Training camp is underway for the Rangers which means preseason is about to start soon, so there is a lot to look forward to. For starters, the Rangers have a new coach behind the bench who’ll help guide the team into a Stanley Cup contender every year. To help with that the Rangers added new pieces such as Barclay Goodrow, Sammy Blais, Ryan Reaves, & Patrik Nemeth. These players strengthen the Rangers to help them play against teams that caused them trouble such as the Islanders, Bruins, and Penguins. So, let’s get in depth into what to look out for during training camp and preseason.
Fans for the past couple years have been cringing at the fact there were no consistent line combinations when David Quinn was coach as he’d consistently flip-flop different players and would chose clear favourites. This drove fans nuts as usually a guy like Colin Blackwell would get more ice-time than Alexis Lafreniere & Kaapo Kakko. Now with Gerard Gallant he’ll give the kids their deserved amount of ice time while also not changing the lineup every other game due to one bad moment on the ice. For instance, Kaapo Kakko will no longer be benched for an extended period of time due to one iffy play and he won’t he bumped down the lineup just because the coach feels like it. Now, he’ll get every opportunity to thrive with either Mika Zibanejad or Artemi Panarin while also developing his 200ft game. Lines I expect to see on opening night are:
Lafreniere – Zibanejad – Kakko
Panarin – Strome – Kravtsov
Kreider – Chytil – Goodrow
Hunt/Reaves – Rooney – Blais
Lindgren – Fox
Miller – Trouba
Nemeth – Lundkvist
This offseason was key for guys like Kakko and Lafreniere to understand what it takes to score at the NHL level, and from there, they’d know what to work on to become that superstar. So during preseason, we should look for their strength on and off the puck, as well as what they do off the puck. It also will be fun to see what K’Andre Miller approved on as his potential is sky high. Therefore, it will be interesting to see if he added to his big frame and if he actually will consistently use his big body to knock opponents off the puck and be stronger in his own zone. Lastly, Vitali Kravtsov, it’s gonna be interesting to see what he improved upon since his 20 game stint with the Rangers. He didn’t have much opportunity under David Quinn as he was stuck on the 4th line, so it will be very interesting to see how much Kravtsov improved and if he’s ready to take that next big step in his development.
During the 2021 season, the Rangers power-play was was inconsistent and wouldn’t play up to how they should be. On the flip side however, their penalty kill was better and finally found a form of consistency under newly acquired assistant coach Jaques Martin. Obviously, he got fired after James Dolan decided to wipe all of the Rangers management including David Quinn and his coaching staff. Now the Rangers are being overlooked by Gerard Gallant and co. During Gallant’s 2 full seasons with Vegas his power-play was 2nd in xGF% (expected goals for percentage) and 4th in xGF/60 (expected goals for per 60), the power-play however ranked 16th with 6.68 GF/60 but with the talent the Rangers are loaded with, that number will skyrocket. Now on the penalty-kill, Gallant’s Golden Knights ranked 7th in xGF% and 12th in xGA/60. This means Gerard Gallant and company were able to have an aggressive penalty kill that not only was good at making sure the opponents don’t create scoring chances but they also created a lot of shorthanded opportunities. With all this, expect the Rangers to have a more consistent power-play with an aggressive penalty-kill that could be among the league best in creating shorthanded chances.
During the 2021, season Igor Shesterkin & Alexandar Georgiev were off to a rough start, but after Shesterkin found his game he was phenomenal for the Rangers, and he proved he would be the next franchise goaltender. Georgiev on the other hand, was not so great as he was very inconsistent and it shows as he put up career worse numbers in SV%, as he had a .905 sv% and GSAx, (goals saved above expected) where he had a -3.1 GSAx, these are bad numbers especially from a goalie who’s seen as the 1B behind Shesterkin. So during the Rangers training camp, it will be good to notice how Georgiev specifically has improved his game, especially with goaltender guru Benoit Allaire, Georgiev should be in good hands. Shesterkin on the other hand, he just has to show consistent improvement on his angles because especially earlier on in the season is where Shesterkin would struggle most.
This training camp and preseason will be important for Gerard Gallant and Chris Drury as they’ll be able to asses their players and be able to implement their ideas onto the ice. The main goal for this upcoming season is not only make the playoffs but at least win a round, so getting every bit on information on every player will be important. The Rangers should see massive improvement already due to Quinn being fired, but how much will they improve… we will see.