The Rangers currently sit at 4-2 toward the top of the Metropolitan Division after defeating the Calgary Flames 3-1 Tuesday night. While the season is only a couple of weeks old, there are some emerging trends that show this Rangers team may be different than the one that had a first-round playoff exit last season.
Perhaps the most prominent trend so far is the Rangers’ power-play presence. The Blueshirts are currently 6-of-20 on the power play this season — a 30% clip after posting a 24% conversion rate last year.
“Just practice, trying to get as many reps as we can,” said Alexis Lafreniere, “Try to move the puck quickly and make plays for each other… good to get a goal too.”
The Rangers’ early-season success on the power play has certainly helped their offense figure it out as a whole. Averaging three goals per game so far this season has compensated for struggles on the other end of the ice. Former Vezina winner Igor Shesterkin has a save percentage below .900 off the jump. Normally the anchor of the team, Shesterkin has had an uncharacteristically slow start this year. The netminder had allowed 10 goals in his previous three starts before holding the Flames to one goal last night.
“He was really good [Tuesday],” head coach Peter Laviolette said. “Shots were low… There were certainly saves that were really important throughout the game, especially in the third period. There were some that were real beauties.”
While Shesterkin put together one of his best performances of the season, it was ultimately the Rangers power play that was the difference. The Blueshirts trailed 1-0 in the second period and scored two goals with both of their power-play units. First, it was Alexis Lafreniere who scored off a deflection to tie the game at one. Then, it was Chris Kreider who scored on the doorstep to give the Rangers a lead they would not surrender.
“There were some good things and things that could be better as well,” Laviolette said. “I really like the redirect by Laf, that was a really nice play. Kreids is really good down by the net, heads up play by Artemi [Panarin].”
Going forward, the Rangers must continue to apply the force on the offensive end.
“I’d rather not sit back and hold on to that 3-1 lead,” Laviolette said. “I’d rather go down, press, forecheck, and fire 25, 30 attempts, have 15 shots on net.”
Even though the defense might take time to catch up to the offense, it is clear Laviolette has a new approach to the team that will allow for a more dynamic offense and stout defense.