Three times this season, the Rangers have generated an offensive torrent of eight or more goals in a single game.
There was the 9-0 dismantling of the Flyers on March 17, the 8-3 rout in Philadelphia eight days later, and then the convincing 8-4 win over the Penguins on Tuesday. The Blueshirts have now recorded eight or more goals in at least three different games in a season for the first time since the team did it on five occasions in 1992-93.
It’s a testament to the overload of high-end skill this roster possesses. The last Rangers team capable of stringing together that many games with that kind of offensive explosion had the likes of Mark Messier, Sergei Zubov, Adam Graves, Brian Leetch, Sergei Nemchinov, Mike Gartner and Mike Richter – the core group of players who delivered the Stanley Cup to New York 27 years ago.
Now, there’s no direct comparison. But the current Rangers have continued to discover what makes them dangerous in the offensive zone as they steadily integrate new faces into their core group of players.
Taking Tuesday’s win for example, the Rangers built a 4-1 lead in the first period behind power play goals from Artemi Panarin and Ryan Strome. The team had high energy from puck drop, which hasn’t always been the case and, in turn, been at the root of several losses this season.
“Obviously when the power play scores goals, it helps,” defenseman Adam Fox said after the win, which elevated the team to 18-15-5. “I think we just capitalized on our chances, we got to the net a little more, got some goals around the crease. Maybe we were a little too perimeter against Buffalo.
“It’s definitely nice to get up early, it’s a lot easier to win games when you got a lead. It was definitely nice to get rewarded with some goals this game.”
Looking back at the other two lopsided wins this season, the Rangers have come out of the first period with either a two-goal or three-goal lead each time. In two of the three – excluding the shutout of the Flyers in which Philly seemingly wasn’t present – the Rangers received timely boosts from their power play.
Considering the Rangers are consistently at the top of the NHL in man-advantage opportunities, with their league-leading 4.44 penalties drawn per 60, it’s an area where the team must succeed. But it’s also reliant on having patience in their approach to the power play, which came through on Strome’s 4-1 score with seconds left in the first period Tuesday.
“It was something we’ve talked about, [to] not back up and stop,” Mika Zibanejad, who had a first period goal of his own, said.
“It was a big goal, especially that late into the first and to be able to go into the second with a three-goal lead.”
In addition to having an urgent start and taking advantage of early power play opportunities, the Rangers separate themselves further when their goaltending is up to snuff, and the team’s young players pitch in.
Rookie goaltender Igor Shesterkin has been in net for two of the three blowout wins, recording 41 saves in each. Filip Chytil scored in both pulverizing victories over the Flyers, while second-year forward Kaapo Kakko and 19-year-old Alexis Lafreniere each registered timely goals to keep the Penguins out of reach Tuesday.
The Rangers have designed a blueprint for how to channel their offensive dominance, and it’s difficult to imagine it not working every time.
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