Few teams were as hurt by the pause for the pandemic last year as much as the New York Rangers were. At the time, this young team was coming together. They had won 11 of their final 15 games in March and looked like the type of squad nobody would want to face come playoff time.
However, the Rangers wouldn’t win again as their season ended without as much as a whimper. After barely making the cut for the playoffs (due to the expanded format), they were quickly swept out by the Carolina Hurricanes in just three games.
It’s clear that this team is rebuilding and likely on the rise, but how good are they? Are they still a borderline playoff team or can they make the cut again? And can they make some noise when they get there? Let’s take a look at their prospects in 2021.
New York Rangers 2021 Odds
- Odds To Win Make Playoffs: +100
- Odds To Win Division: +115
- Regular Season Point Total: 59.5
Pretty much all of the Rangers core has come back, so this isn’t a team that’s going to be worrying a lot about turnover. They did wave goodbye to long-time goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who was bought out.
Lias Andersson was traded away to Los Angeles while Jesper Fast, Vinni Lettieri and Greg McKegg all signed elsewhere. The reality is that none of these guys were huge contributors. Fast will be the biggest loss as he had 29 points. As for Lundqvist, he’s clearly in the twilight of his career and the Rangers have bigger and better plans.
While those were the losses, the Rangers did bring in Anthony Bitetto, Colin Blackwell and Jack Johnson. The first two won’t even make the team as they were put on waivers while Johnson was bought out by Pittsburgh, so it’s not as if he’s a stalwart defenseman. He might plug a hole as the fifth or sixth guy.
The biggest impact change when the Rangers unexpectedly won the NHL Draft Lottery. That allowed Alexis Lafreniere to drop in their laps, which is an incredible get. This just adds to an incredibly talented group of young forwards. The Rangers will be a dangerous offensive team.
The Rangers Will Succeed If…
Igor Shesterkin is ready to be the No. 1 goaltender – and play at a high level. We’ve known that the torch is going to be passed at some point and it started last season. He became the No. 1 guy and put up a .935 even strength save percentage in his 12 appearances. He enters the year as the favorite to win the Calder Trophy and if he delivers, this team is going to be in playoff contention.
Outside of Shesterkin, all eyes will be on the offense. This is a team that’s already loaded as Artemi Panarin finished with 95 points in 69 games while Mika Zibanejad scored a whopping 41 goals. Pavel Buchnevich, Ryan Strome, Filip Chytil and Lafreniere make for an exciting supporting cast.
If the team can get anything out of Kaapo Kakko – one of the players who was expected to be a Calder Trophy contender last year – then this could be the best offense in the NHL. After all, they finished fifth in goals per game (3.33) last season. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that this happens.
The Rangers Will Fail If…
Shesterkin flops and the offense doesn’t do what it did last year. Let’s face it: nobody thought Panarin would be a finalist for the Hart Trophy when the Rangers signed him and who could have ever figured Zibanejad would be in the Rocket Richard race? Zibanejad never had more than 30 goals in a season yet he pulled out 41 in 57 games last year.
Even someone like Anthony DeAngelo had 15 goals last season; he’s bound to regress, right? If those guys fall off at all, Kakko continues to be a disappointment and Lafreniere takes time to develop, this offense could slip. They scored 3.33 goals per game last season and allowed 3.14 (ninth-most), so if Shesterkin and the offensive weapons can’t maintain, this team is likely to miss the playoffs.
The key here to remember is the new divisions and the new playoff format. What will the New York Rangers 2021 odds look like midseason?
The Rangers are now in a division with the Boston Bruins, which makes things tough. The Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers are also all there. Remember, the schedule is comprised of only divisional games, so the Rangers aren’t going to have a lot of gimmes. On top of that, only four teams from each division make the playoffs; is this team better than at least three other teams mentioned?
The best bet here is that the Rangers regress a little bit offensively and the goaltending/blue line doesn’t improve enough to make up for it. This is a young team in a rebuild who will likely improve this year internally but the results may not be seen in terms of wins and points.
New York Rangers 2021 Odds
Prediction: 5th in Division