Rangers Retrospective: A look back at the 2021-2022 season

With the 2021-2022 season now officially in the books it’s time to reflect on the stunning success of the New York Rangers.
As the season neared, the Rangers were left out of the majority of the media’s playoff predictions. Of the 16 NHL.com staffers who made predictions, only five foresaw the Rangers making the playoffs. Four predicted the Rangers would achieve an Eastern Conference wild card spot and one predicted a top-three Metropolitan Division finish. In The Hockey Writers’ predictions, the Rangers finished a mediocre fifth in the Metro, beaten out of a wild card spot by the Philadelphia Flyers.
Needless to say, nobody expected the talent and progress a young Rangers roster would display. The Blueshirts tallied 52 wins, 110 points (second-most in franchise history), and secured a second place finish in the Metropolitan Division behind the speedy Carolina Hurricanes. The Rangers’ success stemmed from a mix of young talent, established veterans (both grinders and point scorers), and a historic season from third-year goaltender (and 2022 Vezina Trophy winner, as predicted) Igor Shesterkin.
Let’s examine an incredulous Cinderella season for the Rangers that ended just before midnight.

Honoring NYR Legends

Rod Gilbert
The New York Rangers honored legend Rod Gilbert after his passing in August 2021
Mark Lennihan/Associated Press
On Thursday, August 19, 2021, shortly before the season began, the Rangers organization and hockey world suffered a tremendous loss. Rod Gilbert, a Hall of Famer and Rangers icon affectionately known as Mr. Ranger, passed away at the age 80. The Rangers organization quickly dedicated the 2021-2022 season to Gilbert.
Emblazoned on their jersey’s throughout the year was Gilbert’s number 7 patch which served as a nightly reminder of Gilbert’s incredible leadership and humanitarianism. Additionally, the Rangers home opener against the Dallas Stars took place on October 14, 2021 which served as a momentous day for the late Gilbert. On that same day in 1979, Mr. Rangers’ number 7 became the first jersey number in franchise history to be retired.
Perhaps the biggest testament to Gilbert’s career and impact on New York was the creation of the Rod Gilbert “Mr. Ranger” award. The annual award was created “to recognize the Rangers player ‘who best honors Rod’s legacy by exemplifying leadership qualities both on and off the ice, and making a significant humanitarian contribution to his community.”
Few words can truly live up to the legacy of Mr Ranger. However, his impact on the Rangers’ organization and game of hockey will never be forgotten. The team sought to keep his spirit alive this season, dedicating every moment to the late icon.
Henrik Lundqvist

This season, the New York Rangers penned another former player into their history books by retiring the legendary no. 30 worn by none other the The King: Henrik Lundqvist. Lundqvist will go down as one of the greatest Rangers’ in history and the Rangers made sure to honor his career appropriately. Lundqvist served as the Rangers’ goaltender for 15 seasons, putting on incredible displays night in and night out. Unfortunately, he would fall just shy of a Stanley Cup, though his name will still be remembered for generations of hockey fans to come.
The Rangers dedicated the night of January 28, 2022 to the King and raised his number to the MSG’s rafters. However, Lundqvist didn’t stray too far from the Rangers organization, continuing to watch over them from the MSG booth with Stephen Valiquette and John Giannone.

A Resilient Regular Season

The Rangers posted their third-best point total in franchise history this season with 110 points after a fabulous 52-24-6 record. The only two better regular season was their Stanley Cup-winning 1993-1994 season and their 2014-2015 season which also ended with an Eastern Conference loss to Tampa Bay. This team surpassed everybody’s expectations this year with their fantastic performance. The young roster was also nicknamed the “comeback kids” as they had 27 come-from-behind wins, the second-most in the league. The Rangers’ stars showed up consistently with Zibanejad, Kreider, and Panarin all having fantastic seasons.
The Stars Came to Play
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Zibanejad had a rock star performance with 81 points (29-52-81) as he displayed why he is one of the best centers in the league. His face-offs, however, could use some work; That proved to be the team’s biggest flaw throughout the season. Mika March and May also struck again as he tallied 16 and 19 points in those months respectively. Paired alongside Chris Kreider, the duo were primary contributors to the Rangers scoring.
Kreider blew his previous seasons out of the water with a career high 77-point season including a career high 52 goals and 25 assists (tied for the most in his career). For reference, the most goals Kreider ever scored prior to 2021-2022 was 28. He upgraded his game to a whole new level this season, providing fantastic leadership and scoring to help propel the Rangers to the playoffs.
Artemi Panarin’s goal count dwindled from previous seasons as he only netted 22 this year. However, he still totaled a career high 96 points due to his insane 74 assists. Panarin continuously opened passing lanes and threaded the needle on seemingly impossible passes to set up his teammates. Opponents feared the dual-threat known as the Breadman whenever he stepped on the ice. His ability to gorgeously shoot the puck or perform an effortless tape-to-tape pass, in addition to his skating ability, made him very difficult to defend. Hopefully Panarin can return to his typical goal-scoring form next season alongside his assist count, but he still contributed immensely this year.
A Potent Power Play
The Rangers also benefited from a dangerous power play quarterbacked by Adam Fox. They converted on 32.1% of power plays, the second-best in the league and just .6% behind Colorado. The team’s quick movement forced their opponents to stay on their toes and generated plenty of opportunities. Mika was magically from the top of the circle with his signature one-timer as he netted 15 power play goals in the regular season and six more in the playoffs. The real hero of the power play was Chris Kreider who typically posted in front of the net. He was absolutely lethal with his deflections and rebounds. His performance in front of the net led to a league-high 26 power play goals, he added three to that total during the postseason.
Igor Shesterkin’s Dominance
Photo courtesy of the New York Rangers
However, no performance compared to that of Igor Shesterkin who posted one of the best goaltending seasons in NHL history. Shesterkin led the league in both SV% with a whopping .935 and in GAA (2.07). Shesterkin stole games for the Rangers by making unbelievable saves and single-handedly shutting down opposing attacks. The organization recognized the importance of performance to the team’s incredible season, naming him the team MVP.
Shesterkin rightfully earned a Vezina Trophy and Hart Memorial Trophy nomination for his efforts. He is the indisputable favorite to win the Vezina, anything else would be highway robbery. Although the Hart goes “to the player adjudged to be the most valuable to his team” it is likely Shesterkin will not win as that award tends to goal to the flashy goalscorer and playmakers. Arguably, Shesterkin was a more critical to the Rangers’ success than McDavid was to Edmonton or Matthews to Toronto. Nevertheless, Shesterkin’s performance will go down in the history books.

Chris Drury’s Trade Deadline Masterclass

As the trade deadline neared, Chris Drury chose to invest some draft capital into further solidifying an already strong Rangers roster. Drury’s four transactions all brought a major boost to the team while avoiding the costly mistake of overpaying. Each of the new Rangers had a significant impact both at the tail-end of the regular season and in the postseason. The deadline is encapsulated best in one word: masterclass.
Frank Vatrano
A few days before the deadline the Rangers dealt a fourth-round pick to the Florida Panthers in exchange for 28-year-old forward Frank Vatrano. Vatrano added another boost of speed to the Rangers first line alongside a powerful and accurate shot. The previously undrafted forward proved himself worth that fourth-round pick and then some. In just 22 regular season games Vatrano meshed well with the Rangers lineup, netting eight goals and 5 assists for 13 points. In the playoffs, Vatrano continued his productivity by netting the same stat line in 20 games. Those stats demonstrate Vatrano could be on pace for a 50+ point regular season with the Rangers.
Vatrano’s effort, hustle, and speed brought a major impact not seen on the scoresheet. He was one of New York’s unsung heroes late in the year and I expect the organization will make a strong push to re-sign him this offseason.
Tyler Motte
The Rangers added a burst of speed to their fourth line at the deadline with the acquisition of forward/center Tyler Motte from the Canucks, giving up a 2023 fourth-round pick in return. Motte was a fantastic bottom-6 addition as he a grinder who plays hard and fast. Moreover, he is a strong two-way player and major contributor on the penalty kill. He played well despite sustaining a significant shoulder injury earlier in the season. Motte played a large part in the Rangers’ playoff run, performing a lot of the unspoken tasks and just generally playing well offensively and defensively. The Rangers will definitely make a hard push to hold onto him this offseason.
Andrew Copp
The Rangers’ big splash at the deadline was moving Morgan Barron and three draft picks (2022 first-round, 2023 second-round, and 2023 fifth-round) to the Winnipeg Jets for Andrew Copp and a sixth-round pick in the 2023 NHL draft. Copp quickly found a home opposite Artemi Panarin on the Rangers’ second line and got to work. He totaled 18 points (8-10-16) despite only playing 16 regular season games as a Ranger. Moreover, he contributed an additional 14 points (6-8-14) in his 20 postseason contests with the Rangers.
Copp demonstrated the huge impact he can bring both in terms of playmaking and goal scoring. His chemistry with Panarin and Strome was notable, and the organization has already made it apparent that signing Copp to a new contract will be a high priority. The Rangers have roughly $12 in cap space (after giving Sammy Blais a new contract) and quite a few free agents. Given the potentially high-asking price by Copp, New York may not be able to retain this key forward addition.
Justin Braun
The last trade Drury made at the deadline transaction was with their divisional rivals the Philadelphia Flyers who sent veteran defenseman Justin Braun to NY for a 2023 third-round pick. Though Braun didn’t start too many games for the Rangers until the playoffs rolled around, he was still an excellent acquisition. After some lackluster and costly play from Patrik Nemeth in the playoffs, the Rangers needed to start a different sixth defenseman that still brought experience. That’s where Braun (who has 102 playoff games of experience) stepped in.
Replacing Nemeth proved to be a very effective move. Once Braun joined, so many of those costly mistakes being made by the Rangers’ bottom pairing disappeared. The veteran Braun and youngster Schneider held their own throughout the playoffs. While I don’t expect the Rangers to keep Braun, he was an important addition that brought plenty of experience and played better than Nemeth.

Playoff Pleasure and Pain

Most hockey pundits and analysts believed the Rangers would be Stanley Cup contenders in the next two or three years. However, the Rangers, with a little help from their fairy godmother Shesterkin, arrived at the ball early.
Round 1: Pittsburgh Penguins
The New York Rangers defeat the Pittsburgh Penguins in game 7 of round 1 in the 2021-2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Entering the playoffs against their bitter rival the Pittsburgh Penguins, many predicted the series would be an intense six or seven-game slugfest. While that prediction would turn out to be correct, the victor of the series was another story. The Rangers faltered early in the series and found themselves in a 3-1 deficit to the Penguins. It appeared their playoff experience was truly a difference-maker and that the Rangers would be a first-round exit. Then, Jacob Trouba changed the entire tone of the series after delivering a crushing hit to Penguins’ captain Sidney Crosby during game 5 in Pittsburgh.
In the aftermath, many Penguins’ fans and some others complained of a dirty hit and obvious elbow on behalf of Trouba. Nevertheless, the league never held a hearing nor was a penalty called as the hit was deemed clean. Nobody ever wants to see a player injured and its unfortunate the way that the situation unfolded. The awkward play caused Crosby to miss a game and a half, slowing the Penguins offense. The Rangers came back to life led by Mika Zibanejad and Adam Fox, evening the series 3-3.
What Else but Game 7
The stage was set for dramatic game 7 at the Garden and it delivered. The game was back and forth, each team matching the others’ goals until Pittsburgh went up 3-2 late in the second period. The Penguins held onto their lead with a share of great defensive playoffs and fantastic offensive opportunities. The Rangers were determined not to disappoint the sold out Garden crowd and threw everything they had at Pittsburgh.
With just under six minutes left, the Rangers had applied pressure in the Pittsburgh zone but Jarry shut down a multitude of opportunities. Then, Andrew Copp controlled the puck and took it to the corner to the left of Jarry. Despite a crowd of Penguins players nearby and one on top of him, Copp dished an incredible backhand pass to the tape of Zibanejad’s stick who settled the puck and fired it past Jarry to tie the game. A couple late flurries from each team in the closing moments ultimately led to nothing. The decisive game 7 was heading to overtime.
A Decisive Overtime
As the Penguins maintained possession of the puck in the Rangers’ zone, K’Andre Miller, who had played excellent all series long, used his size to reach in and poke the puck away from McGinn. With a couple strides, Miller found himself breaking to the net with a stride on McGinn but couldn’t capitalize as McGinn reached in and held Miller to deny the opportunity. However, that same defensive play resulted in a Rangers power play, one that had been lethal throughout the series.
As the Rangers continued to generate shots and look for passing lanes, the time ticked away. The Rangers primary PP unit stayed on the ice. With roughly 30 seconds left on the penalty, the Rangers established the zone and stayed on the move enabling more passing and shooting lanes to open. As the clock flashed 15 seconds remaining on the power play, Panarin played the puck back to Fox. Then Panarin turned back toward the net, receiving a return feed from Fox. With plenty of ice in front of him and six bodies in front of the net, Panarin saw his opportunity. He inched forward and fired a low wrister toward the net which slid past Jarry as the Rangers and crowd alike erupted. The Rangers would move on to face Carolina in round 2, they felled the Penguins!

Round 2: Carolina Hurricanes
After knocking out the Penguins, Rangers fans were riding a high. Few anticipated this team would make playoffs or beat their rival, but the youthful Rangers just did both. The Rangers playoff run would already be considering a success, anything else was a cherry on top.
However, while Rangers fans were thrilled to beat the Penguins, their hunger only grew as they went into Raleigh. Quickly, the Hurricanes showed they were prepared for this Rangers roster and weren’t going to let the momentum of a game 7 victory carry over into this series. The Rangers fell into a quick 2-0 hole in the series as Carolina took both home games. However, the Rangers were no strangers to coming back from a deficit. The series was quickly back to 2-2 with the Rangers defending home ice as well. The home team would win each of the next two games leading to yet another game 7, in Raleigh, NC. Despite this series stretching to seven games, it felt much less climatic than the first-round brawl between the Rangers and Penguins.
Yet Another Game 7 Showdown
During their first-round series against the Boston Bruins, Carolina won in 7 games. In that series the home team won every single game, Carolina went 4-0 at home but also 0-3 on the road. The Rangers-Hurricanes series played out identical through game 6. Both Carolina and New York stood their ground. Carolina was now 7-0 at home and 0-6 on the road while the Rangers were 6-1 at home and only 1-5 on the road. However, those records are thrown out the window in a game 7 situations, all that matters is the here and now.
The Rangers walked into Carolina and stunned the Caniac crowd. Once again, New York Ranger Jacob Trouba set the tone by obliterating Seth Jarvis with a huge, open-ice hit. Jarvis would not return to the game. From there, the Rangers would dominant the Hurricanes on the Canes own ice. After nearly two series completely controlled by home-ice advantage, the Rangers would wrestle away control of the game and series. The Canes dismantled home in a 6-2 scoreline as the Rangers boarded the plane home, set to meet the defending back-to-back Stanley Cup champion Lightning.
Eastern Conference Finals: Tampa Bay Lightning
The Rangers took advantage of a rusty Tampa Bay on home ice winning games 1 and 2. Though everything changed midway through the second period of game 3. With a 2-0 lead over Tampa, Jacob Trouba took a costly penalty allowing the Lightning to get back into the game. He would take two more penalties with the first of the two leading to an equalizing goal. Ultimately, the Rangers would lose game three and Tampa would halt their momentum.
After game 3, Tampa outplayed the Rangers despite a few tight scorelines. They showcased why they were the champs as Vasilevskiy returned to his elite form. Series-clinching Vasy reigned supreme yet again, letting up just a single goal in the final game 6. The Lightning swept the next four games, sending the Rangers packing and ending their Cinderella tale.

Young Talent Blossoming

Alexis Lafrenière and K'Andre Miller hug after defeating the Pittsburgh Penguins in game 7
Photo courtesy of the New York Rangers

Defensive Talent

A critical piece of the Rangers’ success this season came from their young talent stepping up. The youngsters continued to grow throughout the season.

K’Andre Miller
K’Andre Miller proved himself to be a more than capable defenseman with tremendous offensive upside as well. Miller has just continued to grow and could easily become a top defenseman in a few years time. His size enables him to recover well, box out and body opposing players, and interrupt passes, shots, or other moves.
Adam Fox & Ryan Lindgren
Adam Fox and Ryan Lindgren remain a fantastic defensive duo. The former generates incredible offensive opportunities and quarterbacks a fantastic Rangers’ power play. Fox is incredibly effective at enabling the team to move around and open passing and shooting lanes. He is also a strong defenseman who keeps the puck in front him and can generate turnovers well.
Ryan Lindgren is best described in a single word: warrior. Throughout the season, and especially the postseason, Lindgren preserved through injury and frequently put his body on the line. He never hesitated to deliver a check, block a shot, and take a check to advance play or clear the zone. Lindgren is a tough and gritty defenseman who will be another important piece of the Rangers roster for years to come. His mindset and toughness serves as an inspiration to many others on the roster. He truly embodies the “No Quit in New York” mindset.
Braden Schneider
After being called up to the Rangers on January 11, 2022 Braden Schneider never set foot in Hartford again. The 20-year-old defenseman and 2020 first-round pick quickly proved why the Rangers moved up to select him. Schneider is a powerful defenseman capable of laying big hits and overpowering opponents to win pucks. Moreover, he’s a quick two-way player, with offensive upside and a strong recovery. The Rangers’ blue line is loaded and Schneider has a strong, versatile skillset that primes him to be a major contributor in New York.

Offensive Talent

Alexis Lafrenière

Alexis Lafrenière continues to show major progress since coming into the league in a COVID year. Since the All-Star break, Lafrenière has really emerged as a number one overall pick. It’s important to highlight that not every number one selection comes into the league like Connor McDavid or Auston Matthews. It is completely normal to take a few season before truly becoming a top talent. Lafrenière still demonstrated why he was hailed as the definitive number one pick.

He showcased his flexibility shifting between lines and playing both LW and RW successfully. Moreover, his skillset was highlighted well while playing on the top line with Zibanejad and Kreider as well as with Kakko and Chytil. While on the top line, Lafrenière consistently made big contributions, provided perfect feeds and highlighting his precise shooting ability. Similarly, while on the Kid Line, he frequently and successfully established the zone and opened up passing and shooting lanes. He also provided impressive tape-to-tape feeds that led to big goals. Finally, he put his stickhandling on display on multiple occasions, turning around opponents and finding open ice when there seemingly was none. No clip showcases Lafrienère’s stickhandling ability more so than this goal against Detroit.

Filip Chytil

The Kid Line blossomed as Filip Chytil came into his own and found a rhythm during the playoffs. Despite a rocky regular season, Chytil showcased flashes of talent but ultimately lacked. consistency. However, once the playoffs rolled around so did the consistency. If Chytil carries his playoff play into next season, he will be another weapon on an already dangerous Rangers roster.
Kaapo Kakko
While Kaapo Kakko didn’t blossom as much as other youngsters or put as many points, he still showed major progress. Kakko played strong on the puck, possessing it well and warding off challengers. Hopefully Kakko can register more points next season, however his progress from this season is promising. Should he stay in New York (which both sides indicate is the intention), he should continue bringing more physicality and toughness on the puck which in turn should generate more opportunity for growth, contribution, and point accumulation.
The youth of the Rangers played like established veterans this playoffs. They played hard and physical against opposing veterans and didn’t crumble in the spotlight of playoff hockey. The kids played good, hard, and disciplined hockey and always believed that they could come back into any game.


Despite getting knocked out in disappointing fashion, the Rangers gave themselves and their fanbase a season to remember. They consistently defied the odds, silencing cries of “4-1 Penguins,” “Canes sweep,” and even “Lightning sweep.” There truly was no quit in New York this season as the Rangers persevered time and again.
Ultimately, the Rangers demonstrated their rebuild is years ahead of where many expected it to be. They will be a feared team for season to come and seemed primed to contend for the Cup next year. Perhaps their biggest priority this off-season will be adding depth at the center position. They especially need someone who can consistently win face-offs. Face-offs we’re the Rangers biggest struggle this season and they need to improve in order to make a deeper run.

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