Igor Shesterkin

Report Card: After 10

Ten games into the season, 12.2% of the season completed, and the Rangers sit at 6-2-2, amongst the best in the league with 14 points.  On the surface it’s been a dream start for Rangers Head Coach Gerard Gallant, in that his team has put the wins up against teams it should beat, for the most part…and even picked up some ones they shouldn’t have.

Igor Shesterkin, who entered the season fresh off a big raise, has looked Vezina worthy through his first eight games, and already has two steals to his name this season, and has been a big reason the Rangers were even in a handful of others.

Likewise, Norris Trophy winner Adam Fox is leading the team both offensively and defensively, with 11 points in 10 games and a new seven year extension as well.  Beyond that, it’s been of a mixed bag for New York, who are amongst the bottom tiers of the league in terms of the power play and offense in general.

Beneficiaries of a favorable schedule through the first ten, the Rangers have taken care of business, even if they’ve looked vulnerable, they’ve figured ways to win these games.  The next ten games figure to be a greater test for this team. Report Card

Igor Shesterkin – has accounted for as many as two stolen wins, and has had his hand in 12 of the 14 Rangers points to start the season.  He currently ranks fifth in the league with five wins.  Second in shots faced – 264.  Fifth in save percentage for goalies who’ve played more that one gaem – .943, and fifth in GAA for the same group – 1.85.  He’s done this behind the team that has the second worst shot differential in the leauge – -5.  The only question is, how long can he keep this pace up?

Adam Fox – With a new contract extension less than a week ago, the Rangers have locked up ther 23 year old until the end of the 2028-29 season with an AAV of $9.5M beginning next year..  It’s a hefty raise from his ELC – the largest in NHL history, but after ten games he leads the Rangers in points – 11, and ice time with 24:36 a game on average.

Ryan Lindgren – It’s easy to overlook Ryan Lindgren‘s play when he’s paired up with Fox, but the left side partner on the top line continues to get the job done.  He’s already got a goal and assist on the board, but his game is more about the defensive side and brining an edge to the Rangers defensive zone presence.  He leads the team along with Mika Zibanejad and Fox, with a +6 rating while averaging a bit over 19 minutes of ice time.

Chris Kreider – The longest tenured Ranger often seems to get some goalscoring going early in the season, and then fades.  Last year it took him longer to get going – he had 3 goals in his first 15 games, but this time round he already has 7 on the board through the first ten.  All but one of those goals has come from in and around the net, and a team leading 5 have come on the power play.  In fact it wasn’t until game ten that the Rangers had any other player register a power play goal for the team.  As always, it remains to be seen how long the streaky scorer can stay on the sheet, but for the moment he’s done well to lead the team through the first month, while others have struggled.

Jacob Trouba – Trouba’s tenure whether the Ranger has been at times good, but often has been a little underwhelming.  With $8M, a NMC and seven years, it’s easy to point to Trouba as being overpaid, and a pressure on a team Cap number that is quickly becoming tighter.  While he’s still probably not delivering fully to his contract, it’s fair to say that Trouba’s play this year has been a bit more consistent.  He still is on the slower slide with his foot speed, but he’s bought into Gallant’s style and approach, and is playing with more of an edge through his first ten games.  He gets some time on the second power play unit, but Trouba is clearly the third defenseman on the depth chart right now.

Dryden Hunt – His shot isn’t great, and he has limited stick-handling ability, but Hunt has brought an energy and willingness to get to work on the fourth line.  It’s hard to see Hunt ever being much of a scorer, but he has combined well with Kevin Rooney on the fourth line to provide some energy to a Rangers team that can pull into a shell at times.  With one assist through the first ten games, Hunt has been on the ice for just one goal against in the first ten games, and two goals for…so that’s good

Kevin Rooney – A little more skilled than Hunt, Rooney has continued to play well in a fourth line role.  He has two goals in the first ten, including an empty net goal and one in which he combined with Hunt to score in front.  Rooney also brings penalty killing ability, and a defensive mindset along with that ability to bring a solid fore-check.  He can play center or wing, and is performing his job fairly well. 

Sammy Blais – At times Blais looks like a top class talent, at others he looks slow and behind the play.  His stick handling and ability to pass the puck has been one of his strong suits, as has his willingness to hit.  The challenge with Blais has been his ability to be consistent in his play, as well as staying healthy.  He did miss the second game of the season against Dallas, and then looked flat in his return in Montreal, but after that he had his hand in a couple of goals where he picked up the primary assists.  Whether he remains a part of the Rangers team on a longer basis will be whether he can have more good games than invisible ones.

Alexis Lafreniere – With three goals in ten games, there’s been a few bright moments for Lafreniere this season, but his overalll consistency has been lacking.  Initially paired with Kreider and Zibanejad, Lafreniere seemed to play too conservatively, and has instead seen his better shifts when lining up with fellow Francophone Blais and center Filip Chytil.  The only player that has so far been called out by Gallant, Lafreniere owned the criticism, but has yet to deliver on the promise of being the #1 overall pick.

Kaapo Kakko – He looks stronger, he’s going to the net, but Kakko has yet to register a point in the six games he’s played.  It’s a little perplexing, becaue he’s obviously playing with a lot more control and confidence than before, but is not getting the results.  Initially tapped to help on the PK, he’s seen that role evaporate, and with the continued reliance on the top PP unit, he hasn’t managed to force his way on there yet either.  Missing four games with an upper body injury certainly hasn’t helped either, but the hope is that he figures it out soon, and helps the Rangers offense get on track.

Greg McKegg – Inserted into the line-up because of his penalty killling and defensive play, McKegg has done pretty much what you’d hope for a depth forward.  He’s likely the first guy to be sent down if the Rangers forward unit gets fully healthy again, but for the moment he’s doing his job and has been on the ice for just one goal against in over 65 minutes of ice time.

Ryan Reaves – He’s clearly been a force off the ice, and the larger than life Ryan Reaves has instantly made an impression on many of the Rangers faithful, though not necessarily with his play on the ice.  He’s not the fastest skater, and while he likes to hit, his role is relatively limited as a fourth liner who did have a couple of good games in the midst of the first ten games, before he pulled up with a leg/groin injury.   There’s no questioning Reaves’ commitment to the team, it’s whether he can be a difference on the ice. 

Morgan Barron – Disclaimer, it’s hard to rate this player because of his limited opportunity.  A victim of numbers, Barron did get a short two game stint in the middle of October and played a conservative game with limited ice time.  Gallant clearly isn’t ready to trust Barron yet, and he was limited to just under 16 minutes of ice in his two games.  He’s been doing well down in Hartford though, with 3 goals and 1 assist in his five games there.

K’Andre Miller – It’s been an up and down season for Miller this year, with only Panarin (9) being on the ice for more goals against than Miller’s 7.  His net -3 goals for/goals against is second worst on the team, again behind Panarin (-5).  Last season Miller burst onto the scene and looked actually the steadier partner on the second unit, but this year he’s struggled a little bit, and has missed his coverage more often than he did in his rookie season.  It hasn’t necessarily been a big issue to date, with the way Shesterkin has been playing, but getting Miller back on track will be necessary if the Rangers want a more sustained success this season.

Artemi Panarin – He has 10 points in 10 games – second on the team, but the ‘Breadman’ has not delivered consistently in the first month of the season.  Early on he was guilty of forcing the pass, and struggled particularly when Ryan Strome was out of the line-up.  he appears to be starting to get his game back a bit in the last couple, but is yet to be the dominating force we’ve seen through the first two seasons.  If the Rangers are to be successful, they’ll need more from him.

Mika Zibanejad – As with Panarin, Zibanejad is picking up points – 8 in ten games – but he has just two goals, and has not effective enough on the offensive zide.  As with Panarin, he scored just his second goal and first on the power play in the tenth game of the season.  Part of the difference is a reconfiguration of the power play, that has shifted away from a preference to have Zibanejad one-time the pass from Panarin, to a more net-front deflection model – as evidenced by Kreider’s power play stats, but with the offense struggling to put up goals, more is needed from their historic goal scoring leader. 

Alexandar Georgiev – A surprise starter in the season opener, Georgiev struggled in that game, stopping just 22 of 27 shots, and allowing 3 power play goals.  He then gave up a goal on the first shot of the game in his second outing, and then let up a weak one as Ottawa moved posted a 2-0 lead before collapsing late in the third for a remarkable 3-2 regulation victory for the Rangers.  The biggest challenge with Georgiev at the moment is that it’s hard to trust him, and it can affect the players in front of him.  He’ll get another chance against either Calgary or Edmonton this coming weekend, and a good outing would certainly help shift that narrative.

Barclay Goodrow – In his ten games, Goodrow has played on three different lines, and has three goals – two of them into an empty net.  He’s currently being used as a utility player to fill gaps, and that hasn’t necessarily suited his game, especially after the significant raise that Chris Drury gave him this off-season.  Goodrow is a good soldier, but perhaps would be better suited playing on an energy line like the fourth, than an offensive one where he’s been asked to fill in.  He doesn’t really go retrieve the puck, nor does he have a great shot or stick-handling ability.  It’s been the classic case so far of a player’s role being defined more by his contract than his skilset.

Nils Lundkvist – The rookie Swede missed was a healthy scratch for the first game, and then played seven straight before again being a scratch for veteran Jarred Tinordi.  Lundkivst has had a bit of a rocky road, having turnovers in his first two games that either lead to goals, or very good chances against, and his four goals against in under 13 minutes of ice time is not a great stat.  We were just starting to see some of his offensive potential before Gallant pulled the plug on him, and with tough games coming up against Edmonton, Calgary and Florida, he might be sitting for a while.

Ryan Strome – A bout with COVID in October caused Strome to miss four games, just as the Rangers were starting to come together.  With Strome out, the team found a way to win some games, and he has slotted in relatively effectively since he’s come back.  Some of Panarin’s struggles early in the year perhaps are the result of missing Strome, and it’s likely going to take a few more games for them to get things going, but at this point we haven’t yet seen that chemistry much, though Strome does have a goal and an assist in the last three games

Jarred Tinordi – He has below average skating, and a relatively limited skill set that has limited him as an NHLer in his career, but Tinordi has been okay for the most part in the three games he’s appeared in.  He’s not a guy who’s likely to win you games, and he quite possibly could be a cause for allowing a goal, but to date he’s kept it relatively simple in his short stint.

Filip Chytil – Signed to an extension over the Summer, and with questions over whether he was ready to take on the role of second line center with Strome looking likely to move on as a UFA after this year, Chytil has not been able to seize his opportunities.  Slotted in next to Panarin after Strome went down, the experiment barely lasted more than a game before Gallant decided to try another option – pairing Zibanejad and Panarin together.  Chytil’s one goal in ten games is obviously not enough, and while he’s shown some decent chemistry playing with the likes of Lafreniere and Blais, it’s clearly not been enough.

Patrik Nemeth – A UFA signing over the Summer, Nemeth came in as the projected third left defenseman, and mentor for fellow Swede Nils Lundkvist.  In the early going it’s been more bad than good though, with the veteran blueliner struggling to find much chemistry with his rookie partner, or journeyman Jarred Tinordi.  His six goals against puts him tied with Trouba for third worst on the team, though he plays three minutes less a game, and typically against weaker opposition forwards.  The one posititve in his game has been his shot blocking, but it’s not been enough to overcome the slowness of foot.

Julien Gauthier – Gauthier was one of the players who remained on the roster after camp that contributed to the falling out with Vitali Kravtsov.  He also got a chance to impress when injuries forced Strome and Kakko out of the line-up, but as it turns out he wasn’t able to turn that opportunity into a longer stay.  With just three appearances in the first ten games, Gauthier remains on the outer despite the coaching change, partly due to his inability to really play a bottom six role, and not being effective enough to stick as a top six guy.  This year was probably the last chance for Gauthier with the Rangers, and it’s hard to see where he goes from here, though injuries might still give him an opportunity later in the year.

OtherLibor Hajek – With ten games gone in the season, Hajek has yet to dress in a game.

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