Hartnett: New York Rangers Season Is About Potential As Much As Wins


The key word surrounding the Rangers is potential. This season will be measured by growth as much as the final standings and 82-game record.

General manager Jeff Gorton has supplied head coach David Quinn and his assistants with an abundance of promising youngsters to pair with prime-aged stars like Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, and Jacob Trouba.

Though the Blueshirts have progressed beyond the early stages of a rebuilding effort, this team isn’t quite ready to compete for the top of the Metropolitan Division. It’s going to take patience in the short term and eventually, more shrewd acquisitions for the Rangers to re-enter the NHL’s upper echelon.

NY RangersAdam Hunger/ USA Today Sports

Consider Wednesday’s 4-1 victory over the league-leading, division-leading Washington Capitals as a step forward. The Blueshirts flashed their offensive potential throughout the 60 minutes, particularly on the power play.

Lately, there’s been an uptick in the Rangers’ execution in man-advantage situations. The Blueshirts have now scored one or more power-play goals in five of their last eight games and in seven of their last 11 games.

On Wednesday, the Rangers converted two of three power plays and logged seven power-play shots. Both man-advantage goals were scored by Panarin. The 28-year-old wing finished off a stylish passing sequence to notch the game’s opening goal. Panarin, Kaapo Kakko, and Adam Fox picked apart Washington’s penalty kill with crisp, precise puck movement.

Kakko, Panarin, Ryan Strome and Tony DeAngelo repeated another set of mesmerizing passes on power-play goal number two. Panarin’s five power-play goals put him in a tie for eighth in the NHL.

A worrying thought for the rest of the league is that this group is only starting to gain chemistry. How difficult will it be for opponents to stop the Rangers’ power play once Panarin, Kakko, Zibanejad, Fox, DeAngelo, Pavel Buchnevich and co. develop a deep understanding?

Keep in mind: Panarin, Trouba, Kakko, and Fox have only played 19 games or less as Rangers. Thirteen players currently on the Blueshirts’ roster aged 25 or younger – seven are aged 21 or younger. This group is going to grow together and reach a point where they’re all within their prime years.

Right now, the Rangers rank 10th in the NHL with a 22.7 power-play percentage. Expect that number to continue to rise as this group gains familiarity and confidence.

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