Twenty games into the 2021-22 season, and the Rangers have started to find their game, improving their overall play as Igor Shesterkin and Adam Fox continue to lead the way. The loss of Sammy Blais to an injury has lead to more ice time for the likes of Julien Gauthier and Dryden Hunt, and both players have shown some promising improvements.
While most of it has been good, there's still some room for improvement in a couple of areas, particularly on defense as well as from Alexandar Georgiev, both of which struggled for parts of the last ten games. So let us take a look at how the line-up fared over the past ten games.
Adam Fox 10GP 2G 8A 10Pts (First 10: A+) - Fox is currently tied for the team lead, with 21 points after 20 games, and continued to produce at both ends of the ice. At times this month, he made some uncharacteristic errors, perhaps as a result of the amount of ice time he's been playing. Still, it's hard to expect a player to be much better than Fox has been through the first 20.
Igor Shesterkin 8GP 6-2-0 .921 Sv% 2.64 GAA (A+) - After an impressive series across the first ten games, Shesterkin pulled back a little in the last ten, but kept his winning ways going. A 6-0 loss to the Flames, in which he gave up 6 goals on 37 shots put a big dent in his stats, with his other seven games accounting for a .935 Sv% and 1.81 GAA. Like Fox, there's not more you could have wanted from Shesterkin, and while he hasn't had to steal as many games over the last ten, he's had periods of play that have enabled the Rangers time to get their game together, including the 5-2 win over Boston. He maybe isn't quite at the same level as he started with, but it's still an elite level, and his contract his now starting to look like a real bargain.
Chris Kreider 10GP 8G 2A 10Pts (A-) - We keep waiting for Chris Kreider's hot start to falter, but here we are 20 games in, and he's still going strong. On pace for 60 goals, it seems unfathomable that he'll achieve that mark given his history, but his career high of 28 looks well and truly in danger. Most of Kreider's goals this year have been scored in and around the net, with 8 of them coming on the power play, and he'll continue to have opportunity to add to that total over the next ten games.
Artemi Panarin 10GP 3G 8A 11Pts (C) - After looking below his best in the first ten games, Panarin has really turned his game around, particularly after a five game break following the 4-3 win over the high flying Panthers. Panarin came out of that layoff, with a commitment to shoot more, and he was rewarded with a two goal game. To put things in perspective, he had 18 shots in the thirteen games prior to that break, and has 24 in the seven game since. He still has room to reach his best, but he's now at least back to being an offensive leader on the team.
Jacob Trouba 10GP 3G 3A 6Pts (A-) - It's tempting to give Trouba an A after these last ten games, in which he's added some offensive to both his physical and defensive play. Trouba has found a way to add some timely goals, including his first game winner as a Ranger in the 5-3 win over Columbus. His improved play this year has helped offset the drop in intensity from K'Andre Miller, and has covered off for some of the drop off from the top pair as the season has continued.
Dryden Hunt 10 GP 2G 1A 3Pts (B) - Not even expected to be a regular before camp started, Hunt has not only played in every game, but has earned time alongside Panarin and Strome. He's also finding a way to chip in some offense, with a couple of goals and an assist to go with the promotion. Hunt is one of the hardest working players on the Rangers, and while he plays a limited game, his ability to go get the puck perhaps will allow him to stay on that line for the near term, at least until the Rangers decide what they want to do going forward.
Kaapo Kakko 10GP 3G 3A 6Pts (C+) - After going his first ten games without a point, Kakko finally found some touch and reeled off a five-game point scoring streak that started against the New Jersey Devils. With his improved play, coach Gallant decided to shift the 20 year old Finn to the Zibanejad line, and while he did record an assist in his first game there, it's still very much a work in progress. It's certainly been encouraging to see him get some rewards, and to see the confidence he can play with, but we want to see more.
Ryan Reaves 9GP 0G 3A 3Pts (C+) - He missed the first game of this set of ten, but returned just in time for the 6-0 shellacking by the Flames in Calgary. Even still, Reaves has looked more involved since his return, and even had a two assist game against the Islanders, both coming on goals by Rooney. Reaves also had his first fight as a Ranger, a one-sided affair against Michael Pezzetta on the Montreal Canadiens, in which he easily took care of his lesser known opponent. The Rangers continue to point to Reaves' overall influence on the team, and it's hard to gauge that without being in the room, but his on-ice performance has improved over the first ten.
Ryan Strome 10GP 2G 9A 11Pts (C-) - Missing four of the first ten games didn't really help Strome get his game going, but he's really firing now, riding a seven game point streak and adding a couple of goals too. More of the consistent contributor at this point, Strome has both been a contributor to, and beneficiary of Panarin's improved play, but is not yet at that point where he's as hot as we've seen him in the past. A couple more goals would get us thinking about moving him up into the upper echelons.
Julien Gauthier 8GP 1G 3A 4Pts (D) - The biggest beneficiary of the Sammy Blais injury, has perhaps been Gauthier. Given yet another chance, Gauthier has finally shown some signs that he might have what it takes to play in the NHL on a regular basis. He's still a work in progress, and while he hasn't yet figured out how to drive to the net and convert, he's finding other ways to contribute, including forcing more turnovers and even a couple of primary assists in the most recent game against the Bruins. Gauthier has a short window here before the Rangers need to decide what they are going to do with their current make-up, but he's at least more on the right track now.
Kevin Rooney 10GP 3G 0A 3Pts (B) - Rooney continues to play a valuable fourth line role for the Rangers, and even had a two goal game against the New York Islanders, in which he took his season total to five goals. It almost seems certain he'll break his career high of 8 goals this year, and he appears to be forming an improving fourth line along with Reaves, and more recently Goodrow.
Filip Chytil 7GP 1G 2A 3Pts (D+) - Just as it appeared that Filip Chytil was finding his game, he was sidelined once again with an injury. This time it was a collision with Blais that put him out of action for three games, and put a dampener on a two point game against the Oilers, where it looked like Chytil might be primed to break out. He ended up returning to the line-up against the Canadiens mid-way through November, and fortunately appeared to be still on top of his game. While he only has one assist in the five games he's played since returning, he is perhaps the unluckiest of the Rangers forwards, narrowly missing on a number of significant scoring opportunities, and could be primed to break out soon. It's also worth noting that he and Gauthier have seemed to bond well, and Chytil's play has often sparked that third line, and the team as a whole.
Ryan Lindgren 10GP 1G 1A 2Pts (A) - With so much ice time going to the top pair, it's understandable that we've seen a bit of a drop off in Lindgren's play through the second set of ten. Opposing teams have taken to laying the body on the young defender, and that definitely has had an effect on him, weakening, what has been the top defensive pair for the Rangers. On a high note, Lindgren became just the fourth player to win a game in the final second of regulation, and also set a career high of 2 goals with his buzzer beating tally against Buffalo.
Barclay Goodrow 10GP 0G 5A 5Pts (C-) - The biggest issue with Goodrow, has been that the Rangers have used him in roles that he's not really suited for. Despite touting him as the ultimate utility player, Goodrow has just proven to be not particularly bad or good at any of those roles. It's not really Goodrow's fault, but moreso the makeup of the team and the coach's decision that have put him in this spot. While you can certainly look at his five assists in the last ten games as a positive, it's partly been the product of the opportunities he's gotten to play on the top line, as much as his play in the bottom six where he seems to be better suited.
K'Andre Miller 10GP 2G 0A 2Pts (C-) - A highlight reel goal against Florida where he skated the length of ice and beat Spencer Knight on the backhand looked perhaps like a turning point for Miller this season, and he did add another timely goal through traffic against Buffalo to tie the game, but Miller's game continues to be below last year's high standard. He's made a few more timely defensive plays in the last ten, but still appears to be caught flat footed too often, and is not always able to use his reach to recover the puck.
Nils Lundkvist 8GP 0G 1A 1Pt (C-) - He's starting to get a handle on his defensive miscues, and he has shown glimpses of a good shot and some quick decision making. He's still a work in progress, but perhaps isn't quite as bad as he looked at times across the first ten games. Still need more if he doesn't want to get replaced by Zac Jones or Braden Schneider though, both of whom have started well in Hartford.
Greg McKegg 1GP 0G 0A 0Pts (C+) - With most of the Rangers getting healthy for the second set of ten, the need for McKegg has been lessened. Just the one game, part of the line-up that lost 6-5 to Edmonton, is hardly enough to evaluate him on, so we're going with a passing grade as he continues to play the role of depth forward.
Mika Zibanejad 10GP 2G 6A 8Pts (C) - Eight points in ten games would be good enough for many on the Rangers roster, but Zibanejad still hasn't found his groove 20 games in. He's still missing with two many shots, while fanning on others...his game not quite where he'd like it to be. He's also been on the ice for the second most goals against - trailing only Nemeth, which suggests he has either been unlucky, or has some more work to do on the defensive side as well.
Sammy Blais 5GP 0G 1A 1Pt (B-) - We won't be seeing Blais for the rest of the season courtesy of P.K. Subban, but in the five games that he did play, he looked on a downward trend. It wasn't through lack of opportunity either, the 25 year old winger got a chance to play on the top line, as Gallant continued to search for that top right wing, but Blais was unable to seize the chance, and instead played with less consistency than he had through the first ten.
Alexis Lafreniere 10GP 2G 0A 2Pts (B-) - The former number one overall draft pick, is still trying to find his game, and is playing as if he's thinking too much about what to do. Perhaps on the top line, he deferred too much to Zibanejad and Kreider, but even where he's had some success before with Filip Chytil, he just looks like he's a step behind the play. At one point in this last 10, he saw time on the fourth line, though he has since been moved back to the third where he's best suited anyway. We're just all still waiting for that time where he is driving the play, rather than riding it.
Patrik Nemeth 10GP 0G 2A 2Pts (D+) - The one strength to Patrik Nemeth's play has been his shot blocking, but the rest of his game has been more than underwhelming. He's been on for a team high 17 even strength goals against, a team high 8 power play goals against and even a shorthanded goal. He does have a secondary assist in each of his last two games, but Nemeth clearly is playing below expectations at this stage.
Alexandar Georgiev 4GP 1-0-1 (C-) - A bad start to the year got even worse in the last ten games, where Georgiev gave up an eye-watering 13 goals on 86 shots. Despite going unbeaten in regulation during the four games he played, the two that did register a result both went to overtime, with Georgiev giving up the tying goal in the last three minutes in both games. He also got pulled in his last outing, where he gave up 4 goals on 18 shots over two periods against Buffalo, with Shesterkin coming in to play the third and earn the two points in a 5-4 win. The only reason he didn't get an F, was the lone bright spot of the last ten, where he held his nerve to backstop a seven round shootout win over the Devils.
Jarred Tinordi 2GP 0G 0A 0Pts (C-) - On the ice for five goals against in five games, while playing just 12:33 of ice time, is not the recipe for a long career in the NHL. Like Georgiev, Tinordi has eroded confidence in his play through a tough start to the season, and really should only be counted on as an injury replacement at this stage, and perhaps not even that.
Did not play: Libor Hajek (healthy scratch), Morgan Barron (minors)