Rangers find defensive discipline key to recent 5-game run

Jason Zucker
Pittsburgh Penguins left wing Jason Zucker (16) shoots against New York Rangers defenseman Adam Fox (23) and goaltender Igor Shesterkin (31) during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, March 16, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/Bryan Woolston)
AP Photos

Don’t look now, but the New York Rangers have won four of their last five games with two of them coming against some of their bigger rivals in the Metro division. 

A big reason for their recent stretch has been the team’s ability to take care of the puck, and play disciplined defense. It couldn’t have shown more in Thursday night’s 4-2 win over the Penguins. New York did not commit an entire penalty throughout the contest surprising even some of their better players. 

“I was honestly thinking about that at the nine-minute mark. You try not to think about it.” Laughed Chris Kreider. “That’s a really good thing to say against a team that’s got great special teams, especially after our last game with their powerplay.”

Kreider referenced the lone loss of the stretch for New York where they committed five penalties with two of the three Pittsburgh goals coming from the man advantage. 

Thursday night was different though and it rang true throughout the entire locker room. When New York plays mistake-free on the defensive end, it becomes very difficult to beat a team as talented as them.

“You want to play disciplined. It helps when you have the puck that you’re not going to take a penalty more likely than when you’re chasing the defensive zone. They have a good powerplay, there so I think it hurt us last game but we did a good job today.” Adam Fox explained. 

The Rangers’ newfound discipline on defense has helped them turn the corner in many eyes since the trade of Patrick Kane from Chicago. 

It won’t be easy to replicate Thursday’s contest against Pittsburgh on Saturday. The Penguins are in a more desperate situation than the Rangers due to their playoff standing. A loss would give the rival Islanders a chance to jump them for the first wildcard spot. 

New York though is sitting comfortably in the third seed in the Metro division. Another win over Pittsburgh could give the Rangers enough breathing room to know they’ll be locked into a playoff spot against either New Jersey or Carolina in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. 

And if the Rangers can continue to play as disciplined as they did on Thursday, they could very well be the hardest team to beat in a few weeks when it matters most. 

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