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Shesterkin brilliance and top-six production lead way in 6-0 win over Pens

March 19, 2023, 3:04 PM ET [232 Comments]
Jan Levine
New York Rangers Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
The Rangers improved to 5-0-1 in their last six games with a 6-0 shutout of the Penguins on Saturday. New York's offense was percolating, with the top-six scoring four, five-on-five goals, supplemented by a PPG by Artemi Panarin and another tally by a red-hoit Jacob Trouba. Igor Shesterkin made 34 saves, several of them spectacular, in notching his second shutout of the season and first since Nov. 1. The Blueshirts are back in action tonight at home against the Predators and close out a five-game homestand Tuesday against the division leading Hurricanes. 

Game recap:



A few thoughts:
1) Shesterkin was brilliant. The final score is really not a completely accurate reflection of how the game went. New York took advantage of their opportunities, scoring six goals, but the Pens had several Grade A chances, which shows that the team defense still needs some work. But each time a big save was needed, Shesterkin, who has now won five games in a row, was more than up to the task.

As Vince Mercogliano noted, "Pittsburgh won the possession battle for much of the first period and peppered Shesterkin with 15 shots. But the goalie was up to the task and the Blueshirts were opportunistic. New York scored twice in the first, including late in the period, but the story was Shesterkin. 

Shesterkin faced a steady stream of shots, including six high-danger scoring chances against in each period, according to Natural Stat Trick. Whether it was early opportunities from Rickard Rakell and Jake Guentzel, a second-period breakaway stop on Drew O'Connor or a lunging scorpion save on Mikael Granlund, the 27-year-old was consistently brilliant." To me, that was the bigger story of the game, along with the team chemistry. The offense clicking was important, but Igor being back to Igor is a bigger key. 

The Rangers still need to tighten up in their own zone. Down the stretch, that is the bigger area of need and weakness. Becoming better defensively will take some of the burden off Igor while also making them an even tougher team come the postseason. Getting Ryan Lindgren back eventually will help. If he sits again tonight, that will be 11th straight game missed due his injury.

2) Production across the board: The top line of Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad and Vladimir Tarasenko is thriving, with each of those three scoring and registering at least two points Saturday. Mika scored the first goal of a game for the 10th time this season, tying him with Dylan Larkin and Mikko Rantanen for the league lead. Zib added a pair of assists to give him 75 points in 67 games, just six behind the career-high 81 points he notched last season and five markers shy of the 41 he potted in 2019-20.

Super Trouba continues to roll. His tally gave the captain four goals and eight points over his last eight games. In addition, he has been solid defensively and could finish the season with 200+ hits and blocked shots. 

Chris Kreider continued his recent surge with another goal, giving him 31 on the season, Patrick Kane produced his second consecutive multi-point game and he is up to three goals and four assists as a Ranger. Vincent Trocheck also had an assist in the win.

With the big lead, coach Gerard gallant was able to roll all four lines. Barclay Goodrow saw the least ice time with 11:36 with Trocheck had the most at 17:42. But the majority of the skaters were in the 13-15 minute range, affording the team some rest heading into tonight's contest.

3) Chemistry: You can see the chemistry building on and off the ice. Evgeni Malkin hit Braden Schneider from behind - fortunately Schneider got his hands up so he didn't go face first into the boards - and the whole team on the ice responded. Someone got too close to Igor, same response, showing the team is starting to mesh and coalesce. Kane summed it up nicely/ 

"We keep talking about playing the right way in here, and if we do that, it seems like we have a lot of talent, a lot of ability to be able to make the plays when we get those chances," Patrick Kane said. "So, just stick with it. I mean, we're building chemistry. I know a lot of guys have been here a long time, but there's still some new players here that are getting accustomed to everything, so it seems like we're just building every day, every game."

4) Standings - New York is now 12 points north of Pittsburgh with 13 games remaining. Carolina, aided by a last millisecond collapse by the Flyers and overtime win, lead the division with 98 points, eight ahead of the Rangers with a game in hand. New Jersey sits in second with 95 points, five in front of the Blueshirts. The Islanders are 10 back of the Rangers, who have two games in hand. 

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