With a fast start crucial, who is best on the Rangers?

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The New York Rangers celebrate a goal by Kaapo Kakko (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

How do the New York Rangers’ top players compare when it comes to fast starts?

According to the NHL Return to Play Plan, the qualifying round for the Stanley Cup Playoffs will be held after the participating teams have had a chance to conduct a mini-training camp.  Known as Phase Three, the training camp will allow the New York Rangers to get on the ice and practice for the first time since early March.

With no exhibition games before they start playing for real, it’s important for players to get off to a fast start. A best-of-five series can be over quickly and the importance of winning the first game is paramount.  A fast start by a prolific goal scorer could mean the difference between an early exit and a deep playoff run.

Look at Alexander Ovechkin.  Over the last five years he has scored an astounding 23 goals in his first five games of the season.  That’s 23 goals in 25 games including 2017-18, when he tallied eight goals in his first five games.

On the other hand, Sidney Crosby has a reputation as a notoriously slow starter.  Is it deserved?  In he same 25 games over the last five years, Sid the Kid scored 10 goals.  Take out the six goals he scored in the first five games of the 2016-17 campaign and he has four goals in 20 games, including two years when he never dented the twines.  Perhaps that’s why the Penguins were upset over the qualifying round format.

How the Rangers compare

For the Blueshirts, the top two lines will have to be at the top of their game when play resumes.  They will live and die based on the play of those six players, especially considering the lack of depth scoring that has plagued the team all season.  So, are they fast or slow starters?

Artemi Panarin – The great news is that Artemi Panarin has gotten off to fast starts every season he has played in the NHL.  He is a point-a-game player in his first five games of each of the last five seasons with 11 goals and 16 assists for 27 points in 25 games.  Expand it to his first ten games of each season and it’s just as good with 17 goals and 37 assists for 54 points in 50 games.

The last two seasons Panarin has scored five goals in the first five games of each season, a rate he needs to maintain if the Rangers want to move ahead into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Mika Zibanejad – Zibanejad is another fast starter, especially over the last three years.  He has scored 10 goals and 17 points  in his first 15 games over that period.  His best start was this season when he scored four goals and added six assists for a spectacular 10 points in his first five games.

Zibanejad has been a solid scorer, with 20 goals and 25 assists for 45 points over his first ten games of the last five seasons, almost a point-a-game pace.

Chris Kreider –  When it comes to Kreider, he hasn’t been a fast starter, but he hasn’t been a disaster either. Since the 2015-16 season, in his first five games each year he has averaged 0.2 goals (5 goals) and 0.52 assists (13 assists) for for 18 points in 25 games.   The last three years haven’t been great for goal scoring as he has two goals in 15 games.

If the Rangers want to go far in the postseason, Kreider will have to do what he accomplished in 2016-17 when he scored three goals and seven points in his first five games, compared to his zero goals and three assists this season.

Pavel Buchnevich – The enigmatic Russian is in his fourth season in the NHL and surprisingly, he has had decent starts almost every year.  This season he had one goal and four points in his first five games.  He had two goals and seven points in his first 10 games this season.

He’s not exactly a prolific scorer, but the fact is that he has been consistent.  He did have his best start in his rookie season with four goals and eight points in his first ten NHL games.

Ryan Strome  – It’s tough to judge Ryan Strome as he has revitalized his career since coming over to the Rangers.  He had the best 10 game start of his career this season with three goals and 10 points, the first time he has had more than five points in his first ten games since 2015-16.

Since Strome didn’t begin the season as Artemi Panarin’s center, it remains to be seen how Panarin’s excellence will help Strome.   His best five-game start was an an Islander in 2015-16 with he had a goal and four points in his first five games.

Jesper Fast – No one is looking at the Swede as a scorer so it is almost futile to examine his offensive starts especially since he didn’t establish his place on the line with Panarin and Strome until late in tthe season.   Let’s just say that he is consistent, averaging 0.5 points per game in the first ten games over the last four seasons.

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