Despite sloppy defensive play and a disappointing performance on goal by Igor Shesterkin, the New York Rangers stayed hot on Wednesday night, scoring six goals once again en route to a 6-4 win over Vancouver. canucks.
While their defensive game could use some cleaning up, the Rangers’ offense has been working, especially since the club acquired Vladimir Tarasenko. Coincidence or not, the production of Artemiy Panarin has skyrocketed in the small sample of games since the arrival of his friend and compatriot.
After struggling to find the back of the net and having his least productive season since joining the Blueshirts, even while still a points-per-game player, Panarin has recently shown signs of his brilliance since the early days of his tenure. In New York. Such a return to form would be huge for a Rangers team that appears to be very dangerous with the postseason only a couple of months away.
Panarin’s first season in New York (2019-20) was the best of his career. In the COVID-shortened regular season, he scored a career-high 32 goals and added 63 assists for 95 points in just 69 games. While he surpassed that point total with 96 last season, it happened in more games (75), and his 5-on-5 impact wasn’t nearly as strong; he led the league in 5-on-5 scoring in 2019-20 (59 points), but was less productive in that area last season (48 points, which he tied for 22nd in the league).
Also, he scored 22 goals last season, a good number, but one that signaled an even bigger bias towards playmaking rather than sharpshooters. Panarin has always been an elite passer and playmaker, but his goal-scoring ability, while not his calling card, has made him a more complete threat. With the lowest goal total of last season followed by just 12 goals in his first 52 games this season, the Breadman seemed to be on a downward trend production-wise.
Now, though, he could be regaining some goal-scoring confidence and turning into the double threat he’s been for most of his career. He has six goals in his last two games, including four against the Carolina Hurricanes last Saturday night and another pair against the Canucks on Wednesday night. His performance against the Hurricanes helped him earn NHL First Star of the Week honors.
Beyond his goal surge, Panarin has shown signs of having a bigger impact creating offensive chances in five-on-five; he was about league average in this area last season. While he’s not at the absurdly high level of his 2019-20 season, he’s been making more happen in 5-on-5 this season compared to last. Combine that with a renewed confidence in shooting and finishing, as well as a plethora of scoring options throughout the lineup, and Rangers are cooking with gas.
Interestingly, Panarin’s goal binge began after head coach Gerard Gallant shook up his lines in Raleigh, swapping Panarin and Chris Kreider so that the former was no longer on the same line as Tarasenko, but instead was with Vincent Trocheck and Jimmy Vesey. That trio has worked for the past five periods, despite the general feeling that Panarin and Trocheck were a mismatch early in the season. Whether it’s the way the three players complement each other, Panarin’s enthusiasm to have his friend on the team, the confidence after finally seeing a shot, or some combination of these or other factors, Panarin’s resurgence it’s a good sign for the Rangers, and a scary development for the rest of the league.