The New York Rangers put on a display of youth, speed, and scoring in what should be defined as a winning season despite the suspension.
The New York Rangers have undergone an inspiring 2019-20 season. The youngest team in the NHL was just one win away from a wild-card spot with 12 games remaining when the league announced on March 12 that it would “pause” its schedule due to COVID-19 concerns.
The slow start to the season was mainly due to the age of the players when the campaign began.
This team was built around a foundation of young kids with a number of veterans showing them how to play like true New Yorkers. For all the criticism second-year head coach David Quinn took early on, he showed that he knew the right buttons to push to get the most out of his players.
The stars lead the way
Artemi Panarin, who signed last summer, has been worth every cent and will continue to be for years to come. His skill was no secret when he was a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets. But having him perform at a high level every night transformed the Blueshirts from a mediocre scoring team to one that possesses elite-level execution.
Mika Zibanejad also continues to dazzle this season, as the addition of Panarin has allowed him to find more scoring chances. Zibanejad missed 13 games due to a lower-body injury but stilled manage to score 41 goals.
He may not wear the “C” on the left shoulder of his sweater (for now), but Zibanejad leads both on and off the ice all the same. He’s established himself as arguably a top-three center in the NHL and was a key factor in keeping Chris Kreider at the trade deadline.
Kreider might be the most impressive player this season despite his now-former contract status. The once-pending unrestricted free agent could’ve been dealt at the deadline, but he put the business issues to the wayside and recorded the numbers that verified his contract extension.
He was on pace to break his career-high in goals before fracturing his foot just three games after signing his new deal. He’s one-third of the top line with Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich, a combination that’s been together for the better part of two seasons.
Surprising blue-line combination
The blue line has been a disappointment over past seasons. But this year, the team found a pair of defensemen that could lead the club for years to come.
They just happen to be two rookies that are playing like veteran point men.
Adam Fox and Ryan Lindgren (both 22 years old) have become the top pair on this team. Called upon to play against the opposition’s top lines, the duo has adopted a flawless skill to know where each other is on the ice.
Lindgren has taken over for a former Ranger in Dan Girardi. The new warrior fears no one on the ice and frequently has battle scars after games to prove he’ll do almost anything to defend his team. He’ll end up with black eyes and bloody lips. Nonetheless, Lindgren will always put a smile on knowing he might’ve lost a battle, but won the war.
Fox is as hard to play against but possesses an offensive touch that could be compared to Brian Leetch. Through the course of the season, he’s played in every game, which is hard to believe since he jumped from college to the NHL without blinking an eye.
Over the last 70 games, Fox has emerged as a Rookie of the Year candidate and a leader on this team.
The dynamic duo could be the biggest surprise of this very interesting season in New York.
A changing of the guard
The team went with a three-goalie system until Quinn named Shesterkin the No. 1 guy in February. The rookie compiled a 10-2 record before the pause. Simply speaking, he was proving to Rangerstown that he was ready to put the team on his back.
With that justification, The King may have played his last game in a Rangers sweater. Having appeared in only seven contests since the start of the new year, it appears his Blueshirt tenure is over.
Hank has dressed in every game except one, being the professional everyone expects him to be. Lundqvist has stated he would have a conversation with management, which most likely will end his long Rangers tenure.
The foreseeable future is still a question mark. Will the NHL resume the season? If so, what are the playoff implications?
Today, right now, these questions remain unanswered.
All in all, it’s been an overwhelmingly successful campaign for the Blueshirts. If the season resumes, the ride to the playoffs will be one of joy and excitement.
Stay safe and healthy, Rangerstown.