it paid off. Not that you’d expect anything less than edgy from Shesterkin; It’s more a decision to play him twice in 30 hours, with travel in between, than to make it safer to play and start Jaroslav Halak.
“It looked great,” Gallant said after the win over the Coyotes. “You might do it again someday.”
The Rangers are off on Mondays and host the Flyers on Tuesdays. It would come as a real shock to see Shesterkin back for that as well, but perhaps the increased workload is just what the Rangers want from an MVP.
The concern of the weekend is whether Gallant has lost some faith in Halak, who has had one foul game and two good games with no run support yet. If the coaching staff feels the need to ride Shesterkin early in the season, his history of soft tissue injuries starts to become a little more of a scare. We’ll see what the call is for the Flyers on Tuesday, but for now, the gamble has paid off.
We wouldn’t write anything stupid like if the power game was unstoppable – who would do such a thing? — but the Rangers looked strong with the advantage again over the weekend, going 3-for-8 after sliding 1-for-15 in the previous four games.
As much as the Rangers would like to be a dominant five-on-five team, it may be obvious to them (and us) that this team was created to play on equal strength and win games with exceptional PP. Two of their five wins have come on power play targets in the third round and in two of their other victories the Rangers have racked up multiple PPGs. They’re only 12th in the league at 23.7 percent, but they’re third with 38, which bodes well for the future. This team draws strength regularly, and if it’s going to be a 25-30 percent group, that’s a lot of goals. And potentially win.
In a discussion about a teammate for a story to come in a week or two, Chris Kreider was asked what makes this teammate a good pass. He said, “If I knew, maybe I wouldn’t be such a bad trans.”
But then, there is the following:
Mica October is still in full swing pic.twitter.com/VeIgeVsmZp
– New York Rangers October 31, 2022
Kreider had a solid three-point weekend but there was nothing better than his winning touchdown pass on Sunday. Kreider scored his third goal of the season in Dallas but still fell short of expectations in terms of his chances. What you want to do when that happens is still contribute and be creative in doing so. Instead of deflecting Artemi Panarin’s pass into Connor Ingram’s chest, Kreider delivered this deft play to Mika Zibanejad.
We haven’t seen this kind of touch or dexterity from Kreider yet. Maybe that will change his luck a bit.
Julien Gauthier never really had a chance of earning a roster spot outside of training camp, where he looked so good. He did well enough in four games for Hartford to be the one called up when Philippe Shettle was sidelined eight days ago, but were there any real expectations from Gauthier? He’s had the entire 2021-22 season to show he belongs in the squad regularly and can’t take a chance despite his natural skills.
He had a glorious shot early in a loss to the Islanders, a breakaway he didn’t score—it wouldn’t surprise you to learn Gauthier was 0-for-7 in breakaways last season—but Gallant gave him another shot. Dallas and this time Gauthier converted into a goal that, as podcast co-host Steve Vallequette pointed out on the MSG Network broadcast, would be shown again and again if Conor McDavid or Jack Hughes scored it.
Julien Gautier Art. 🥵 pic.twitter.com/as3Q8IOoc0
– New York Rangers October 29, 2022
Now, it’s considered a low-risk goal by Clear Sight analysis—it’s presented under the dreaded “goalkeeper foul” category—but it’s still a game. This came 21 seconds after Gauthier’s stoppage came out of the star zone, resulting in Zack Jones winning the match.
This is a solid day’s work for Gauthier. It was pretty unseen in Arizona on Sunday, so this may have been lightning in a bottle. Even if Gauthier returns to Hartford when Chytil is ready, he still gives the Rangers something they need.
The conjecture of the Jones-Libor Hajek alternation will now be more of a type more often. Jones hasn’t been great the whole season but he’s getting better and that’s what you want to see. His winner in Dallas was a must-stop shot by Scott Wedgwood, but Jones was in the right spot and looking to play. His defense was solid in both weekend games as well, the best two games set for the third pair all year regardless of which player he was involved with.
That should be enough to give Jones a good nod now. Braden Schneider had his best two starts of the season over the weekend as well, so his rotating D partners may not have helped him either. It might be time to name it and see what a little Jones Schneider can do.
The birthday boy had a four-point weekend, giving him 16 in 10 games. He was the Rangers’ best and most consistent player all season. His 5.89 pass projected so far ranks second in the league, behind McDavid’s man.
Now, many fans were apprehensive that GM Chris Drury was unhappy with Panarin after last season, as we reported over the summer. It happened, but there was no refuge for Drury – there is no chance that Panarin would want to leave New York and the player has a complete non-move clause. So everyone applies. And as we saw in the first month of the season, the Rangers are in desperate need of a 10th-place finish to get past the regular season. Especially when it’s on a heater like this.
The playoffs may end up being a different case. But there can be no qualms about what Panarin has done so far.
Kreider and Zibanejad lead the Rangers in high-risk individual chances (all positions) with 14 alongside Vincent Troschek. Trocheck has the most HD chances on his strength this season and has converted two out of eight – not perfect, but not too bad either. His two Dallas catches quickly show he needs to be ready to empty a shot during advantage situations because any of his fellow strong players can get him at any time.
Earlier in October, Troshek may have been guilty of trying to force a few shots. He seems to know now that plays are coming to him.
The Rangers have a rare rollercoaster Tuesday after off Monday, so we’ll see where Chetells lie. He gave it well in Friday practice before leaving the ice early – he took a good hit from Ryan Carpenter in area practice a few minutes ago – so we’ll see where he is on Tuesday. But if he can come back this week, and if the Rangers can pick up another two points without him, that’s a bonus. Chytil was really strong in the first few weeks of the season despite his usual team of buddies.
Can it last?
surely. Shesterkin is at his game, the big boys produce, the power play is strong, and the supporting cast contribute. The Rangers looked like they were going to cruise after the first four games. They can still get in a run with Eastern Conference opponents, including games with the surprising Flyers and improving Islanders. By this time next week, we may know exactly what the 2022-23 squad is made of.
All analytical data provided by Clear Sight Hockey
(Photo by Artemi Panarin and Mike Zibanejad: Chris Jones/USA Today)