Despite the season suspension due to COVID-19, head coach David Quinn is impressed with the New York Rangers’ 2019-20 outing thus far.
Season No. 2 as head coach of the New York Rangers started out slow for David Quinn. New faces led to inconsistencies in all zones. Wins were hard to come by and the team was doggy paddling just to keep its head above water through November.
Appearing on “MSG 150 at Home” on Friday night, Quinn discussed how the season has unfolded. Mika Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin were topics of conversation while the head coach spoke with MSG Network’s Bill Pidto and Steve Valiquette.
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The hard work and tough lessons taught by Quinn, along with Lindy Ruff, David Oliver, and Greg Brown, began to take shape as the second half of the season began. Zibanejad, Panarin, and rookie goaltender Igor Shesterkin took the club to within two points when the season succumbed to its coronavirus-related suspension.
“I really thought we did a great job as a group, acquiring the characteristics that you need to have a successful team,” Quinn said. “I thought there was an opportunity for us throughout the early part of the season to become a true team. And our guys did a great job of acquiring those characteristics from a work ethic to care factor, they became resilient, there was a trust factor in the locker room within each other. And you could see the benefits of that as the second half unfolded.”
The Rangers battled through some adversity as January turned into February. The constant trade rumors of Chris Kreider was a constant distraction. Kreider, who’s spent his entire NHL career with the Blueshirts, played with passion, and did so while putting the constant rumors on the back burner.
Kreider and the Rangers agreed on a seven-year, $45.5 million extension on Feb. 24.
The team also dealt with the three-goalie monster after Shesterkin was recalled in January from the Hartford Wolf Pack. The recall essentially made fan-favorite Henrik Lundqvist a full-time backup goalie. Yet, through it all, Quinn was able to keep the team moving forward.
One cannot talk about the Rangers without naming their top two players: Zibanejad and Panarin. The two stars were the clear leaders for the team. Panarin, who led the team in scoring with 95 points (32 goals, 63 assists), and Zibanejad, the leading goal-scorer with 41, were the reasons the team had so much success this season.
“When you have Mika Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin, your two best players that have their worth ethic, that have the ability to be great teammates and the people they are, you’re organization has a great chance to be successful,” Quinn said.
Quinn went on to speak highly of Zibanejad.
“First of all, he has that type of talent. And not just the physical talent, he has the mental talent too,” he said. “This guy is so smart on the ice. Puts in the effort off the ice. Always wants to get better. It’s just the evolution of a player. He’s in that prime. He’s in the sweet spot of his career right now. He has all the characteristics you need. He’s a great example of what can happen with patience in young players. When you add the talent level, his brain and the teammate he is, you get a special player.”
The Rangers are one of the playoff bubble teams while waiting to see if there will be a chance to complete the regular season. With no plan of when or if the pause will be lifted, Quinn and his players must remain patient.
Regardless of the outcome, Quinn was able to get this mixture of youth and veteran players to perform strong, two-way hockey. With confidence on the ice, the Blueshirts found a way to gel and become a strong opponent.
The head coach and his team can only hope to receive the opportunity to finish out the season and earn an opportunity to play in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.