This week has been disappointing for the Rangers as they dropped back to back on the road in convincing fashion. New York took a 5-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday and then fell 6-2 to the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night.
These are Western Conference playoff contenders that the Rangers need to be able to beat if they want to have a chance at the Cup this year. The normally stellar Rangers’ goaltending was subpar in both games; a big reason why they had such a tough go of it.
They’ll finish this four game western road trip with a matchup against the Dallas Stars on Saturday night and look to come home off a victory after dropping back to back.
What went wrong this week
The Rangers’ inability to score early the last couple has been concerning and Alexander Georgiev’s performance in net against the Wild did not inspire confidence. Georgiev has been lackluster as New York’s backup this season with a .893 save percentage and a 7-9-2 record in his starts. Obviously starting goalies need to rest every now and then, but not having a reliable backup is inevitably going to come back to bite you.
To add to that, even the elite Igor Shesterkin struggled in net on Thursday night against the Blues as he allowed 4 goals in 17 save attempts and was replaced mid-game by Georgiev who proceeded to allow 2 more goals on 18 save attempts.
It hasn’t all been on the goalies the last couple games, though. The Rangers’ inability to control the puck is a big reason why they’ve been outscored 11-4 over these last couple matchups. This also caused the Rangers to miss an opportunity to jump in front of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Metropolitan Division standings, as both teams stand at 77 points heading into the weekend.
The Rangers’ main scorers, Chris Kreider, Mike Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin had only four combined shots on goal with one of those finding the back of the net. Against St. Louis, they had five shots on goal with only an assist for Panarin. The Rangers got outshot by both teams, which shouldn’t come as a surprise considering the disparity on the scoreboard.
Preparing for the Stars
The Rangers will take on another playoff contender in the Dallas Stars, a team that is close to both the Wild and Blues in the Central Division’s standings. New York has more points and wins than the Stars so this is a game they should be favored to win.
As a team, the Rangers are right above the Stars in goals for per game as well as total points. New York is averaging 2.93 to Dallas’ 2.91 GF/G and have 450 total points compared to 443 for the Stars.
The Rangers are very close to the Stars in pure offensive numbers, but it’s their goaltending and defense that has the ability to be the difference maker. New York is averaging the league’s 3rd best goals against per game rate at 2.49 and own the best save percentage at .924%.
Dallas’ goalie Jake Oettinger is solid, but he doesn’t compare to the brick wall that Igor Shesterkin has been this season. Shesterkin is first in both goals against per game and save percentage and is top five in wins at 28.
The Stars are toward the top of the pack in all of those categories, but don’t have an advantage on the Rangers in the goaltending department.
These offenses are very close in numbers and the Stars are a legitimate threat with guys like Jason Robertson and Joe Pavelski leading the way, but this should be a winnable game for the Rangers.
With Shesterkin back in net, the Rangers will have to capitalize on their goaltending and defensive strength and allow the offense more opportunities to put shots on goal and generally control the puck better than they have their last couple of games.