The New York Rangers took to 2018-2019 in full rebuild mode, with a new head coach in David Quinn and a focus on reconfiguring the game plan. Unfortunately, the Rangers didn’t improve their fortunes and finished with a 32-36-14 record.
New York amassed 78 points in the regular season, good for seventh in the Metropolitan Division and 12th in the Eastern Conference. Those point totals would’ve cost them more had it not been for the terrible play of the Ottawa Senators and New Jersey Devils.
Offensively, the Rangers scored 227 goals in 2018-2019 – the same as the Detroit Red Wings. Three players had over 20 goals, including Pavel Buchnevich, Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad.
Zibanejad led the team in scoring, with 30 goals and a total of 74 points. He set career-best totals in goals, assists, points, power play points, and shots on goal. For the 26-year-old centre, it was a step in the right direction and one of the bright spots for the Rangers.
Kreider had 52 points in 79 games, putting him just a shade off his career-high totals from 2016-2017.
The Rangers finished below average on the power play and had a 46.1 Corsi For percentage playing five-on-five, so they had some serious difficulty controlling the action and making opportunities – even in the best situations.
Defensively, the Rangers were not much better.
They allowed 272 goals against, giving them a goal differential of minus-45. This is unsurprising given the amount of chances the Rangers coughed up, but it also speaks to Henrik Lundqvist having the worst year of his career.
The 37-year-old netminder won just 18 games, the fewest wins in a season in his entire career. He started 52 games, with a goals against average of 3.07 and a save percentage of .907. He hasn’t seen numbers that low – ever. To make matters worse, 2018-2019 has been the only season thus far that King Henrik didn’t record a shutout.
Alexandar Georgiev managed better numbers between the pipes, collecting 14 wins in 30 starts and posting a goals against average of 2.91. It wasn’t a bad sophomore season for the 23-year-old and he responded to more shots and more minutes by embracing his role.
Righting the wrongs of 2018-2019 is no small feat, but the Rangers took some serious steps in the off-season. The signing of Artemi Panarin is the clear winner, with the winger inked to a seven-year deal worth $81.5 million and a mountain of signing bonuses. Panarin now carries the second-highest cap hit in the NHL, just behind Edmonton’s Connor McDavid.
Obviously Panarin can accomplish a lot for the Rangers and that should lead to improvements in many areas, including possession numbers and offence. The signing of defenceman Jacob Trouba will also help and the arrival of Kaapo Kakko is thrilling.
The Rangers feature one of the youngest forward groups in the NHL and there’s a lot to like about their chances if they can control the tempo. But they’ve still got a diminishing Lundqvist in goal for the immediate future, even if Georgiev prepares to share more of the load, and they’re still trying to shape a team identity.
2019-2020 could be a real chance for these young Rangers to emerge and build up some points in the standings. Or it could be more of the same, a sub-standard season that can’t come to an end soon enough.