Rangers Weekly: Slow Starts, Miller, Nemeth & More

Welcome to New York Rangers Weekly! After two weeks off, the Rangers returned to play on Feb. 15. New York defeated the Boston Bruins in a shootout, 2-1, and was defeated by the Detroit Red Wings in a shootout, 3-2. Slow starts have impacted the Rangers recently.

Due to concerns from the spread of the COVID-19 omicron variant, the NHL announced previously that players would not be participating in the Winter Olympic Games in Beijing, China. The break in the February schedule was used for the All-Star game and to make up for postponed games due to COVID-19. Let’s take a look at some storylines for the Rangers over the last week.

Rangers Have Mixed Results, Miller Displays Offense

The Rangers’ return after 14 days since their last game showed that the players needed some time to get back into the flow of things. New York played better as the game progressed. In the ninth round of the shootout, K’Andre Miller netted the game-winning goal to give the Rangers the victory.

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Rangers head coach, Gerard Gallant, had good things to say about the defenseman following the win, “He’s confident. From Game 10 on, he’s been really confident. Like any other young defenseman, they play really well, make some real good plays, and then they make some bad plays, a couple defensive-zone plays. That’s every player in the NHL. But he’s confident, he feels good about his game and scoring the shootout winner is pretty good for him tonight,” (from ‘Rangers’ K’Andre Miller delivers on first-ever shootout chance: ‘You want me?,’ New York Post, 2/16/22).

K'Andre Miller New York Rangers
K’Andre Miller, New York Rangers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The 22-year-old, St. Paul, Minnesota, native carried the momentum from his shootout goal to the next game on Feb. 17 against Detroit. Miller got the Rangers on the scoreboard by tying the game at one, scoring his fourth goal of the season. His improved play would be a boost to the young defensive core.

Rangers Look to Improve Starts During Games

New York did not score in the first period in the shootout loss to the Red Wings, which contributed to the team playing again from behind. Barclay Goodrow commented on the Rangers’ slow starts, “I think we still need to work on starting games better. Right from the beginning, we’re chasing from behind and it’s hard to play like that. If we played the first 20 like we played the last 40, we would have put ourselves in a better spot,” (from ‘Rangers doomed by missed chances in shootout loss to Red Wings,’ New York Post, 2/17/22).

Gallant brought up the concerns of their first-period play during practice on Feb. 19, “It’s just doing things the right way. It’s mentally getting prepared for those games. For whatever reason, recently – couple games before the break, couple games after – we just have to get off to better starts. I think it’s all mental. Get yourself prepared and do your workouts and focus on your first shift, and things will take care of itself” (from ‘Rangers hope to end streak of poor first-periods,’ New York Post, 2/20/22). The Rangers will look to improve their play at the beginning of games starting on Feb. 20 at the Canadian Tire Centre against the Ottawa Senators.

Nemeth on IR With Illness

Patrik Nemeth was placed on injured reserve (IR) on Feb. 15 with what has been deemed as an illness. According to Mollie Walker of the New York Post, it is believed the Rangers’ defenseman is still dealing with effects from COVID-19, (from ‘Rangers’ Patrik Nemeth goes on injured reserve with lingering effects of COVID-19,’ New York Post, 2/17/22). He contracted the virus back in December and has been in and out of the lineup over the last month.

The 29-year-old is eligible to be removed from IR at any time. In Nemeth’s absence, New York’s third defensive pairing have been youngsters, Braden Schneider and Zac Jones. Gallant said of the young players on defense, “They’re two good young players. We always talk about young, but they show energy, they show a lot of spunk out there. Everybody makes mistakes, but they’ve played really solid, real good hockey” (from ‘Braden Schneider, Zac Jones trying to succeed like previous Rangers rookie pair,’ New York Post, 2/16/22).

Rangers’ Emile Francis Passes Away at 95

Emile “The Cat” Francis, a former goaltender, head coach, and general manager (GM) of the Rangers died at the age of 95. New York announced his death on Feb. 19. Rangers’ president/ GM Chris Drury said in a statement, “Emile’s passion and dedication to the Rangers organization and growing the game of hockey in New York City was second to none.” Francis was a true pioneer and innovator, as well as the architect and coach of some of the greatest teams in Rangers history. Emile has meant as much to the Rangers as any person who has been part of the organization throughout its history. Our thoughts are with Emile’s family and friends during this difficult time” (from ‘Hockey Hall of Famer and Rangers legend Emile Francis dies at 95,’ SportsNet, 2/19/22).

After the scheduled game against the Senators, New York’s next game will be at home on Feb. 24 against the Washington Capitals. The Rangers are looking to remain ahead of the Capitals in the Metropolitan Division standings. The Rangers will play back-to-back games next weekend on Feb. 26 against the Pittsburgh Penguins on the road followed by a home game on Feb. 27 against the Vancouver Canucks.