The New York Rangers season did a complete 180 in the month of November, almost erasing their horrendous October. The Rangers completed the month with a 9-3-0 record, putting themselves back in playoff contention. Unlike October, the losers of the month are few as the majority of the team found their winning stride and elevated their play.
New York Rangers Winners and Losers of November 2017
The King saw a valiant return in November, starting every single game. Lundqvist only lost two games throughout the month. As a result of letting in three goals in the first period, he was pulled from their tilt with the Florida Panthers on November 28th. However, this is not surprising since he’d played every single game before this.
At 35, that workload is incredible. With the statistics Lundqvist pulled throughout November, you’d never know he was in his 13th NHL season except for his seasoned expertise and execution. In the 11 games he started, Lundqvist posted a .934 save percentage. He also stopped a season-tying high of 42 shots against the Columbus Blue Jackets, allowing only two goals in that match up. At a time the Rangers needed their best player to be just that, Lundqvist delivered.
Chris Kreider and the KZB
Kreider was one of last month’s losers. He took offensive zone penalties far too often and his scoring production was miles below his potential. In fact, Kreider only scored three goals throughout the month of October. He more than doubled his goal total in November, earning seven more for a total of 10, the third most on the Blueshirts. The Boston-native also picked up three assists throughout November to bring his point total to 16.
Kickstarting Kreider was absolutely essential to the Rangers November turnaround. The KZB line with Mika Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich is the Rangers most productive weapon. Zibanejad sits second to Michael Grabner with 11 goals and Buchnevich sits fourth with nine goals. This line’s chemistry has been evident since its inception last season and it continues to impress time and time again. The three have 58 points this season, more than Rick Nash, Ryan McDonagh, Kevin Hayes, Jesper Fast and Jimmy Vesey combined.
Brady Skjei, often referred to as the future of the Rangers blueline, got a chance to prove his talent this month. With McDonagh sidelined with an abdominal strain, Skjei’s minutes spiked. The Minnesota-native hit a season high of 27:49 minutes against the Vancouver Canucks on November 26th, picking up the win. While his points are not astronomical, his ability to jump up into the offensive play made him an asset with McDonagh out. Skjei is a +6 throughout 26 games this season.
Skjei’s best play came in overtime against the Detroit Red Wings. Sandwiched between two defenders, Skjei did a spin-o-rama, collected his first pass’ deflection, passed to a wide-open Mats Zuccarello who nailed the puck into the net. It’s this intelligent and powerful hockey play that gives the Rangers real chances to capitalize on good looks. Six of Skjei’s nine points came in the month of November. This young gun is only scratching the surface of his potential and it’s fantastic to watch.
Jesper Fast is an underrated and unlikely hero for the New York Rangers time and time again. All puns aside, his speed allows him to get in on the forecheck and create opportunities in front of the net. He finally earned the goals he deserved in November 22nd’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes. Fast had two goals in that tilt and spent 15:41 minutes on ice. Since returning from his hip surgery in the off-season, Fast is already more than halfway to beating his points record from last year. With 11 points in 21 games, it’s likely Fast will surpass his career high of 30 points this season.
While Fast is not a notable player for the tallies he puts up, his workmanship allows his teammates to feed off of his energy, especially in difficult situations. Fast’s surge of production definitely earned him a mention as a winner throughout the month of November.
Michael Grabner, the steal of 2016-17 has come back this year on a mission to prove his worth. This year, Grabner has netted 13 goals and leads the NHL in empty net tallies with six. There are fourteen players second to his empty net record, all tied at two. Grabner’s knack for stealing the puck and hot wheels elevate him above the rest when it comes to sealing the fate of the game. Grabner is currently a +11, the highest plus/minus on the Rangers by four points. As with his other “winning” counterparts, 10 of Grabner’s 15 points were earned in the month of November.
Against the Hurricanes, Grabner’s hat trick elevated the Rangers to a 5-1 win after a poor first-period start. It’s also worth noting that all of Grabner’s tallies were assisted by different players. Grabner meshes easily with the team, displaying valuable flexibility in the event of injuries to the forward lines. As the season trudges on this flexibility will be essential to keeping the Rangers afloat.
It’s nice to only have a couple of names to put in the loser column after it was such a robust group to begin the season. The names in this list are also not a surprise as their play has remained inconsistent at best.
For some reason, Nick Holden remains a favourite in Alain Vigneault‘s book. This is an unanswerable question except by Vigneault himself. Holden continues to be a liability at crucial moments on the ice, especially as the minutes wind down. Holden was on the ice for the pivotal fifth goal for the Florida Panthers. Consequently, this squandered the Rangers monumental comeback with approximately a minute left to play. Those moments are crucial and a clumsy play in front of the net can cost your team two points.
Holden, at 30 years-old has no business playing with rookie mistakes. Most noteworthy are his 19 giveaways this season while playing an average of 17 minutes of ice time each game. Ultimately what makes Holden a loser for the month of November is his puck management. If he’s chosen to represent the team in the final minutes of the game, he should be a closer, which he is not.
Kampfer is another lacklustre addition to the Rangers blue line that does little more than put up minutes on the clock as they wait for Skjei and Kevin Shattenkirk to hit the ice. Kampfer is a -3 on the season and has eight giveaways. While he’s not as bad as Holden, but to be Brendan Smith‘s replacement, one would expect something better. Throughout 13 games this season, he’s earned one point and spent 16 minutes in the penalty box.
Throughout Kampfer’s NHL career, he’s earned no more than 10 points in a season. To kick off December, Kampfer sat thanks to the return of McDonagh, a trend that should hopefully continue.
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