The Rangers season in pictures

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, with the Coronavirus halting play in all sports and putting everyone on high alert, I decided to share the Rangers season in pictures.

Even cooler, some videos will be included that I took from the five or six games I got out to. The big feature being the Mika Zibanejad five goal game on March 5.

The season had been better than expected thanks in large part to the brilliance of Panarin and dominance of Zibanejad, who was fifth in goals with 41 while the Bread Man ranked in the top five with 95 points in his first year on Broadway.

Without those brilliant performances along with the 10 wins rookie sensation Igor Shestyorkin had, the team wouldn’t have been two points out of the playoffs with 79 before the NHL rightly paused the season due to COVID-19 pandemic.

They wouldn’t be in this position without a breakout year from Tony DeAngelo, whose 53 points are the most by a Rangers defenseman since Brian Leetch. He’ll no doubt get rewarded this summer along with close friend Ryan Strome, whose career best 59 points ranked third in team scoring despite being snake bit the last two weeks.

Adam Fox proved worth the gamble of two second round picks to Carolina. The rookie has been the team’s best defenseman. Not only due to his 42 points and plus-22 rating, but because of how poised he is with the puck in all facets. The future is bright for the Jericho, NY native who grew up a Ranger fan. He’s living out his childhood dream. At only 22 like tough partner Ryan Lindgren, Foxy should be a fixture on the blue line along with the Warrior.

Prior to getting hurt, Chris Kreider was on track for his first 30 goal campaign. He was a point-per-game for almost three months prior to fracturing his foot while blocking a shot. So good was the power forward that the Rangers decided to keep him. It wasn’t just about his 24 goals or 45 points either along with the power play production. But also about Kreider’s intangibles. He brought that work ethic, net front presence while forming impeccable chemistry with Zibanejad and a budding Pavel Buchnevich with who he’s close with. No wonder the KZB Line was a key factor in the team’s turnaround. Buchnevich up to 16 goals and 46 points on the verge of another 20 goal season and first ever 50 point one.

There was the heady play of Jesper Fast, who was a perfect complement on the second line with Panarin and Strome. Fast of course is all hustle and grit. He is that reliable two-way forward you appreciate who does the little things well such as penalty killing and winning puck battles. He’s more than the sum of the dozen goals, 29 points and respectable plus-16 rating. Hopefully, he is re-signed.

There also were key contributions from Alex Georgiev, who led the team with 17 wins and two shutouts. While he wasn’t consistent, there were moments he stood on his head to get the Blueshirts much needed wins. Particularly over the Islanders and Maple Leafs. Montreal too where Henrik Lundqvist struggled. Is this it for Lundqvist? He won 10 games and at least got one more shutout to beat lowly Detroit. Who knows. So much is ahead whenever things return to normalcy.

The value Brendan Smith brought in a dual role as a fourth line forward and eventually back as a defenseman following the departure of Brady Skjei can’t be overstated. A good team guy who did whatever David Quinn wanted. You need those types along with guys like Greg McKegg, who will play a secondary role as needed.

It hasn’t been an easy year for Jacob Trouba, who has battled consistency after a great debut versus his former team Winnipeg in a wild home opener victory. Number 8 will have to prove he’s worth the hefty $8 million cap hit they’re paying him. Since Skjei was moved to Carolina, it’s continued to be a Jekyll and Hyde year for Trouba. He’ll have to be better moving forward.

Brett Howden might not have the best hands, but he does work hard. We still don’t know if he’s anymore than a fourth liner who can kill penalties. However, he stepped up in a third line role following the Kreider injury. He fit in well with Kaapo Kakko, who certainly struggled with the North American game. The two goal game was a huge monkey off his back. It got him to 10 goals. He’ll need to improve his skating and defensive awareness.

So too will Filip Chytil, who wound up with 14 goals and 23 points after starting the year at Hartford. The young second-year forward is still figuring it out. Only 20, he will need to continue to fill out and become more consistent in the future.

Marc Staal remains a steady stay at home defenseman who brings physicality and valuable experience to the back end. While he’s far from perfect, the alternate captain is a trusted leader on and off the ice. He has remained a solid partner for DeAngelo at five-on-five while being a key part of the penalty kill. It’s worth noting he was more effective before Skjei was dumped to free up necessary space for the off-season. That looms true for the rest of the D. You take away a big minutes logger who can skate the puck out and chip in offensively and it’s going to have an affect. Even with his defensive issues, Skjei helped. But his contract made him expendable.

What to make of agitator Brendan Lemieux, who can be equally frustrating despite drawing a lot of penalties due to a penchant for taking ill advised ones? He’s still young at 24. His hit on Joonas Donskoi was cheap and could’ve been more than a minor penalty with the Rangers trailing by a goal with under three minutes left in regulation versus the Avalanche. He was bailed out by the penalty kill and Buchnevich finding a way to get a stick on a elevated Panarin pass with 13 seconds remaining to get the team a point. Lemieux must learn to better pick his spots and become more productive.

Even Phil Di Giuseppe was a nice story after coming up from Hartford. A good skater with a strong work ethic, he didn’t hurt himself in his cameo. But he’s a secondary player who can’t be a regular. Similar to McKegg. There’s nothing wrong with that.

Libor Hajek busted in his first full year by getting sent down to the Wolf Pack where he didn’t have much success. Can he rebound? Only time will tell. Unless Nils Lundkvist is legit which he very well might be, that trade with the Lightning looks like a disaster. They gave up Ryan McDonagh and JT Miller, who to be fair didn’t fit in Tampa. He has since responded in a big way on the Canucks with a huge season playing alongside Elias Pettersson.

K’Andre Miller is signed. We won’t see him for a while due to the Coronavirus. But the key is for the team not to rush him unless he blows everyone away. Development is so crucial in any prospect. That requires patience. The organization rushed Lias Andersson. We’ll never see him again. It’s likely he’ll get moved this summer at some point.

Julien Gauthier definitely has the size and wheels for a big forward to become something good. He could be a bright spot down the road.

All in all, it’s been a good year for the Rangers. Even if it looks likely over, fans can take solace in what they’ve seen. The growth of a together young team with excellent chemistry. Even if another game isn’t played until next October, the future is bright on Broadway.

Now for the season in photos and videos.

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About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of Hudson administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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