We've got the news down to a science!

The Science Survey

We've got the news down to a science!

The Science Survey

We've got the news down to a science!

The Science Survey

Looking Back on the New York Rangers’ 2023-2024 Season

An insight into the best regular season in New York Rangers’ history.
Nights+at+Madison+Square+Garden+were+unforgettable+this+year+during+the+Rangers+incredible+regular+season+games.
Eilidh Ince
Nights at Madison Square Garden were unforgettable this year during the Rangers’ incredible regular season games.

Could the New York Rangers go all the way? Before the beginning of this 2023-2024 season, that was a question on seemingly no one’s mind. They went into the season with less promise than fans would have hoped for. However, coming out of it, their performance was better than anyone could have predicted.

Low Expectations

After a disappointing first round playoff exit to the New Jersey Devils last season, expectations for the Rangers coming into this season were relatively low. Over the summer, they lost Patrick Kane and Vladimir Tarasenko, two of their key players. They signed a few players in the off-season, including Blake Wheeler, Nick Bonino, and notably, veteran goaltender Jonathan Quick, but fans and analysts were disappointed, thinking they could have done more; fans were looking for the Rangers to sign some real stars, or re-sign Kane or Tarasenko. In the preseason power rankings, ESPN ranked the Rangers 9th overall, coming in at only 3rd in their division. 

The Rangers had an unexpectedly incredible start to the season, winning 19 games, and losing only 8 in their first 27 games. They placed near the top 10 in both goals scored and goals against per game. They kept an amazing record despite their top defenseman, Adam Fox, missing 10 games. Additionally, forward Filip Chytil was declared out, for what would end up being the rest of the season, due to a concussion. Forward Kaapo Kakko was out as well because of a lower-body injury, and missed close to half of the season. Igor Shesterkin, the Ranger’s league wide star goalie, began the season somewhat rough. In the first 27 games he had a .902 save percentage, and was sitting at a surprising 32nd in the league. Meanwhile, their new backup goalie, Johnathan Quick surprisingly began with a .922 save percentage, and sat at an equally surprising 9th in the league.

Despite surpassing pre-season expectations greatly, and proving themselves in their first 27 games, people still didn’t believe in them. Younggren, a hockey analyst, stated that the Rangers’ record throughout the first games was “untenable.” He claimed that their record was inflated, and that as the season progressed they would slow down. He stated that the players were playing as they had in previous years, not making significant enough changes for the Rangers to keep up their beginning-of-the-season record. 

“The Rangers are funny. This year’s team feels like every other Rangers team of the past few years. They’re still relying on solid to great goaltending, a very strong power play, and some luck,” Younggren said. “At the very least, this season’s roster is fairly similar to those under Gallant; and it appears their players, for the most part, are doing what they’ve always done.”

Again, the Rangers proved this wrong. For the first time since 2015, the New York Rangers placed first in the league, winning the President’s trophy and obtaining the best record in franchise history. So how did they go from placing ninth overall last year, to finishing on top of the league this year? A lot of the credit goes to one man, Peter Laviolette.

A New Coach in Town

Before this season, the Rangers had a coaching problem. Their former coach, Gerard Gallant, didn’t seem to be a good fit for the team. Fans and analysts noted that he wasn’t making good use of the star power on his team, and he was using systems and lineups that didn’t work for the Rangers. Expectations were high for the Rangers coming into the playoffs last year. They had made big trades at the deadline, and it appeared as though they would make a lengthy playoff run. However, they were eliminated in the first round by their rivals, the New Jersey Devils. Although many believed this was the fault of star players, such as Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad, not playing to their fullest potential, many more believed that the real issue was Gallant’s coaching. Soon after the Ranger’s disappointing playoff exit, the organization fired Gallant and hired veteran coach, Peter Laviolette. 

Peter Laviolette was a beacon of hope in the fog of disappointment for Rangers fans. In the past, he had coached six teams to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and three teams to the Stanley Cup Finals, going as far as to coach the winning team in 2006, the Carolina Hurricanes. He was only the fourth coach in NHL history to lead three different teams to the finals. Laviolette had the experience, the reputation, and the new coaching style that the Rangers needed. 

Star Power

A new coach was not the only reason the Rangers had a phenomenal season. The players, of course, should be given much of the credit. Fans had been waiting for the Ranger’s top young players to break out. The Rangers, in 2020, had drafted Alexis Lafreniere with the first overall pick. Before coming to the Rangers, expectations were incredibly high. Alexis Lafreniere was one of the best prospects the NHL had seen in years, and people thought he would be the savior of the Rangers, after they had had a rough few seasons. However, in his first few years in the NHL, Alexis Lafreniere was somewhat of a disappointment. He played okay, but nothing like what people had expected. However, this season was different. 2024 saw a new Alexis Lafreniere. He had scored a career high in both goals and points, proving himself as one of the top players on the Rangers, and a solid player in the league. His impact on the success of the team was incredibly prominent. 

This season also saw a peak performance from the Rangers’ top forward, Artemi Panarin. Panarin has been an incredible point scorer for the Rangers since he signed with them as a free agent in 2019. Though prior to this season, he had already established himself as one of the best players in the league and arguably the best forward on the Rangers, this season was special. Panarin finished the season with 49 goals and 71 assists for a total of 120 points; this was the first time he had breached the 100-point milestone. He finished fourth league-wide in points scored. Though he didn’t come in the top three for Hart Trophy nominations, he was definitely in the conversation.

With the new coaching of Laviolette, and the top performance of the roster, the Rangers definitively proved to doubters that they were able to keep up their strong pace throughout the season, and were a serious playoff contender. Or, did they? Even after finishing first of thirty-two teams, people still had low expectations for them going into the playoffs. 

Playoffs

The Rangers began the playoffs unexpectedly strong. In round one, they were up against the Washington Capitals – the lowest-seeded team. The Capitals were a team that very narrowly made the playoffs, only qualifying in their final regular season game – a game that they won, arguably, by pure luck. In short, Washington never stood a chance. The expectation stood that the Rangers would beat them easily, however, they went even above that. In the best-of-seven series, the Rangers swept the Capitals, winning four games and losing zero, sending themselves to Round 2, where they were set to play the Carolina Hurricanes. 

The Rangers had an incredible first round performance against the Capitals, largely due to Igor Shesterkin bringing out his A-game. (Photo Credit: David, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)

Expectations for the Rangers coming into their series against the Hurricanes were vastly different from Round 1. Carolina had finished third in the league overall during the regular season, and their performance during Round 1 against the New York Islanders had been impressive. A large number of analysts predicted Carolina would win the series, and give the Rangers a tough reality check from the cruise of a first round that they had. Many Rangers fans spiraled prior to the series, fearful that the Hurricanes were simply too strong. Though predictions were mixed, a large number of people believed Carolina would be the team to move on, or at least be an incredibly difficult obstacle for the Rangers. What no one predicted was the Rangers winning the first three games of the series, and coming within just one game from qualifying for Round 3 (The Eastern Conference Finals) without a single loss in the playoffs. But Carolina rallied and won games 4 and 5, causing Rangers fans to spiral again. However, with a hat trick from the current longest-tenured Rangers player, Chris Kreider, the Rangers won Game 6, taking their fourth series win and solidifying their place in the final four teams left in playoffs – the Eastern Conference Finals. 

All good things do come to an end. The Rangers were seemingly unbeatable – until they weren’t. In the Eastern Conference Finals, they met the Florida Panthers. Just last year, in 2023, the Florida Panthers had won the Eastern Conference Finals, making it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals, until ultimately losing the cup to the Vegas Golden Knights. They kept up their pace this season with decisive victories in rounds 1 and 2. The Panthers are tough, well-adapting, and simply hard to beat. Thy are the definition of a playoff team. The Rangers had met their match in the Florida Panthers. In Game 6, on June 1st, 2024, the Panthers gained their fourth win, eliminating the Rangers. The remarkable New York Rangers season had come to an end. 

What’s Next?

Though the Rangers had made it to the final four teams in the playoffs, their exit was a disappointment to the players and fans. Their performance in the Eastern Conference Final was questionable. The top stars on the team, in short, didn’t bring their A-Game. Many believed the Rangers should have been able to go further, and their elimination left many fans disappointed and angry. 

So what’s next? Fans want the Rangers to make big changes for the upcoming 2024-2025 season. In the coming months, and throughout the Rangers’ postseason, fans are looking to see what the general manager – Chris Drury, is planning to do in terms of signing new players and trading away old, less effective, players. So for now, all we can do is sit back, wait, and reflect upon a legendary season from the New York Rangers.

The Rangers were seemingly unbeatable – until they weren’t.

About the Contributor
Eilidh Ince, Staff Reporter
Eilidh Ince is a Copy Chief and Social Media Manager for 'The Science Survey.' Eilidh enjoys using journalism as a platform to express her passions, interests, and hobbies. Her passion for photography comes from her mother, who studied photography in university. Outside of school, she loves art, science, and watching hockey. Eilidh plans to study biology in college and wants to go into the scientific research field after graduation.  She hopes to continue to pursue photography and journalism while in college.