I hate to say it but the Rangers this season, despite their playoff success last year and with all the talent in the world, like little more than mediocre through the first quarter of the 2022-23 season. Maybe it’s not fair to put that label on the Blueshirts just yet but let’s be real about this: NHL opponents certainly aren’t going to be fair to the Rangers either.
Where do the Rangers stand right now?
If you’re that type of fan or pundit who enjoys seeing your team as a middle-of-the-pack, average team, then you should be happy right now as the Rangers are exactly that – an average team. Heading into their 19th game, the Rangers sit at 8-6-4 with 17 points total. While nothing to be angry about, the Rangers’ season performance to date is nothing to brag about either. The Metropolitan Division race has become more interesting this season with the resurgence of the New Jersey Devils and their 11-game winning streak along with an improved New York Islanders franchise eager to erase last season’s misgivings.
Are the Rangers striving for mediocrity?
It’s hard to believe that head coach Gerard Gallant is satisfied with the completely average performance of his bench as of late. On Thursday night, the Blueshirts dropped a 3-2 overtime loss to the Seattle Kraken on the west coast and this was a game that could have been won and should have been won as well.
You can’t point the blaming fingers at goalie Igor Shesterkin who put in another nearly superhuman performance and looked like a combination of a Vezina Trophy netminder morphed with a great MLB catcher at time. Yes, he gave up the losing goal to Kraken defenseman Justin Schultz (his second of the game) but his incredible saves made a mediocre Rangers team look like a stellar organization.
The hot shooting hand of Artemi Panarin has coooled off as of late and he hasn’t scored a five on five goal in a number of games. Mika Zibanejad did tie this game up early on with a power play goal and in the third period, Vincent Trochek set this game into overtime with an additional power play goal. The one area the Rangers showed improvement against the Kraken was in special teams with the top power play unit going two for two on scoring opportunities (the Rangers were five for 20 in the last six games.)
The area that the Rangers need to shake off right now is what I call “flat energy.” The team looks flat and plays flat in certain periods while being outshot by their opponents. Winning teams find ways to keep the offensive pressure up; mediocre teams find a way to just move the puck around and not challenge their opponents. As we approach the Thanksgiving threshold for the NHL season, the Rangers need to adopt one key word as their new mantra: urgency. This may sound like a cliche but the Blueshirts need to play every single offensive transition like their hair is on fire.