Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Five games into the 2021 campaign and the New York Rangers find themselves with far more questions than answers. After a heartbreaking back to back set against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Blueshirts find themselves 1-3-1.
Both games were right there for the Rangers as they took leads into the 3rd period before finding ways to throw both games away.
While I still believe Igor Shesterkin is the Rangers heir to Henrik Lundqvist’s throne, he’s slowly come out of the blocks this season after taking the league by storm last season. This weekend Shesterkin gave up some goals with some odor on them, especially Sunday night on the game tying goal in the 3rd period. Jared McCann turned and ripped a bad angle shot on net that appeared to catch Shesterkin by surprise and beat him over his left shoulder to tie the game. Even though it appeared Shesterkin was screened on the shot it’s still a puck he has to stop.
Where the hell is Chris Kreider? Has anyone let him know that the season is underway because throughout the first five games he’s been invisible. He has yet to do anything to justify that lovely 6×6.5 extension that he received last season. When you’re looked at as one of the leaders of the team it is your job to lead by example both on and off the ice and Kreider has just been nowhere to be found so far this season. Sure Kreider is a streaky player but when you’re more known for disappearing acts for elongated stretches of time far more than the productive and your facial reactions on other players goals displayed on Rangers social media, it’s a problem.
There is plenty of room on the milk carton though, Ryan Strome is right there next to Kreider. The Strome that many Ranger fans were afraid of when they traded for him two years ago has finally reared his ugly head. His goal aside against the Penguins Sunday night, Strome has been utterly abysmal to start the year and is showing now more than ever he’s the product of riding shotgun to Artemi Panarin. The go ahead goal in this latest loss was even further egregious because it was out front for all to see the terrible defensive tie-up in front screening Shesterkin.
While it’s fun to dwell on the negatives, there have been some bright spots for the Rangers to start the season. K’Andre Miller has flashed the promise that the team raved about in camp solidifying his spot next to Jacob Trouba. He didn’t look out of place at all in two games against Pittsburgh by pretty much putting the clamps on Sidney Crosby in both games.
Ryan Lindgren has also flashed especially in this two game showing against Evgeni Malkin. Granted, Malkin has struggled to begin the year, he didn’t bust out of his slump against the Rangers and that’s thanks to Lindgren’s defensive effort. Lindgren is exactly what the Rangers hoped Dylan McIlrath would be as a defensive presence in front of the net.
Even though Alexis Lafreniere hasn’t scored yet he has been really good for a player getting his first taste of NHL action. His hockey IQ is off the charts fantastic and he has shown that he will consistently be a difference maker at the NHL as his career goes along. Once Laf gets his first goal you can just feel that the seal will be broken and he’ll begin to put up points in bunches. The Rangers couldn’t have been more fortunate to land a first overall pick.
It’s been a really tough start for the Rangers but there has been some glimpses of life. This team has way too much offensive talent to remain this poor for the entire season. Also their goaltending is way too talented to keep playing at this kind of level for the entirety of the season. People need to remember that this is a vastly young team trying to learn their way in the NHL.
Even though the Rangers showed some glimpses of promise, it is truly maddening for this team to come away with only 1 out of 4 points against a Pittsburgh Penguins team that frankly has shown it is not very good out of the gate, especially defensively.