Deprecated: Automatic conversion of false to array is deprecated in /var/www/ on line 243 - Jan Levine - Rangers ride pair from Kreider and solid overall play to 4-2 win over Pens
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Rangers ride pair from Kreider and solid overall play to 4-2 win over Pens

March 17, 2023, 7:08 PM ET [181 Comments]
Jan Levine
New York Rangers Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
The Rangers won their second straight and improved to 4-0-1 in their last five games with a -2 win over the Penguins on Thursday. Mika Zibanejad contributed a goal (his 200th as a Ranger) and an assist while Chris Kreider lit the lamp twice giving him 30 goals on the season. New York now leads the Penguins by 10 points for third in the Metro with the two teams slated to meet again Saturday at MSG.

Game recap:



A few thoughts:
1) Kreider has scored six goals in his last 10 games and eight in the last 14 to hit 30 for the second time. We all knew last year's 52 was somewhat of a fluke and we expected a regression. That "regression" has resulted in 30 goals with 14 games remaining, which is a pretty darn good season despite the myriad of line shifts etc. But what is almost as impressive is his reading of situations, his ability to lead on and off the ice, his pre- and post-game comments, which is why he is so deserving of the A on his chest  

“The depth we have is so impressive, everyone talks about the top-six, but we’ve got the third line with [the Kids] holding the offensive zone and we’ve got that fourth line with Goody, Motter and Veese [Jimmy Vesey] that advances the puck up the ice and is so hard to play against. We had a good team last year. We had depth. But we didn’t have depth like this

It’s not about self. It’s about the team. Kaner [Patrick Kane] is used to getting 24-25 minutes, Vladdy [Tarasenko] is used to getting big minutes. They’re taking less so that we can be more. If you’re playing a little less, you have the energy to move your feet more, to get in on the forecheck, to throw an extra check.

That’s what a successful team is about.”

2) Top line - Panarin-Zibanejad-Tarasenko continue to show improved chemistry. The more impressive part of the game yesterday was the pair of defensive plays made by Tarasenko. The first, early in the game, prevented Sidney Crosby from having a high-danger chance near the slot, which then resulted in Panarin's breakout pass off the wall leading to Zibanejad's goal. His second came late in the game with New York holding a 3-2 lead, also preventing a possible scoring chance. You see Tarasenko constantly communicating with his linemates, trying to accelerate the learning curve and comfortability factor between the three.

The trio led all Rangers' lines with 10 shots on goal, but also surrendered 14, according to Natural Stat Trick (per Vince Mercogliano). While lots of positives existed, room for growth remains. Coach Gerard Gallant looks committed to these combinations, which should allow them to mesh even better over time.

3) Tyler Motte made his presence felt. After he collided with Jeff Petry early on, which bounced the Penguins defenseman from the game, Pierre-Oliver Joseph retaliated with a high-shouldered hit on Motte. But Motte was only in the Rangers locker room for a brief time before he returned to the ice, albeit with a cut by the bridge of his nose. The full blown panic of losing a forward again turned out not to be the case.

Motte then scored to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead at the time. The puck was turned over by the Pitt D, but it was a somewhat forced error, due to the forecheck. The fourth line was one of the combinations on the ice late to protect a one goal lead. Gallant used Kreider-Zibanajed-Trocheck as a trio late, which is in line with what I wrote the last few blogs when I stated I wouldn't be shocked if he changed combinations when trying to hold onto a late lead.

I know Brennan Othmann and Will Cuylle will be available options next year. But I would love if the Rangers could find a way to re-sign Motte, which is what we said last season as well. We have seen what his return has meant to the fourth line. Barclay Goodrow could be a cap casualty - speculation, not fact - and if that proves to be the case, having Motte with Jimmy Vesey would be a good start to a solid last trio.

4) Giveaways - a pair of giveaways led to the first Penguins goal of the game. Zibanejad turned the puck over at the opposing blue line, allowing for the initial break. Then, K'Andre Miller had possession, Crosby made a brilliant read of the play, falling off and baiting Miller to pass the puck off the boards behind the net. Crosby stole the puck and fed Rickard Rakell in the slot for the tally.

New York turned the puck over 24 times, way too high of a figure. Miller didn't have a great game, nor did Braden Schenider. But as we have discussed, defenseman growth is not linear, so we need to take the good with the bad. But cutting down the number of mistakes and turnovers is paramount for future success. 

5) Igor Shesterkin was not spectacular but steady. Thirty saves in the win. He might like to have another chance at Jake Guentzel's shot that was the second goal. But that is nitpicking a bit. Igor is rounding into form, having won four straight, stopping 103 of 112 shots in that span. Much better than before, not perfect, not yet elite, but inching closer to prior form. Shesterkin should start Saturday with Jarolslav Halak in net Sunday against Nashville.

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