3 consistent keys to Rangers early 2-0 start in loaded Eastern Conference

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New York Rangers defenseman Adam Fox (23) celebrates after scoring a goal during the first period of the team’s NHL hockey game against the Minnesota Wild, Thursday, Oct. 13, 2022, in St. Paul, Minn. (AP Photo/Abbie Parr)
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The New York Rangers have played two different games to start their 2022-23 NHL season. 

It just so happens they’ve convincingly won both. Whether it was a dominant defensive performance against the 3x representative of the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup Finals, or an offensive barrage against one of the best home teams in hockey, New York has looked excellent through two games. 

The Rangers’ 7-3 win over Minnesota on Thursday night showed the complete ability and skill sets of the entire franchise. 

While Thursday night was a different game than the season opener on Tuesday, there have been three main constants throughout the Rangers’ quick 2-0-0 start to the season.

Igor Shesterkin is King

Coming off his Vezina win, Igor Shesterkin made it his mission to try and be even better this season. Through two games he is well on his way to doing that. 

On opening night against Tampa Bay, the defense in front of Shesterkin was suffocating and only allowed 27 shots to be seen by Igor. The Russian-born player stopped 26. 

On Thursday, the defense was a little more faulty. There were openings that Minnesota exploited early and often throughout the contest. It didn’t really matter though because Igor Shesterkin was more than up to the task.

Shesterkin saved 33-36 shots Thursday night but his largest impact came early in the game. With Minnesota opening their season at home Thursday, the offense led by Matt Zuccarello came out on fire early. 

Igor met the challenge, kept the game scoreless, and made key save after key save to help New York get out to an early 3-0 lead. 

The defense wasn’t as good as it was on Tuesday, but it’s important to have the top goaltender being able to produce at a high level when things aren’t going exactly right. 

Igor has shown that consistency through two games. 

Balanced Scoring 

Six different players scored goals on Thursday night in Minnesota. While the usual stars continued to show out and produce at a high level like Artemi Panarin (four points) and Mika Zibanejad (two points), it’s important to see the team be able to score in different ways. 

At times in the 2021 season, the Rangers got a majority of their offense solely from their excellent powerplay. Through two games of the 2022 season, New York has seven five-on-five goals. The ability to make plays happen without things going exactly right is an important factor in teams that have championship-level aspirations. 

It also helps that the young players for New York have looked excellent through two games as well. Kaapo Kakko netted his first goal of the season last night, as did Filip Chytil. 

Alexis Lafreniere, in a new position than he was on opening night, dominated with Panarin to the tune of two assists and several scoring chances. 

The Rangers are such a difficult team to defend. If you focus on the top two lines, Filip Chytil and the fourth line have shown an ability to get plenty of scoring chances. The defense is very smart with the puck as well. 

There aren’t many teams in the NHL that have the puck-control ability that the Rangers have shown through two games, and that makes everyone in the offense dangerous. 

Rangers’ newcomers make their mark

Headlined as the two biggest acquisitions in the off-season, Vincent Trocheck and Ryan Carpenter have been excellent at one key thing for New York this season: controlling the puck. 

Ryan Carpenter leads the team in face-off win percentage (75%) through two games. He was 3/4 on both Tuesday and Thursday nights. Carpenter’s ability to win face-offs has been a major help to a New York team that was dead-last in the league last year in face-off win percentage. 

Vincent Trocheck on the other hand has joined Artemi Panarin and Alexis Lafreniere on the second line and has dominated through two games. Trocheck won 63% of his face-offs on Tuesday and helped the second line total eight points in Thursday’s win. 

Trocheck was the big free agent that was brought in to help New York in several key facets. 

But through two games it’s Carpenter and the former Hurricane that are showing helpful consistency in the Rangers’ fast start. 

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