The Rangers rode a pair of goals from both Artemi Panarin and Jimmy Vesey for a 5-3 win over the Devils. New York rallied in the third with three goals to notch the victory. With the win, the Blueshirts improved to 12-2-1 on the season and next face the Stars in Dallas on Monday.
Miller - Trouba
Lindgren - Gustafsson
Jones - Schneider
A few thoughts:
1) Panarin - we are running out of superlatives to describe his play. His two goals extended his season-opening point-scoring streak to 15 games (10 goals, 16 assists, 26 points) breaking the 14-game mark set in 1972-73 by Rod Gilbert. As Larrry Brooks noted, Wayne Gretzky was the last Blueshirt to construct a 15-game streak back in 99’s first season on Broadway in 1996-97.
The goals and scoring are nice but what Panarin is doing goes way beyond that. He is carrying the team offensively while showing joy on the ice. What is most noticeable is that is shooting way more than in the past, notching 55 shots in 14 games as compared to 204 shots in 82 contests last year. We complained last year that Panarin did not seem aggressive enough on the ice, so the transformation is extremely palpable.
With Mika Zibanejad struggling to find his game, Panarin's play has been even more necessary to help the team. The regular season narrative will remain a story until he changes his postseason story. For now, though, we just revel and enjoy seeing his joy and production on the ice.
2) Fourth line production - Vince Mercogliano noted that Vesey is part of the fourth line with Barclay Goodrow in the middle and Tyler Pitlick on the right that did not see the ice in the third period of the club’s last game on Nov. 12 at the Garden against the Jackets. Yesterday, that trio was on the ice for a goal in the first while Vesey and Goodrow were on with Vincent Trocheck for the game-winner in the third. In addition, the Vesey-Goodrow-Pitlick applied more pressure to the Devils than any line other than the Panarin-Trocheck-Alexis Lafreniere unit.
Vesey's first was a dirty goal in front. The second, the end result of a beautiful passing play with Vesey capping it with a spinning backhand off the rebound. A big goal in a big moment.
The relative consistency of the fourth line has been a major boon for the Rangers, We complained in the past that the bottom-six was not enough of a weapon. Now, New York has a fourth line as well as a third line that bolsters the top-six and is not a net negative when on the ice. Now if they can get Zib and Chris Kreider cooking 5x5, they would really be set.
3) Igor Shesterkin made 30 saves in the win. Early on, Igor looked rusty, which was expected as Saturday was his first game in 16 days. Included in that was Jack Hughes' goal, which likely was the right call, as Igor never had clear possession of the puck, though it sure sounded like the whistle was blown well before the puck squeezed through Shesterkin and over the line.
As we have seen in the past with Shesterkin, when a key save is needed, he is up to the task, which was the case last night. With Igor now having game action underneath him, my expectation is we should see a dominant run from him. I hope coach Peter Laviolette uses him in a few consecutive games in the upcoming four-game stretch.
4) Zac Jones - after a rough start following his replacement of Adam Fox in the lineup, Jones has nicely settled in to be a reliable blueliner. One way to tell this is that the calls for his benching or being punted to the sun have drastically died down on twitter. Fox skated Saturday, which is a positive. The earliest he can come off LTIR is November 29, though it's not clear if he will be ready then. While Fox remains sidelined, Erik Gustafsson remains paired with Ryan Lindgren with Jones next to Braden Schneider.
5) Both teams were missing players - The Rangers played without Fox and Filip Chytil while the Devils were missing Nico Hischier and Timo Meier. Jack Hughes made his return after a five-game absence, scored a goal (par for the course against the Rangers) and launched eight shots on 14 attempts. Hughes' production was met and exceeded by Panarin with Vesey bolstering that production, resulting in the win. As said in the prior blog, a win would have been great, and it is, but to me, it's not a defining moment.