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Halfway for the New York Rangers

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Image Credit: Caden Balint

The New York Rangers have hit the end of 2023 calendar year, and the first half of the 2023-2024 season has been nothing but successful for the Blueshirts with an outstanding record of 24-8-1, and while they are 1-1 after the Christmas break, there is a lot more to be happy about with these Rangers.

The one star that has been headlining the Rangers since 2019 is “The Breadman” Artemi Panarin, and he has been nothing short of sensational this season for the Rangers, even in the early conversation for the Hart Trophy, the very same award he was a finalist for back in his very first season with the Blueshirts. Through this season he has 23 goals and 27 assists for 50 points in 35 games for the Rangers this year, including 2 hat tricks in the month of December alone. Panarin has always been one of the best Ranger forwards since he joined the team, but this year he is on pace to absolutely obliterate his career high in goals and in points.

Now while Panarin has been the big fish for the Rangers this season, there is still so much production across all lines for the Rangers, let’s start with the centers. While the Rangers have lost budding star Filip Chytil to injury, Vincent Trocheck has been stepping up in the best way possible for the Blueshirts, and gaining some strong line chemistry with Panarin and former first overall pick Alexis Lafrenière in the process. This year Trocheck has been able to put up 33 points so far this season, with 24 of them coming as assists, and while he hasn’t been lighting it up like Panarin, Kreider or even Mika Zibanjead, Trocheck’s main importance has come on the defensive side of the ice, having 21 takeaways, 32 blocked shots and a whopping 62.4% in faceoff winning percentage. While Trocheck has been a key player on the Rangers defense, Mika Zibanjead has been one of key offensive forces, notching 14 goals and 23 assists this season, and after a very slow start to the season with only 9 points through the first 10 games, having Zibanjead finally hitting his stride when the Rangers need a strong middle of the season to lead into playoffs, fans only wonder how good he can get in the second half of the season. The other leading offensive force next to Panarin and Zibanjead has been Chris Kreider. Kreider has been lighting up the lamp this season with 18 goals and 33 total points, has always been solid for the Rangers throughout his whole career, and he was finally able to break the 30 goal mark just 2 seasons ago, and it feels like he is only now hitting the prime of his career and for a Rangers team that who feel like they are so close to the promise land once again.

While the Rangers are top 10 in goals scored this season, they have been much better on the defensive side of the puck where they have only let 95 goals in which puts them in 7th in the whole league, and aside from the outstanding goaltending that the Rangers have been blessed with this year (we will get to them) the defense has been near lights out. Starting with former Norris Trophy winner Adam Fox, who did miss 10 games this season due to an injury, did not seem like he had missed any steps when he came back from injury, but this year he has 24 points in 25 games and has been such a polarizing player for the Rangers just as he was since the minute he took the ice for the Blueshirts. It does indeed help Fox and all the other defensemen on the team, such as captain Jacob Trouba, when they are being coached by Hall of Famer Defenseman Phil Housley, the perfect coach to help the young defenseman on this team such as Fox, Miller, Schneider and even Lindgren grow into better players but also helping the veterans such as Trouba and Gustafsson hit a better stride this season. Speaking of Trouba, let’s talk about the current captain for the Rangers. While he only has been able to put up 14 points, his main job comes down to being the team’s defensive anchor, and when the Blueshirts find themselves on the penalty kill, you know Jacob Trouba will be getting it front of every shot that comes his way and when it’s any other play, the opposing team better keep their heads up to avoid an incoming Trouba Train style hit. Finally, the goaltending, which has been headlined by former Vezina trophy winner and the dubbed “The Prince” of New York Igor Shesterkin and a resurgence from Jonathan Quick has put the Rangers in a very strong place to trust either goalie on any given night. Starting with The Prince, Shesterkin has seen 22 games this season and has posted a 15-7 record so far this season, while posting a very solid .911 save percentage and a 2.69 goals against this season and while Igor is known to be hard on himself because he is a competitor however he has been great for the Rangers this season and it will only continue into the next season. The very same thing can be said about backup Jonathan Quick, who has posted a 9-2-1 record with a save percentage of .916 and a 2.41 in goals against, has put together an amazing career resurgence and has been a solid go to for the Rangers and someone the team knows they can trust when there is a back to back on the schedule.

While we are only 35 games into the season, the Rangers have quickly established themselves as one of the best teams, not only in the Metro or even the East, but the whole league. With help coming from up and down the entire lineup, the Rangers have been running this next man up mentality with players being lost to injury but I feel as if the one thing that they could do to establish themselves as a Stanley Cup contender is the acquisition of a forward who can play anywhere. In the end if the Rangers keep playing like this, trade or no trade, they could be a strong contender this season.

Caden Balint is a graduate of La Salle Institute in Troy, NY and Merrimack College in North Andover, MA and has been in love with sports forever. Whether it is watching, playing, writing, sports have always been a passion. Getting the chance to start his dream of sports journalism with Stream Punk is just the start of a long journey. In his spare time Caden enjoys playing hockey, spending time with his loved ones and playing video games but you will soon get to know him a lot more!

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