The 2021 New York Rangers have had one of the most chaotic seasons in recent memory. From Tony DeAngelo being a waived from the team for an inside dispute, to their star Artemi Panarin having to take a leave due to an issue that likely stemmed from his political activism, there has been no shortage of entertainment provided by the Broadway Blueshirts, especially when it comes to their performance on the ice.
The biggest thing when it comes to their on-ice play, however, is one word: consistency. Or, rather, the lack of it. On paper, team with incredible amounts of young talent like the Rangers should not be struggling to find ways to produce wins, but here we are with just 10 games remaining and the Rangers sit 10 points behind of a playoff spot.
The question remains, though: Who are the 2021 New York Rangers? Are they playoff-bound and primed to make a run for the Stanley Cup? Or are they just in the midst of another year of their rebuild that their front office promised fans a mere 3 years ago?
A lackluster start to the season immediately put the beloved Blueshirts at a disadvantage from the year's onset. A lack of expected production from stars like Mika Zibanejad and Igor Shesterkin was catastrophic for a team that relied on them to reach the NHL Bubble a season prior.
However, as of late, we have seen Zibanejad and Shesterkin start to ramp up their play. After a natural hat trick against the Philadelphia Flyers, Zibanejad's last performance against the Washington Capitals included 2 goals, punctuated by a fantastic offensive play that allowed him to top-shelf a game-winning goal. Shesterkin, after a rough start, really found his groove in recent games. Currently shelved with an non-contact injury suffered against the New Jersey Devils, if he picks up where he left off before having to sit, the Rangers could make a quick run towards the playoffs.
Shesterkin's comrade in goal, Alexandar Georgiev, also had a difficult start to the season after a promising 2019-20. In his last outings, however, he put up a 26-save shutout against the Flyers, and kept the Capitals, a high-powered offensive squad, to just 3 goals in 2 games.
Production from the likes of Artermi Panarin, Adam Fox, and Chris Kreider, and surprises like K'Andre Miller and Alexis Lafreniere accompanying the accelerated performances from their teammates have allowed the Rangers to put up some fantastic offensive showcases recently. That does not mean they are without their fair share of stinkers, though.
A 4-0 win against the Boston Bruins was preceded by a 4-0 loss to the same Bruins squad. The day before Zibanejad roofed a game-winning goal against the Capitals, a lackluster offensive performance saw the Rangers lose 2-1 to the same Capitals squad. There is no ebb and flow to this Rangers team. Their output reads like a heart monitor, with jagged lines that struggle to stay centered.
So, the question bears asking: What is this team? They are, unfortunately, not a playoff team... yet. The window for the rebuild is closing, and with the young talent they have (Kaapo Kakko, Lafreniere, Fox, Miller, Shesterkin) getting more and more experience, it is only a matter of time before the Rangers reach the holy land again for the first time since 1994.