New York Rangers: Two Players Will Make or Break Season

New York Rangers (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
New York Rangers (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

The New York Rangers are enjoying a surprisingly strong season.

Several players are responsible for New York’s ascent from a non-playoff team to division contender, but in terms of contending for the Stanley Cup, there are two players that will have significant influences.

When you think about impact players for the Rangers, I would imagine that Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, and Adam Fox are among the first names that come to mind. This season, goaltender Igor Shesterkin has added himself to that list, and for fans that have followed New York for a while, Chris Kreider may also come to mind. That’s where the focus should be.

Shesterkin, who is in his third year in the NHL, has taken a massive step forward this year, as he is the clear favorite to win the Vezina Trophy as the league’s best goaltender.

On the season, he has posted a 1.93 goals against average and a .942 save percentage, both of which are league-best numbers by a fairly wide margin. In addition, he has won 28 out of the 37 games in which he’s played.

Two Rangers will make or break the 2021-2022 season.

The other player that will have the same influence as the postseason gets closer is Kreider. The 30-year-old has had a completely unexpected season, scoring 38 goals to lead the Rangers and put him in a tie for second in the NHL in that category, one behind the league leader.

He has really thrived with the man-advantage, where he leads the league with 19 power play goals. Further, he has been a wizard in front of the net, as he leads all skaters in tip-in goals, recording more than double the number of such goals scored by the next closest player.

For the Rangers to contend for the Metropolitan Division crown and then find playoff success, the team will have to be firing on all cylinders. With that said, a drop-off by Shesterkin and/or Kreider would leave gaps that New York would be unable to fill.

The fact that the Rangers find themselves six points out of the top spot in the Metro, and a few points behind other Eastern Conference contenders, despite Shesterkin being the best goaltender in the league this season and Kreider unexpectedly bolstering the scoring, tells me that the Rangers have very little room for error.

Without those two playing at an elite level, New York would most likely be outmatched this season. For that reason, it is critical that they maintain their current production, because while the Rangers have a great group of stars, I don’t trust the rest of the team to pick up the slack if called upon.

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There are high hopes on Broadway this season, and Shesterkin and Kreider will have a large say in how far their club is able to advance.