Breaking down the highs and lows of the Rangers rollercoaster season so far

There was a real possibility that Rangers could have entered this holiday break with their season on hold considering how their season had started. Instead, the Blueshirts were able to walk away from the ice thinking they deserved the four-day layoff after returning to the playoff conversation path with eight wins in their last 10 games that have preceded.

The pride that emanated from the locker room after their 5-3 win over the Islanders last week was tangible. As a team, they had discussed finishing the home stretch before the break – and they did. This may just be the turning point of the season Rangers will remember.

“I think we’re just confident,” said head coach Gerard Gallant. “I think we feel good in our team. We feel good about our game, for the most part. Every time we [track] scoring chances, we are usually ahead of the other team in these games. I think we played very well the last nine or ten games, whatever. Compete and play well. And we are lucky, even if we always hit the goal posts. We’re lucky and we haven’t had any for most of the first 20-25 games of the season. I hate to say that, but that’s what I truly believe.

Gérard Gallant’s Rangers have turned their season around.
PA

“Our record should have been better than the first 25, and it wasn’t. We found a way to dig. When you work hard and compete good things usually happen and that’s what happened in the last 10 games.

There have already been so many ups and downs in just 35 games, but it’s made for a wild ride. In the spirit of the 12 Days of Christmas, here are a dozen superlatives that sum up the Rangers season so far:

best goal

The elite athleticism and skill that went into K’Andre Miller’s knee-skating breakaway goal in Philadelphia on Dec. 17 was outrageous. It wasn’t just the Rangers’ best goal of the season, it could very well be the NHL’s best goal of the season.

K'Andre Miller (center) celebrates his superb goal against the Flyers on December 17.
K’Andre Miller (center) celebrates his superb goal against the Flyers on December 17.
NHLI via Getty Images

Coming out of the box, Miller pulled the puck from the boards and the defensive zone to jump past the Flyers’ Travis Sanheim. Miller focused on goalkeeper Carter Hart before he was blatantly tripped by Sanheim which brought Rangers defenders to their knees. As the referee’s hand went up to signal a penalty shot was in sight, Miller had already wedged his skates under him, still keeping the puck on his stick. He completed the breakaway without missing a stride to give Rangers a 2-1 lead, which eventually turned into a 6-3 victory.

“That one is in the bag for sure,” Miller said afterwards.

Better backup

With a goalkeeper like Igor Shesterkin, there are too many saves that fall into this category. As great as his sprawling Oct. 25 save on Mikko Rantanen’s fumble in the Avalanche’s first meeting was, the pokecheck Shesterkin made on Jack Hughes’ penalty shot when the Rangers were leading 3-1 against the Avalanche Devils on Dec. 12 mattered more. Rangers won 4-3 in overtime.

Better support

Mika Zibanejad’s ridiculously long pass off the boards that bounced straight off Chris Kreider for the game-winner against the Kings on Nov. 22 was wonderful. What was even better was that it was set play that the two oldest Rangers played.

“I think we’ve done it so many times in the past, it’s not always there, but he just lay there and he played an amazing game,” Kreider said at the time. “I just took off, he sees it. I’ve been playing for long enough, I know he’s going to pull off this game.”

Best quote

In such a turbulent season, there have been as many dark quotes as positive ones. Shesterkin’s proclamation “the goalkeeper played like a game again, I’m ashamed” was unforgettable. Just as Artemi Panarin asked reporters if they had a YouTube account to watch the shot he fired at former teammate Alexandar Georgiev in the shootout win over the Avalanche.

But it’s Jacob Trouba’s overall quote about the state of Rangers at the lowest point of the season that stands out.

“We’re going through this,” the Rangers captain said. “A lot of history remains to be written. It’s by no means done, but it’s been going on for a while now and something has to change. There needs to be a bit more self-recoil inside.

best victory

The 5-3 win over the Islanders just before the break, because of what she stood for and who she was against.

worst loss

The 4-3 loss to the Oilers on Nov. 26. After leading Edmonton 3-0 in the first 40 minutes, the Rangers allowed four goals in the third period.

Turning

Rangers may not have really started playing better hockey until later in the winning streak this month, but Trouba’s fighting streak and helmet throwing/screaming at the bench during the first meeting with the Blackhawks on December 3 certainly awoke something. in the Rangers.

Surprise

Who would have guessed that Jimmy Vesey would play one of the best hockey players of his career during his second stint with the Rangers? Along with six goals and six assists, Vesey has simply been a reliable and consistent contributor night after night.

Igor Shesterkin saves Jack Hughes' penalty on December 12.
Igor Shesterkin saves Jack Hughes’ penalty on December 12.
Getty Images

Disappointment

11-10-5 begins.

Coaching decision that worked

The most recent was pulling Vincent Trocheck away from Panarin and forging the Kreider-Trocheck-Vesey line in the last eight games.

Failed training decision

Zac Jones has had a six game streak this season. Every other run was just two to three games. No young player will be able to get into a groove under such circumstances. Now Jones is at Hartford and Ben Harpur is currently the sixth defender for Rangers – and the organization still doesn’t know what they have in Jones.

Develop the story

The curious case of Vitali Kravtsov continues. Will he be taken out of the fourth row and given another top-six look? Will Gallant make him the 13th forward again? Will Kravtsov prove he can contribute full-time to the NHL?

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