The True Homestretch Starts Now

No more excuses.

No more suspensions, no more injuries (without a callup), no more 11/5’s, no more stars playing in games without practice. The Rangers haven’t played since a Saturday afternoon loss to Boston, Patrick Kane has gotten a few reps under his belt outside of a 60-minute hockey game, K’Andre Miller is back from suspension.

The Rangers are built to win now, in a conference that has acquired big-name talent like it’s going out of style. There’s such an enormous risk for moves like the one Chris Drury has made the past four weeks, and yet, he really didn’t have much of a choice did he?

You take Kane the way the Rangers got him every day of the week and twice on Sunday. Getting Vladimir Tarasenko for 75-cents on the dollar is a no-brainer as well. That it cost one of the two first round picks the second-year General Manager had — and the worst one at that — in a loaded draft is the price of doing business. If Kane’s cost is a 1st rounder it means the Rangers made their way to a second straight Eastern Conference Final berth and that pick isn’t until 2024 or 2025. Drury kept all his key prospects (Vitali Kravtsov not included) and didn’t take on any cap implications beyond the end of the summer.

Which, is sort of the rub here.

The Rangers — these Rangers — are not built to last. That’s not to say they’re not built to compete next year, it just means there’s too many pieces and not enough money for them all. That Drury was able to fit this group together under the cap — and look what it took to accomplish that — is a minor miracle. You will not get another shot with the team constructed as it currently is.

Which is both really exciting and really sucks. The Devils are destined to be the Rangers’ first round matchup in the playoffs and they are also loaded to brim with talent. Timo Meier made his way to New Jersey for a semi-underwhelming return for all the hubbub around that situation.

You have to get there first, though. Not that I believe the Rangers are in danger of missing the playoffs, but I do think the team could use a really good stretch of hockey for confidence reasons before they get there.

As of right now, Gerard Gallant has elected to keep the forward lines the same as they have been the past two games — well, with an an emergency callup in Brodzinski which the NHL finally allowed — and adjust the power play units.

I actually really like this strategy (as you can see above). The Rangers have been playing shorthanded for nearly a month, be it injuries, cap requirements, or suspensions. Even with the two games of Kane, there hasn’t been all that much of a foundation for anything with how Gallant was forced to ice his shorthanded forwards.

The expectation when you get someone nicknamed “Showtime” is, of course, that they will light the world on first from day one. That’s not always a fair expectation, especially when Kane played two games without a lick of practice. The connection with Artemiy Panarin that was so prevalent seven years ago has not found its footing yet in New York, but you can see the obvious flashes of brilliance that are possible.

I often find that big-name acquisitions hurt chemistry enormously in the first few runs together because there’s a sense of needing to get them involved early, and trying to force things that aren’t there. That seems ever so evident with Kane — and to a lesser degree Tarasenko at the start — but it’ll come.

The power play is the bigger issue. I’ll give a nod to the Kane-Panarin forcing shit thing that is also rampant on the man advantage, but the other pieces haven’t been churning out consistent production all year. Gallant was finally forced to swap things up — likely because of the personnel changes Drury brought to the team — but we have yet to see them in action, and I’m not sure how much a true 1A/1B unit swap is going to work. I like a lot of things about both of the groups he put together, but have issues with others.

Like how is 1A going to score if no one shoots — however I LOVE LOVE LOVE Alexis Lafrenière in that softer role where opposing teams won’t have time to focus on him. And on the flip side, who on 1B is going to be able to feed Zibanejad for the only part of the power play that consistently happens — however, I love the fact that this power play will shoot the ever-living shit out of the puck and Kreider could score a million tip goals with that type of mindset.

The point is, the Rangers have a lot going for them. And a lot that we still have questions on.  Igor Shesterkin has to get into a rhythm, so does Kane, so does the power play, so does a lot of things. They take time.

The Rangers have some of that before the playoffs, but they don’t have any more excuses.

Go get it, boys.