Two of the best and hottest teams in the league will go head-to-head for the second time on Thursday.
The New York Rangers are on a four-game winning streak and are playing the best hockey they’ve played all season, by far.
However, the competition they faced during that stretch wasn’t exactly the toughest, aside from the best team in the league, the Florida Panthers.
The real test comes Thursday night when the Rangers take on the Toronto Maple Leafs, who are arguably the hottest team in the NHL right now.
After a very slow start to the season, the Maple Leafs have gone 9-1 over their last 10 games. Their star players, who needed a couple of weeks to really get going, are leading the way for this top-tier team.
The good news is that the Rangers have proven that they’re fully capable of beating the best. After all, they technically are one of the top teams in the league, too. The Panthers were as great as it gets when they faced the Rangers last week.
They were undefeated in regulation time and had one of the best offenses, defenses, power plays, and penalty kills in hockey, of which the same can’t be said of any other team.
The Rangers weren’t perfect and did almost blow the lead, but the offense came alive at the perfect time and hasn’t looked back since. A strong offensive showing is going to be crucial on Thursday.
Although the Maple Leafs pretty much look like a different team, they did face the Rangers earlier this season. The Rangers won the game in overtime, but did so solely because of their superhero goaltender, Igor Shesterkin.
He stole them the victory and the Rangers absolutely can’t rely on him to do the same this time around. The man is only human.
The Maple Leafs are on a tear, but the Rangers also look like a different team. Their offense and power play from just a few weeks ago until now are night and day.
Keys to the game:
The Maple Leafs have a lot of firepower. For that reason, the Rangers’ top two defensive pairings must be on top of their game.
Adam Fox and Ryan Lindgren can’t afford to have an off night. K’Andre Miller and Jacob Trouba have been one of the best defensive pairings in hockey and must show everyone why in this game.
These four defensemen will be under even more pressure given the fact that the Rangers’ third pairing is practically nonexistent.
The hot guys stay hot
The Rangers have a few forwards who are on fire right now. The second line was unbelievable last week.
All of its members- Ryan Strome, Artemiy Panarin, and Kaapo Kakko- were, respectively, the team’s top-three players of the week. After a concerning start to the season, Kakko has looked like a new player and has scored goals in consecutive games.
If the second line’s three players can stay hot, the Rangers will be in good shape. Chris Kreider is tied for the league-lead in goals and must also have a great game.
As I mentioned above, the Rangers can’t expect Shesterkin to play hero while they struggle get anything done. However, Shesterkin must be on top of his game.
He’ll be facing one of the most dangerous offenses and will undoubtedly have to come up with some big saves.
Shesterkin has been one of the best goaltenders in the game this season and the Rangers are always in good hands with him in net. Thursday should be no different.