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Nov 8, 2021; New York, New York, USA; New York Rangers center Mika Zibanejad (93) controls the puck in the second period against the Florida Panthers at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 8, 2021; New York, New York, USA; New York Rangers center Mika Zibanejad (93) controls the puck in the second period against the Florida Panthers at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports /

The New York Rangers have stayed away from declaring any games as mileposts this season.   Tonight, this one is different.  The Rangers are coming off what was arguably one of their worst outings of the season and after the game, they were called out by their coach.

On Monday, Coach Gerard Gallant was a little more generous in his take on the Seattle game. “We maintained the lead, we did a good job there, we  battled hard.  They scored a power play goal late to tie it and we come right back. There was some good things, but we know as a team and as a group and a coaching staff we’ve got to get better.”

Gallant was most upset with the lack of effort. It showed in the overwhelming number of shots taken by Seattle as opposed to the Rangers, a 62-39 shot difference.  It’s a tribute to the Ranger’s top two lines that the number of high dangers scoring chances was even with both teams with eight.

This one will be a challenge as they host the Florida Panthers, one of the best teams in the NHL. They have one four in a row, scoring 22 goals in the process.  They have gone 14-2-1 since the Christmas break, a streak that was started  with a 4-3 win over the Rangers on December 29.

The Panthers are good, very good

The Panthers’ 69 points are the most in the NHL, but they have played 46 games, tied with the Rangers for the most in the Eastern Conference.  They are second to Colorado in goals scored per game (4.13).  Defensively, they are 15th in the league, allowing 2.85 goals per game.

They are the exact opposite of the Rangers, with most of their scoring coming at even strength. That’s when they’ve scored 140 of their 190 goals.  Compare that to the Blueshirts who have 87 even strength goals this season.  Their power play is 13th overall (20.8%) and their penalty kill is 17th in the NHL (80.1%).

The Panthers shoot a lot, averaging 36.6 shots on goal per game.  They have taken 1,365 shots on goal at 5v5, most in the NHL.  The Rangers are 29th overall with 961 shots on goal at 5v5.  Look at how the two teams compare when it comes to 5v5 shot attempts.  The Panthers have 2,417 shot attempts, the Rangers have 1,757.  Huge difference.

You want a scary number?  The Rangers have scored six goals twice and seven goals once this season. The Panthers have scored six goals or more eight times including nine goals twice and eight goals once. Yikes.

Ranger fans can take some solace in the fact that the Rangers actually have a better winning percentage when it comes to faceoffs, The Rangers are 24th overall, winning 48.1% of their faceoffs. The Panthers are third worst, winning just 46.5%.

Last night’s game in Columbus was a perfect example of how the Panthers play. They scored eight goals on 40 shots, but also allowed four goals on 36 shots by the Blue Jackets.  The Panthers stayed out of the penalty box, taking only two minors.  Forward Mason Marchment had the best game of his NHL career with six points and has become a point-a-game player this season.  The line of Marchment, Sam Reinhart and Anton Lundell had five goals and 15 points.

Jonathan Huberdeau was just named NHL Player of the Month for January with six goals and 25 points in 21 games.  He has taken over as the leading scorer in the NHL with 63 points and his 46 assists are also tops

The Panthers are deep.  Their third line of rookie Lundell, Marchment and Reinhart may be the best third line in the NHL and are a perfect example of savvy hockey management.  Lundell was the 12th overall pick in 2020, Marchment came over in a trade from Toronto to Denis Malgin (a non-factor for the Maple Leafs) and Sam Reinhart came from Buffalo for a first round pick and goalie prospect Devon Levi.  Second line center Sam Bennett came from Calgary at the deadline last season for a second round pick and a prospect and has blossomed this season with 21 goals in 36 games.

It’s worth noting that Bennett and Reinhart were both centers the Rangers could have tried to acquire, but didn’t, with the salary cap a likely reason.  Now, with a combined AAV of about $10 million, the duo are a bargain for the Panthers.

This game was the talk of NHL radio today.  Observers want to see how the Rangers rebound from their mediocre exhibition against Seattle. They want to see how the Panthers will fare in the second of back-to-back games on the road.  They want to see how Mason Marchment can do for an encore.  But most of all, they want to see what the Panthers can do next in their amazing run to the top of the Eastern Conference.

If the Rangers can win, it will be a statement that they are a team that can play with the big boys, to borrow a line from Ryan Reaves.  If they are embarrassed, it will reaffirm that the Rangers still have a lot of work to do to become a legitimate contender.

To do it without Adam Fox will make it more difficult, but the X factor is Igor Shesterkin.

Projected lineups

Filip Chytil was going full speed in practice on Monday and could be back in the lineup against Florida.  The tentative lineup has Barclay Goodrow move up the Zibanejad line with Dryden Hunt back on the right side of Ryan Strome.  We shall see.


20 Kreider– 93 Zibanejad –21 Goodrow
10 Panarin– 16 Strome – 29 Hunt
13 Lafrenière – 72 Chytil – 15 Gauthier
14 McKegg – 17 Rooney – 75 Reaves

79 Miller – 8 Trouba
55 Lindgren – 45 Schneider
25 Hajek – 6 Jones

31 Shesterkin
40 Georgiev


11 Jonathan Huberdeau  – 16 Aleksander Barkov – 23 Carter Verhaege
91 Anthony Duclair–  9 Sam Bennett – 74 Owen Tippett
17 Mason Marchment -15 Anton Lundell – 13 Sam Reinhart
94 Ryan Lomberg – 27 Eetu Luostarinen – 19 Joe Thornton

52 MacKenzie Weegar – 5 Aaron Ekblad
42 Gustav Forsling – 7 Radko Gudas
32 Lucas Carlsson –  62 Brandon Montour

30 Spencer Knight
72 Sergei Bobrovsky

Spencer Knight will be in goal for the Panthers since Sergei Bobrovsky played against Columbus last night. He was in goal for the Panthers when the Rangers beat them 4-3 at the Garden on November 8.  That was his only start in his career against New York.

How to watch and the live conversation

Tonight’s game will be on Hulu and ESPN+ so it if prior experience is any indication, it could be an adventure trying to watch the game.  Puck drop is 7pm.  The radiocast will be on ESPN 98.7 FM.

Please join in tonight and talk about the game.  There will certainly be a lot to discuss and if the Rangers fall behind early, it could get pretty ugly.   Share your thoughts with your fellow Rangers fans in the comments section below.