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Rangers 2023-24 Report Card: Grading the Blueshirts following their Eastern Conference Final run

In Sports
June 03, 2024

If we really want to lean into the metaphor with our Rangers report card for the 2023-24 season, let’s just say that the Blueshirts had some trouble with the (Eastern Conference) Final exam. Will that affect their grades?

Indeed.

The Rangers had a tremendous regular season – grade A over 82! – but it all ended with a disappointing loss to the Florida Panthers, one stop short of the Stanley Cup Final. They did not finish the 30-year Cup drought with a neat bow, no matter how many ‘94 links we all dreamed up.

Here’s how the Blueshirts grade out for the season:

GOALIES

Igor Shesterkin: Earlier in the season, he was a little more wobbly than we’re used to and the Rangers gave him a needed reset. Then he was amazing and, in truth, the single biggest reason the Rangers got as far as they did. He had a 2.34 goals-against average in the playoffs and a .926 save percentage, regularly turning aside shot onslaughts. He even got his numbers into shape over the second half of the season, finishing at 2.58 and .912, though the save percentage was the lowest of his career.

Grade: A

Jonathan Quick: Future Hall-of-Famer as backup? Yes, please. Quick shined while Shesty sat, recording a 2.62 GAA and .911 save percentage.

Grade: A

FORWARDS

Artemi Panarin: He turned himself into one of the best offensive players in the NHL with a huge season (49 goals, 71 assists, 120 points), but he fizzled in the playoffs again after a strong start. He went eight straight games without a goal before the last one the Rangers scored in the tournament, with 1:40 left in Game 6 against Florida. His totals were OK (5-10-15) and he potted game-winners, but the Rangers needed more from their top scorer.

Grade: B-plus

Chris Kreider: The longest-tenured Ranger scored 39 goals and moved up in club record books and had that head-to-the-rafters binge in Game 6 of the conference semis with the natural hat trick that doomed Carolina. But he mustered just one goal in the ECF. Rangers needed more from him, too.

Grade: B

Mika Zibanejad: He’s established a higher regular season baseline than his numbers from this season (26-46-72) and then he followed that up with an uneven playoffs. He had three goals and 13 assists, but did not score a goal after Game 1 against Carolina. Ugh.

Grade: B-minus

Vincent Trocheck: Trocheck is annoying. And we mean that in a good way for the Rangers. He’s difficult to play against, gritty and talented. He had career bests in points (77) and assists (52) and scored 25 goals, and then was their best skater in the playoffs, going 8-12-20. He’s helped the Rangers overcome previous faceoff shortcomings because he’s so good at the dot.

Grade: A

Alexis Lafrenière: Welcome to the ascension of a star. The former first-round pick, maligned by some for not exploding into the NHL stratosphere immediately, is on his way now after a 28-goal season and a playoffs in which he proved he’s someone to lean on. He’s even embraced some physicality in his game. The Rangers can use all the sandpaper they can get.

Grade: A-minus

New York Rangers left wing Alexis Lafreniere (13) celebrates his goal against the Carolina Hurricanes during the third period in game three of the second round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at PNC Arena.

Filip Chytil: Injury ruined his season, though he made it back after a long recovery. He did not score all season in 10 regular season games and six playoff outings. We’ll never know how much a healthy Chytil could’ve helped.

Grade: Incomplete

Blake Wheeler: Injury ruined his season, too, but he returned after a long rehab. He took a penalty in the ECF, but, really, that was Zibanejad’s fault after a hideous turnover left the Rangers vulnerable.

Grade: Incomplete

Kaapo Kakko: He was a healthy scratch in Game 3 of the ECF, which is certainly a comment on his contributions at the time and perhaps on his future in blue, too. Only six Rangers had more than Kakko’s 13 goals, but the 23-year-old hasn’t fulfilled his promise.

Grade: C-plus

Will Cuylle: Brought a solid physical game to the bottom-six and led the Rangers in hits while tallying 13 times. Lots to like here going forward.

Grade: B-plus

Barclay Goodrow: Gritty, gutty, glue guy who makes teams better by being around. He scored six goals in the playoffs, including some biggies, after only tallying four times during the season. Rangers need more like him.

Grade: B

Jimmy Vesey: The Rangers missed him on the penalty kill when he got hurt in the playoffs and he chipped in 13 goals during the season and one in the playoffs.

Grade: B-minus

Jack Roslovic and Alex Wennberg: Grouped together because they were the main trade deadline additions, instead of a high-end, top-line winger. While they chipped in – Wennberg scored an OT winner in the playoffs – the Rangers, in hindsight, needed bigger impact from both.

Grade: C

Matt Rempe: Even a sneeze from Rempe during the playoffs seemingly brought a whistle, so his rep for mayhem was well-established even in only 17 NHL games. The Rangers used him in 11 playoff games and he got a penalty in five of them, including four of the first five. But the jam he brings could be useful. It’s certainly entertaining, judging from how fans took to him. Can he make skating strides this summer and wreak regular havoc next season?

Grade: C-plus

New York Rangers defenseman Adam Fox (23) shoots the puck as Florida Panthers center Carter Verhaeghe (23) defends during the second period in game two of the Eastern Conference Final of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden.

DEFENSEMEN

Adam Fox: A linchpin on the power play and a terrific source of blueline offense, it’s fair to wonder how healthy he was in the playoffs when he did not score. The knee-on-knee hit he took in the Washington series may have had long reverberations. Had a career-high 17 goals and was third in blocks during the season.

Grade: B

Braden Schneider: “Schneids” was second on the Rangers in blocked shots and fifth in hits, and was generally sharp during the playoffs. The 22-year-old could be a blueliner on the rise.

Grade: B

Jacob Trouba: The Rangers captain struggled during the playoffs, low-lighted by going for, and missing, a check that helped lead to Florida’s first goal in Game 6. He also took 11 penalties in 16 playoff games and got fined for a wild elbow that probably should’ve been a major penalty at the time. Still, he’s the Rangers’ most fearless shot-blocker, leading the team in that category for the third season in a row, and he was also second in hits.

Grade: C

Ryan Lindgren: A heartbeat-type player, Lindgren’s toughness lends gravitas to the Rangers blueline. He was one of four Blueshirts to have 100-plus hits and blocks.

Grade: B

K’Andre Miller: His long reach is an unteachable asset and he was second on the Rangers in average skater ice time, behind only Fox, and second among defensemen with eight goals. He also contributed a shortie during the playoffs. He’s only 24, so there’s more to come.

Grade: B-minus

Erik Gustafsson: Relied on for puck movement or possession, he had six goals and 25 assists to rank second in scoring among Rangers defensemen at 31 points. Only Fox (73 points) had more.

Grade: B-minus

COACH

Peter Laviolette: It was a strong first season for Laviolette – the Rangers won the Presidents’ Trophy, showed bounce-back ability throughout and made the final four before losing to a better team. He instilled daily competition in practice, something the players bought into. Now, of course, he and the Rangers have to prove they can push deeper into June next year.

Grade: A-minus

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