Will the return of their best player help the Rangers end this losing streak?
After playing some great hockey and winning three in a row, the New York Rangers have been mired in a three-game losing streak and have looked rough from top to bottom.
They’re having trouble scoring, something that’s been their most significant issue all season, but the defense (their biggest strength) and goaltending have been terrible, as well.
The penalty kill has still looked great, but the power play has been getting worse and worse. They aren’t really scoring on the man-advantage and are giving up short-handed goals.
Some of these issues have been exacerbated by the absences of Artemi Panarin and Igor Shesterkin.
The Rangers received some good news on Thursday: Panarin made his way back to practice and was set to return to play incredibly soon.
After missing nine-straight games while dealing with assault accusations, Panarin was set to make his return to the Rangers’ lineup on Saturday afternoon against the Boston Bruins.
The team’s best player couldn’t be coming back at a better time, and the hope would be that Panarin can ignite the offense and get the struggling power play rolling.
David Quinn made some interesting lineup moves for this game. The KZB line was reunited and Panarin would slot into his regular spot on the second line alongside his old friend Ryan Strome and Colin Blackwell.
Everyone asked for the “Diaper Line” and that’s what they received. Alexis Lafrenière, Filip Chytil, and Kaapo Kakko would make up the third line. Interestingly, both Julien Gauthier and Brett Howden were healthy scratches.
Howden had played 114 straight games and was never scratched in his career prior to Saturday, but it was time.
Howden’s been one of the Rangers’ worst player and even though Quinn values him as a penalty killer, he doesn’t bring enough to the table to be guaranteed a permanent spot in the lineup.
Gauthier getting scratched might’ve come as a surprise to many given his much-improved play, but it appears as though Quinn wanted to go with some grittier players against the Bruins.
It’s also been established that the coaching staff is interested in rotating the bottom-six forwards, so this doesn’t mean that Gauthier will be regularly scratched.
This meant the fourth line would be comprised of Brendan Lemieux, Kevin Rooney, and Phillip Di Giuseppe. Defensively, Libor Hájek would replace Jack Johnson alongside Brendan Smith.
Keith Kinkaid got the start in net, replacing the struggling Alexandar Georgiev.
1st period: Have a period, Key
The Rangers looked truly great in the first and had it not been for Rangers-killer Jaroslav Halák, who knows how many goals they would’ve scored.
They were offensively dominant from the get-go and didn’t let the Bruins get anything done in their zone, at even-strength, at least.
The man of the period, K’Andre Miller, got the Rangers on the board with a nice shot that went in thanks to a great screen by the best net-front presence in the league, Chris Kreider.
Miller was fantastic in the first- he scored the team’s only goal, but was also excellent defensively. Miller had been struggling lately, and it was important for him to have a period like this. It’s also always nice to see Mika Zibanejad on the scoresheet.
The Rangers weren’t able to score on their power play chances, but not giving up any short-handed goals to the Bruins is an accomplishment for them.
Would the Rangers be able to maintain consistency throughout the remainder of the game?
2nd period: KZB magic
The Bruins came out firing in the second, but that wasn’t going to stop the Rangers. The KZB line caught the Bruins playing some bad defense, an incredibly rare occurrence, in the first half of the period.
Zibanejad made a beautiful play to get the puck in front of the net, and all Kreider had to do was snipe it in.This marked Kreider’s 14th goal of the season.
He leads the team in goals and has scored 10 in his last 11. Kreider continues to be one of the Rangers’ hottest players. This is also Zibanejad’s second multi-point game of the season. Is he coming alive at the right time?
The Rangers had an opportunity on the power play halfway through the period and although they didn’t score, they had some great chances and looked much better on the man-advantage than they have in some time.
The Rangers were able to duplicate what they did in the first in the second. They killed off penalties as well as they always do, they scored a goal, and they were defensively sound. Let’s see if they can do this one more time to close out the game.
3rd period: The veterans stepped up
Ryan Strome, who had several scoring chances in front of the net throughout the game, was able to to add to the Rangers’ lead. This goal doesn’t happen without Panarin, however.
Panarin made an unbelievable pass across to Strome off the rebound of a Blackwell shot. It’s good to see him impacting the game immediately upon his return.
This marked Strome’s 10th goal of the season and his fourth in his last six games. The Rangers have gotten goals from two red-hot forwards in Kreider and Strome, both of whom stepped up big time in Panarin’s absence and will look to stay hot even in his return.
Speaking of players on hot-streaks, Pavel Buchnevich made it 4-0 in the last four minutes with a smart shot in the offensive zone. Buchnevich leads the team with 22 points, two coming in this game, and now has nine points in his last seven games.
Make it another point for Kreider, who had the only assist on the goal.
The Rangers couldn’t have needed this game more. Practically everyone was amazing and the team looked strong in all aspects.
The veterans deserve a shoutout in this one for stepping up big time. Collectively, this might’ve been the best game that group has played all season.
Kinkaid wasn’t busy in net, but did earn his first win since 10/31/19 and his first shutout since 11/15/18. The Rangers will look to build on this dominant win and potentially make a second-half push for the playoffs.
Key Moment: Goal from the rookie
Miller’s goal was the key moment of the game for the Rangers for several reasons. The Rangers came out firing, and an early goal from Miller highlighted that.
As we mentioned earlier, this goal wouldn’t have happened without a great screen by Kreider in front of the net. Kreider continues to show off his strength in front of the net and to play as well as he has been lately.
This goal was important for Miller, himself, who hasn’t looked particularly great. He went on to have a very strong period and an all-around great game, something that he needed from himself and that the team needed from him.
Zibanejad also earned an assist on the goal and continues to put up points.
This goal got things going for the Rangers and allowed them to come out of the game with a huge win against a dangerous team.
Player of the game: Pavel Buchnevich
Every Ranger played well this game, but Buchnevich was the best. He showed his strength as a a fantastic two-way forward and was offensively impactful.
He had an assist on the first goal that got the Rangers going and scored the team’s fourth goal to cap things off. Buchnevich has been great this season, but his play as of late has been even more fantastic.
He’s stepping up big time and will be instrumental to the team as they make a late playoff push.
Buchnevich’s numbers: 16:22 TOI, 1 G, 1 A, 60 CF%, 0.32 iXG, 0.54 xGF, 0.01 xGA, 3.22 GF, 0 GA, 0.69 defensive rating, 1.94 offensive rating, and 1.63 individual rating.
Stats are courtesy of Natural Stat Trick and Hockey Stat Cards.