The New York Rangers’ four-game road trip concluded with a 3-0 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Jan. 13. Blueshirts finished their West Coast trip with a record of 2-2. The franchise is first in the Metropolitan Division with 52 points, and has been very fortunate with players from the Hartford Wolf Pack of the American Hockey League (AHL) stepping up on the Rangers’ roster. Here are some takeaways from the Blueshirts’ road games out West.
Rangers Alternate Wins & Losses
Jan. 6 – Vegas Golden Knights
The Vegas Golden Knights won the first game, which was also the hardest of the trip according to the final score. The Rangers lost 5-1 to the Vegas Golden Knights and were not able to play for 60 minutes. According to head coach Gerard Gallant, “When they scored the second goal, it just seemed like everything went the wrong way. We didn’t compete anymore, we didn’t have the hard work, real disappointed in the last 35 minutes” (from ‘Igor Shesterkin-less Rangers ripped by Golden Knights,’ New York Post, 1/7/22).
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Along with Gallant, Ryan Reaves made his return to the T-Mobile Arena, and was disappointed in the Rangers’ loss, “Definitely didn’t want to come in here and get beat like that. Tough way to go out, for sure.” The head coach and forward were honored during the game with a video tribute from their time with the Golden Knights organization. Reaves played for the Golden Knights more than three seasons before being traded last offseason to the Rangers.
The Blueshirts didn’t have Igor Shesterkin as they were without him. Placed in safety and health protocolsBefore the game even began. Alexandar Georgiev didn’t have one of his best games of the season, allowing five goals on 35 shots. Next, the team traveled to Anaheim to face the Ducks on January 8.
Jan. 8 – Anaheim Ducks
The Rangers won 4-1 against the Anaheim Ducks after putting forth a better effort. After taking a 1-0 lead in period two, Mika Zibanejad equalized the score just a few minutes later. A pair of defensemen – Jarred Tinordi and Ryan Lindgren provided the rest of the goals for the Blueshirts with the latter notching two goals.
Zibanejad mentioned the enjoyment of goals by the two defensemen, “I guess it’s a little extra special when guys who don’t score often, do a good job defensively and may not get so much credit on offense, they get to score. That’s fun, especially when they’re important goals like these” (from ‘Ryan Lindgren, Jarred Tinordi propel Rangers past Ducks,’ New York Post, 1/9/22).
Lindgren commented on the win as well, “I think we play our best when we play simple, cycle the puck, go low to high and get pucks to the net. Coach was very clear about this tonight. That’s winning hockey for us.” The Blueshirts finished with a large advantage in shots as they had 39 compared to 14 for their opponents. As Georgiev didn’t see as many shots on goal during this win, the forwards and defensemen performed much better.
Jan. 10 – Los Angeles Kings
The Rangers were next to travel to the Staples Center in Los Angeles to take on the Kings. The Kings are one among seven teams in Pacific Division currently in contention for a playoff slot. Rangers lost to their opponent 3-1 in an offensive struggle on the road trip. The Blueshirts continue to have trouble separating lines as they keep rotating players around due to positive COVID test results. This has adversely affected every team in the NHL over the last few weeks.
Chris Kreider commented on the struggles the team had in the loss against the Kings’ defensive style, “We didn’t commit to getting through that 1-3-1 [trap]. We discussed before the game about their behavior in the neutral zone. We agreed to work hard, not smart. We had to be fast and supportive of each other, but they walked out of the game and we tried to keep our feet on the ground. But it was too late.
“When we did finally get in, we weren’t doing a good enough job of getting into battles, staying in battles and winning battles. They did a good job, but we didn’t do nearly a good enough job of establishing the forecheck” (from ‘Short-handed Rangers stumble to lackluster loss to Kings,’ New York Post, 1/11/22).
The Rangers failed to score as many net goals against the Kings as against the Ducks. Cal Petersen stopped 22 shots against the Blueshirts. The road trip was coming to an end, and the Rangers had scored just one goal in losses against the Golden Knights & Kings.
Jan. 13 – San Jose Sharks
The Rangers were heading to San Jose to take on the Sharks in the final round of their West Coast trip. Igor Shesterkin played. Removed from safety and security protocolsPrior to the game, Alexis Lafreniere would get the start in net with the Blueshirts. Alexis Lafreniere was to play on the second team with Ryan Strome, Artemi Panarin, but was put in COVID protocol prior to the game.
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Shesterkin had another great season. The goaltender stopped 37 of his shots against the Sharks. At this point, he has been the Rangers’ most valuable player. His contribution has been crucial to the Blueshirts’ continued dominance in the Metropolitan Division for the majority of 2021-22.
Braden Schneider scored a goal during his Rangers win in his NHL debut. His NHL debut was impressive and it gives hope that the team will find a defenseman they can rely on to play in the third defensive pairing. Gallant has used Nils Lunkvist, Jarred Tinordi and Libor Hajek with Patrik Nmeth in the third pairing of this season.
Schneider was with Nemeth in the Sharks game and earned more playing time with his performance. The Rangers will return to the East Coast on January 15th to face the Philadelphia Flyers. Kreider just came off a multigoal win against the Sharks. He now has 23 goals in the year, as the Blueshirts prepare to face the orange-and-black.
Rangers Keep Adjusting LineupCOVID Protocol
The Rangers were without Shesterkin or Artemi Pantarin before the recent road trip started. This opened up opportunities to Georgiev, Lafreniere and Barclay Goodrow for larger roles within the team. Goodrow and Lafreniere have been placed in safety and health protocols, as Panarin and Shesterkin are back. Due to an upper-body injury, Dryden Hunt is not available for the Blueshirts. Julien Gauthier (COVID protocol) is available for Julien Gauthier.
Over the past few games, Tim Gettinger and Morgan Barron have seen some playing time. The unpredictable nature of COVID protocol placements means that players who are able to play in those situations will want to make an impression on the Blueshirts. Chris Drury, president/general manger of the Rangers, and Rangers coach will see the depth within the Wolf Pack that can contribute to the Blueshirts on a regular basis.
As they return from their four-game road trip, the Rangers are in a great spot. They continue to look like a legitimate playoff contender in the league. The midpoint of this season is fast approaching so fans should be happy with their current standing.
Matt is a New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils reporter and previously contributed content to The Hockey Writers about the Philadelphia Flyers, and the Pittsburgh Penguins. Send us your podcast and interview requests. Matt on TwitterIt appears at the bottom of his articles.