Shesterkin, PWHPA Partnership & More

Igor Shesterkin has been winning on the ice and off of it. The Rangers’ goaltender has rattled off three-straight victories, his latest coming against the Washington Capitals on Thursday night. Shesterkin has improved his numbers on the season to 3-2-1, with 2.35 goals against average (GAA) and a .913 save percentage (SV%). His latest win pushed the Rangers back to the .500 mark for the first time this season, with their 10 points placing them just one point back of the final playoff spot.

Even with several jaw-dropping saves, Shesterkin’s biggest highlight came after the victory was already sealed. On his way down the tunnel to the Rangers’ dressing room, the Russian-goaltender turned around and pretended to throw a punch at teammate Artemi Panarin. The light-hearted moment poked fun at an otherwise tense situation that involved Tony DeAngelo and Alexandar Georgiev, which led the Rangers to waiving DeAngelo.

Going a perfect two for two since the DeAngelo incident has definitely lightened the mood around the club, with Shesterkin leading the renaissance, playing his best hockey of the season. He has cemented himself as the team’s number one, minimizing the mistakes plaguing him early on in 2020-21.

The PWHPA Coming to MSG

For the first time in Madison Square Garden’s historic tenure, professional women’s hockey will be played at MSG when the Professional Women’s Hockey Player’s Association (PWHPA) will start their ‘2021 Dream Gap Tour’ at the World’s Most Famous Arena. The game will take place on Feb. 28 at 7 P.M. E.T. and set the stage for a monumental game to grow the sport of women’s hockey (from ‘New York Rangers to host PWHPA game at Madison Square Garden’ by Sportsnet – 02/03/21).

James Dolan, Executive Chairman and CEO, The Madison Square Garden Company, Owner of New York Rangers, watches an NBA basketball game (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)

The Rangers have been heavily involved in women’s hockey growth, sending team cutouts to the NWHL Isobel Cup in Lake Placid. They have shown their support for the NWHL and now the PWHPA, joining forces with the NHL to promote the game. At last year’s All-Star game, Kendall Coyne-Schofield sent a buzz throughout the hockey world when she blazed around the ice in the NHL’s Fastest Skater competition.

Although COVID-19 significantly hindered the Rangers’ plans, the franchise named Amanda Kessel an ambassador in 2019 for their new Junior Rangers Girls Hockey program. The initiative was set to begin that fall and would have reached amazing proportions had the virus not interfered.

The support of an original six franchise will only drive women’s hockey popularity in the right direction. The latest partnership with MSG and the PWHPA is just another way the Rangers are attempting to help grow the sport.

NHL Announces Schedule Changes For the Rangers

Feb. 6 was supposed to give us the second edition of the Hudson River Rivalry, with the Rangers heading to New Jersey to take on the Devils. 14 Devils’ players landed on the NHL’s COVID list over the last week, promptly postponing their games through Feb. 8, including Saturday’s meeting with the Blueshirts.

Kaapo Kakko (New York Rangers) Jack Hughes (New Jersey Devils) Kirby Dach (Chicago Blackhawks)
Kaapo Kakko (New York Rangers), Jack Hughes (New Jersey Devils) and Kirby Dach (Chicago Blackhawks), 2019 NHL Draft. (Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports)

To combat the virus’s continued spread, which has been potent around the NHL, the league announced 27 schedule changes, four of which involved the Rangers. The changes to the Rangers’ schedule can be seen below, courtesy of NBC Sports:

  1. Flyers @ Rangers Scheduled for February 16th Changed to February 14th at 6 P.M. E.T.
  2. Devils @ Rangers Scheduled for March 4th Changed to February 16th at 7 P.M. E.T.
  3. Rangers @ Devils Scheduled for February 6th Changed to March 4th at 7 P.M. E.T.
  4. Rangers @ Devils Scheduled for March 5th Changed to March 6th at 1 P.M. E.T.

Any happy couples that had dinner plans for Valentine’s Day may want to change their reservations to lunch time instead.

The changes are all related to this Saturday’s cancelation against the Devils, but the good news is the NHL has yet to face a situation where they have been unable to re-schedule postponed games. So yes, it may be difficult to deal with a Saturday without Rangers’ hockey, but think about all the action-packed evenings we have coming up!

Bitetto Dazzles at MSG

The hometown kid did something he had not done in three years on Thursday night, and he did it wonderfully. Anthony Bitetto, an Island Park native, scored his first goal since he was a member of the Nashville Predators in 2017-18, skating circles around the Capitals defense before depositing a backhand past Vitek Vanecek.

Getting an opportunity to put on the Rangers’ sweater has done wonders for Bitetto, who has looked solid in his two games with the Blueshirts this season. According to Mollie Walker of the NY Post, the 30-year-old surprised himself with his dazzling goal Thursday.

“It was magical. I usually don’t score those types of goals, and you put that jersey on, and weird things happen. More importantly, we got a good win, and that’s a huge game for us as a team. That’s a Cup-contender team that we played, and I think we took a big step forward.”

(from ‘Anthony Bitetto describes ‘magical’ first goal as a Ranger’, NY Post – 02/05/21)

Rangers fans hope that those “weird things” continue happening when Bitetto is on the ice, as New York has won both games he has appeared in this season. Barring any drastic lineup changes, he will be in the lineup again on Monday against the New York Islanders, looking to keep this impressive Rangers’ run alive.

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